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Best Types of Fly Rod, Reel, and Line for Beginners

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February 02, 2010

Best Types of Fly Rod, Reel, and Line for Beginners

By Kirk Deeter

So you know someone who wants to get started in fly fishing. Question number one (which I get asked a lot) is, what type of rod and reel should a newbie start with?

And my answer is, that depends on the person... how old they are, how big they are... whether they do a lot of fishing with conventional tackle, what they plan to fish for, and so forth.

For example, take my nine-year-old son, Paul.  I started him out with the Old Orvis 8-foot 6-weight that I started with (at the age of 18).  For kids, I think the number one criteria for a starter rod is  that it has a slower-to-medium action.  I've often thought that fast 
rods, while wonderful in many ways (and I prefer them myself now) can be a crutch that covers up casting flaws.  In my opinion, it's important to develop a feel for the cast, and instill a natural sense of timing and tempo, especially with younger anglers.  You can build up to fast rods once you have that feel.  Slower is better for starters.  I often dedicate days on the water to fishing with slower,  softer rods, just to polish my own casting during the season.  I also think 8-foot rods are plenty challenging for people who are only half that tall--no need to go with a 9-foot rod off the bat.

Another idea I have that runs counter to conventional thinking is to go lighter on the line weight with beginners.  A six-weight is the heaviest rod/line I'd start with, even if you plan on catching larger trout and bass.  The reason for this, in addition to the casting 
argument I just made, is that I want the beginner to really feel that connection when fighting fish.  If you get used to playing fish on a lighter-weight rod, you develop that aspect of your fishing better.

Reels. The least expensive, most durable model you can find.  I like to have beginners strip and let out line during the fight... again to develop that feel, and understand the need to keep a steady arc or flex in the rod when they're hooked up.  Again, this defies the conventional "get 'em on the reel" thinking, but it makes beginners tune into line management.

And as far as lines go, I want a weight-forward, floating fly line, in one of the hottest shades of orange or yellow I can find.  Fly fishing is a very visual sport, especially for beginners, and I like them to be able to see how their line behaves in the air, and 
especially on the water.  Neon colors help make that happen, and I'll trade a little line awareness for the risk of spooking fish with bright lines, any day.

How about you?  Any recommendations or theories on the ideal starter rig?  I'm all ears.

Deeter

Comments (18)

Top Rated
All Comments
from fflutterffly wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I believe in doing nothing half way. Buy good equipment right off and you'll be on to a good start. When you buy cheep you tend to have to replace equipment once you try out someone with quality stuff and you see the difference, especially with a rods. With that said I also believe in keeping it simple. Beginners are overwhelmed with information anyway, so why compound the learning curve with more stuff. Depending on where they live and how much fishing they will do determines my suggestions. If you live in an area that has small rivers and creeks I suggest a 4# because of it's versatility and sensitivity, including ease of casting due to lighter weight in hand. For the reel, a mid-arbor in the mid-price range with good drag control and the line I'm suggesting will be a WF high floating color low orange or yellow. It takes only a few times on the water to learn to watch your line so I feel making it a dominant color that will glare at them for a year is a bit over kill. I try to teach people to really 'key into the line tip for movement so they can learn to mend and set more quickly. I'd also ask them to purchase a sinking line for the 'small' streamers they might throw.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I tend to put newbs on the wal-mart sci-angler specials. It gets them on fish for cheap. That $80 combo will tell them if this is a sport that they want to invest the money in. I fished with my wally-special for years, nothing wrong with a little click'n'pawl reel, all that reel does in anything under 6wt is holds line, if a fish has enough spunk to get on the reel or work the drag on then good on the fish.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

Forgot to add, the biggest argument to go cheap on a starter setup is that a newb does not know the difference between an $80 combo and a $1000 rod and reel setup.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from -Bob wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I don't agree with your decision to start a newbie with a slower rod, in the hopes of preventing bad habits later on.

Remember that we're talking about a recreational activity here, not a career choice…and youngsters have shorter attention spans than we geezers. I have found that the key to creating a lifelong fisherman/hunter is EARLY SUCCESS. It's gotta be fun RIGHT NOW, or you're gonna lose that young person to the horrors of soccer, Facebook, etc. The work, polishing, and perfection can come later on.

Bluegills, warm water, wet wading, and big goofy poppers that are fun to throw were the ticket for my kids. Just my two cents. -Bob

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I hear you, Bob, but who says you can't be successful or have fun right away with a slower action rod? In fact, little folks feel the line loading better with slower rods... which helps then cast straighter and farther, and enjoy exactly the type of success you're talking about. Ask a 10-year old to hoof a Sage TCX which doesn't really load until you're at 40 feet, and you're more likely encounter the frustration factor you describe (and I agree with completely). Besides, if you want to throw goofy poppers and have fun with bluegills, what kind of action works best? My point exactly.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from -Bob wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

Ah. I supposed I misunderstood your original premise. Please forgive the ignorance of a knuckle-dragging spin-fisherman. If the rod profile you describe makes life easier for a newbie, then I'm all for it. Now, if only I could find a way for my son to bust more clays... -Bob

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tbogg10 wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

thanks, im trying to get into fly fishing, and this will help me out.
any other sugestions would be appreciated as well

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from mutt wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

thank you for the advice in this article. I want to start fly fishing but didn't Know what rod to find

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I'd recommend a medium action rod. Slow action rods, like bamboo....I really know of no slow action graphite rods unless they are very poorly made rods with lots of glass in them, and they cast poorly, and timing is to critical to make them cast well for a beginner. Wind effects them more. It is just much easier to cast a medium to medium fast action rod. They will protect tippets from breaking better than a fast action rod, and you can buy inexpensive rods/reels today, that you can use for a lifetime that are good performing pieces of equipment. Line? Drylines are light colored, and easy to see especially for a beginner so color is of no concern to me. I recommend DOUBLE TAPER LINES. They tangle less because the running line is of a bigger diameter, not a small running line. You can roll cast better with DT lines, and I personally, and I distance cast in the off season measuring the length of my casts, can cast a DT line as far as a wt. forward. You get double the use by swapping ends when one end wears out. I also want a 5 or 6 wt. rod/line for a beginner..It has more wt. that the caster can feel, and they can get it out there better than a 3 or 4wt.
I've fly fished, guided, for many years, and now use medium.med.fast action rods for all of my trout fishing. The rod does the work, and I don't have to move my arm aggressively trying to bend a fast action rod. Only my steelhead rods are fast action, and not even all of them.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I remember throwing a cheap level line with a spun fiberglas 8ft rod and an old model 63 Martin. A cheaper reel cannot be found on earth. The rod on the other hand had some redeeming features that I liked. I was fat dumb and happy with this outfit until some rod salesman invented the word "load" and told me my fly rod had to have it. Then I suddenly had to have a rod that "loaded well" then I had to have a rod for nymphs and then a rod for dries and then a rod for bass bugs then pike then steelhead then saltwater and then bamboo and now, 30 years later, I've learned a lot. I'm back to the same spun fiberglas rod. I nixed the cheap reel and installed a good old fashion, new in the box, automatic fly reel. Vintage 1950. Drop me in my float tube and I'm good all day. I'm sort of nostalgic like that.

I will have to assume that the rod a person learns to cast will be the same rod they fish with. A good all around rod is a 9ft 5wt with weight forward line. Action? You pick. I don't think it matters. I'll go out on the limb and say you can do just about anything with this rod and to paraphrase an old saying, "Beware the man with one gun". This is the fly rod that fits that description.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I had the opportunity to work with several dozen 12-15 year old boys and girls on a few youth days. We had several rods set up for them. 6-weight tip flex (fast action) was too much to start. Anything under a 4-weight also was a problem. Seems the old stand by, 8 foot 5-wt, medium flex seems to be the best compromise, though the smaller kids did better with the 7-foot 4-weight.

I don't think the line color matters - pretty easy to see any color of a line as far as the kids can typically cast them. We had both double and weight forward tapers. Although we started them off roll casting, I think forward tapers do help get a better feel for the rod loading. That feel comes easy to some but never to others.

Sayfu - Orvis still makes graphite full flex rods. I have some older Superfines, which are also full flex.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dotcomaphobe wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

This is exactly what I wanted to read. I'm looking at options now for a starter combo, and your advice is really going to help. Thanks!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dougfish wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

Midflex in graphite is the ticket. The fast action rods are for experienced casters going for some distance. In VA, with smaller water the midflex rod will serve you well for most water. 4-5 wt. 8-9Ft. They can get a shorter light (or heavier) rod once they get hooked on the experience. Feeling the load is the key. You can overline a fast rod or be better served with a midflex. I do like a DT line with 5 feet cut off for the roll casting/snap T that has to be learned. I might be a little biased since I'm old school myself. I chuck lead better with the long midflex, too.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dougfish wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

Buck, got my grandfather's old Shakespere rod with the vertical auto reel and my fathers with the horizontal auto. Planning to re-guide both along with mine with an early composite reel. All 40+ plus years old. Took them out with old line and casted as/almost as well as my everyday graphite. Gonna be fun.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Greg Arnold wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I have a Fenwick 8'6" fiberglass in 6 wt which fishes one weight up or down. Grandkids are 5 and 10 and both handle the rod quite well out to 30 or 35' with a 5wt DT floating line. My one concession is using an Okuma Integra reel so they have a good disc drag if needed for the occasional largemouth they encounter. Excellent for panfishing, which has its own reward of providing tablefare.

The soft, medium action of the fiberglass rod is very good for beginners, it was my starter rod 35 years ago.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from newtothis wrote 4 years 7 weeks ago

Interesting. I'm a grownup newcomer to fly fishing (one lesson from a friend so far), and busily looking for deals so I can get geared up & practice more. I decided on an 8wt, for steelhead, and found a steal on a March Brown Hidden Waters 9-foot 7-piece, which seemed to have gotten good reviews (I'm a backpacker, so this seemed to make sense). I'm a little baffled about the reel and line now, though--I know I need an 8 wt (or 7/8 or 8/9 wt) reel, but do I definitely need 8wt line? I read somewhere that what I want is WF7F line. Does that make sense? And I know this is a really dumb question, but can I also use this rod (and whatever reel & line I get) for trout, or is it simply overkill?

Thanks.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fly4fishchris wrote 3 years 10 weeks ago

I will have to agree with some others on here, beginners need immediate results, especially the younger they are. The easier it is for them to cast and hook up on fish, the more chance they have of getting hooked. My blog has some good information for people just starting out and looking to buy equipment.

Chris
http://onlineflyfishingguide.com/OnlineFlyFishingGuideBlog/

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Noah Rosenblatt wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Ok First things first Thanks for all the INFO. I moved to North Argentina with my wife that's where all her family is.
I am a 15 min drive from the Parana River which is know for the Golden Darado. I have been a professional fisherman for years in Miami and now i want to learn Fly. I am 6"2 any recommendations my family is coming to visit in a couple months so they can bring me some gear.

Thank you very much
Noah

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from buckhunter wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I remember throwing a cheap level line with a spun fiberglas 8ft rod and an old model 63 Martin. A cheaper reel cannot be found on earth. The rod on the other hand had some redeeming features that I liked. I was fat dumb and happy with this outfit until some rod salesman invented the word "load" and told me my fly rod had to have it. Then I suddenly had to have a rod that "loaded well" then I had to have a rod for nymphs and then a rod for dries and then a rod for bass bugs then pike then steelhead then saltwater and then bamboo and now, 30 years later, I've learned a lot. I'm back to the same spun fiberglas rod. I nixed the cheap reel and installed a good old fashion, new in the box, automatic fly reel. Vintage 1950. Drop me in my float tube and I'm good all day. I'm sort of nostalgic like that.

I will have to assume that the rod a person learns to cast will be the same rod they fish with. A good all around rod is a 9ft 5wt with weight forward line. Action? You pick. I don't think it matters. I'll go out on the limb and say you can do just about anything with this rod and to paraphrase an old saying, "Beware the man with one gun". This is the fly rod that fits that description.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from fflutterffly wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I believe in doing nothing half way. Buy good equipment right off and you'll be on to a good start. When you buy cheep you tend to have to replace equipment once you try out someone with quality stuff and you see the difference, especially with a rods. With that said I also believe in keeping it simple. Beginners are overwhelmed with information anyway, so why compound the learning curve with more stuff. Depending on where they live and how much fishing they will do determines my suggestions. If you live in an area that has small rivers and creeks I suggest a 4# because of it's versatility and sensitivity, including ease of casting due to lighter weight in hand. For the reel, a mid-arbor in the mid-price range with good drag control and the line I'm suggesting will be a WF high floating color low orange or yellow. It takes only a few times on the water to learn to watch your line so I feel making it a dominant color that will glare at them for a year is a bit over kill. I try to teach people to really 'key into the line tip for movement so they can learn to mend and set more quickly. I'd also ask them to purchase a sinking line for the 'small' streamers they might throw.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I tend to put newbs on the wal-mart sci-angler specials. It gets them on fish for cheap. That $80 combo will tell them if this is a sport that they want to invest the money in. I fished with my wally-special for years, nothing wrong with a little click'n'pawl reel, all that reel does in anything under 6wt is holds line, if a fish has enough spunk to get on the reel or work the drag on then good on the fish.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

Forgot to add, the biggest argument to go cheap on a starter setup is that a newb does not know the difference between an $80 combo and a $1000 rod and reel setup.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from -Bob wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I don't agree with your decision to start a newbie with a slower rod, in the hopes of preventing bad habits later on.

Remember that we're talking about a recreational activity here, not a career choice…and youngsters have shorter attention spans than we geezers. I have found that the key to creating a lifelong fisherman/hunter is EARLY SUCCESS. It's gotta be fun RIGHT NOW, or you're gonna lose that young person to the horrors of soccer, Facebook, etc. The work, polishing, and perfection can come later on.

Bluegills, warm water, wet wading, and big goofy poppers that are fun to throw were the ticket for my kids. Just my two cents. -Bob

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I hear you, Bob, but who says you can't be successful or have fun right away with a slower action rod? In fact, little folks feel the line loading better with slower rods... which helps then cast straighter and farther, and enjoy exactly the type of success you're talking about. Ask a 10-year old to hoof a Sage TCX which doesn't really load until you're at 40 feet, and you're more likely encounter the frustration factor you describe (and I agree with completely). Besides, if you want to throw goofy poppers and have fun with bluegills, what kind of action works best? My point exactly.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I'd recommend a medium action rod. Slow action rods, like bamboo....I really know of no slow action graphite rods unless they are very poorly made rods with lots of glass in them, and they cast poorly, and timing is to critical to make them cast well for a beginner. Wind effects them more. It is just much easier to cast a medium to medium fast action rod. They will protect tippets from breaking better than a fast action rod, and you can buy inexpensive rods/reels today, that you can use for a lifetime that are good performing pieces of equipment. Line? Drylines are light colored, and easy to see especially for a beginner so color is of no concern to me. I recommend DOUBLE TAPER LINES. They tangle less because the running line is of a bigger diameter, not a small running line. You can roll cast better with DT lines, and I personally, and I distance cast in the off season measuring the length of my casts, can cast a DT line as far as a wt. forward. You get double the use by swapping ends when one end wears out. I also want a 5 or 6 wt. rod/line for a beginner..It has more wt. that the caster can feel, and they can get it out there better than a 3 or 4wt.
I've fly fished, guided, for many years, and now use medium.med.fast action rods for all of my trout fishing. The rod does the work, and I don't have to move my arm aggressively trying to bend a fast action rod. Only my steelhead rods are fast action, and not even all of them.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from -Bob wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

Ah. I supposed I misunderstood your original premise. Please forgive the ignorance of a knuckle-dragging spin-fisherman. If the rod profile you describe makes life easier for a newbie, then I'm all for it. Now, if only I could find a way for my son to bust more clays... -Bob

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tbogg10 wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

thanks, im trying to get into fly fishing, and this will help me out.
any other sugestions would be appreciated as well

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from mutt wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

thank you for the advice in this article. I want to start fly fishing but didn't Know what rod to find

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I had the opportunity to work with several dozen 12-15 year old boys and girls on a few youth days. We had several rods set up for them. 6-weight tip flex (fast action) was too much to start. Anything under a 4-weight also was a problem. Seems the old stand by, 8 foot 5-wt, medium flex seems to be the best compromise, though the smaller kids did better with the 7-foot 4-weight.

I don't think the line color matters - pretty easy to see any color of a line as far as the kids can typically cast them. We had both double and weight forward tapers. Although we started them off roll casting, I think forward tapers do help get a better feel for the rod loading. That feel comes easy to some but never to others.

Sayfu - Orvis still makes graphite full flex rods. I have some older Superfines, which are also full flex.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from dougfish wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

Buck, got my grandfather's old Shakespere rod with the vertical auto reel and my fathers with the horizontal auto. Planning to re-guide both along with mine with an early composite reel. All 40+ plus years old. Took them out with old line and casted as/almost as well as my everyday graphite. Gonna be fun.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dotcomaphobe wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

This is exactly what I wanted to read. I'm looking at options now for a starter combo, and your advice is really going to help. Thanks!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dougfish wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

Midflex in graphite is the ticket. The fast action rods are for experienced casters going for some distance. In VA, with smaller water the midflex rod will serve you well for most water. 4-5 wt. 8-9Ft. They can get a shorter light (or heavier) rod once they get hooked on the experience. Feeling the load is the key. You can overline a fast rod or be better served with a midflex. I do like a DT line with 5 feet cut off for the roll casting/snap T that has to be learned. I might be a little biased since I'm old school myself. I chuck lead better with the long midflex, too.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from fly4fishchris wrote 3 years 10 weeks ago

I will have to agree with some others on here, beginners need immediate results, especially the younger they are. The easier it is for them to cast and hook up on fish, the more chance they have of getting hooked. My blog has some good information for people just starting out and looking to buy equipment.

Chris
http://onlineflyfishingguide.com/OnlineFlyFishingGuideBlog/

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Greg Arnold wrote 4 years 10 weeks ago

I have a Fenwick 8'6" fiberglass in 6 wt which fishes one weight up or down. Grandkids are 5 and 10 and both handle the rod quite well out to 30 or 35' with a 5wt DT floating line. My one concession is using an Okuma Integra reel so they have a good disc drag if needed for the occasional largemouth they encounter. Excellent for panfishing, which has its own reward of providing tablefare.

The soft, medium action of the fiberglass rod is very good for beginners, it was my starter rod 35 years ago.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from newtothis wrote 4 years 7 weeks ago

Interesting. I'm a grownup newcomer to fly fishing (one lesson from a friend so far), and busily looking for deals so I can get geared up & practice more. I decided on an 8wt, for steelhead, and found a steal on a March Brown Hidden Waters 9-foot 7-piece, which seemed to have gotten good reviews (I'm a backpacker, so this seemed to make sense). I'm a little baffled about the reel and line now, though--I know I need an 8 wt (or 7/8 or 8/9 wt) reel, but do I definitely need 8wt line? I read somewhere that what I want is WF7F line. Does that make sense? And I know this is a really dumb question, but can I also use this rod (and whatever reel & line I get) for trout, or is it simply overkill?

Thanks.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Noah Rosenblatt wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Ok First things first Thanks for all the INFO. I moved to North Argentina with my wife that's where all her family is.
I am a 15 min drive from the Parana River which is know for the Golden Darado. I have been a professional fisherman for years in Miami and now i want to learn Fly. I am 6"2 any recommendations my family is coming to visit in a couple months so they can bring me some gear.

Thank you very much
Noah

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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