Gearing Up For Trout As A New Angler

By Richard Strolis |

The old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” feels as though it has been lost in pop culture.  There is a lot of truth in that statement, with many things in life, especially when it comes to starting out on the journey of fly fishing.  Adopting the same mindset, at least when you begin, is a great starting point.  We would be remiss in not recognizing that the advancements in technology and innovation have taken giant leaps and bounds, benefitting today's fly angler tremendously.  We now have very specialized tools to accomplish very specific tasks much more efficiently when on the water, especially for those that target trout.  But if trout fishing is new to you, I am all but certain making that choice can be rather overwhelming with the amount of information that is at your fingertips.

Having fished for the majority of my lifetime, now spanning four decades, my thought process for the ideal choice of beginning gear when building a sound and productive set of tools by which to fish has come full circle.  Although it changed over time, I have found myself right back to the recommendations when I started fly fishing.  If you are one of the many anglers who are new to trout fishing and looking for a starting point, here is a small list of essentials, followed up with a few things that I rely on every spring in my own fishing that some of you more seasoned veterans might consider as well.
A nine-foot-five weight fly rod is a sound benchmark for any beginner looking to target trout.  Many would argue in today's world of mono rigs and longer rods that this is an archaic recommendation.  My response to that notion is simple;  many are drawn to fly fishing for its challenges and the sheer fun of casting a fly line with many limitations to fool a fish.  As a beginner, you would be remiss in not learning the fundamentals of fly casting first and foremost, and a five-weight is a perfect starting point.
Mono rigs and longer rods are tools and tactics that can be added to the tool belt at a later date. They all have a place, but let us not miss the point of what a beginner's outfit should be able to accomplish.  It needs to be versatile enough so that the new trout angler is able to employ a variety of tactics well.  If the angler decides after some time that they prefer a specific method of catching fish, then by all means, they can make a decision on making that purchase for a much more specialized piece of equipment.  But first and foremost, honor the tradition and take the time to become a student of the fundamentals of casting a fly line.  

For example, although not necessary, a longer fly rod with greater sensitivity is a much more efficient and pleasing tool when employing any of the nymph fishing techniques used today.  The longer rod gives the angler more reach and the ability to control their presentation much better than a shorter rod.  Conversely, that longer rod is not as good a choice for casting sinking lines with larger streamers or as accurate and pleasant to cast a longer leader for dry fly fishing to rising trout.  A multi-use tool is something that the beginner trout angler should seriously consider, as it will open up a much wider array of fishing situations for the angler.  

A nine-foot-five weight can cast dry flies of all sizes accurately and efficiently and has enough backbone to help punch said flies through windy conditions.  If you were to choose a rod in a lighter weight, it may be a bit more forgiving on lighter tippets and provide the caster a greater sense that they are delivering a delicate presentation. But if you find yourself on a larger river and/or windy conditions, you may find yourself wishing for that slightly heavier rod.

A rod of nine feet also provides enough length to control drifts when employing a variety of nymph and wet fly tactics on small to medium rivers or in closer situations that do not require maximum reach.  It may not be ideal, but it certainly can accomplish the task with a bit of practice.  

Lastly, the length and weight are also very viable means for anglers to experiment with fishing streamers.  A five weight rod is very capable of casting a variety of small to medium-sized streamers with or without adding a shorter sink tip, which, if the situation stream side requires a change in tactics, can easily be done without having to bring several rods on the water.  The new Avantt II line of fly rods has some excellent choices to fulfill your needs if you are looking for a state-of-the-art piece of equipment that will make your time on the water much more pleasant.

To go hand in hand with your rod choice, you obviously need a reel.  To be honest, what is available today far surpasses anything that was available when I was new, and the capacity and ability of the modern trout reel affords today's angler the ability to actually target a much wider variety of species with the very same reel they fish for trout with.  
My advice is to choose a reel with a large to medium arbor as it will decrease your fly lines memory and ability to coil as well as retrieve more line on each revolution when and if you need to get a fish on the reel. A floating 5-weight, weight-forward fly line is a great all-around fly line to start with.  Most, if not all, lines today come equipped with a welded loop, making a leader change very easy.  Two types of leaders are really all you need to get started; I would recommend a package of tapered leaders that taper to 2x or 3x in 7.5 and 9-foot lengths.  Couple that with a spool in each size of tippet in 2-6x and one in 0x or 1x and you can cover a majority of your situations encountered.  The larger spools of tippet (0x or 1x) can be used for your streamer fishing, and the lighter diameters for everything else.  The ease of the two tapered leader lengths gives the angler a sound baseline leader design that you can easily add a tippet when needed.

Another rather valuable item that I highly recommend adding is a series of poly leaders.  Poly leaders come in various lengths from 5, 8, and 10 feet, as well as a variety of sink rates from floating all the way to a heavy sink.  These are an invaluable tool for the angler who might be on a budget but wants the option to be able to employ streamers or wet flies in a variety of levels of the water column without having to purchase and/or bring several spools of different fly lines on the water.  Poly leaders like the tapered leaders all have a loop connection, making them easy to put on and take off stream side, and are the best cost-effective options available for the budgeted angler.  

We could go on for pages and pages of other recommendations, especially fly selection, but that I will leave to the angler, and their own vises.  The aforementioned items will provide those anglers who are intrigued about catching trout with a fly rod with the bare essentials to accomplish many of the techniques necessary for a productive outing. 

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