For years, the biggest problem anglers have had with fly fishing is the price tag that comes with it. Where many outdoor activities only require a vehicle and your two legs, fly fishing requires fly rods, reels, flies and a variety of other pieces of gear. Thankfully, with an initial investment, you’ll have enough gear to give you several years of quality time on the water.
Why is Fly Fishing So Expensive?
Fly fishing has always been a sport for those with a good amount of excess income. The travel to get to pristine waters and expensive accommodations combined with the purchase of gear makes it challenging for those who don’t have quite a bit of discretionary income to enter the sport.
Fly fishing gear itself is not easy to make. As a result, the man hours and materials make the prices higher than many would want. The fly rods are often made of carbon fiber, the fly reels contain titanium and hours of research and development go into designing each piece of equipment. Updating equipment each year is not a cheap expense for companies. Fly fishing gear needs to get lighter, faster and stronger each year. Once this gear is finally designed, advertising dollars are spent to let anglers know that it’s available.
Combine all of these factors and you’re looking to spend big bucks. A high quality fly fishing setup isn’t easy to accumulate, but the investment is worth it for a die hard angler.
How Much Does It Cost To Start Fly Fishing?
Before you start fly fishing, you need to be aware of how much you’re willing to spend. You can spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand depending on what you have available. Know your budget, and you’ll be able to make something work.
For a more bare-bones and affordable setup, you could spend $150 to $300. You can purchase a good quality rod, a good fly reel as well as leaders, flies and tippet. Companies like Orvis and Redington offer starter packs for those looking to get into fly fishing. These packs include rod, reel, fly line, tippet and a few flies for around $250. You could look to purchase used gear for a more affordable price. You can also find waders for $50 to $100! Again, it’s not going to be great gear, but it’s going to work.
For an intermediate fly fishing setup, you could spend somewhere between $400 to $700. This amount of money would allow you to purchase a quality rod, decent reel and everything else you need. If you budget $450 or $500 for the fly rod and fly reel, you have around a couple hundred dollars to buy some waders, wading boots and all the extra accessories you may need. This amount of money is easily going to get you a setup for a couple of hard years of usage.
For a high quality setup, you can spend anywhere from $800 to $2000. An expensive rod is going to be around $800 to $1000. You could easily spend $200 or $300 on a high performance reel. Many anglers ask if expensive fly rods are worth the price. Often, they are! You’ll notice a difference. An awesome reel is also worth the price. You’ll get a smooth drag system that feels great when you’re catching fish. Purchase a nice set of waders and wading boots for a few hundred and you could spend another couple hundred on line, flies and accessories.
Where is the Bulk of the Cost?
What makes fly fishing expensive is the necessary gear like fly fishing rods, reels, line, flies and waders. From there, the other accessories aren’t terribly expensive, but the prices can add up over time.
You can find a great beginner fly rod for around $200. The Orvis Encounter, Redington Classic Trout or Snowbee Classic are great rods for beginners and can last into your immediate stages. Fly fishermen and women have used these types of rods for their entire career and have been successful. Don’t count these out as cheap rods! You’ll definitely be catching fish with them. If you’re just getting started fly fishing, these are great options.
You can find a quality fly rod for $300. It’s not going to be a true high performance rod, but it’ll do the job. A rod like the Orvis Clearwater or the Sage Foundation can be found for $300 to $350. These rods are phenomenal and can easily last a lifetime regardless of your skill level. An expensive fly rod obviously doesn’t mean you’re going to catch more fish, but it can definitely help.
You can spend upwards of $2500 on truly expensive fly rods. Brands like Thomas & Thomas, Orvis, Sage and Douglas have models that cost a pretty penny. The Orvis Helios (buy here) and the Thomas & Thomas Paradigm (buy here) are around $1000, but perform at their price point.
Beginner fly reels can cost under $100. These aren’t the highest quality, but they’re still going to help you catch fish. They’re not as light weight as high quality reel, but they still do the job. The Redington Crosswater (buy here) is a great option for a high quality and affordable reel. The Orvis Encounter reel (buy here) is another reel under $100 that works great. Neither of these feel like cheap reels.
Intermediate and high quality reels will be between $100 and $300. Redington, Orvis, Sage, Allen, Lamson and Moonshine Rod Co. all make reels between $100 and $300. They’re all going to feel amazing and fight all fish you find.
Fly line is one of the more sneaky expenses in fly fishing. It’s not going to cost you $20 like it would on a spin rod. Brands like Rio, Aftco and Scientific Angler all have fly lines that will cost around $100 to $150. While fly line lasts a long time, it’s an initial investment that anglers don’t often think about. A high quality fly line is well worth it. The feel while casting and mending is well worth the higher price. Fly line is one of the few fly fishing products that you wouldn’t to buy used. It’s an essential piece of gear to help you catch fish.
Flies are where anglers can actually save money in fly fishing. Yes, it’s good to purchase flies from fly shops, but if you learn to tie your own flies, you will save money in the long run. A good fly tying setup will cost around $100 to $150, but the materials aren’t overly expensive and they’ll last a long while. Plus, learning to tie your own flies is a great hobby.
If you want to purchase individual flies, most will be at least $0.99 and upwards of $5 a piece. This can add up if you spend quite a bit of time on the water. Tie your own flies and you’ll save money. You go through a lot of flies in trout fishing and that often means a lot of money.
For years, I refused to buy a high quality set of waders and wading boots. I prided myself in toughing out the cold water and weather in a cheap set of waders that I found on Ebay for $50. While I made it work, I didn’t know what I was missing. I upgraded to a $150 pair and was far more comfortable. I stayed on the water longer and felt as if I could brave the elements. As a fellow, fly fisherman I recommend a decent set of waders. Companies like Redington, Patagonia and Simms all make great waders.
Other Fly Fishing Gear
Other fly fishing gear like packs, vests, sunglasses, forceps, nets and clothing are not cheap. However, this gear is where I’ve found I could get more creative. I use traditional outdoor clothes, hiking sling packs, personal sunglasses and a variety of other general gear to outfit myself. Make sure you buy a nice set of forceps and a nice net, but other than that, you can add your own personal flair to make it work. Again, depending on your budget, you can buy brand named or off brand named equipment!
Fly Fishing Travel
Travel is another big expense. If you’re booking a guide and staying at a lodge, you could easily spend $2000 to $15000 for a 5-day trip. This doesn’t include the travel to get to and from the lodges. Even if you’re heading to a primary hotspot without hiring a guide, you can easily spend $1500 for a 5-day trip. Lodging, food, gas and a fishing license can all be expensive.
How Can I Get Started On A Budget?
Borrow Some Gear
The best thing to do before you go off and purchase expensive fly rods, reels and other equipment is to borrow gear. Ask friends, relatives or coworkers to borrow their gear for a few days to test it out. Maybe that have an old rod or old set of waders that work for you. Use this until you’re able to save up enough to get your own! A great benefit of doing this is you can find out what you like or don’t like with your gear.
Buy Second Hand Gear
The second hand fly fishing gear market is amazing. Many diehard anglers like to upgrade to new fly rods and reels, so they sell their previous models to help offset the cost. Browse Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and Ebay for great deals.
You’ll also find that many people get into fly fishing for a summer and then sell all of their gear because they no longer have time or interest. You can find some pretty incredible deals if you look hard enough!
Don’t Always Overspend on Big Brands
In fly fishing, you get what you pay for. An expensive fly rod is worth the money, but that’s not always in the cards for many anglers. There are smaller brands like Echo and Moonshine that make great gear for a bit more affordable price. Pick and choose the times you spend a lot. Don’t skimp on rods, reels and waders, but other than that, you can get as creative as you would like.
Fish Your Local Waters
One of the things that’s not talked about enough in fly fishing is the importance of fishing your local waters. Don’t think you have to wait to fly fish on your one trip every two years to Montana. Your local waters hold fish. They may not be pristine trout fishing waters, but they likely have populations of carp, bass and panfish. Fish these waters! They’ll improve your skills and produce fish.
Yes, it’s frustrating that fly fishing is expensive, but with a bit of creativity and research, you can outfit yourself in some stellar gear for an affordable price. This is not to say that high quality gear isn’t worth it! It absolutely is. You’ll notice a difference in the feel and performance. The best fly fishing setup is the one that’s within your budget!