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With eyes like dinner plates, it’s easy to look like a big trevally in the shallows to a tackle shop owner when you attempting to fill your man cave with shiny new fly gear. The choice that is laid out to new fly anglers is mind-boggling with so many options to chose from and so many opinions to gather it can be hard to stay grounded. In this next instalment of his spin to fly conversion series, Chris Adams offers some great advice on making the move to fly.
From Lure To Fly
Most of my experience is saltwater based, in addition to tropical freshwater natives. I don’t want to be seen to be working outside of my comfort zone or offer any opinion on fishing for the southern feral population, I have never caught a trout, well not in freshwater anyway.
As mentioned in my last article, most people who are starting fly fishing are already experienced anglers and have tackle selection covered. Fly fishing is generally seen as one of these sports where you need all the gear or your chance of success is greatly reduced. But I disagree with that. The KISS principle is the best approach to gear choice, there are some items that you just cannot be a cheapskate with and some items you can really blow some serious coin on – some items with little practicality and in some scenarios blowing heaps of money is very necessary.
I think rods are a pretty simple choice so spend the money, get a good brand, let the feel of the rod be your guide. Cast before you buy it, or find a casting instructor who brings rods to try.
I like fast action rods, all of my rods are fast action which are serious canons, great for long accurate casts and lifting fish for their line rating, but not very forgiving, timing needs to be bang on for consistency. I recently had a few casts of slower-action rods and must admit they are a real pleasure to use. They are a lot more forgiving for shorter more stealthy presentations especially when sight casting. I think distance lets them down a bit, although it’s very realistic to punch a whole fly line out, greater applications of power and poor timing can make these tapers less forgiving than a fast action rod.
Where To Begin
As a beginner, rod selection should be very basic. Select a medium action rod with a good brand name, something without too much grunt in the butt and of high modulous graphite construction. It is important to be mindful of balance when getting into fly casting/ fly fishing.
For example you wouldn’t expect to be fishing at 90 feet in a lot of fishing scenarios, and this would be more realistic as a beginner, so starting with a rod designed as a cannon isn’t going to be real practical in most beginner type situations.
You also don’t want a stick of spaghetti that couldn’t lift a undersized bream at the boat, a balance of power and forgivable casting ability is the beginners unicorn.
A Good Estuary Rod
Starting of with an 8 weight rod is a good start for estuary and freshwater work, it will also handle most small pelagics, reef fishing and nearly all tropical freshwater natives. An 8 weight rod would be considered on the large side for bread and butter species, however, it is going to be easier to learn in the wind and can also handle the odd big fish should you feed one a fly. I might take this moment to reiterate, I haven’t fished for trout so this is a very saltwater approach.
Matching Gear With Species
A bit of a odd number split break down on rods to common species would include a
5 weight for bream, whiting, mullet
7 weight for flathead, small trevally, school Jew, Bass, yellow belly, Saratoga, Tailor,
9 weight for larger Jew, barra, threadies, small Tuna, Golden Trevally, Permit, Snapper, Aussie Salmon, Mangrove Jack
11 weight, most Tuna, large Barra, Marlin, Mako, GT’s.
Like I said, a bit of a breakdown, the species list is just to give you an idea, I am sure many will disagree, many will agree.
Reels are a bit more open and shut, in my opinion, they fall under 3 categories, will the fish take drag, will the fish not take drag or will I be casting all day, I could add do I want to look cool but we won’t cover this now. Essentially your fly reel is a line storage device, obviously the line isn’t cast off the reel, so in a lot of circumstances you could just about use a cotton spool, but because that’s not cool you won’t. A lot of beginner species probably won’t take drag which is a relief for your hip pocket when getting started. In the circumstance that I am looking at a reel that will probably never sing the sweet tune of a screaming drag, I look for balance mainly, but just in case I would probably recommend some sort of reasonable drag system as opposed to a clicker drag. When it comes to the more cost effective range of the market I prefer a sealed drag because maintenance and I are not close, especially if it’s a cheap reel.
Backing And Maintenance
If the reel is intended to fish for species that will take line of your reel, I look for balance, backing capacity and a good maintainable drag such a a cork drag. Remember when I said spending the coin is sometimes very necessary? Well this is that time. These types of reels can’t be cheaped out on, they will perform like a washing machine with a brick in if not machined and balanced properly, which can be very entertaining for others on the boat and a good deal for the fish as it swims away. The thing with a cork drag is you can maintain them very easily, they are silky smooth and usually have absolutely zero inertia start up, which is what you want for light leaders and fast fish, bonefish spring to mind here.
Casting All Day
The next category is if I am casting all day. The scenario here is snag bashing. Sometimes you are fishing for species that still need a big rod but a big bluewater reel with 500m of backing and a bulletproof drag isn’t required, so why swing it around all day? They are heavy and will cause fatigue, get a nice large arbour reel with not a lot of backing and you will be fine. On the subject of the backing, all reels need it, if you want my advice get a good brand of Gel Spun or Dacron, try to get flat stuff, it will sit better and it will not cut your fingers when guiding back onto the reel when Tuna fishing.
Finally there is the line. As a beginner, it is important not to stretch yourself too far excuse the pun, and like the rest of fly fishing gear, this section is a real black hole. Let me simplify this for you, always get a weight forward line indicated as WF on the box, make sure your line is rated for tropical areas if you are in one, and vice versa for cold climates. Don’t get too caught up in the colour but when starting a good high vis line will be easier for keeping control of your casts by watching your loops and it will help you to know where your fly is. This is another part of the gig where you don’t want to cheap out, get a good brand or you will blame your line for everything, because cheap lines are just that, cheap lines. For your 8 weight rod I would initially suggest sticking to an 8 weight line, underlining will allow you to carry more line in the air and allow you to cast further, overlining will be better suited to short casts, the correct line weight will give you the best of both worlds. Without getting into the physics of casting, a weight forward 8 weight floating line for an 8 weight rod is a good start, you could spread out to an intermediate line which you will probably use more as you advance and from there a full sink line for hitting deep structure.
Watch Those ‘Tweedies
The main thing here is don’t get overwhelmed by the tweed jacket crew, it doesn’t need to be expensive and it doesn’t need to be technical. Shopping at a good outfitters is a great place to meet someone who is living the lyrics that they are singing. On the Sunshine Coast I often head into the crew at Tie N Fly outfitters, Gavin the owner taught me how to cast and actually gave me some quick pointers before even buying my first rod off him. When I did it was the perfect setup that enabled me to fall in love with the sport.
If I had a broomstick of a rod and a line that didn’t match I guarantee you I would have hated the sport.
That rod I gave to my first casting student for free, at last look it has been passed around to a further 5 or 6 guys for free and was one of the most memorable setups I have ever had.
Me or the other 7 or so dudes would never have got that experience from eBay, a specialist outfitters store a great place to start out.