A Full Quiver of BTB Fly Rods - not needed to get started, but nice to have

A Full Quiver of BTB Fly Rods

OK… you’re getting started in BTBFF, and want to buy your first outfit. But you begin looking, and all of a sudden you realize that it’s not as easy as you thought. There’s new terminology and technology to deal with, unfamiliar manufacturers, wildly varying prices…where do you start?

We’re not going to start with a description of the basic parts of a fly fishing outfit. If you need help with the basics, consult your local fly shop, or one of the resources listed in the “Notes for Newbies” section of our Getting Started – FAQs post. What we did was to ask our regional moderators for their advice. They represent decades of experience, and are on the water more than they’d like to admit, so they should have a good feel for what works and what doesn’t. We asked them for starter equipment recommendations if:

  • They could only buy one outfit
  • They could buy two outfits
  • They could buy three outfits

We didn’t ask them for specific manufacturers or models, but rather for general specs on equipment, what they’d use it for, and any other comments they might have. There were some common themes in their comments:

Abel large arbor reels

Abel large arbor reels

Buy name-brand equipment

Nowadays, it’s hard to find truly horrible gear from any of the name brand manufacturers. True, there are some manufacturers and / or models that may be standouts in a particular area, but at this stage of your fly fishing career, it probably won’t make that much of a difference to you. By all means, do your homework – talk to people, make some Internet inquires, test cast a few – but don’t overwork it. Make a choice, then move on.

  • For rods, this list includes (in no particular order): Sage, G. Loomis, Thomas & Thomas, Scott, Temple Fork Outfitters, Echo, St. Croix, Orvis, Cortland, and Redington among others. Some of the major retailers, like Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops, also make decent rods. Key points: large guides, and a secure reel seat that will fit the reel you select.
  • For reels, this list includes (in no particular order): Tibor / Pate, Abel, Ross, Galvan, Temple Fork Outfitters,  Scientific Anglers, Loop, Charlton, Nautilus, Sage, Fin Nor, Orvis, Lamson, Teton and Redington. Key points: large diameter spools are better than small diameter; smooth drag (the standard for many years has been cork disk, but there are now several alternatives), corrosion-resistant materials and finishes.
  • For fly lines, this list includes (in no particular order): Scientific Anglers, Rio, Airflo, Cortland, and TFO

Buy the best you can afford

But don’t break the bank (unless you want to). Equipment from any of the companies mentioned above will be fine. As you gain more experience, you will develop your own tastes in equipment, and can upgrade later to exactly what you want. If you feel like you have to splurge, start with upgrading the reel first.

Learn to cast

Oddly enough, many people spend more time focused on the equipment they’re going buy, than how to use it effectively. If nothing else, spend some time in the back yard practicing your casting. Fly casting is no different than any other physical activity, like golf or tennis. The more you practice, the better you get, and the more you will enjoy it.

TFO Bluewater LD

TFO Bluewater LD

Some variations and accessories to consider:

Add extra spools or duplicate outfits, but with different density lines, such as a floating line.

This will give you more versatility. A floating or intermediate sinking fly line is a good second line, because they will allow you use popping bugs
or other shallow-water presentations

Try a traditional shooting head setup instead of integrated shooting heads

Traditional shooting heads allow you to switch density of lines very easily, and they cast farther with less effort. But they do require a little more setup.

In Part II of this series, we talk about rigging the outfit (connections, leaders), in Part III we talk about some other things you might want to buy, and in Parts IV and V, we talk about fly selection…

Still got some questions? Check out our post on some FAQs we’ve encountered over the years…