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Complete Checklist of Equipment to Get Started Fly Fishing


If you've ever thought about giving fly fishing a shot, there's no better time than now. Here, we've compiled a comprehensive list to get you geared up for your fly fishing journey. And remember, if you're not set on investing in gear right away, our guided trips have you covered with everything you need for the day.


What do I need to start fly fishing?

Here’s the list at a glance, we’ll dive into each category below. Our helpful team is also available during business hours to answer any of your questions.


List at a glance:

  1. Fly Rod

  2. Fly Reel

  3. Fly line backing

  4. Fly Line

  5. Leaders

  6. Tippet

  7. Flies

  8. Floatant

  9. Nippers

  10. Portable storage device

  11. Waders

  12. Footwear

  13. Apparel


1. Fly Rod: Your main tool.


What to Look for in Your First Fly Rod:

Selecting your first fly rod is like choosing your first car – it needs to be reliable, adaptable to various conditions, and fit your unique style. Here are the key attributes to keep in mind:


Durability: You’ll naturally be a little rougher with your first rod, so durability is crucial. While you don't need to splurge on the most expensive rod on the market, be wary of ones that seem suspiciously cheap. A well-made rod can last for years, providing countless memorable fishing experiences.


Versatility: Your first rod should be an all-rounder. Before you dive into the niche world of “specialty” fly rods, take some time to discover what style of fly fishing resonates with you the most. Opt for a versatile rod that'll let you dip your toes in various fishing waters.


Size to Match Your Style:

Fly fishing for trout? The size of the rod matters. Here’s a quick rundown:


2-3 wt. Best suited for those narrow streams where smaller trout play hide and seek. Perfect for casting those delicate dry flies or lightweight nymphs.


4-5 wt. These are your trusty sidekicks. The Jacks of all trades. Ideal for both larger and smaller streams, and can cast almost any dry fly or nymph with precision.


6 wt. When you need that extra power for casting big streamers or when Mother Nature turns the winds against you, a 6 wt. rod is your ally.


In summary, your first fly rod should be an extension of your arm - easy to handle, versatile, and reliable without being prohibitively expensive.


2. Fly Reel: Storing your line and ensuring smooth casting


Your first reel should be both functional and efficient. Here are the core aspects you should consider:


Drag Settings: Think of drag settings as the reel's resistance level. It's the mechanism that determines how much effort is required to pull the line from the reel. A reel with varied drag settings is like having multiple gears on a bike – it allows you to adapt according to the situation. Need to ensure that big fish doesn't snap your line? Increase the drag. Want a smoother, easier line release for smaller catches? Dial it down.


Balance with the Fly Rod: Ever tried running with one heavy boot and one light shoe? Well, mismatched rod and reel combinations can feel just as awkward. Achieving a balanced feel is primarily about the reel's weight in relation to the rod. Here are your options:


DIY: Grab your rod and head over to Kern River Fly Shop.. Test out different reels to find that perfect match.


Combo Route: For those who prefer a no-hassle approach, opt for rod/reel combos. These are curated sets designed to balance seamlessly. We offer a variety to choose from here. Our guides have been fans of the Redington Field Kit in particular lately.


3. Fly Line Backing

Before the fly line goes on your reel, you'll want some backing. It gives you extra length, just in case that trophy fish decides to make a run for it.


4. Fly Line

Now, this is crucial. The right line helps in accurate fly presentation. We like the RIO Mainstream Fly line.


5. Leaders

Leaders connect the fly line to the fly and provide a seamless transition. They taper down in thickness, ensuring the fly turns over correctly. There are different leaders for different fish. You can check out our selection here.


6. Tippet

The tippet is that segment of either monofilament or fluorocarbon that you attach to the leader's finest end. Straight out of the package, there's no immediate need to add a tippet to the leader.


However, after swapping out flies about 3-4 times, you'll find the leader's tip becoming notably thicker due to trimming. That's when adding a tippet becomes essential. The Rio Powerflex Tippet is versatile and ideal for all species.


7. Flies

The star of the show! At Kern River, we have a curated selection for all local conditions and are well-known for our custom flies. We are well known for our curated fly packages, you can check them out here!


8. Floatant

Fly floatant ensures your fly remains buoyant during dry fly fishing sessions. We find that the Loon Fly Spritz 2 is both easy and convenient.


9. Nippers: Trim excess line

Things to keep in mind:


Size: Go small; they're less cumbersome in pockets or on lanyards.


Attachment Hole: Useful for clips or retractable zingers.



10. Portable Storage Device

A sling pack or fishing vest will help you keep gear within reach. We love [Product Link: popular storage option].


11. Waders

Waders are not needed for every situation, but give you access to deeper spots and keep you dry. You can shop our selection of waders here.


12. Footwear

Whether you're wearing waders or not, you'll need good grip. Check out these boots by Simms.


13. Fly Fishing Apparel

Comfort and protection are key.. Choose moisture-wicking materials and UV protection. We've got a range at the shop that's both stylish and functional here.


Embarking on your fly fishing journey is an exciting endeavor, and we're here to ensure it's smooth and FUN! Need guidance? Reach out at 1(760) 376-2040 or contact us. Beginners can benefit from our beginner classes and personalized guided trips. If you're joining a clinic or guided session, we've got the gear covered. The river's calling, and we're excited to help you answer it!

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