by Kirk Deeter

I’m starting to take a more critical look at the value of fly fishing gear in the context of the “return on investment” (ROI) it offers. Sure, in pure monetary terms, fly tackle might depreciate faster than the car you drive…unless you’re talking about bamboo rods, or classic Hardy reels or other bona fide collector items. I’m talking about the fishing experience bang for your buck in the long haul…

Rods, for example, tend to offer a pretty good ROI. You can spend anywhere from a hundred bucks to several hundred, depending on your tastes, and you know you can use that rod many days on the water. Heck, in many cases, if you break your rod, you can send it in under warranty and get a new one. Hence, a rod can last a lifetime. Your grandkids might fish with your rod someday. The person who actually builds rods is probably getting the best ROI…making their own stick and creating an heirloom in the process.

Reels offer a pretty good ROI usually. I got a lot of river miles out of my first trout reel, a Pleuger Medalist. Some of the new classics from Hatch, Abel, Tibor, and Nautilus, while not cheap, seem destined to persevere through the years. And fly lines…a lot of people underestimate the ROI of a good fly line, especially if you treat it well. A good line can do as much for your casting and fishing experience as any rod can, and there’s a difference in performance and durability between the cheap lines and the more pricey options.

But there are some product areas where the ROI equation gets a little hazy. Flies…flies have to offer the absolute worst ROI of anything. That’s not the fly company’s fault. But when I look at what I spend on flies, and think about how many I break off, or leave rusting and unused in the fly box, I have a hard time thinking of flies any differently than I think of the gas I pump into my truck. Can’t go anywhere without them. A commodity. Interestingly, unlike gas, prices for flies are dropping. [Orvis]( dir_id=1236&group_id=24113&cat_id=24114&subcat_id=24115 ), for example, is now selling its [most popular bugs]( dir_id=1236&group_id=24113&cat_id=24114&subcat_id=24115 ) for $1.50 a piece, which ain’t bad.

Waders and wading boots…now there’s a fuzzy ROI. Odds are, no matter how well you treat your waders and boots, you can be pretty sure your grandkids won’t fish in them. But you can spend as much for waders and boots as you can for a nice rod and reel. Thing is, waders, like flies, are critical for fishing in most trout rivers (except in the golden summer months when you can wet wade). And wader life depends a lot on luck. Walk into a barbed-wire fence, and you’ve just flushed away a lot of money. So it’s ultimately on you to make your own wader ROI. Still, I’ve had waders that cost $400 and they started leaking after a month…and I didn’t remember any accidents that caused that. You have to think that if you’re spending $10 or more for every river day you actually fish in waders, you’re getting ripped off. Then again, I’ve had a pair of Simms G3 Guide waders ($430) that I’ve fished almost 400 days in…and doing the math, that ends up being an ROI of just over a buck spent for every dry day on the river.

And that’s a heck of a lot less than the price of gas I’m burning through to go fishing.