The Reasonable Cost of Fly Fishing

Last week I stumbled onto an amazing bargain. I found a high-end St. Croix fly rod on sale for $1.60. Yes, you read that correctly—a dollar and sixty cents! The cost of fly fishing is amazing!

I also found high-quality flies on sale for 90 cents a dozen. However, it turns out that I’m 118 years too late. These deals appeared in a 1900 Sears catalog. I happened to see the catalog in a trendy coffee shop in Portland, Oregon.

Today’s Prices

This got me thinking about the cost of fly fishing today.

Even though a decent St. Croix fly rod will cost you a thousand times more ($160.00) today than it did in 1900, fly fishing is still a reasonably priced hobby. Sure, you can go crazy and burn through $3000.00 in a hurry to get set up if you insist on a top-of-the line products by Sage, Simms, Patagonia, Orvis, and Fishpond.

But you can fly fish on a tight budget, as Dave and I have had to do at times.

For the record, I own fly fishing gear manufactured by the afore-mentioned companies. I’m not knocking them, because their products are great. But the gear I’ve purchased from them was stretched over the last twenty-five years. I’m still wearing an Orvis fly vest that is over two decades old.

Recently, one of my sons purchased a “starter package” for his father-in-law. It cost $199. It included a decent fly rod, reel, line, a couple boxes of basic flies, and a few leaders. Throw in a pair of waders, wading boots, and a vest, and the total will still be between $400 and $500.

Starter Packages for Other Pursuits

If you’re tempted to complain about the price of fly fishing gear, consider what it costs to buy starter packages for other sports and hobbies.

A starter set of golf clubs will run about $200. Of course, you can spend that much on a driver. Don’t forget, too, about golf balls, and golf shoes. Oh yeah, add in green fees (which may run as much as a non-resident season fishing license in Montana).

Planning to hit the slopes?

A decent snowboard will cost between $300 and $400. Bindings and boots will set you back another $300 to $400. Lift tickets, like green fees, are not cheap either.

Big-game hunting is not cheap either. If you want a 30.06 or .270 caliber in a Ruger, Winchester, or Remington – expect to pay $450 or so for a basic quality rifle. Add another $200 for a decent scope. And that doesn’t include travel, lodging, and tags.

You get the idea. Fly fishing is a reasonably priced sport.

Why Cheaper is Better to Start

If you’re just getting started or buying for someone who is, I suggest starting with an affordable, modestly priced package. Here are three reasons why:

First, you don’t want to get stuck with expensive gear if you decide fly fishing is not for you.

Second, part of the fun is up-grading and saving for a high-end rod or waders.

If you start out with a Sage X or a Winston Boron IIIx, you won’t appreciate the high quality of these rods. Besides, you won’t be able to get anything better (even though you could spend more).

Third, you will have a better sense of what you want after you’ve fly fished awhile. A Sage X and a Winston Boron IIIx are comparable in price. But they act differently. The Sage X is more of a streamer rod and designed for distance. You’ll make a better choice as to which rod fits you after you’ve fly fished awhile.

If you plan to start fly fishing, you can be thankful that it’s a relatively affordable sport. But don’t expect to get a decent fly rod for less than two bucks unless you can travel back in time.

Fly Fishing Tips Below the Surface

fly fishing tips below the surface

You can find some great fly fishing tips below the surface. I’m referring to the surface of our articles and podcasts — not the film of a river or lake. There are some great insights in the “comments” section below each article or episode we post. Our readers post some terrific ideas, hacks, and tips.

Here are a few insights we found helpful. You might benefit from them too:

Wet Waders and Boots

I bring along a plastic garbage bag for transporting my wet waders home from the river. But Thomas suggested a better idea. He uses a low-walled plastic tub for carrying his wet boots and waders. It’s convenient and usually keeps the mud and sand on the bottom.

It’s a lot less messy than stuffing it all into a garbage bag.

Counter Intuitive Dry Fly Measures

My first reaction when my dry fly sinks is to retrieve it and dry it. But Duane’s story makes me pause.

“Once while fishing the Gallatin in Yellowstone Park,” he writes, “my orange Elk Hair sank, and in disgust, I was about to yank it out of the water for drying and recast when a large mouth on a BIG Cutthroat came up and grabbed it.

“The trout that day ignored it floating, but loved it sunk.”

Duane also says, “Many times I have tried matching the hatch on rising trout and was ignored, then changed to a #14 Royal Wulff – which looked absolutely nothing like the BWO hatch and bingo!”

Going with a High-End Fly Rod

On our podcast, Dave and I have been advocate for shelling out several hundred bucks for a higher quality fly rod. We prefer to save our money elsewhere. Of course, you can catch trout on a low-end fly rod. But if you fly fish enough, you’ll appreciate the quality that a high end rod provides.

Jim made this point in a recent comment: “I never believed it made a difference until I bought a Winston fly rod. I’ve had a lot of cheaper rods and they fished well. But once I upgraded, those cheaper rods don’t get used as much these days.”

Storing Dropper Rigs

Some fly fishers like to tie their dropper rigs in advance – in the warmth and leisure of their home. But how do you transport these without getting them tangled.

Thomas recommends the Smith Creek Rig Keeper for storing your dropper rigs. He says it’s been worth the few bucks to avoid frustrating tangles.

Making Small Adjustments

Dave and I have talked before about the art of making small adjustments.

One of our listeners, David, shared several small adjustments he regularly makes. These include going to a smaller tippet size on clear water under bright blue skies; lengthening his leader for dry fly fishing or shortening it for nymph and streamer fishing; switching to a fly of a different size or color; changing up the retrieve while streamer fishing; and varying the depth and weight while nymph fishing.

David claims that the endless adjustments you have to make while fly fishing is what makes it such a fascinating, wonderful sport.

We agree!

There’s more wisdom like this “below the surface” in the comments section of each article or podcast episode we post. You might find something that results in catching more fish or at least making your day on the water more enjoyable.

Episodes on Fly Fishing Adjustments

We’ve published two episodes on making fly fishing adjustments:

    Adjustments to Improve Your Fly Fishing Game

    The Art of Making Small Adjustments on the River