Fly Fishing Checklist

Fly Fishing Checklist

New to fly fishing? Don’t worry here is your fly fishing checklist. We’ll make sure you have everything you need for a great fishing holiday.

Just tick mark everything mentioned in this list and you will not have to look back from your boat.  Prepare for the best adventure of your life

Set your Budget

Fly fishing can turn out to be pretty expensive. There are all sorts of fly rods and reels that could entice a lover of shiny things. But the truth is that everyone cannot afford the high-priced equipment that claims to be the godfather of every fly expedition.

It is inadvisable, particularly for beginners, to invest in highly sophisticated or expensive fly fishing equipment. When you start, buy only the essential equipment. You can add to your trophies slowly as you progress in the game. The essential equipment includes the fly rod, a budget fly reel, a fly line, and of course the flies.

Get Yourself a Fishing License

You need a registered state fishing license to go out fishing in any state of the US. Not having a license or forgetting the license could land you in trouble.

The Fish and Boat Commission simply does not accept apologies. They would levy a fine almost double the cost of the license if you don’t carry appropriate documents.

This could amount to up to two hundred dollars. So, make sure you never forget your fishing license and have one made on time.

Know Where You Want to Go Fly Fishing

Before deciding upon your next fishing spot, research adequately about its pros and cons and safety criteria for beginners.

There will always be Google search reviews that mention how well the area is suited to anglers and those who want to pursue fly fishing. This will help you understand if the stream has enough casting room.

Acquaint yourself with the depth of water in the area, the weather conditions on your selected fishing day, the average temperature of the place, and the condition of the water body. A simple Google search could get you all the information you need.

The condition of your selected fishing spot will also decide what gear you will need. A small stream would require a lighter fly rod, whereas a large lake will require the rod with the biggest potential.

Once you’ve selected the perfect water body for your day out fly fishing, make sure you know the right directions to get there.

It is recommended to consult the local fishing shops on the matter. Also, make sure you know in advance the parking criteria around the spot.

Select the Target Species of Fish Beforehand

It is important to know in advance what species of fish you will be aiming for. The type of fish will influence your fly fishing equipment. In case you are trout fishing, you’ll need gear specific to this variety of fish.

When your target fish is bass, some of your equipment will have to change. You’d require a heavier fly rod and big seized streamer flies for the trout. Average bass, on the other hand, will require smaller flies. It is essential to choose the gear specifically built to suit a particular variety of fish.

Large rivers and streams require longer fly rods. You’ll be able to cover more water and cast at longer distances. 

However, it is important to understand that you wouldn’t require a separate fishing rod for every variety of fish you want to land. Experienced anglers have one good fly rod which they effectively use to meet all their fishing needs. It is advisable to get one medium-sized rod for starters and update as your game levels up.

Smaller flies are used for small-sized fishes and bigger ones are used for those with big mouths. It is difficult to cast heavy flies with lightweight rods and so, fly rods over 5 in weight are preferred.

On the other hand, smaller flies are better controlled with lightweight or travel fly fishing rods. It is okay to use either a small or a long fly rod on small rivers and streams. You can easily reach spots with more vegetation without getting your small rod stuck. They are ideal for small streams.

Smaller flies are better controlled with lightweight fly rods

Make Sure You Get Your Waders

In case you are not comfortable with getting wet in the water, it is important to consider the option of waders. You may like getting wet in the summer, but getting water on yourself in winter is unimaginable.

Waders will not be necessary if you plan on remaining on the bank. Otherwise, get them soon.

Be Aware of the State Fishing Regulations

Rules and regulations vary from state to state and in various portions of the water of the same stream. Some sections of streams only permit the use of artificial lures while others allow only catch and release.

Rules could also influence the length of your fly leader and the number of flies attached to your fly line. Many states do not allow more than 2 flies. Being unaware of these rules could make you suffer a loss of over a hundred dollars in fines.

Fly Fishing Checklist – All the Gear You Might Need

Fly Leaders

A fly fishing leader is an essential piece of equipment that refers to the tapered section of the line added to your main fishing line. Your leader could be handmade or purchased from a shop that supplies fishing equipment.

The leader is stiff from the butt section and tapers towards a thin front section. This helps the leader in carrying the energy from the cast to the fly. Without the tapering leader, your line would be limp and would not adequately position the fly on the water.

Leaders are available in a variety of sizes. The sizes range from 0x to 7x. A leader with a lower number is thicker and renders more stiffness to the line. Light flies would be better supported by leaders 6x in size while heavy fish require 0x.

Fly fishing leaders are available in a variety of sizes

Fishing Pliers

It is essential to have fishing pliers on the water. They give you extra reach and also improve your grip. It is easier to unhook stubborn fish with the help of fishing pliers. Some anglers mostly use fishing pliers to pinch hook barbs.

It is essential to have fishing pliers on the water

Fly Box

It is easier to carry your fly fishing flies collection in a fly box. The flies stay organized making it easier to find the right fly at the right time. It is a treat for dedicated anglers to keep their beloved fly collection safe.

Use fly box to carry your fly fishing flies

Line Nippers

All anglers require line nippers as an essential tool in fly fishing. You may not realize their importance before you’ve been on an actual fishing expedition.

They come in handy when you have to remove the excess line while attaching new flies. It is possible to do the same thing using nail clippers. But using line nippers is more advantageous if perfection is what you aim for.

Line nippers are an essential tool in fly fishing

Strike Indicators

You must be aware of the conventional fishing bobber. Strike indicators are just fly fishing versions of them. They are mostly wool yarn, dry flies, and dense foams.

These suspension rigs are used by anglers whenever the flies are situated below the level of the indicator.

Anglers need to notice any abnormal movement or twitch in the indicator which would signal the presence of fish underneath the water.

Rubber Fishing Net

Rubber nets are fish-friendly and usually easily available. Fishing with hooks often tears apart the delicate fish gills. There is no chance of this happening with rubber nets.

Rubber nets are unlike conventional fishing nets where the knotted netting cuts through the gills of the fish. Most fish end up being fatally injured in such nets.

Rubber nets are fish-friendly


Tippet refers to the transparent line that is connected to your fly leader. It goes from your colored fly line to your fly. The tippet is different from the leader as it isn’t tapered and has essentially the same thickness throughout. It is advisable to attach the tippet when your leader’s thick portion has worn out.

Attach a tippet when your leader’s thick portion has worn out

Dry Flies

Dry flies are the flies that float on the surface. These are made to resemble mayflies, spinners, adult caddis, cicadas, grasshoppers, and ants.

It will be helpful if you take note of the dry fly your target fish is most attracted to. Also, make sure you get the flies that are normally present in that location during a particular season.

Know beforehand which insects hatch during your selected fishing season. Fish will not be enticed by flies that they don’t normally eat in a particular season.

Dry flies are the flies that float on the surface

Nymph Flies

Trout rely on nymph larvae and pupae for food. It is important to consider how the fish normally consume these flies and then introduce them in a similar manner.

Trout lay at the bottom and don’t put much effort into catching nymphs. They lazily catch drifting by insects without hurrying. Unlike other fish, trout wouldn’t come to the top to feed on your nymph. You’ll have to introduce this fly at a depth where they can have easy access.

Trout rely on nymph larvae and pupae for food

Streamer Flies

Streamers are flies that imitate baitfish, minnows, and leeches. In other words, streamers refer to the meat menu of fish food. Such baits are liked more by larger fishes because they require more meat in their diet. Protein-rich streamers are pounced upon by all big fish you desire. You should certainly hope for big catches with this kind of fly.

Streamer flies imitate baitfish, minnows, and leeches

Polarized Sunglasses

Polarized glasses can prove to be extremely beneficial for dedicated anglers. This edgy equipment effectively removes the polarized light and reflection from the water. This lets you see more clearly the water depth and easily make out the distinction between rocks and fish.

Polarized glasses remove the polarized light and reflection from the water

Fishing Hat

Experienced anglers will always advise you to wear a hat. This simple piece of equipment provides a good cover for your face and neck on hot sunny days. If you want to stay safe from sunburn injuries, never forget to bring your hat along.

Experienced anglers will always advise you to wear a hat


This may deem unnecessary to some people but there is no way you will get a nice tan while fishing. Eco-friendly sunscreens are readily available and they prevent you from getting those unwanted irregular tan lines.

An eco-friendly sunscreen is recommended so that the water doesn’t get polluted with the chemicals found in regular sunscreen lotions. Such chemicals could be very dangerous for fragile aquatic ecosystems.

First Aid Kit

You should always be prepared for the worst. Even simple injuries require adequate care which you can only access with a first aid kit. It is also advisable to take some insect repellant along. There could be more mosquitoes in those areas than you expect.

Even simple injuries require care which you can access with a first aid kit

Rain Jacket

In this world, you would have already learned by now to never trust the weather forecasts. There is always a chance of rain near big water bodies. Make sure you dress appropriately in layers while Fly Fishing in the Rain.

There is always a chance of rain near big water bodies

Some Additional Points to Keep in Mind

  • It is commonly understood that it isn’t possible to go fly fishing without a fly rod, line, and reel. Don’t be enticed by the latest automated designs when you are a beginner. You require good quality, decent fly fishing rod and you are set to go.
  • Most fishing shops will let you test their equipment before you buy them. Don’t purchase a fishing rod online without first trying it personally in a hardware store.
  • Even your reel doesn’t need to be very fancy. A beginner’s reel must serve the purpose of holding the line. You can always advance to better and more sophisticated equipment when you improve your game.

Also, don’t forget to take some snacks along. It’s going to be a long and happy day, you need something to celebrate. Cheers!

References and Further Reading

Last Updated on January 12, 2023 by Joel Hays.

About The Author