Fly Fishing on a Budget

I recently had the pleasure to speak at length to a founding member, and Executive Director of the Delaware Valley Fly Fishers Club, Jerry Girard Sr. Jerry’s knowledge of fly fishing spans far beyond the act of angling – he is also a recognized historian of fly fishing in America and is a collector of antique fly fishing equipment and ephemera. Jerry’s interjection of these topics among his educational presentations at club meetings and classes helps to emphasize the robust history of our sport – lending the modern angler a very real sense of connection to past generations of fly fishers.

As our conversation turned to focus on the economics of fly fishing, particularly those costs associated with entering the sport, Jerry reassured that it can be done on a tight budget – though he is quick to include that fortunes large and small can also be spent. Among some angling circles today fly fishing continues to be labeled a sport for the wealthy. At one time, here in the U.S., that may have been so. Well-balanced rods with finely tuned action could only be purchased from a master craftsmen who could spend a hundred hours or more creating such a rod by hand. Rods such as these could cost a fortune and be wholly unattainable to the average working-class angler. I’m quite sure that this rooted perception has wrongly kept many people from fly fishing today. Thus, the goal of this article is to dispel the myth of fly fishing as a sport only for the wealthy and to encourage anglers who may be feeling the pinch of today’s economy that they can begin fly fishing for less than $100.00.

On the first stop on your shopping trip, particularly if you haven’t fly fished before, I strongly recommend you attend an Introduction to Fly Fishing Class – and the Delaware Valley Fly Fishers Club offers an excellent course later this month on March 22, 2014, and this is where you should spend your first $25.00 from your budget. For more information or to reserve your seat call us at: (215) 245-0677. A class such as this will provide you with the information you need to select the equipment necessary for you to reach your fly fishing goals – and as such, this article will not cover those details of what to purchase and why – those are covered in the class.

A quick online search this morning of the “big-name” outdoor sports vendors revealed that a very nice rod and reel combo (with floating weight-forward line, leader and backer) can be purchased for as little as $40.00. These are moderate action, 4-piece, graphite rods available in line weights of 5, 6 and 8 lbs. The lengths available are either 8.5 ft. or 9 ft. and come with cork handles and aluminum reel seats. The reels themselves can be switched for either right or left hand retrieval and are built with adjustable disc-drag. (Just to note: the next least expensive combo with similar features was priced at $60.00.) These modern rods are quite durable and surprisingly cast worthy… certainly well enough to provide years of angling fun.

The rod and reel combo above requires the additional purchase of a tippet or two to get started. Ranging from 3X to 6X the same vendor offered 30-yard spools for $1.88 each. Buying tippet materials by the spool is the most economical option, though you can also purchase tapered tippet-leader combinations of various lengths but you will pay a premium for the convenience of not tying your own.

Finally, the flies need to be purchased. While assortment packs are available and may seem to be the way to get a large and broad selection, I would recommend another option and this will require a visit to your local fly fishing vendor preferably one located near the waters you intend to fish. Go to the shop and introduce yourself to the proprietor who, in almost every case, will be a wealth of knowledge about the local waters, and ask them to help you select flies from these categories:

• Match the Hatch
• Attractor
• Dry or emerger
• Sinking or wet.

Fishing some combination of surface or near surface fly along with a sinking or wet fly tied onto a dropper will increase your chances for a bite. When matching the hatch, ask for guidance on selecting flies of different sizes. Depending on your selection, these flies can cost between $0.75 to $1.50 each. Consider selecting between 16 and 20 flies – with a few duplicates for those recommended as the most productive – and we’ll average the cost for simplicity here at $1.00 each. You can skip the specialty fly storage box for now and make use of something you have at home (empty prescription bottles, small candy tins, etc.). Once you get these flies home, if you are planing to release your catch, use a pair of pliers or a small file to remove the barb from the hook.

So, we’ve made a significant number of purchases to get us on the water for opening day. Let’s examine our total:

1 ea. Rod and reel with backer, line and leader = $40.00
3 ea. Tippet line = $ 5.64
1 ea. Shipping = $ 5.00
20 ea. Flies = $20.00
1 ea. Introduction to Fly Fishing Class = $25.00
Total = $95.64 (taxes not calculated)

Keep in mind, this is a bare-bones set up and a spartan example just to illustrate that you can start with nothing and build a kit and the knowledge to fly fish for under $100.00.

This, I believe, is a good starting point for budget conscious anglers – whether you are tentatively frugal entering a new sport, selecting an outfit for an angling youth (who knows what they will be into next week?), or simply in a pinch between pay days. Fly Fishing is affordable, fun, and provides a great opportunity to get close to nature, in peaceful solitude or with family and friends.

For more information about fly fishing come out to one of our monthly meetings, or better still, enroll in our Introduction to Fly Fishing Class.

We hope you join us!

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One thought on “Fly Fishing on a Budget

  1. This is a fantastic article filled with practical, good advice! I am sure you will introduce many to the joys of fly fishing, and also to fly tying – May they all become honourable custodians of the Great Outdoors – best regards, metiefly.

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