Fly fishing is impossible to avoid in Casper. Images of an angler standing waist-deep in the North Platte River are plastered on billboards on the way into town. On a warm spring day, people are often fishing from the banks just across the street from my office.
Since I moved to Wyoming a year and a half ago, I’ve dreamed of spending days fishing on the river. But the prospect of buying the necessary gear seemed overwhelming and expensive. What kind of line do I need? What’s the difference between a $40 fly rod and the $500 option? Which flies do I need? And how do I do all of this without emptying my bank account?
Finally, I took all these questions to Leighton White, the fishing manager at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Casper. With his guidance, purchasing my own fly fishing gear seems feasible, though still pricey.
All told, White’s recommendations will cost about $350. That’s a lot of money to spend all at once. There are cheaper options to each of his recommendations that can save you some cash, but if you stick with the sport you will likely want to upgrade them in the near future.
Rod, reel and line
White recommends that beginners start with a combo pack that combines a rod, reel and line in one convenient purchase. The four-piece Redington Crossover Fly Combo includes all of those necessities at $149.
“Basically, you just pull it out and put a fly on,” he said. It’s always possible to upgrade the line or reel later on, he added.
There are cheaper options, but don’t be fooled by the $40 fly rods, White warned. The cheapest rods will made it more difficult to cast, a skill that is already hard to learn. A good rod (not including reel and line) should cost around $100.
White’s advice for buying flies is simple: Ask your local shop or outfitter. Their staff will know what works best for the section of river you’re fishing and the time of year. Buy two or three of each kind they suggest.
“That way if you lose one you’re okay,” White said.
Flies typically cost about $1 a piece, though that can vary depending on where you buy them. Expect to spend between $15 and $20 on your first fly purchase.
Waders come in a variety of sizes, but White said the beginner should just go ahead and buy the chest-high variety. They will give you maximum ability to wade through higher waters and keep you warmer in colder weather. Waders come in three basic materials: rubber, neoprene and breathable fabrics like Gore-Tex.
White recommends springing for the Gore-Tex-material variety, even though they tend to be the most expensive. Neoprene often becomes too warm in the summers, he said, and the rubber waders don’t breathe at all.
Many waders also require boots that are purchased separately. Some boots have felt bottoms, and White said that anglers should note that some states banned felt-soled wading boots from their rivers. Do your research and avoid felt boots if you plan to do a lot of fishing in those areas.
Lower-end breathable waders should cost about $100, White said, and boots run about $70.
(For those looking to save some money, I own a pair of the $50 Sportsman’s Warehouse brand waders made of a rubber alternative with boots attached. They’re tough and have kept me warm and dry through dozens of days of fishing — even while standing in the North Platte during a January blizzard. The downside? They’re not attractive and are fairly stiff. While I’m now looking to upgrade, they’re a good option for someone who is not sure they’re going to like fishing.)
Alright, you have your rod, flies and waders. You’re ready to go, right? Wrong. Here are a few more purchases you should consider:
- Fishing license (price varies by state and residency)
- Strike indicators ($5)
- Extra leader line ($5)
- Net ($15)
All told, following White’s recommendations for a complete fly fishing equipment package will cost you between $300 and $350. There are shortcuts of course — the $50 rubber waders and the $40 fly rod — but you’ll likely want to upgrade if you decide to stick with the sport.
Above all, White recommends talking with your local fly shop or outfitter and ask them to guide you through the process. They’ll best be able to help your individual needs and get you on the river.
When asked what the most important thing a prospective fly fisher needs, White had a simple answer: