We Know Fly Fishing
Welcome to Fly Fishing Atlas, your source for information on all manner of fly fishing techniques, rods & reels, effective fly selection, and other gear that will help you to successfully land the big one. Whether you are just learning how to cast a fly to picky trout, or if you want to lock onto a monster bass – we’re here to help. Fly Fishing Atlas offers general information on all aspects of fly fishing, so that you can find a greater sense of enjoyment in this incredibly exciting sport. And we provide detailed product reviews and comparisons, so that you can make an informed decision when you decide to make a purchase.
Anglers don’t need to spend top dollar on fly fishing gear and selecting a fly rod is no exception. Nonetheless, as with all cheap gear, cheap fly rods simply do not perform well and can lead to frustration.
Thankfully, mid-priced fly rods are readily available and still provide exceptional performance. Reputable fly rod makers such as Orvis and TFO, Winston or Sage will ensure great performance that will remain practical as an angler gains experience and builds skill.
Manufacturers rate their rods by their weight, which is decidedly a confusing term. The rod weight does not refer to how much the rod actually weighs. Rather to what weight of fly fishing line it is meant to be paired with. Very small trout or panfish are well suited for rods in 1-3 weight. Rods in 4 weight are also effective for panfish and medium size trout. General purpose rods are those in the 5 and 6 weight varieties. Rods in 7-8 weight are popular for large bass fishing, steelhead, and salmon fishing. But the capability takes the fun out of even medium size fish. Fly rods in 8 weight as well as 10-12 weight rods are practical for larger species and salt water fishing.
Rods also come in a variety of lengths, but most are 8.5–9 feet long. If you plan on hiking or traveling, a four piece rod will break down much smaller than a 2 piece rod. Read more about how to set up your fly rod here.
Fly Fishing Lines
The fly fishing line carries the fly through the air as we cast and presents the fly to the fish. Unlike spin casting, flies do not weigh enough by themselves to carry any momentum. Flies cannot shoot through the air like a heavy lure can. When we cast a fly, we are really casting the fly line. The momentum of the fly line is what carries the fly. Fly line companies produce three main types of fly lines: floating, sinking, and sinking-tip. Read more here for the full-blown guide on fly fishing lines.
Floating lines help to keep the fly on or near the surface. Whether in rivers and lakes, or the saltwater and surf, floating lines are probably the most dynamic and widely applied of the fly line varieties.
Sinking lines are designed to sink and carry the fly to a desired depth. These lines sink at specific rates as indicated on the manufacturer packaging, and measured in inches per second, or ips. When fish are feeding at a specific depth this fly fishing line proves very effective. Lakes and ponds are where this type of line is most often used, and with great success.
Sinking-tip lines have a section at the tip of the line that sinks while the rest of the line floats. The tip section usually measures somewhere between 8-20 feet. Like full sinking line, the sinking-tip sinks at a rate given in inches per second. These lines are used frequently in rivers and moving water, but also in lakes and ponds, and are particularly effective when paired with the right streamer fly.
Fly Fishing Reels
The fly fishing reel holds our fly line and includes a drag system that helps us slow a fish that wants to make a run. A good fly reel will properly balance the fly rod and line, have a sealed drag system, and low start-up inertia. Take a look at our fly fishing reel recommendations here.
Matching the rod and line weight should be the primary objective in choosing a fly reel. A light 2/3 weight reel placed on a 7 weight rod is going to feel cumbersome and heavy toward the tip of the rod. Conversely, a heavy 7/8 weight reel attached to a 3 weight rod will feel heavy toward the reel. The most enjoyable and best performing arrangements will strike the balance. For example, pairing a 5/6 weight reel on a 5 weight rod and line will balance nicely, while providing optimal performance.
The sealed drag system is what sets apart the best from the rest, and will keep grit and muck sealed out. Without a sealed drag, foreign bits of dirt can work their way into critical areas and lock up the drag. For new anglers, it may seem simple enough to keep an unsealed reel up out of the sand and dirt. But at some point every fly caster lets their reel descend to the bottom of the stream while untangling their rod tip, tying on a new fly, or trying to net a nice fish. One way or the other, an unsealed drag will begin to collect foreign material. It may last a few seasons, but the fragility of an unsealed drag system can manifest through catastrophic failure at the worst moment.
Start-up inertia is much less important for most applications. This simply means the energy required to have the drag system let line out, instead of in. This really only becomes essential if an angler was fishing with very lightweight leader or tippet. Due to the low breaking strength of light tippet, the reel needs to provide consistent resistance if the fish makes a big run.
Most reels of any quality are reversible to accommodate both left and right handed casters, but make sure you check for this feature. A right handed caster will want to retrieve line with their left hand and vice versa.
Beware of cheap reels. There are some great looking inexpensive fly reels out there, and some are decent quality. But the drag systems of most cheap reels consist of vastly inferior components that will not perform like a good drag system, which could cost you a trophy fish. If you’re looking for a fly fishing reel, don’t be misled by the flashy external appearance of an inexpensive reel.
There are plenty of options to choose from when you look to purchase watercraft for your fishing adventures. If you enjoy fishing remote and isolated bodies of water, then there are lightweight inflatable watercraft that are designed to be carried on foot. Rivers are a favorite destination for those looking for a memorable day of fishing. But oftentimes fishing the banks of a river can draw attention to those mid-river holding areas that look to be loaded with prime fishing opportunities. Without a good boat those fish will remain well out of reach.
Whitewater rivers are incredibly powerful and nothing to be toyed with. Depending on the class of whitewater, you may quite literally be risking your life if you try to run a whitewater river with improper watercraft or safety gear. Many whitewater fishing raft manufacturers design their rafts with fittings that provide for the attachment of rowing frames. These same fittings also provide for fastening larger fishing frames that feature casting platforms, lean bars, and other features beneficial to anglers. A waterproof fishing backpack can also prove quite helpful to protect your gear and sensitive electronics in wet whitewater conditions.
Inflatable watercraft generally are quite buoyant and difficult to swamp. Certainly that is a helpful characteristic in rough conditions but has its benefits in any water. Similar to inflatable fishing rafts, inflatable kayaks offer many of the same benefits in a smaller package. And today’s inflatable kayaks feature many of the angler-friendly features found on traditional polyurethane fishing kayaks, which have also advanced greatly in recent years. Modern fishing kayaks are loaded with fishing accessories, rod holders, storage wells, and mounting platforms for fish finders.
For many anglers, versatility is the name of the game. After all, why purchase a whole list of watercraft if you can find one that covers a wide range of applications. With that in mind, pontoon boats are remarkably adaptable and comfortable boats that track nicely in both moving and still water applications. Regardless of your choice of boat, there are a huge variety of boating accessories like boat coolers and rod holders that make a day on the water much more enjoyable.
The most beautiful fishing locations are often some of the most remote, and are usually accessed the old fashioned way: by foot. While hiking into these isolated fisheries can make for a memorable experience, proper planning will only serve to enhance the good time. Before setting out, considering the weight in your hiking pack is worthwhile. You don’t want to overload yourself and risk a dangerous situation. At the same time, you don’t want to go without the essential fishing gear. For many anglers, remote fishing with a float tube is a no-brainer. Many are packable and light enough that the trade-off in weight is well worth the access to prime fishing territory.
We review all the fishing gear you could ever need and more. With all the fly fishing gear choices out there, this is the gear that we like the most. We try to narrow down the good from the bad, and the over priced from the cheap and flimsy.
The variety of fishing gear out there is staggering. And with all those gear choices come even more accessories. We cover all the must-have accessories like polarized fishing sunglasses, landing nets and fly boxes. But we also review wading gear like fishing waders and wading boots, to the best wading jacket. Whether you prefer a fishing vest, chest pack, or sling pack, we examine all of today’s top fishing packs.
We want to save you some cash by pointing you toward solid gear choices that perform and fit your budget.
You’ll notice our gear selections are not all big-ticket, top-shelf items. That’s because you don’t need to surrender your bank routing numbers to have a great time fly fishing. Good gear is good gear, regardless of price. Whether you are trying to decide which waterproof watch will suit you best, or find the best flies for trout, we want to help you make an informed decision.
We aren’t looking to throw a pile of gear at you and leave it up to you to sort it all out. That wouldn’t be very helpful in making your decision any easier. What makes a particular piece of equipment perform well is important to us. We want to help by passing that info along.
We do our best to dig into the details of what we consider to be the most reliable and best performing fly fishing gear out there. And while we are at it, provide a sense for why other gear didn’t make the cut.