You always see fly fishermen with all their specialized gear such as the rod and reel, vest, net, pliers, and flies. So, is fly fishing really expensive?
The Quick Answer to Is Fly Fishing Expensive
Fly fishing can be expensive if you go all out, but it doesn’t have to be. If you buy the highest end rods and reels, buy dozens of flies, and travel long distances to fish, it can be cost prohibitive. However, if you shop around for gear you can find quality equipment for reasonable prices. In addition, you can stay close to home, buy used, and DIY some items.
How Much Does it Cost For Fly Fishing Gear?
This is really a relative question. It depends on how much you want to spend. On the high end you can spend $2500 on a rod. You can spend $3000 on a case for your rod. Reels can cost over $1000. A good vest can cost $250. Nets can cost about the same. For your flies, fly box, leader, line, tippet, pliers, and floatant you can easily spend over $200. This gives you a total of $7200 or more for all of your gear.
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On the opposite side of this you can go inexpensive like I did. My rod and reel are a hand-me-down from my brother in law, so there was no cost there. I use a cardboard tube for my case that cost me a few bucks. My vest and net cost me about $40 total. Tying your own flies can cost just pennies for the supplies. All of my other accessories were about $20. This gives me a total of less than $75. I can tell you that I catch plenty of fish with my budget basement gear.
Probably the best option is something in between. I fully expect to replace my rod, reel, and vest in the next few years. At the amount that I spent, how could I not. If you go with items in the middle range, you get a more durable product that likely has a warranty. For example, a $200 rod and a $100 reel is a setup that would be good quality. The one exception is tying your own flies. If you have the time and skill, you will always get a better product tying your own flies versus buying manufactured flies.
Are Expensive Fly Rods Worth the Money?
This is a tough question. More expensive rods will cast further, cast more accurately, and give you more control over your fly. They are also more durable and pretty much always have a lifetime warranty. It is a bit like buying golf clubs. You can score a good round on retail clubs. However, custom made clubs make life much easier. The general consensus is that spending around $200 will get you a good quality rod with a warranty. Spending more than that should be left to serious pro-type anglers that fly fish almost every day. I personally do not have the free time to justify that kind of cost.
Why Are Fly Reels So Expensive?
Just by looking at fly reels, it is hard to tell the difference in cost. Even taking one apart, there is not much there. What it really comes down to more than anything is durability. A good fly reel can last you a lifetime. A bad fly reel can fall apart in the middle of the river while you are bringing in that monster trout. My suggestion is to pair the quality of your reel with the quality of your rod. If you are spending around $200 for your rod, you are best to spend around $100 for your reel. This is high enough quality to last a long time.
The other aspects of a higher quality reel are going to be the appearance and the weight. There is an argument for keeping your rig as light as possible. A lighter rig will be easier to cast over several hours, and a heavier rig will wear out your arm. I typically fish one spot for a few hours and then take a break anyways. As far as appearance, I don’t think it really matters. Yeah, a flashier reel will let you show off a bit. I prefer to show off the fish I catch.
Ways to Reduce the Cost of Fly Fishing
If you want good quality and do not mind products that are gently worn, buying used is a great option. You can often get a $300 rod in decent condition for less than $100. The same goes for reels. Be aware that the warranties are generally not transferable. However, if the product is good enough to warranty it will probably last a long time. You can buy used gear on eBay or several fishing gear websites.
However, your best bet is buying something in person. Go to a resale shop or buy from somebody on craigslist. This allows you to inspect the merchandise before buying. Try out the reel to make sure there are no cracks or mechanical issues. Check the rod for any fraying or other issues. If possible, put the two together and try casting a few times. This will ensure that you get a quality product at a great price.
Another alternative is to get a combo package if your just starting out. I recently bought an amazing fly fishing out from Amazon. You can read my review in this article The Best Fly Rod Combo Under $100. (link to post) This setup has everything to go from the box to the water.
-Staying Close to Home
Many people spend thousands of dollars between airfare and hotels to get to what they think is the perfect fly fishing spot. It is true that some spots are better than others. It is also true that the scenery might be better in Colorado than it is near your home. However, your skill is the biggest single contributing factor to fly fishing success.? This means you will have almost as good a chance at your local stream versus flying across the country.
The key is getting the right intel for where to fish. You want spots that not only have good fish, but that also are not flooded with fishermen. You might fly 1000 miles only to find your perfect mountain stream littered with dozens of fly fishermen. If you know other fly fishermen, ask them to take you with them to their spot. Some of these guys will not want to disclose their secret spot, and you cannot really blame them for that.
Often a better option is to check with a local fly shop. These guys want you to do well so that you will come back and buy more gear. They often know the best spots in the area and are happy to give up the info. Another option is your local conservation office. I have found these offices to be incredibly helpful on many different levels. Their job is to draw more people into the parks, so they want to give you a good fishing spot to keep you coming back. If they do not have a good spot in their area, they will often refer you to one.
Finally, if you are willing to spend a few bucks there are guides and outfitters that can give you a prime spot. Often these setups have private property with an ideal stream running through it. For your fee they will take you to the perfect spot, and it often has trophy sized fish. If you get the right guide they will even cook you a shore lunch. For guaranteed local success, it is worth the small fee they charge.
-Tying your own Flies
If you want to save some money and get a great quality fly, do it yourself is the way to go. Many people find it just as relaxing as the fishing itself. These flies can be designed exactly as you like, and they often end up being a tiny work of art. However, you will need a little time and a lot of patience. Typically, it will take a few tries to get it right.
To get started you will need a work bench with a small tabletop vice. This will hold the hook in place. Pick up a variety of fly hook sizes for different sized flies. You will need fly thread of varying different colors. Get as many colors as you can as it will allow you to perfectly match up to the actual insect. You will need some fly glue to hold everything together. Pick up some duck feathers in various colors as well. You can buy all of this at most fly shops. You can also purchase it all online at fly specialty shops.
When it is time to tie your fly, you need a point of reference. This is to get the color, shape, and size of the fly to perfectly match your target insect. You can either tie a variety of different flies to fit any scenario, or you can visit your spot and look for insects to replicate. To tie your flies, you can look at a book with color images of insects. However, this leaves a large margin of error for size and shape. Your best bet is to go out and actually catch the insect that you want to replicate. This will give you the perfect fly.
As you can see, you have lots of options when it comes to spending money on fly fishing. If this is your biggest passion and you have unlimited income, go crazy. However, if you are like most of us with limited time and resources you are best to find a deal. Never purchase the first item that you see. Take the time to shop around to find the best deal. Read customer reviews if possible to get the real story on the product. Try to pick up products with warranties. If you can afford it, going middle of the road is your best option. You will get quality products at a reasonable price. If not, you can still catch lots of fish going bargain basement with your gear.