You are a perfectionist. Every detail of your fishing excursion is mapped out from gear to travel time. You artfully dance a home tied fly over the surface of a shallow spot along a High Sierra lake-shore hoping to land the elusive golden trout. Fly-fishing is an art-form and challenge that you’ve met with fine attention to detail. Hours have been spent reading guides on water temperatures, hatches, and seasonality. It’s no accident that your aforementioned home-tied midge fly is indistinguishable from the ones making small ripples on the glass-like water all around you. After all of this attention to detail, it would be a shame to overlook any part of your gear. This guide will ensure that your fly fishing set up is snag free!
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There are many species of this beautiful and sometimes elusive creature. Found in creeks, streams, rivers, and lakes you may find yourself fly fishing in a number of different settings and elevations pursuing these brilliant fish. Each species has unique particularities and preferred food sources so its good to check with a local fishing shop before setting out. Whether trout fishing is a lifestyle or casual pastime, you need a set-up that has you prepared for any adventure you embark on. This guide should act as the essential guide for gearing up, and getting out.
The first distinction you have to make when choosing fly fishing waders is whether your adventures calls for stockingfoot or bootfoot waders. The main difference is that a stockingfoot wader allows you to choose a pair of boots to slide over the thinner less insulated stocking boot. For warmer conditions that don’t require water-proof waders, you can simply traverse in boots and shorts. But what about if it’s cold? Like, ice runoff lake or creek cold?
Bootfoot waders offer a much more insulated foot area to help keep your feet both dry as well as warm. Because the neoprene is more bulky, it won’t likely fit into a pair of boots. Your best option would be to find slip on water shoes a size or two larger than your normal shoe size, or sticking to soft sand. Any terrain that involves slippery or jagged rocks can pose a problem for bootfoot waders. Their looser fit and not so grippy bottoms make them prone to slipping, while the neoprene though durable can be puncture prone. However, if you do a fair amount of float-tubing or wading through cold water, your feet will thank you for the extra insulation.
Ahh, the fly angler’s optimal craft for strategic maneuvering and positioning. Perhaps you have only watched them slide silently across the water surface and wanted to know a bit more. Float-tubes are well equipped with angling advantages and boast a much nicer price tag than their less maneuverable cousin, the fishing kayak. They offer the ability to reach spots that are simply unreachable by shore or wading with the added bonus of mobility. Maneuvering is controlled by scuba fins, allowing you to silently control drift and positioning, as opposed to relying on oars, motors or anchors. Because many of them are lightweight (10-15lbs), they can be backpacked around the mountains with ease. This gives the motivated fisherman a chance for a serene almost private lake in the back country.
Hatches are a thing to be attune with if you plan on using dry flies. Essentially, hatches of particular insects occur throughout a fishing season. When these bugs alight on a water surface, fish feed on them. Tracking hatches to match your fly may be a worthy pursuit if you enjoy the pleasure of an aggressive surface hit.
We’ve covered what gear you should be using and now we need to fill your tackle box. The offering you make to your adversary needs to be convincing and enticing, so let’s dive in.
Dry-flies generally land in one of two categories. Hatch specific look-alikes that blend in perfectly with seasonal or less-seasonal insects, and attractors. Both varieties of dry-fly float allowing the angler a spectacular show when a fish hits the bait. The hatch specific flies can come in seasonal matches as well as grasshoppers or ants which are common through-out the fishing season. Attractors are brightly colored and resemble an elementary child’s portrayal of an insect than anything living in the wild. However, trout are often attracted to the bright colors and shape of the attractor making them a omni-seasonal option for surface action.
Because fish eat the majority of their meals underwater (roughly 80%), the wet fly is a great choice and the easier method to catching fish with a fly rod. This is because elegantly landing a dry fly atop the water’s surface like an actual insect takes a high level of mastery. Wet flies resemble the pre-hatch bugs growing and living underwater. They may also look like crawdads or other subsurface creatures.
Your fly line is broken up into three main parts known as the tip, head, and running line. The tip is the last section of line that can be interchanged in order to switch your leader more easily. The head has three distinct sections that control casting known as the front taper, belly, and rear taper. The running line is the section of line between the backing (attached to reel) and rear taper.
The front taper’s length determines how the cast will be delivered. A shorter taper carries more power and thus a stronger cast while a longer taper presents a more controlled, delicate one.
Between the tapers is the widest diameter of your line known as the belly. Length of the belly equates to more weight in the line and more or less distance in the cast. The takeaway here; larger belly=longer cast.
The rear taper length will control how quickly the line unspools as you cast. Longer rear tapers allow for increased distance and control while a shorter taper makes for faster casting.
There is nothing worse than the feeling of a taught line going slack. That disheartening feeling is only made worse by the fish shaking free due to a poorly tied, or weak knot. Let’s just begin by saying, there are an abundance of fly knots out there. If you’re an advanced fly fisherman you probably have a bevvy of knots at the ready. But for the sake of those of you who are newer to the art of fly fishing, let’s cover the basics of your line set up by explaining what is known as the Balanced System. This system is comprised of 5 knots that will link your set up together, connecting each portion of line discussed above.
The arbor knot is the link from your backing (the word for the line directly on your spool) to your fly reel and the first link in your chain of knots. It consists of two overhand knots. One to connect tag end of backing, the other to act as insurance.
Next, we need to attach our backing to the running-line.
For our next knot we can break out our spool of fishing line and unwind a few feet from the end that is marked; “This end to reel”.
You’ll want to insert about 10 inches of fly line through the loop of backing being held by your thumb.
Now proceed to wrap fly line around the backing loop starting by your thumb, 10-12 times very tightly.
The line is next pulled through the backing loop where it first entered but now from the other direction. You will then pull both ends of the fly-line-backing, cinching the loop closed around your fly line.
Pull gently from both ends of the fly-line-loop with your left hand and squeeze the knot with your right while working it down to the loop end, but NOT off the the fly line. Now, wet the knot. Hold the tag strands of the fly-line in your left with the backing-tag and line in your right. Pull these tight and clip the tag ends of both lines. Two, knots down, three to go!
For our next knot, we can again use the albright. However, the Nail Knot while slightly more difficult to tie is a smoother option for our rig purposes. For the nail knot, we will require a tube or spacer.
You will first hold the tube and fly line with our left thumb and forefinger giving about two inches of line and tube extended to the right.
Make a 2″ loop on the heavier end of your leader and pinch down to hold this in place next to the tube and line with your left thumb and forefinger. Take the short part of the leader loop with your right snugly wrap the leader around the tubing and fly line 5 times. Move your left thumb and forefinger up to hold these wraps in place while the remaining leader end is threaded through the tubing. Once threaded, carefully remove the tubing. You can now gently, tug both ends of the leader. DON’T PULL ON THE FLY LINE!
Again moisten the knot area and check the knot for nice tight coils. You can then cinch the leader ends down tighter and finish by clipping both tag ends of line.
You should now be left with a clean looking knot as pictured above.
The Double Surgeons Knot
We have our leader line securely attached so now it’s time to add the tippet. For beginners, this is the line between our leader and fly.
Begin by placing 6″ of your tippet and leader side-by-side. Grasp the tag end of the tippet where it meets the leader and tie a basic overhand knot but don’t tighten it down. you should be left with something resembling a pretzel.
This should leave you with about 5″ of extended leader. Grasping this loop, pass the full length of the tippet and remaining leader tag through the loop with a second overhand knot.
Grasp both tag ends where they meet the other line. you should have 2 strands on each end.
Pull both ends tightly together. Again wet your knot area and give another pull on each end to ensure a snug knot. If you feel confident about your knot, clip the tags and get ready for the final knot.
The Improved Clinch Knot
The original and improved clinch knots are some of the most popular knots used by anglers. They are both simple to tie, and reliably strong. This will also be the final link between your line and your fly.
Thread the tag end of your tippet through the hook-eye on your strategically selected fly, and twist 6-8 times around the tippet above the hook-eye. Leave a small space above the hook-eye to thread your tippet through a second time.
Finally, you can pull gently, closing the knot. Once it begins to cinch together, moisten the knot area and finish tightening the knot. Clip the tag and congratulate yourself for completing the balanced-line set up!
Think of the fly rod as an extension of your arm. This is how you are delivering a fly to the fish and an essential piece of your set up. The most important thing to look for when shopping fly rods, is the action. The action refers to the rigidity or how flexible a rod is. The action is broken into the following three categories; fast action, medium action, and slow action.
A fast action fly rod or tip-flex fly rod is the most rigid of the three options. At the end of the backcast the tip would be slightly bent. Because of the power generated by a stiffer rod, a fly angler can both cast farther and cut through the wind with their cast. Unfortunately for beginners, this may not be the best choice of rod because it is also more difficult to make accurate and short casts in small creeks or around structure.
The happy medium between fast and slow action rods. If you were going to buy one rod for all of your trout fishing adventures, this is probably your best bet. The end of your backcast will show a bend roughly half-way down the rod. This gives enough flex to give you both accuracy as well as the ability to cast a fair distance.
The final category of rod is the most flexible which offers commanding accuracy with a slight lack of the casting power found with medium or fast action. Slow action rods arc elegantly in the backcast forming an almost 90 degree bend before delivering your fly to the water. These rods would be great for small streams, creeks, or anytime precise casting is needed. They are also great for beginners as they are easiest to control.
The feel of a fly fishing reel is perhaps it’s most important attribute. Your senses can tell you a lot about a reel if you pay attention, so picking them up to feel the weight, adjusting the drag, and hearing that wonderful clicking sound emitted from the reel are actually indicators of quality.
A good rule of thumb is to trust your ear. If the click sounds smooth and pleasing, its a worthy choice. If it sounds tinny, walk away and pick up something else. Not sure what a smooth click sounds like? Don’t worry, you’ll know when you hear it.
Most reels use a disc system that allows for smooth control over resistance on the line. For the trout angler, this isn’t a big cause of concern as most fish will be unable to strip your line and leave you holding an empty spool. For saltwater or salmon fishing, you may want to consider something a bit heavier.
Balance is essential in all things in life and that extends to the rod/reel combo that you choose. It’s a good idea to have your rod with you in order to gauge whether the chosen reel is a good match. In addition to making sure the rod and reel strike a perfect balance, make sure that they handle compatible line strengths.
What to look for:
When it comes to finding the ideal sunglasses for fly fishing we need to first discuss why good sunglasses would be an advantageous addition to your fishing arsenal. You shouldn’t be settling for just any pair of sunglasses on your excursions. After all, choosing the right pair could be the difference in noticing that prize golden laying in wait for it’s breakfast.
You don’t want to be uncomfortable because of tight-fitting frames putting pressure on your temples, you don’t want something constantly slipping off of your face, and you probably don’t want something heavy. After all, these will be on your face all day. Uncomfortable frames might have you reeling in early and heading home.
Whether you’re wading thigh-deep into cold alpine lakes or fly fishing lower elevation creeks you will want coverage from your frames. The extra shade from wrap-around frames will protect your eyes from any sun or glare bouncing off the water. This also keeps any potential irritants out of your eyes while protecting you from flying hooks or lures. We know you probably wouldn’t ever accidentally hook yourself while casting but if you did, wrap-around frames could be the difference in not hooking your eyebrow!
The most important feature of your frames will be lens tint. Most freshwater fly fishing takes place in lower light situations where vision is inhibited by shadows. The most effective tint for combating the tricky light of early mornings on the lake, or shady creeks and streams is a brown or copper tint. Below, we will give more detail on companies best fly fishing frames and the lens tech that will help you see more, and catch more. If you want to be an expert on all there is to know about fishing sunglasses, check out our other blog on How to Buy Fishing Sunglasses.
To begin, let’s talk Maui Jim. The Banyans are extremely light-weight. They are grippy and comfortabe while offering a high definition low-light lens. One drawback is that the Banyans do lack the wrap around protection offered by many of the options on this list. However, with glare being a lesser concern in lower light conditions, this may not be an issue at all.
If you are looking for a truly awesome set of fly fishing sunglasses, these are a great choice. Costa’s Tuna Alley can be fitted with green, copper, or silver mirrored lenses in either plastic or glass. The comfortable fit, anti-fog, and ventilation system will open up all sorts of opporTUNAties out on the water, though we don’t think you’ll encounter any tuna on the fly.
The Montauk is another solid choice for the fly angler. All of Costa’s low-light lens options are offered in these frames ensuring that these wide lenses will illuminate everything. A wider 8 base full wrap frame ensures that your field of vision will be uninhibited by irritants of any kind and your field of vision clear of the frame itself. You can learn more about choosing Costa Sunglasses in this video!
The Broadbill stands out from this list because it doesn’t offer the wide arms found in other options. However, it’s narrower arms and sleek design gives them a classical style frame while boasting Costa’s excellent lens tech. Despite the drawback of not having a wider wrapping frame, the lenses and rubber grips make these a great option for on and off the lakes, trails, and flats.
The depth of Smith’s fishing frame options may not match Costa’s long line of products. But what they may lack in-depth, they make up for with the Guide’s Choice. These frames will have you covered from their hydrophillic nose and temple pads to their wrap-around design. Oh, and the premium techlite glass lenses in copper or polarchromatic ignitor, will open your eyes to every fish or submerged structure in the vicinity. Learn more about Smith Optic’s ChromaPop Lens tech by checking out our blog.
Split Shot is the premium fishing option from Oakley. With a wrapped frame and 20″ woven steel leash (which can be easily removed) these shades are outfitted for reeling in the wildest brown trout in nature. The curved upper frame was designed to fit well under the brim of your favorite fishing hat and the prizm shallow water lenses offer excellent vision for those early mornings and shaded creek beds.
Known for their unrivaled durability and protection, Wiley X would make an excellent companion on any fishing adventure. The thick temples and no-slip technology of the Nash will ensure that you are adequately covered and won’t lose your shades as you look down to tie on a fly or net an alpers. The polarized green lenses will illuminate your vision in low light and keep your eye strain to a minimum for those long days on the water.
As an angler you care about the natural environment and the footprint (or lack of footprints) you leave behind. That’s why this great looking outdoors-man frame is on the list. With their plant based polarized ellume lenses and Z-resin frames, you will be that much friendlier to nature while sporting these sunglasses. A scratch-resistant coating protects the lenses from the elements while the vivid optics will have you hooked on these sweet frames.
Prescription Fly Fishing Sunglasses Online at SportRx
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