Beginner Fly Fishing Gear Checklist: 10 Essentials for Getting Started

By Debbie Hanson

Dec 13, 2018

Which items should you have on your beginner fly fishing gear checklist? Get a starter beginner fly fishing gear list, learn about the fly fishing basics

Fly fishing can be a great way to decompress outdoors during the holiday season. If you aren't sure about the fly fishing gear you need to get started, just use this beginner fly fishing gear checklist as a resource.

1. Fly Rod

Aside from your fishing license, a fly rod should be the first item on your beginner fly fishing gear list. While there are different weights of fly rods you can use depending on the fish species you plan to target, two of the most versatile fly rod weights are a 6-weight fly rod or a 7-weight fly rod.

2. Fly Reel

Your fly reel should be paired with your fly rod based on the weight. In other words, if you have a 7-weight fly rod, you would get a 7-weight fly reel to use with your rod.

3. Fly Line Backing

Be sure to add about 100-yards of Dacron fly line backing to your reel arbor before adding fly line to your reel. Backing serves two primary purposes. First, it serves as "back-up" to your fly line if a fish takes a long run. Second, the backing prevents your fly line from becoming wrapped too tightly around the arbor, which can create memory coils or kinks.

4. Fly Line

Your fly line should be selected based on the weight of your rod. For example, if you have a 7-weight fly rod, you should select a 7-weight fly line to spool on your 7-weight reel. While there are many different types of fly lines you can choose from, a weight-forward floating fly line is the best type of line for beginners to start with.

5. Leader

Once you have fly line on your reel, you will need to attach a leader. The typical length of leader to use when fly fishing is about 9 to 10 feet. You will want to either buy a knotless tapered leader or build your own tapered leader. If you build your own, you should start with the heaviest leader material for the butt section (the first section that it attached to your fly line), and then taper it down using two or three additional sections of lighter weight leader material.

6. Flies

Since the flies you use will entice the fish to bite, they are a very important part of any beginner fly fishing gear checklist. Two popular fly patterns that beginners can use in either freshwater or saltwater fly fishing situations are the Clouser minnow pattern and a topwater popping bug.

7. Line Snips

Another "must-have" on a beginner fly fishing gear list is a pair of line snips. Line snips will help you make quick leader changes and fly changes.

8. Forceps or Hemostat

Once you catch a fish on your fly rod, you will need to remove the hook using forceps (forceps may also be referred to as hemostats). Forceps can also be used to crimp the barbs down on your hooks when fly fishing for safer, easier catch and release.

9. Polarized Sunglasses

Wearing a good pair of polarized sunglasses is important when fly fishing. Polarized glasses not only protect your eyes from the UV rays of the sun, they also cut through the glare on the surface of the water so that you can see the fish and make accurate casts.

10. PFD

If you plan to fly fish from a boat or kayak, always wear a United States Coast Guard approved PFD. When fly fishing in a river or stream, be sure to learn about wader safety and buy the right pair of waders for the waterways where you will be fly fishing.

As with any other type of fishing, keep in mind that the species you intend to target should be considered when selecting gear for fly fishing. These beginner fly fishing gear list suggestions are intended to provide new fly anglers with a simple starting point.

Now that you have your gear essentials, start celebrating the Great Outdoors Month! 

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.