Basic Fly-Fishing Gear If you’ve seen anglers fly fishing and thought “that looks like fun,” you’re right! Fly fishing is popular with anglers chasing both freshwater and saltwater fish all over the country and its getting popular here too. There’s a tool for every job and a fly rod for every fish so let’s look at what kayak anglers need here in Southwest Florida. We use 8 weight, 4-piece, 9-foot rods, with weight forward floating line. They’re like medium action spinning gear and will handle the same fish. For larger fish, you’ll need a heavier rod but for panfish a 5 weight could be plenty. Select a rod that is light weight and comfortable to cast but has enough backbone to land a fish quickly before release. A light rod that is too wimpy makes for an extended battle which can kill the fish and make release futile. Let your budget be your guide, but our outfits, including rod, reel, line, backing and leader from TFO™ cost under $200 and have lasted years. We recommend these balanced packages from the manufacturer to keep it simple. If you buy parts separately, get a reel that gives the rod balance and holds enough line and backing for a redfish making a long run. Most fly reels have a drag you should set light as the line going through the guides and water creates considerable drag. Most fly lines are too bulky to store more than 100 feet on a reel. You just need as much fly line as you can cast. If a fish runs out more line, 200 yards of 20-30 lb. backing will keep you connected. Weight forward lines have a thicker area near the leader end that makes them easier to cast especially into the wind. Fly lines come in floating, sinking and many colors. We like floating lines because they are easy to pick up off the water as we fish shallow flats and shorelines. Pick a fly line you can see. Color doesn’t matter much if you use a long leader. For deeper water try a weighted fly or a tiny split shot ahead of the fly. Traditionalists tie leaders in graduated sizes starting with 40 lb. test at the fly line and dropping to 10 lb. test or so at the skinny end. Every knot creates a place where weeds will hang up. We prefer 1X tapered leaders 7.5 ft. long even though they are a little more expensive because tapered leaders don’t have knots. Add 18” of 20-30 lb. fluorocarbon “bite tippet” between the fly and leader for toothy fish. Fish like mackerel require heavier 40-60 lb. bite tippet or a short piece of wire ahead of the fly to prevent cutoffs. So, how does this all go together? Start with tying the backing to the arbor of the reel. Wind on a couple of hundred yards but leave enough space on the reel to add fly line. Tie backing to the end of the fly line with a nail knot that will slide through the guides easily. Now, wind the fly line onto the reel and connect the end of line to the thick end of the leader with another nail knot. Now tie the skinny end of the leader to your 20 lb. fluorocarbon bite tippet with a surgeons knot and attach a fly to the bite tippet with a loop knot. “Match the hatch.” Whether you are chasing trout or bonefish, this advice will get you by. Around here, it’s hard to beat a weedless shrimp pattern. Shrimp flies sink slowly and are a good choice on grass flats. Another favorite is a Clouser. These come in assorted colors with lead eyes, which sink quickly. Retrieve most flies with 6-12” strips and vary the speed. Along mangroves, where a tricky cast into a difficult spot is required, we like weedless crab patterns and fish them where they land as they slowly sink to the bottom. For freshwater we like a mouse fly or a popping bug that resembles a frog. In the spring, bass love popping bugs. For panfish we’ll go to a foam spider or beetle. So, there’s a few basic concepts to help kayak anglers get into fly fishing. A word of caution though, it can be habit forming and lead to a psychological dependence on fly fishing. Remember, one fish landed on a flyrod equals 10 on spinning gear (if you’re keeping score).