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.