Now more than ever, we all need to get outdoors — step away from work and stress, breathe in fresh air, and focus on simple things. Fishing can become your pathway to relaxation, even as you build skills and marvel as you haul in your first fish. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but you do need at least some basic equipment. Beginners would do well to read The Orvis Guide to Beginning Fly Fishing.” I love The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing, which has innumerable helpful tips once you’ve wet a line a few times. And of course, there are the timeless words from the classic Norman Maclean novel A River Runs Through It and the Robert Redford/Brad Pitt film of the same name: “… in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that eventually a fish will rise. Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it …”
I live in Idaho, where fly fishing is almost a religion. Here and in neighboring Montana, opening day of fishing season is a hallowed event. When I moved here from California in 2011, though, I had never tried fishing. A friend gave me one of his fly rods — an antique Danielson 880F — and had me practice casting in my large, open backyard. The rod was stiff, and I found it difficult to control my cast. Later, he gave me a better rod — a Sierra GT 8000 by Quarrow. I took it to a lake in the wilderness, and that’s when I finally got the hang of casting. A fat trout lurked in the shallows, about 20 feet away. As he swam back and forth, I was able to lay the fly right over him. He nibbled once or twice but wasn’t in the mood for my fly. Did it matter? No! The breeze freshened through the pines, the sun sparkled on the water and my cares melted away. There’s a primitive satisfaction in casting that takes you back to the simpler times of childhood.
The Fly Shop
To get some expert advice, I visited the Three Rivers Ranch Fly Shop in Eagle, Idaho. Fly fishing has so many variables: Are you fishing from a large river, small stream, pond, lake; what type of fish, time of year, wind conditions; and much more. That’s why it’s such a good idea to speak to a local expert before you go, because they can recommend the right equipment, techniques and flies for the specific time and place you plan to fish.
Fly Fishing Gear
For fly fishing, you’ll need a fly rod, of course, along with a reel, wet and dry flies, fly line, leader, tippet (optional), strike indicator if you’re using a wet (submerged) fly, and clipper to cut the line. Brock, one of the experts at Three Rivers Ranch Fly Shop, offered a variety of gear tips. “When choosing a rod, go with a 9-foot, 5-weight or 6-weight rod,” he said. If you’ve never tried fishing before, it makes sense to buy a combo kit. You can get started for a little under $100. If the fishing bug bites you, you can upgrade your equipment over time.
The fly line is the thick line wound inside the reel. A leader is the tapered monofilament connected to your fly line. “When you cast, a tapered leader is vital to the transfer of power, allowing the fly to turn over and lay out flat on the water,” Brock explained. “Tippet comes in small spools and is tied to your fly and to the leader. The tippet must be the same size as or smaller than the end of your leader and is nearly invisible to the fish. Or you can tie your fly directly to your leader.”
Conventional fishing is when you’re going for bass, crappie, bluegill and many other fish. You cast your baited hook and let it sit, or drag it if you’re in a river. You’ll need a rod, spinning reel, weights, bait and hooks or lures of the appropriate size for your intended catch, fishing line, hook keeper (optional), and a bobber. Again, speak to a local outfitter so you get the right equipment for local conditions (a shorter rod will do for ice fishing, for example).
Don’t Forget These Items
Some fishing gear is universal. Always bring sun protection in the form of sunscreen, a sun shirt, hat, polarized sunglasses (they help you see into the water) and possibly a bandana to protect the bottom half of your face. Some people like to wear gloves to protect their hands from the sun or from a line pulling, and you’ll need waders and boots if you want to walk into the water. Don’t forget a fishing license! On private property, you might not need one, but check local regulations on your state’s fish and wildlife website. You can buy your license online and print it out; fees are reasonable and help maintain fish and wildlife populations.
If you find you love fishing, then splurge someday and hire an experienced guide on one of America’s finest fishing rivers: the South Fork of the Snake in southeastern Idaho, or the Madison, Missouri or Blackfoot rivers near Helena, Montana. If you get hooked, you might just find a river running through you for the rest of your life!
Fishing equipment shopping list:
- Fly fishing combo kit
- Tippet spools
- Conventional fishing rod
- Spinning reel
- Fishing line
- Hook keeper
- Ice fishing rod
- Sun shirt
- Polarized sunglasses
Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.
Crista Worthy writes about aviation, travel, wildlife, and more from her home in Idaho.