How Much Should Your Fly Fishing Gear Cost?Published on 08/02/2022 · 12 min readFly Fishing Expert Josh H. guides you through the intricacies of gear costs and how to meet not only your budget but your expectations.
Everyone approaches a sport with a certain outcome in mind, although those outcomes can be wildly different to each individual. There is no better example of this than with fly fishing. Some anglers are new to the sport, have seen an aspect of it that interests them, and only desire the appropriate gear to fly fish within their budget. There are those who have honed their skills and are upgrading gear, while others are long-time fly anglers that want a level of performance that fulfills the long-term expectations they’ve become accustomed to.
Whatever the circumstances, most fly anglers search for a balance of characteristics vs. price when they fill their quiver. When I consider the levels of gear available, and the types of fly fishing techniques I will use, I am searching for a balance that lets me think less about the gear, or its price, and more about the experience.
When Steve, a close friend of mine, called recently to tell me he had booked his first fly fishing trip in my Idaho backyard, I was extremely excited for him. He told me the specifics of his trip and had a list of questions about what he was to expect. I gave him the lay of the land; what conditions he would encounter, what caliber of fish he would see, guide courtesies, and the gear I use when I fish that same water. Steve then told me his intentions of buying and bringing his own kit, using it not only on this trip but as the beginning of his personal fly fishing story with the gear leading the way.
I approached Steve as I would with any other recommendation. I asked him a series of questions about what he felt were the most important factors in his decision? He said he wanted something that was quality-made and could tackle medium to large trout, and he realized that it may not necessarily be inexpensive or worry-free. Additionally, he wanted something he could have confidence in and use for an extended period of time as he explored the sport. I liked the way he approached his decision, let me explain why.
Oftentimes, when I am assisting prospective fly anglers with their first setups, their deciding factor is price while also specifying a fish they want to catch. Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with this. It is understandable that some people don’t want to devote serious funds to something they have never done, and prefer not to risk investing based on their current experience level. Although a purchase on price alone can become a limiting factor when acquiring gear, the attributes of inexpensive gear may become the reason anglers don’t continue with the sport. Some aspects of quality and performance are offered specifically at higher price points, so there is the potential for disappointment if gear offered at a lower price fails to meet expectations.
I discussed these things with my friend in order to help him understand how I approach my gear selections. I have four factors that I use when I am deciding on components for myself. Those are as follows:
- Quality: Considerations in the design and production, the material/componentry used in the construction, as well as the means and the process of manufacturing.
- Performance: The way the components act and prove themselves, such as action, recovery, dampening, accuracy, versatility, and feel.
- Value: This is not so much objective as it is subjective. By this I mean, with what I want in the other categories, does the cost of the component justify what I am receiving by purchasing it.
- Price: The objective consideration, I have four categories that I consider, depending on what I am doing with the component, how long I am going to do it, and how often. These are:
- Budget class: This is generally around $75 to $175 per component.
- Moderate class: This is generally around $200 to $500 per component.
- Legacy class: This category is reserved for components that are $600 to $1,500 each.
- Heirloom class: These are very specific components that can demand highly specialized prices that generally exceed $1,500.
Manufacturers use varying levels of componentry, techniques, and materials to produce their products. In most instances, the price point correlates with these characteristics. That said, fly fishing gear can be tricky and care must be taken to ensure that function supersedes price. In my opinion, to truly enjoy everything encompassed with fly fishing, the angler should not immediately consider the cheapest options available to them. Nothing is more frustrating than walking several miles to an incredible destination only to have gear fail shortly after getting there, or to have it deliver subpar performance when you need it to sing. If gear doesn’t perform or isn’t made with quality and oversight, it won’t last and will only bring aggravation regardless of the cost.
It is also my recommendation that anglers stick to established companies with a well-run warranty program. So, if something were to happen, the purchase can be repaired or replaced instead of finding a home in a dumpster.
When it comes to what someone should pay for fly fishing gear it boils down to expectations. I have purchased a metric ton of fishing gear throughout the years, and each component has provided me with valuable information. Some products are worth paying for, and some are just trash, so let's discuss price and expectations of what your fly fishing gear should cost.
As I alluded to, budget class offerings need to be approached with caution, research, and expert consultation. There are several options that have impressed me at the budget price point, some of which are as follows:
- The Echo Lift Fly rod is a medium action rod that doesn’t offer a ton of frills but delivers accuracy and dependability. It is priced at around or just over $100.
- The Redington Classic Trout rod is a moderate action rod that gives you the feels but without the hefty price tag. This rod will cost you just over $150.
- At around $150, the Temple Fork Outfitters Signature II rod is a good progressive caster that will keep some money in your pocket.
- The Orvis Battenkill reels—both click and pawl, and disc—offer a well-performing option at a budget price of between $100 and $150.
- The Lamson Liquid reel is a conical drag series that is high on both quality and performance. It is reasonably priced at somewhere between $125 and $160.
- The Redington Rise reel is lightweight with an adjustable drag and large arbor. This is priced in the $175 to $200 range.
It is my opinion that getting the best equipment in the budget class should keep you at or below the $500 range for rod, reel, line, leader, catch and release net. Adding waders and wading boots should carry it to around $800 to $900. The Simms Tributary Series is my personal choice in this category.
Outfits, more commonly known as a combo (including a rod, reel, line, leader), are another option to consider. Whereas an outfit may be suitable for some, I find selecting individual components from separate manufacturers often means improved quality of those individual components, especially within the budget class.
When compared with the budget class, moderate class components offer better performance in all cases. Whether it is the materials and operation of a reel, or the weight, attributes, and components of a rod, moderate options distinctly separate themselves from the previous class. You’ll find improved components and craftsmanship in options like:
- The Sage Foundation rod is a versatile all-rounder that exudes quality. It comes with a price tag near $425.
- The Scott Flex rod, a USA-made option, defies distance and delivers precision around $475.
- The G.Loomis IMX Pro rod provides fast action, with top-notch components and admirable performance. This is available near $550.
- The Orvis Hydros is a lightweight and narrow reel with Orvis Mirage tech and aluminum construction. It is priced between $250 and $300.
- The Ross Animas reel has stunning looks, incredible drag, and no maintenance. Its price tag is just over $350.
- The Sage Trout reel has classic styling with modern innovations. It is available for the slightly higher price of $400.
Altogether, pricing for a setup in the moderate class should run you around $700 to $1000 for rod, reel, line, leader, catch and release net. When adding waders and wading boots you can expect to pay around $1,300 to $1,600. The Patagonia Swiftcurrent Packable, Simms Freestone Waders, and Korkers Darkhorse wading boots are my preference in this category.
When purchasing within the legacy class you are most likely an angler looking for the cutting edge. This means a rod that delivers specific characteristics and is an instrument of precision and technological advancement. You are also searching for a reel that is light as a feather but strong as a truck, with features that ensure it will stand up against whatever you throw at it. Some examples of the legacy class are:
- For $650, the Sage Sonic rod delivers accuracy, feel, looks, and top-tier performance.
- The Thomas and Thomas Paradigm has been presenting dry flies with laser-sharp accuracy for more than 20 years. You can get one of their rods for just over $900.
- The G.Loomis Asquith is widely considered one of the best fly rods on the market. This premium rod comes with a premium price of around $1,150 to $1,400.
- The Bauer RX reel is not only beautiful but tough as nails. Its price ranges from $650 to $1000.
- The Hardy Fortuna Z 6000 reel is 30lbs of stopping power wrapped in indestructible skin and sells for just under $700.
- The Abel SDF reel is an artistic masterpiece with hundreds of personalized options available, not to mention rock-solid performance. Its options can range from $750 to $2100.
Depending on which components you choose, a legacy class rig can run you anywhere from $1,300 to $2,000 or more for rod, reel, line, leader, and catch and release net. After adding in waders and wading boots, spending somewhere around $2,000 to $3,000 is normal. Simms G4Z Waders are honestly a game changer and Simms G4 Pro Wading Boots are my choice in this class.
These offerings are often customized to the individual, constructed of specific materials, or have a limited production.
A bamboo rod, for instance, can run from $2,000 to $10,000+ depending on customization. The price you might pay for a one-off graphite rod may be $2,500, but can be whatever it takes to get you exactly what you want—or are willing to spend.
A custom reel can not only be engraved and inscribed but could also feature precious metals and jewels. Other equipment can be customized too. Vests can be handmade and tailored for functionality, and rod tubes can be leatherbound, customized with exotic stitching and branded lettering. Nets are no exception. They can be detailed with stunning inlays, exquisite artwork, and custom nameplates. All of these heirloom options can just as easily be displayed as they can be used.
After some time, and several well-discussed recommendations, my friend Steve decided on a Douglas Sky G rod, Orvis Hydros reel, Rio Tech Trout Elite line, Simms Freestone Waders, Korker Darkhorse Wading Boots, Orvis Brodin net, Simms Freestone vest, as well as a few accessories and fly assortments.
All said and done, Steve paid just over $1,900 for everything although he had anticipated paying much more. He purchased a well-rounded setup that will perform without concern for years. I expressed to him that this was a great “moderate+” setup that would be perfect for the journey he was about to embark on.
Even though Steve could’ve spent more, the quality and performance he was gaining will exceed his expectations at this point. This is a setup that he can have confidence in well into the future. Steve completed his trip to the Henry’s Fork, and the South Fork of the Snake River last week, and upon arriving home called me enthusiastically offering details and pictures of the trip. He expressed his utter amazement with his fly fishing setup, and his thanks.
There are a multitude of other companies I trust when I select or recommend gear. Sage, Redington, and Rio offer overseas and American-produced gear that stands up to the wear and tear of fly fishermen. I own several pieces of kit from all these companies and have confidence in each to perform when required. Orvis is a brand that cannot be overlooked either, as they are one of the most successful and admired fly fishing gear manufacturers out there. R.L. Winston, Thomas and Thomas, Scott, G. Loomis produced rods, Lamson, Hardy, Ross, Galvan, Tibor, Abel reels, Scientific Anglers, Airflo, and Monic lines, among others, are excellent considerations.
As previously stated, regardless of where your passion for fly fishing may fall or the class of gear you want to call your own, keeping within expectations is the key to enjoyment. Can you fly fish with inexpensive gear? Certainly. Is there immediate improvement if you use equipment that intrinsically allows you to lay down delicately in-close, gain distance when necessary, and pinpoint a specific feeding lane accurately? Definitely. Part of the allure of fly fishing is the skill it takes to master and the knowledge it takes to be successful. Whatever you choose, I look forward to your decision. See you in the water.
As always, the Experts at Curated are ready to assist you in exploring the options available and can help you with those difficult decisions. I encourage you to reach out to me or any of the Experts to get you outfitted for your next adventure!