Any landlubber can hook a worm. Fly-fishing is an art form reserved for gentlemen. It’s Hemingway and Thoreau, and if nothing else, it’s a quiet day by the river with a flask full of bourbon. Like golf, fly-fishing is simple by design, making it easy to start but difficult to master. Luckily Ned Parker, owner of Breckenridge Outfitters in Breckenridge, Colorado, has forgotten more about fly-fishing than most of us will ever know. “The fish don’t care if your equipment looks good or not,” he says, guiding beginners to the proper rod and flies (such as those featured below). For the best luck, Parker says, “think like a fish and drink like a fish.” Sage advice.
“The rod is the most important part,” Parker says. “Make sure the one you buy has a warranty, because rods break.” The Orvis Clearwater five-weight nine-foot fly rod ($295, orvis.com) comes fully rigged with a fly line, Clearwater LA II reel, carrying case and — best of all — a 25-year guarantee.
A sweet reel can make learning to fly-fish a pleasure instead of a pain. A basic reel is fine because your hands do most of the work in fly-fishing. But if you’re after big fish like salmon, you’ll need a beefy reel with a powerful drag system mated to a stout rod. For most trout fishing, a five- or six-weight outfit is ideal.
The line you use should match your rod: a six-weight line for a six-weight rod. First-timers should choose a floating line, since it is the most versatile. As for learning knots and casting, Parker suggests a simple solution: YouTube videos. Hiring a guide also helps. “It will cut your learning curve by days, weeks and even years.”
Don’t worry about your wardrobe. The days of rubber waders and a pocket-covered vest are long gone. “Those are old-school; you don’t need them,” Parker says. Instead, wear good wading shoes with no-slip soles. You’ll stay cool while everyone else sweats. A small hip or chest pack will easily fit all your gear.