Let’s be honest. Fly fishing is a gear intensive endeavour. For the average individual looking to get into the sport, this circumstance can be a little intimidating. There’s rods, reels, knot tying gadgets, specialized clothing, high tech sunglasses, 50 types of fishing line and a laundry list of other accessories you can barely pronounce (let alone know what they’re for). Thankfully, rookie anglers don’t need all of these items right off the bat. But there are a few pieces of gear that are essential to jump starting anyone’s fly fishing career.
If you know someone who wants to give fly fishing a whirl or is new to the pastime (or if that person is you*), consider being their angling guardian angel. Review the 5 gift ideas for beginners below and select an item or two for them. Without fail, the holidays are once again sneaking up on us. Getting a little pre-Black Friday shopping in is a wise decision. Or you can go the ultimate surprise route. We all know that receiving a gift out of the blue is the best thing since sliced bread.
*If you think buying yourself a gift is faux pas, don’t. There’s a sweet little saying that’s become popular over the past few years. ‘Treat yo self.’ If you start feeling guilty, use it as your mantra. Or you can always override your self-indulgent purchases by doubling up and gifting the duplicates to a friend. As an extra bonus, you’ll automatically have a partner in crime to hit the water with.
1: Fly Rod
This one is a no-brainer. And it’s actually part of the definition of fly fishing as prescribed by Merriam-Webster. No rod = No casting. It’s that simple. But with thousands of fly rod options on the market, how does one make an informed selection? To help with this predicament, I’ve listed a handful of suggestions below. From there, the knowlegeable crew at Vail Valley Anglers can answer any and all inquiries.
Bare bones yet highly effective and user-friendly. Ultimately, the price point of the Echo Base makes it a great option for beginner and intermediate anglers. During several blind casting shootouts, the Echo Base has ranked side by side with many $200+ rods (and even some $800 ones).
If you ask any VVA guide or employee what their first rod was, there’s a good chance they’ll say the Clearwater. Tried and true, award-winning and an all-around performer, this medium action rod is always a safe bet. And if cost is a concern, don’t worry. The Clearwater’s pricetag is quite reasonable.
Sage has been making world class rods for over 35 years. And the Foundation lives up to their legacy. Made in the USA, this fast-action rod is built with Graphite IIIe technology, ceramic stripper guides and chrome snake guides. Together, these high-quality materials produce powerful casts and provide long-lasting durability. Beyond that, the Foundation is known for it’s effortless control and accuracy.
Not only are Scott fly rods American-made, but they are even more enticing since they are crafted right here in Colorado. The Flex is constructed with both Advanced Reinforced Carbon and X-Core technologies, effectively increasing stability and strength. Overall, the Flex delivers a well-rounded, powerful yet light construction perfect for anglers who demand more from their rods.
Unless you opted for the reel-less Tenkara option, that new rod will need a reel. And again, there are hundreds available in a variety of styles and constructed with a wide-range of componentry. Some anglers believe that reels are just line holders. This may be true a lot of time. But when you need them the most, you’ll want a high caliber, reliable reel backed by a trustworthy brand. Consider these two recommendations.
Since these reels are pressure cast, they are very affordable. But that doesn’t mean they lack features or fall short on performance. The Liquid is outfitted with a sealed cassette drag system, large arbor design and boasts a lightweight yet tough construction. If you want an effective reel without breaking the bank, this one’s for you.
Here’s another Colorado brand crushing it in the fly fishing product industry. Ross Reels has received more awards in excellence than any other fly tackle manufacturer in the world. And their new Evolution LTX reel follows suit. Rather than get into all the technical jargon and detailed specs for this reel, I’ll just say this. Buy one, maybe two. It is arguably the best reel around. Period.
For someone new to fly fishing, they’ll want all the help they can get. Fishing from the shore, wet-wading or finding someone who will take them on their boat are all limiting factors. If you give the gift of waders (and wading boots, see below), you’ll grant them nearly limitless access to an assortment of waterways. And with more access, comes more opportunity.
Simms G3 Guide Stockingfoot Waders
I will sometimes argue that a beginner doesn’t need top of the line gear. But in the case of waders, it’s always best to go with industry leaders. And Simms waders are just that. The G3’s are fully accessorized, extremely durable, surprisingly comfortable and made in the USA. With a 5 layer GORE-TEX Pro shell, these waders keep you warm during those cold mornings and breath perfectly when things start to heat up. Countless guides and fly fishing fanatics give the G3 their full endorsement year after year. Satisfaction guaranteed.
4: Wading Boots
Waders and wading boots go hand in hand (more like foot in foot). Although options do exist to forgo waders while still using your boots (ex. Simms Wading Socks), most anglers wear them in tandem. No matter which route is taken, purchase a boot that provides protection, offers lasting comfort and holds up to the rigors of daily abuse. Beyond the pair highlighted below, the Simms Headwaters is another great option.
Patagonia Ultralight Wading Boots (Sticky)
As the name suggests, these boots are very light. When it comes to long days on the water, this can play a huge role in terms of comfort. Patagonia did an amazing job of balancing fit, durability, protection and function, all while keeping your budget in mind. For further information and a full description of these boots, check out our recent review here.
5: Polarized Sunglasses
As for the 5th gift idea, landing nets, fishing packs and fly boxes come to mind. But honestly, a quality pair of polarized sunglasses will prove more useful for the entry-level angler. I’ve listed my favorite pair below. For an in-depth review of the different types and brands, check out our blog on Fly Fishing Sunglasses.
With a variety of frame colors and a myriad of lens options, the Guide’s Choice appeals to all fly fishing fashionistas. But it’s the technology behind the lens’ and the all day comfort that make these polarized sunglasses a true winner. Be sure to check out the ChromaPop Copper lens. They were designed specifically for fly fishing the mountain streams and river of the Rockies. But the Guide’s Choice doesn’t stop there. Smith constructed these with two-way stainless steel spring hinges and an integrated/detachable sunglass leash. And each pair has anti-reflective and hydroleophobic lens coatings. That’s a lot of distinctly functional features for a small piece of gear.
There is another great gift option which allows you to cover several essential pieces of gear all in one shot. By purchasing an outfit (rod and reel combo), either you or the recipient will get a rod, reel, fly line and rod case. It is the perfect package to get the ball rolling for any aspiring angler. Both the Redington Vice Outfit and the Echo Traverse Kit offer amazing entry-level value as well as functionality.
Can’t decide on which gift to go with? A VVA Gift Card is just what you’re looking for. That way, the novice angler in your life can choose exactly how they want to build their fly fishing gear arsenal. And on that note, be sure to check out our Trade In, Trade Up program. It allows every participant the option to turn in their used gear and let us deal with the eBay sale. After the auction is over, we will supply you with a VVA Gift Card for the amount it sold for (minus eBay’s cut). Then, you can purchase the newest, hottest products from the shop or our online store. This program is especially appealing to anglers who own items with a higher resale value.
Keep ‘em wet, handle them sparingly and always appreciate where you are.
Seth Kulas, Vail Valley Anglers Content Writer, @sticks2snow