How To Set Up A Fly Rod – Beginner’s Guide

| Last Updated April 14, 2021

Unlike in other fishing techniques where the bait or lure is presented to the fish in the water, fly fishing involves artfully presenting the fly on top of the water.

You require specialized equipment for this type of fishing, including fly rod, reel and line, and flies, among others.

This article discusses in detail the necessary gear for fly fishing and how much they cost. It also provides a step-by-step process for stringing a fly rod and tips and safety considerations for setting it up. Finally, there is an FAQ section that addresses some fly fishing setup questions.

Quick Questions Before Starting

This section helps you determine what to expect in terms of costs, time, and skill level when getting started with fly fishing.

How Difficult is This to Complete?

Scale: Medium

Stringing up a fly rod involves tying several types of knots, which may be challenging for most beginners.

How Long Does it Take to Complete?

Approximately 10-15 minutes

How Much Do Materials Cost?

The cost ranges from $75 - $1055, depending on how much you spend on the setup materials. 

Items Needed to Properly Set Up Your Fly Rod

There are different prices for different types, models, and sizes of the essential fly fishing set up equipment. We provide an estimated price range for each equipment category to determine how much it will cost you to get started with fly fishing.

  • Fly Rods - $25 - $250

  • Fly Reels - $25 - $600

  • Fly Lines - $5 - $75 

  • Leaders - $6 - $50 

  • Tippet - $8 - $40 

  • Flies - $6 - $40
  • Fly Fishing Setup 101 - The Complete Overview

    The following is an overview of some essential tools, equipment, and accessories for a fly fishing setup.

    Fly Rods

    A fly rod is paramount for fly fishing. It plays three critical functions: casting the bait or lure, controlling the line, and tackling and retrieving the fish once caught.

    With so many options available in different sizes, shapes, rod action, weight, and models, it can be difficult to determine which one to go for. The ideal characteristics of a fly rod will differ depending on the type of fish you want to catch and fishing conditions.

    Fly rods can be categorized broadly into three according to their action as follows:

    1. Fast-Action Fly Rod

    They are also commonly referred to as tip-flex fly rods. As their name suggests, they bend at the tip while the other parts remain stiff and straight. They are best suited for long casting and use on windy days. On the downside, they can be challenging for beginners to use effectively.

    2. Medium-Action Fly Rods

    Also known as mid-flex fly rods. They are versatile and can be used in various fishing conditions to catch different types and sizes of fish. The bend on the upper part from the midsection. If you are looking to only own one fly rod, this is it. It is also easy to set up and use.

    3. Slow-Action Fly Rods

    Also known as full-flex fly rods, they bend throughout starting from ¼ way from the bottom. They are ideal if you are looking to cast at a 90-degree angle and to catch small fish.

    Other considerations to make when choosing a fly rod include its weight, length, line capacity, and a number of parts.

    For instance, if you are looking for a fly fishing rod that is easy to pack and transport, go for a retractable one. The more parts a fishing rod has, the smaller it packs, and the number of parts does not compromise the rod’s efficiency.

    In terms of length, 9-feet rods are ideal for long casts with a heavy line or in windy conditions. 8.5 feet rods are all-round, while those that are shorter than 8 feet are best suited for precise casting over short distances with a light fly line. 

    Fly Reels

    At first glance, a fly reel seems too simple to play a crucial role in fly fishing. All it does can be hold the line. However, the quality and efficiency of your fly reel can be the primary determinant between losing or retrieving your catch. 

    The following are some key features to go for in a fly reel:

    • Disc drag mechanism

    • Weatherproof and waterproof

    • Rust and corrosion-resistant

    • Compatibility with your fly rod

    • Single retrieve mechanism

    • Compatibility with the fly line you will be using

    Fly Lines

    In fly fishing, the fly line allows you to cast the lure on top of the water. Fly lines are available in different sizes, colors, models, and weights. The right choice of a fly line is dependent on factors such as the type of fish you want to catch and the compatibility of the line with your reel and rod. 

    Line Color

    The right color will depend on the lighting conditions. The line color has no consequence on the fish, but you want to go for the color that you will see clearly. For topwater casting, go for bright colors such as red and orange, while brown, black, and other dark shades work better-submerged lines. 

    Line Weight

    Manufacturers denote fly line weight with a number between 1-14. The higher the number, the heavier the line. Lighter fly lines are suitable for smaller fish, while heavier ones work for larger fish. 

    The choice of line weight will also be determined by the size of the water body you will be fishing on. For instance, line weight 1-3 works well for small streams, 4-6 for medium-sized water bodies such as rivers, and 7 and 8 for larger water bodies such as lakes and big rivers. 

    Line Taper

    Line tapers are small adjustments along the length of the line made to optimize casting. Fly lines are made thicker, heavier, lighter, and thinners at different parts. There are four main fly line tapers: WF: weight forward taper, DT: double taper, LT level taper, and ST shooting taper. 

    Fly lines can also be classified as fully sinking, sink tip, or floating fly line depending on the extent to which they submerge into the water. 


    The leader is the transparent end of a fly line that serves as the connection between the line and the fly. Leaders are available in different weights and lengths. Typically, they are 7.5-9 feet, tapered, monofilament lines. 

    They are usually wider at the butt end, where they attach to the fly line, and narrower at the tip where they attach to the fly. When casting, the taper allows for smooth casting through the air and a softer landing on the water. 


    A tippet is a type of gauge monofilament line attached to the leader, on which the fly is tied. It is small and transparent, making it impossible for the fish to see. Tippets are flexible and enable smooth floating on the water. 

    They are normally 2-4 feet long or smaller than the diameter of the leader's tip. Leaders are expensive, and using a tippet extends their life by retaining the taper. 


    The fly is the bait used in a fly fishing setup. Fly fishing flies can be categorized into three as follows: 

    • Dry flies:  they are the most commonly used. They are topwater lures and baits that look like flying insects.

    • Nymphs: they resemble aquatic invertebrates such as larvae. They either float above the water or slightly beneath the surface.

    • Streamers: also known as lures, look like aquatic creatures such as small fish or leeches. 

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    How to String a Fly Rod

    The first step in your fly fishing set up is stringing your rod. Here is the beginner-friendly step-by-step process that will hopefully set you up for a good catch with minimal effort.

    1.  Assemble all your gear, including the fly rod, reel, line, leader, tippet, and fly.

    2.  Decide on the hand you will use to drive the reel.

    3.  Remove the spool from the reel and take the backing around the reel.

    4.  For the backing, take the backing line's tag end around the spool axle in the opposite direction from which the spool will be wound when the reel is retrieving the line. Then, tie an overhand knot around the other end.

    5.  Replace the spool in the reel and begin to reel the backing. This is also an opportunity to ensure that you are reeling in the right direction using the intended retrieving hand.

    6.  Tie the fly line to the backing using the Albright knot.

    7.  Tie the leader to the fly line. While some fly lines have a loop where you can simply pass the leader and make a basic knot. Others have no loop, and you need to make an Albright knot like you did when tying the fly line to the backing.

    8.  Tie the tippet to the leader. You can use various knots, including the arbor knot, Albright knot, basic knot, clinch knot, nail knot, double or triple surgeon’s knot as long as the knot is firm and holds tightly.

    9.  Attach the reel to the fly rod.

    10.  Pass the line through the guides.

    11.  Tie a fly on the tippet with a clinch knot.

    Tips and Safety Considerations When Setting Up a Fly Rod 

    Now that you know how to string your fly rod, below are additional tips.

    1. Properly Set Up Your Fly Rod

    Usually, the rod sections are packed in a fly rod casing according to their sizes. Take out the butt section first and then the subsequent part. Slide the two parts together and twist and align the dots on each section of the rod. Then, attach the subsequent sections ensuring that the dots on the preceding part align with those of the next part. 

    2. Correctly Mount Your Reel on the Fly Rod

    Most fly rods have an opening on the reel seat where the reel foot fits in. To ensure that the reel is securely mounted on the rod, fasten the closing mechanism at the bottom of the reel seat until it is tight. 

    3. Ensure the Ties Are Firm, Tight, and Secure

    When tying the backing on the spool axle, make a double knot to ensure it is secure.

    When tying small flies to the tippet, it is easier to twist the flies when tying the knot instead of twisting the line. 

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    Fly fishing is an easy technique for catching fish on smaller water bodies such as streams, rivers, and lakes. However, it requires special equipment to lay the fly on top of the water or slightly beneath the water surface.

    The essential equipment can cost you between less than $100 up to $1,055. You may also find fly fishing starter kits on Amazon that contain all the necessary fly fishing equipment. You require good knot-tying skills to ensure a proper fly rod set up. 

    People Also Ask

    This section answers concisely some common fly fishing rod set up FAQs

    Should I Set Up My Fly Rod Differently If I’m a Beginner?

    It is best to adhere to experts' guidelines and procedures for your fly fishing set up. Otherwise, you might compromise on the efficiency of your set up and end up not catching anything. 

    When should I change my setup?

    You may change your set up as per the changes in the conditions, fishing environs, or type of fish you are targeting. For instance, if you were previously catching small fish and you move to a territory where there are larger fish, you will need to remove the lighter line and use a heavier one. 

    What’s the Most Important Part of a Fly Rod Setup?

    All the equipment, tools, and accessories discussed above are crucial for your fly rod setup. Without one or the other, the setup will not be complete.

    For instance, you cannot fly fish without a rod. While you could do without a reel, it will make stringing the fly rod difficult. Although the leaders and tippets may not be mandatory, they make the setup more efficient.

    My name is Caleb and I am obsessed with hunting, fishing, and foraging. To be successful, you have to think like your prey. You have to get into the mind of your target - and understand Big Game Logic. If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at Read more about Big Game Logic.