Merwin: Inexpensive Fly Fishing Tackle

A few years back and as an experiment I put together an entire bass-fishing outfit with lures for about $50. This was not only possible, but I actually caught a few fish and had a great time while patting myself on the back for getting by on short money.

I was thinking about this yesterday while sorting through some flyfishing gear. My L.L. Bean Quest II fly reels that I use most often in warmwater fishing cost $29 to $39, depending on size, and after three years of hard use, they're still ticking like new. The point is that while you can spend upwards of $300 or more for a classy fly reel, that's not a prerequisite for getting into the game.

The Bean reels are molded composite instead of finely machined aluminum. There's an adjustable center drag made of some kind of synthetic, which works just fine. I usually use the largest size (for lines sizes 7/8/9) for bass fishing. Bass don't run very far, of course, which is good because at first I was reluctant to use a cheap reel on anything that might actually test the drag. But last fall I took some steelhead on the same reel without a problem.

No, I don't always use cheap tackle, and some of the high-end stuff I've accumulated over the years has turned out to be a much better investment than Citibank stock. But even if your champagne taste in fishing gear is weighed down by beer-bottle pockets, there's still plenty of fun to be had on the water....