We are often asked for advice on buying
fly fishing equipment. The best piece of advice we can offer beginners
is to see – and use - our equipment before making your purchase. Time after
time we see well-meaning parents, or keen beginners, come to a lesson with
totally unsuitable - and often very expensive - tackle.
As fly fishing instructors we probably subject tackle to more use in a
month than the average angler does in a year. We have experience of good
and bad tackle: accessories that simply fall apart; poorly constructed
reels that can trap expensive fly lines between cage and spool; waders
and jackets with design problems that will send you home shivering and
wet, and rods that qualify for the description "carpet beaters" as well
as others that merit the accolade "world beaters".
We would be happy to recommend complete outfits as well as single pieces
of equipment that in our experience are robust, backed up by good after-sales
service, and offer genuine value for money.
Equipment for Westcountry rivers
When you purchase a set of suitable
equipment please ask the dealer to bear the following suggestions in mind:
If you intend to fish mainly on small Westcountry rivers for wild brown
trout we recommend a rod between 7 and 8 feet, AFTM rated 3, 4 or 5. If
you intend to fish mainly on small stocked stillwaters or reservoirs, a
9 foot rod rated AFTM 5, 6 or 7 would be more suitable.
You will also need a suitable reel, weight forward (WF) or double
taper (DT) floating fly line, backing, braided loop and tapered leader(s).
Ask the dealer to load the reel with the backing and fly line, and join
the braided loop to the end of the fly line.
You will also need some tippet material (e.g. about 3lb (or 7X) breaking
strain for river work and at least 6lb b.s. for small stillwaters), scissors
or nail clippers, net,
fly floatant, a fly box and a few flies suitable for wild brown trout and
We encourage "catch and release". Therefore a pair of forceps is essential.
You may want to buy a fly vest to keep all this stuff in.
We recommend you buy chest waders if you intend to fish on a river
Finally, and most importantly, wear some form of eye protection
Some thoughts on buying a fly rod
If you are a beginner:
Don't buy a rod without trying it first
Try several rods before making your first purchase
Don't be tempted by low-budget beginners outfits; learning to cast a fly
is difficult enough without having to cope with poor tackle
Beginners deserve the best rods; more experienced casters can often adapt
their casting to cope with poor rods
When testing a rod, don't just find out how far it will throw the fly
Just because a rod can cast a fly line 'a country mile' that doesn't mean
it will be a useful fishing rod
Most of the fishing on small west country rivers requires casts of 20
to 30 feet, therefore you should test how the rod performs with less than
30 feet of fly line beyond the tip
The fly line is just as important - if not more so - than the rod. Avoid
combining an expensive rod with a cheap line.
This paragraph - from the American rod maker Tom Morgan - sums up what
we look for in a fly fishing rod:
"What makes a great trout rod? Most importantly, it has to become what
I call a "thought rod." When you are fishing with it, you almost forget
that you have a rod in your hand. It becomes an extension of your physical
body, and, almost always, you think where you want the fly to go, and,
as if by magic, the fly appears there. This fluid action comes because
the rod is wonderfully smooth, bends sufficiently to communicate with the
angler how it's working, and has an inherent delicacy. And, it does this
at the normal distances that you fish for trout."Tom Morgan (2002)
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