Basic Fly Rod Setup

Fly Fishing Setup Tips
Fly fishing is a great way to catch more trout. Although fly fishing is often seen as an expensive sport, it doesn’t have to be. Below are some tips to get you started with a basic fly fishing setup.

The Rod

When it comes to fly fishing, the rod is perhaps the single most important piece of gear to consider. There are a few things to consider when buying a fly rod. The first is the weight. You want to choose your weight according to the type of trout for which you are fishing. You want a smaller weight for smaller trout. If you are going to be fishing in smaller mountain streams for native and brook trout, a 3 or 4 weight rod would be a great choice. If you are fishing for slightly bigger trout, like rainbows and browns, a 5 weight rod would be a good choice. If you are going to be fishing for salmon, steelhead, or other bigger fish, you would want to get a heavier rod. The other factor you need to consider when purchasing a fly rod for trout fishing is the length of the rod. A 9-9.5 ft. rod is a good all around choice. But again, it depends on the conditions in which you plan to fish. If you are planning on fishing in smaller mountain streams, a smaller rod would be a better choice since you will likely not have a lot of room to cast. The last thing you want to consider is how many pieces the rod is. Fly rods can break down into 2, 3, or even 4 smaller pieces. Think about where you are going to be storing or transporting the rod.

The Fly Reel

Many trout fishermen suggest that of all the components of fly fishing, the fly reel is the least important. However, most would also agree that it is not unimportant by any means. Your fly reel will be used to hold the backing and fly line. You want to make sure you get something that can hold enough line and backing for the type of situation in which you plan to fish. You would also want to look at the drag system. Again, consider the type of fish you are targeting. If you are going after larger lake trout, you want to make sure your fly reel has a drag system that will be able to handle the fish. If you are mostly targeting small brook trout in mountain streams, then the drag system is not as important.

The Fly Line

Some trout fishermen argue that the fly line is the most important part of a fly fishing set up. This may or may not be true, but either way, the fly line is extremely important. When you are fishing with a spinning reel, the weight of the lure or bait determines how far you can cast. When you are fly fishing, the quality and weight of the line (and rod) allows you to make accurate casts. There are several things to consider when purchasing fly line. First, you want to pay attention to the weight. Fly line weight ranges from 1-15, with 1 being the lightest line. Lighter lines will allow you to cast and present lighter flies, while heavier lines will allow you to cast heavier flies like streamers. The next thing you want to consider is the type of taper of the fly line. The type of taper refers to the way the line is constructed and how it changes in diameter and thickness. There are several types of taper, each with a different purpose. The most popular choice, especially for beginner fly fishermen, is the weight-forward (WT) taper. With this type of taper, the first 30 yards are heavier than the rest of the line, allowing you to cast further, even in windy conditions. In addition to the weight and taper of the line, you want to pay attention to the density of the line. There are floating, sinking, and floating/sinking lines, each with a different purpose. The names are self explanatory. Floating lines float, sinking lines sink, and floating/sinking lines sink for the first 20 ft. or so. In terms of density, you want to choose a line based on the types of flies you are going to be using. If you are mostly using dry flies and fishing the surface, you want to choose a floating line.


The backing is what is tied directly to the fly reel and then to your fly line. Backing usually comes in 20-30 lb. test. Generally speaking, if you are using a line weight below 8, you would want to get 20 lb. test backing. If you are using line weight above 8, you would want to go with a 30 lb. test.


The leader is what connects your fly to your fly line. Leaders help you present your fly to fish in the most natural way. Therefore, choosing the right leader is very important. Some trout fishermen choose to tie their own leaders, but if you are just starting out, buying a commercial leader is a great way to go.


Tippet line lets you connect your fly to the leader. You don’t have to use a tippet, but each time you tie on a new fly you are decreasing the size of your leader. So bringing a variety of tippet material with you can allow you to change flies without cutting your leader.

Remember, fly fishing doesn’t have to be an expensive sport. You can assemble a great fly rod setup at a very reasonable price.

For more great trout fishing tips, visit