Getting the Most Out of Your Fly Fishing Budget

If you are like most of us, your fly fishing budget is not a limitless well.  If you are one of the select few that can walk out to the fly fishing money tree in the back yard and pick a few off of a limb for the latest toy then you can stop reading now.  This one is for the rest of us.  The masses that are as rabid about our sport as any but has to work within a budget to figure out how to get from vise to stream.


I was kicking around some gear talk with a buddy and we were playing the hypothetical game of if you only had X to work with, where would you spend your money?  What are the must haves?  Where could you skimp and still perform well?  What was frivolous?  It turned out to be an eye opening conversation as it forced me to think about my gear in some very different ways.  For the purpose of distilling the conversation I am dividing this into 3 sections: Spend to Your Max Budget, Low Cost Substitutions, and Nice to Have if You Can Make it Happen!

Spend to Your Max Budget!

  • Fly Line
    • The common budget trend we see are fly fishers spending on rod/reel and then slap a cheap bargain barrel fly line on it.  If there is a sure fire way to make an expensive fly rod cast like a cheap one it is to put a poorly matched inexpensive fly line on it.  Conversely an outstanding well matched line can make an inexpensive rod feel and cast better than its price point!   Don’t skimp on line!
  • Polarized Glasses
    • So often fly fishing has everything to do with being able to see the fish.  Spending a ton of money on gear and not being able to spot what you are casting to sounds a bit silly.  Buy the very best polarized glasses you can afford.  In addition get both an amber lensed and yellow lensed pair.  This will cover almost any light condition you will come across
  • Fly Rod
    • Think about your fly rod this way.  It is not just a casting tool.  It is a fish fighting tool as well.  Buy the best rod that you can that is the best “fishing tool” for the kind of fishing that you do.  That does not always mean that the best is synonymous with the lightest, stiffest, fastest, or even most expensive.   Find the right tool because this will maximize your chances of success.

Low Cost Substitutions!

  • Head Lamp
    • If you are serious about your fly fishing you will end up having to make your way through the dark either on your way to the water or on your way back to the car.  Hardware stores carry headlamps that will work just as well as the fly fishing intended versions at a fraction of the price.
  • Landing Nets
    • While you may lose a few style points for not having a beautifully hand crafted net to land your fish in, the inexpensive versions do the job the exact same way.  Just make sure that it is a rubberized basket to protect the fishes natural coating.
  • Base Layers
    • I am a huge fan of technical fabrics and the gear they have improved.  You can score some great deals at discount stores on technical fabric base layers that are perfect for fly fishing.  They might not have “Simms” on the label but they will keep you warm and wick moisture the exact same way.
  • Fly Boxes
    • Fly boxes are a guilty pleasure for me but you won’t catch any more fish if you spent $50 on a top shelf fly box or by putting some magnetic strips in an empty Altoids tin.

Nice to Have if You Can Make it Happen!

  • Waders
    • While good waders won’t help you hook more fish they will help you stay on the water longer.  Most wader companies have a good/better/best option in their line part of what often goes up along with the price is the durability.  Nothing is more frustrating that a soaking wet cold leg which can really put a damper on things.   If you have it in our budget splurge here, you won’t regret it.
  • Fly Reel
    • If you chase things like bass, small trout, etc… then don’t bother spending money on a reel with an expensive high tech drag system.  If you fly fish the salt, or other fish that can’t be “stripped” in then spend the extra money on a quality drag.  The last thing you want is to come unbuttoned from the fish of a lifetime due to a poor reel.
  • Wading Boots
    • When you spend your day walking miles of stream, a good pair of boots can save the day.  Don’t be shy about spending extra money for durability, comfort, and traction.  I recently spent top dollar on a pair of Simms cleats that saved me from being swept down stream during a day of high water steelheading.

Maybe your list would look a bit different?  We all have a set of priorities that will vary due to your circumstance and point of view.  Take a moment and ask yourself where your fly fishing dollars should go, you just might be surprised at some of the decisions that you end up making.

Tight Lines and Loose Pants,