With many of you, let's face it, flyfishing is an inevitability. You're the type who takes his or her hobbies seriously. You don't enjoy golf or tennis or whatever unless you do them well. You might even take lessons in your respective sports and even search out recreation that provides a challenge and the opportunity to become more and more specialized in the activity. You may have fished before but realized that there must be more than dunking a worm or chees ball. If you fit all or part of the above and I've caught you before you've invested in that expensive bass or trolling boat, then read on. You're a potential flyfisherman. Let me cover some of the information you might need to take the plunge and get started with the following warnings. Flyfishing is not inexpensive (but much cheaper than a fancy boat), is totally consuming and addictive (you need an understanding spouse), and will change your ideas about killing fish (you might need to stock your freezer with more chicken).
First of all, let's talk money. You can get the basic equipment for about $100.00, ready to attach a fly and cast. Even the specialty fly shops can sell starter outfits for this price. We're talking about a good graphite rod, line, leader and light single action reel. I was in one of these shops the other day and within a half hour two people came in inquiring about getting started with the right equipment. One of them brought in an old bamboo rod and a heavy automatic reel. The rod would strike any dedicated fly fisherman with reverence and awe and we would definitely hang it on the wall but probably not fish it. The automatic reel would immediately be thrown out or melted down for sinkers. They're both much to heavy. Today's hi-tech graphite materials are so much lighter and stronger, they make a day's casting and playing fish so much more enjoyable.
I would recommend a good quality graphite rod in about a six or seven weight size and a good single action reel with a weight forward floating line. That would be the basics. All you would need is a dry fly or nymph on a tapered leader and you are ready for any stream or river or lake.
Now about the accessories. With many larger rivers or lakes you'll need waders. They allow us to get within casting range of more fish and also get away from the shoreline brush which can really hamper casting. I would recommend a good canvas, rubber or nylon pair of stocking foot waders with a pair of wading shoes. Stocking feet waders allow the use of a more comfortable and effective wading boot and also allow the flexibility of using fins and a float tube on lakes where a boot would be a heavy and useless nuisance. We have many more lakes and reservoirs than rivers so float tubing in our area is a definite option. (I would hold off on the float tube until you were sure you liked casting and working a fly rod.)
Another necessary accessory is the vest. It should be comfortable and have as many pockets as possible. There will be tons of things to keep track of out on the river and the vest is your filing cabinet.
You will need fly boxes that will hold your flies without crushing them. Fly floatant to dress your flies, leaders and line will be needed. Some kind of clippers for trimming your knots and flies when needed. You will need leader tippet spools at least 2X to 6X with a supply of extra tapered leaders. You might need extra lines including sinking or wet tip lines for fishing deep. The floating line will probably do for your first several trips, however. A net would probably be considered a necessary item. Get one with a soft bag that won't injure the fish. Additional items that I have found useful and are in my vest are polarized sunglasses for spotting fish, hemostat pliers for hook removal, split-shot or micro-shot for weighting the leader, insect repellant and sunscreen, strike indicators for nymph fishing, a mini-flashlight for after dark fly changes, first aid kit, small binoculars, camera, extra reel spools, a fishing log book and a hooded rain jacket. Get used to your vest and where every-thing is filed, and remember, get lots of pockets!
Along with equipment you will need some knowledge. I use two basic knots and almost none other. A surgeon's knot is a simple, fast and reliable way to attach the tippet to the leader, and the improved clinch knot is the knot I use to attach the fly to the line. The Duncan Loop (or Uni-knot) is also good for the latter. Whatever knots you use, practice them over and over for you will be tying them sometimes under duress of poor visibility, wind, cold fingers, or sheer panic because of the huge fish you just spotted sipping the exact pattern you're fumbling to ty on!
Casting and fly tying classes would be great if you have access to them. Most of the equipment shops offer introductory classes in basic casting and knots and fly tying.
I love to spend winter nights reading flyfishing magazines and "how to" books. The Scientific Anglers "Flyfishing Made Easy" handbook is excellent and covers everything you need to know to get started including everything I've mentioned plus streamside entymology (bugs that fish are eating) and how to read a river and know where to cast. "Flyfishing" magazine is an excellently written and informative magazine published every two months.
Flytying and rod building are almost hobbies in themselves and certainly can provide enjoyment when the snow is flying. They make the sport a year-round activity. Organizations such as the Stonefly Club nd the Federation of Flyfishers offer a chance to fraternize with fellow enthusiasts if that appeals to you.
I got started slow, a little bit at a time, and have found that to be very enjoyable. There isn't a flyfishing shop between here and Canada that I haven't probably spent a few dollars in. Many of you might want to save up and get everything at once. Whatever your decision, if you're the right personality type for this sport, you will be embarking on what could prove to be a most fascinating hobby and sport which will continue to challenge and delight you for all your remaining years. I certainly hope that it proves to be that way for you. I'll be looking for ya!