Saturday, March 14, 2015

Buying Into Fly Fishing


What is Fly Fishing?  It definitely isn't a mysterious sport even though some people act like it is.  It's not a rich man sport even though some people act like it is.  It's origin is documented back to 200 AD in Macedonia, but it's supposed to predate this date by 200 years in Europe.  Things didn't really progress until the late 1800s and then really changed in the 1900s, but that is a complete other story.  I would love to go back in time and meet some of the original fly fishing pioneers and watch them learn and trouble shoot the beginning.  I bet it was entertaining, and I look at these guys as trailblazers and geniuses in their time.  Anyway, I find fly fishing more enjoyable than any other fishing (Bass fishing $40K Skeeter, Deep Sea fishing $60K Hydra Sport, and even Blue Gill, Crappie, and Perch Pond Fishing homemade row boat), and all it takes is catching one trout on that twitchy fly rod - HOOKED - Just ask my Dad!  The other great benefits are it's quick, simple and easy when you get down to it.  Now, you definitely need to have a river with some preferable target fish – For me…It’s TROUT!
If you just got finished watching “A River Runs Through It”, then you are ready!  Right?!?!?  That was the best movie EVER for fly fishing.  If not, watch something on YouTube like this Rolf Nylinder.  It's a Vimeo movie, so it won't pull in like a YouTube video.  There are many more videos by these Swedish Fly Fishers, and I have even watched their movie "Only The River Knows" about Lars Lenth.  It makes you want to go take a 30 or 60 day visit to New Zealand.  It's a $10 download, and it's actually pretty decent considering it's a low budget foreign film.  Not quite the shots from "A River Runs Through It," but it's a relative movie for any fisherman.

I have been asked many, many times on how to get into fly fishing without breaking the bank.  So, I decided to post a little ditty that will help new people get into the sport without spending a fortune.   #1, it’s almost impossible to get into any sport without spending money – Let’s face it, it’s impossible.   So the best thing to do is go to the local fly shop, ask them to deck you out with the top of the line items, and then go enjoy yourself, right?  Heck no...That is probably the WORST idea.  Don’t get me wrong, I did support my local fly shop until I found out the owner was not a good individual – But, that is another story.  Back to the buying thing…

First, you have to get used to buying things on E-Bay and forums.  E-Bay can introduction you to some crappy people selling junk, but there also are many legitimate companies selling, going out of business, selling demo models, or getting rid of trade-ins.  There are tons of solid God fearing people that are selling for the season.  I used to think this was just people in strong financial dire straits trading one season for the next.  You know those types…They buy a gun during deer season, sell/trade it and get a fishing rod, sell/trade that for a surfboard, sell/trade that for a pistol for IDPA, sell/trade that for a deer rifle.  Crazy is as crazy does…or is it?

I can understand why some of these guys do this.  If you keep selling the still relevant last year’s model for good money and replacing with brand new, it’s a win-win.  You always keep the best piece of equipment, and you are in it for a better song than keeping a rod for 10 years, having it fall apart on the river, and then buying a $700 current rod.  OUCH!  Faulting thinking for me…First, I’m not made of money.  Second and third, I have a wife and twin boys, so doing the prescribed buying and selling won't happen this century.  Luckily, there are good ways to get into this sport at a reasonable price.  What do you truly need:  A Fly Rod and Reel (with backing, fly line, and leaders& tippet), Flies, and some sort of Waders and Boots unless you love fishing in shorts and getting soaked.  Don’t laugh…I have a friend that does this!  That’s is truly all you need!  However, you will learn that some things make your life easier.  You will find a good rod, really good fly line will go a long way in helping you cast a fly rod.  Also, I spare no expense on the leader and tippet aspect.  This is the business end of the entire thing.  So, I spare the $700 rod and put more money into the fly line ($80-$100), leaders (Rio or better) and Fluorocarbon tippet ($12-$15).  Final point - learn to tie some really good knots.  I learned from a guide in Colorado to take some material and practice while watching TV at night...Simple, easy, and if you can tie knots with something distracting, then you can handle standing in swift moving water and tying with a pack slung around your waste and trying to support a rod.  Fun, Aye!

Let’s go cheapest to most expensive.  Ok, how about a fishing net?  The net…It puts the fish in the basket.  If you are fishing on small streams with tiny fish (12” or less), I would never carry one; just pick them up with your hand.  If you are on rivers where there are monster 25"+ fish, I would never carry one – they won’t fit into those skinny bamboo nets.  But, you need a fish net.  Try getting a net at Gander Mountain/Academy/Dick’s Sports for $15-$25 – Just watch the weight of the net.  You can get the carbon fiber net from the fly shop for around $180.  What does it do?  It puts the fish in the basket.

Next is to get something to catch the fish with.  Combos are a good starting point for most beginners ($200-$300), but "you shouldn't put off putting one together by yourself for better quality" - My father-in-law speaking here.  If you decide to put a rig together by yourself, start with the ROD.  Everything else hinges on what you buy.
Fly rods have some weird designations that you just have to say I accept, I believe, and then all is good with the world.  The manufacturers designate weight (WT) with a fly rod.  Also, the rods come in a multitude of lengths; 6’ to 12’ I think now.  Can you fish a 6’ on a lake?  Sure, but you will get greater distances in casting with the length appropriate rod.  The rods can come in different flex and quickness.  They make fast, moderate and slow rods.  The rods come in different break down pieces – You can get a 2 piece, 4 piece, 5 piece, and 7 pieces if not many others.  You need to think about how you get to and from your fishing hole.  If you use a backpack, then a 7 piece is up your ally.  If you have a pickup or SUV, some people go for the 2 piece to 4 piece.  If you have a Honda car, then the 3-4 piece is for you.  Also, they have tip flex, mid flex, and full flex (although many of these are going away).  Currently, the tip flex is becoming VERY popular due to the ability to cast LONGER distance.  Again, purchase as needed for what you fish:  6-8’ creeks and streams, 8’-9.5’ for rivers, and longer for lake/ocean.  This is how you buy the weight appropriate rod based upon target fish:  1-3wt = small creeks and streams, 4-7 are for Trout and smallmouth bass, 8-10 are for largemouth bass and small ocean fish, and 11-12 or 14 (whatever is the max now) are for BIG ocean fish.  SO, uhhh…
What does all that above mean to you the reader?  This…You generally want to start with a 5 WT, moderate action, mid-flex, 9’ rod 4 pieces.  Go into any fly shop and tell them this, and they will just say, OK what brand.  This designation will look like this:  905 mid 4 piece.  The 90 for 9’0”, 5 for 5 WT, action, and pieces.  The 905 mid is a great all around rod unless you are fishing with experienced people that will take you to only certain places.  Then, let them help you.  I personally love the 2 piece rods, but some people can’t stand them.  I figure the less moving parts, the better you are.  However, I have all my rods all over the place.  I have five 4 piece rods, and three 2 pieces.  Yes, almost all are 4-5 wt and 8.5-9’ moderate action and I have one 9 WT 9’ for bass.  I like the Orvis rods, and I was buying 1-2 generations older than present year.  However, some of the present year is starting to fall due to use.  Don’t be afraid of the dirty handle rod it's just the oil from the owners hands.  It can be cleaned off with a Magic Eraser and then sanded back smooth...Simple fix.Now to rig the rod…

Finally, you need to buy a reel appropriate to the rod size.  The reels are in general sizes…Normally, 1-3 WT, 4-6 WT, 7-9 WT, 10-12 and larger or something close to this.  At a minimum, just match it up to the rod size.  This is generally a good thing unless you have a 6 WT and putting a 4-6 WT reel on it.  I would probably go one size larger or the 7-9wt reel.  You can put on more backing for the fly line.  Just an option.  Now, this is where the Fly Line must be fitted to the rod.  If you buy a 5 WT rod, put on 5 WT fly line.  Easy?  Yes!  I DO NOT recommend putting beyond one size large or smaller on the rod – This is why the fly rod company specified the weight rod.  The snake eyelets are based upon the weight size rod. 

If you have already drooled over these items that you want in the $$$ fly shop, then you are over half way there.  I log into E-Bay and start a search:   Echo Carbon Fly Rod, Galvan Fly Reel, and Orvis Sling Pack – These are just examples.  My best friend always starts out with Google and “World’s Best Fly Rod”, and he read the selling sights, forums and more.  "Save" your E-Bay searches sorted by price.  You can check them periodically, or you can setup e-mails when someone posts a new one.  Don’t forget the “Buy It Now” feature of the search.  Sometimes, this can save you money.  Why?  Because the first rule of bidding is to know what the item is worth.  I personally will pay only about 50% of what the item is worth.  If it’s a brand new model, it’s 75%.  Why?  Because it’s USED!  Know your pricing and know the TOP dollar you will pay and don’t exceed that.   Also, join a few forums.  Most have classified, Selling, or sale sites on them.  Review them from time to time.  Sometimes, I can get products for cheaper than the 75% rule.

I have heard all my friends complain about buying things on E-Bay and getting outbid.  I do too; All the time.  However, I am a sniper at the last second.  What does that mean?  I Google the product and know the price.  If it’s a new product, I calculate 75% or maybe a little more.  If it’s used, I calculate 50%.  Shipping is shipping, but I do take this into consideration when bidding.  When I get the 15 minute warning on my phone or computer, I load the price if it hasn’t already exceeded.  When the clock says 10 seconds, I submit my bid.  If no one bids higher at the same time, they don’t have time to submit another higher bid.  Understand?  If the price is at my limit, I may still submit a bid on the 10 second mark at 80% just to make sure that they didn’t $1 bid it to beat the last guy.  Again, I win a LOT with this procedure.  Just remember to not get caught up in the bidding syndrome or warfare.  You will pay more for something you could go to the fly shop and buy off the shelf at retail - Know your limits and stick to them.

Now, I need to make a video on rigging the fly rod with backing fly line, and leader.  Most of the YouTube videos do goofy things and make the whole thing much more complicated than needed.  Anyway, I hope this has given you an introduction into how to get into the Fly Fishing Sport - Get Into It!
Good Luck, and Tight Lines!

Arkansas Fly Fishing


  1. Great post. One thing I find funny is that I paid like 20 bucks for my net at walmart. One made by cortland. I swear it has to be the exact same as the one at cabelas for 40 bucks except that one sayd cabela's on the handle.

  2. Yeah, I don't doubt it to some degree...They are all made in China. I bought a couple of reels on E-Bay direct from China...Turns out they are IDENTICAL to the White River Shop (Bass Pro Shop) reel I have on a guest rod. IDENTICAL!

  3. Great post. I don't do the bidding thing...but sounds like I should.

  4. Yeah, Drew. The average income in Arkansas is $38K as of 2014 census - up only $2K when I came through here in 2003-2006. I do it because my wife and I live on a budget and avoid debt like it's a serious life-threatening disease. I also did it because of the prices at the two fly shop in the local area - Fairly high which is why the other 2 closed in the past, and the one in Conway closed a few weeks ago. I love local fly shops, and I bought quite a bit of fly tying stuff (WEEKLY), shirts, and gear from the Conway shop until the owner did a fraudulent thing to me that involved a drift boat - I tapped out.

    However, some people want to progress on from the starter Redington Combos, but a Loop rod alone that is $700 - Not to mention the $500-700 reels. That is a huge jump for the average person in Arkansas. I started fly fishing in Pensacola, and I didn't have ANY fly shops there. I had to buy on E-Bay, and I started with St Criox 9 WT rod that I still have. I put on a HUGE White River Reel since Bass Pro shop was about an hour away in Mobile, AL - First fly rod/reel complete. I still take this rod bass fishing sometimes on the lakes.

    Again, I have been very fortunate with the people selling the rods and reels and the descriptions they have on them. To date, they have all been perfect! I'm not saying all purchases will be this way - I know better. I did help two guys at work by buying the rods on E-Bay and allowing them to purchase from me (which they did)...I got two Orvis rods that retail for $200 for $70 on one and $74 on the other. Both looked like they were never taken out of the box. I gave them both some of the old England made Orvis (click paw) reels (I got 3 of them for $13 each). They are still fishing with these. I keep egging them on to bid on a good adjustable drag fly reel like a Redington or Orvis - They like the old school look of those reels - And, the fact I told them...It ONLY holds the line.

    I just hope this gets some people buying rods and reels and enjoying this (or their) beautiful state. It's a shame to have life pass by and only see the highway to and from work.

    Arkansas Fly Fishing