Is Fly Fishing Expensive?

If you are like me and watched the movie “A River Runs Through It”, You have always wanted to try fly fishing. Even if you have been fishing for years, everyone knows that there is a big difference between normal fishing, and fly fishing. The rod and reel are different from a normal fresh or saltwater setup, so it can be a little overwhelming to jump right into.

The cost of fly rods and gear can also be a daunting thing to look at because it does require a whole different set-up to start. In this article, I am going to try and give you a nice brief breakdown on what you might be expected to buy, or spend to get you started in this fun, but different fishing style that has a huge following in the world.

Depending on if you are brand new to the sport, or an experienced angler, you can plan to spend right around $200 dollars or less (depending on how overboard you go), to get a nice introductory level rod, reel, tackle, and possible clothing you will need to get out on the river or stream.

Keep in mind that you can definitely spend more money, or less money if you can find deals, and also depending on where you live, you might not need extra layers of clothing, but I will describe this in detail below. About $100 to $150 just for the rod, reel and tackle for a good start to your gear that you won’t have to upgrade for a year or more.

Necessary Gear

Here is a breakdown on the type of gear you will need in order to get started.

  • Rod and Reel: A fly Rod and Reel are a must to get going. Fly rods are usually much longer and lighter than a normal rod. The reel setup is also a lot different so you wont be able to just add one your spinning reels to your rod.
  • Flies: The most widely used tackle for fly fishing is flies and other bugs, which are made out of tons of things like string, feathers, yarn, and other fabrics that make the bait look like a real bug. You want the fish to come up and hit the “fly” or bug that looks like it has landed on the top water like it would in real life.
  • Clothing: Most fly fishing is done on a river or stream because that is normally how the fish will eat in a moving current. With that being said, normally rivers and streams come from snow run off, so they can be really cold, and you may have to buy some waders and long johns to keep you warm. If you want to stand in 40-50 degree water all day, you don’t want frost bite.
  • Line and Other Tackle: A fly rod will require a different, and much thicker string to be spooled, with a mono or fluorocarbon line as a leader, so the fish cannot see it. Fly line is made with a braided inner core to make it stronger, and wrapped in plastic so it can sink or float depending on the fly you are using.
  • Fish Basket: A fish basket is a small wicker basket with a shoulder strap to help keep your fish together. Since you are constantly walking up and down the river, you dont want to use a normal stringer for your caught fish. This basket, also known as a Creel basket, also helps to keep the fish cool by dipping it in the water.

How Many Flies Do I Need

When you first start fly fishing, you are going to snap flies off the end of your line, it’s unavoidable, and just happens. Until you get into a good rhythm of casting, it could take you 10 to 20 flies per trip. I started out by buying a nice pack of 10 – 15 flies for under 20 dollars, and it had a nice variety of flies in it.

fishing reel

Once you start seeing what bugs are out when you go out fishing, you can add more to your collection. I say 15 – 20 flies to start is going to be very good for you, and if you snap them all or lose them, practice your casting. Even though it wont be as fun as catching a fish, it is going to make you a better fly fisher.

Do I Have The Right Clothes

As I mentioned before, when you are fly fishing, you are normally doing it in a creek or river, and if you live in the mountains like I do, they can be very cold because it is all snow run off. Even though this makes for crystal clear water so you can see the fish, it also makes it so you cannot go out in a pair of shorts and sandals all day standing in that water.

Even if its 100 degrees out on a summer day, doesn’t mean you cant get frost bite, so you will need to wear a pair of waders. Waders made from different materials, but its meant to keep your legs and feet dry, while also insulating them. Waders can range from $50 dollars to hundreds of dollars depending on if you get the kind that has built in boots, and other stuff. Always dress warm when you are going to be fishing in cold water, even if it is super hot out and you don’t think you will need to.

Where To Go As a Beginner

If you are just starting out fly fishing, do a little research on the rivers and streams by your house, and find out which parts are faster moving than others. If you haven’t ever fished a river before, be very cautious of how the current is moving, so you don’t accidentally slip and get whisked down river and lose your gear.

There have been plenty of times where I was in a place that I hadn’t been and ended up soaking wet and having to go home. For your first few trips, stay close to home and make sure you let people know where your going until you are comfortable with reading the current and the water.

What Should My Budget Be

When I first wanted to start fly fishing, I went to the store and came back upset because I didn’t really have a budget, or know what I needed. I gave myself a $200 dollar budget for the rod, reel and gear and then shopped around for waders after I learned the hard way about the shorts and sandals.

Fly Fishing

For $200 dollars, I got a nice intro level rod and reel, line, and some great flies which lasted me quite a while. If you buy a little bit better than the cheapest thing out there, you will find that you might not have to upgrade as fast once you really start getting into it.

How To Know What Equipment Is Good, Or Bad

Ah, one of the toughest questions to answer about gear. The way I tell is to do a little research on some rods that are carried at multiple stores and read reviews about them and see how other people like or dislike them. Be careful about people that are just upset with a purchase they made and went ballistic on the review of the item.

Look at the average comments. A good way to tell if something is super cheap, is if only one store carries it, and you have never heard the name of it, and no searches come up on google about it. If you are looking at a less expensive rod, take a few minutes and google the brand and see if they are out in other stores. It only takes a few minutes in the store while you walk around!

Do I Need A Special License

Nope, a special fishing license is not needed for fly fishing other than your normal state sport license. Even though salt water and fresh water do have their own license, or different “tags” for different fish, the regular fresh water license is enough for fly fishing.

NEVER fish without a license! Even though you cannot see them, game wardens are always watching and they will walk up to you and ask you to see it. Unless you are 17 and under, 55 and over, or fishing on a free fishing day (if your state allows it), always bring your license with you.


Fly fishing is one of the most fun types of fishing I have ever tried, and can be very relaxing out by the river just listening to the water run. It also does not have to break the bank to get into, so please dont go spend a fortune on the best gear until you have fished for awhile, and know that you want to keep up with it. I love fly fishing, but I only do it 20% of my fishing time, so I cannot justify buying the top of the line rod, but I do have friends that love it more than lake or pond fishing, so it really is a personal preference. Go out and spend what you can (under $200 dollars), and fly fish!

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