Fly Fishing Checklist for Beginners

Are you ready to break into one of the most beloved outdoor activities of all time? Start your fly fishing journey with some knowledgeable preparation. I worked with dedicated angler and Sierra Trading Post co-worker, Curtis Brabson, to get you started off right with a fly fishing checklist that's perfect for beginners.

Fly Box Checklist:

Fly Line

Remember that each rod is designed for a specific line weight, and line weight is also up to the angler's personal preference. (Check the fly rod section on our buying guide for more information about line weight.) Fly Line is what presents the fly during the cast. Lines come in a lot of options, from floating to sinking, and in different types of taper.

Fly Line Backing

Fly line backing is the first layer of line that connects the fly reel to the fly line.

Leader and Tippet

Leaders and tippets are used to connect the fly line to the fly and are typically made of monofilament or fluorocarbon. Leaders are typically tapered with the heavier end tied to the fly line and the lighter end connected to the tippet. A tippet is used to connect the leader to the fly. Both leader and tippet come in different weights. Your choice will depend on the type of fishing you are doing.


Flies pretty much come in three main categories: dry, nymph and streamer. Dry flies float on top of the water. Nymphs are subsurface. Streamers imitate things such as minnows and leeches and are usually fished by stripping the fly line.

fly fishing flies

Strike Indicator

A strike indicator is used when nymph fishing and is made in many different materials, like bobber, yarn and foam. Strike indicators are not absolutely necessary but help the angler realize a fish has taken their fly.


Weights increase a fly's sink rate and are made of different materials which may be banned in some areas. Keep in mind that lead weights are banned in some locations.

Nippers or Scissors

Nippers or scissors are used to clip excess line when tying on flies.

Hemostat or Clamp

A clamp is used to remove the hook from the mouth of the fish.

Fishing Gear and Apparel Checklist:

Gear Bag or Fishing Vest

Wear a fishing vest or fishing pack to keep your gear close at hand while you're fishing.

Fishing License

Check with local Parks and Wildlife or Game and Fish department to ensure you have the appropriate license, conservation stamps, and access permits needed.

Fly Rod

Fly rods come in different weights, lengths, action type and material (typically graphite, fiberglass, carbon or bamboo). It's important to consider the type of fishing that you want to do in order to find the appropriate rod.

Fly fishing fly rod

Reel (Extra spool if desired)

Make sure to pick a fly reel that's sized to match your fly rod. It's also important to have the appropriate drag system for the fishing it's going to be used for.

Fly Fishing Reel


A fishing net makes landing fish easier. Consider the net material because some materials are easier on fish, like rubber.


You'll need a pair of waders to access the best fishing locations on the water. The most common waders are stockingfoot, which are used with wading shoes and are ideal for hiking and longer fishing days. You'll also find bootfoot waders, which are designed for making getting in and out of the water quick and convenience. For more details about this must-have piece of fly fishing gear, check out our waders buying guide.

Wading Boots

If you're using stockingfoot waders, you'll need a pair of wading boots to access the water. It's important to know if the type of sole is allowed at the fishing location. Felt soles are increasingly being banned because they can transport invasive species from one water source to another.

Polarized Sunglasses

You'll need a quality pair of sunglasses, and polarized sunglasses are the only way to go when you're on the water. They cut through glare so you can focus on the fish and the water.

Rain Jacket

Bring a waterproof jacket no matter the forecast. Pop-up rain showers are common in some of the best fly-fishing locations.

Base and Mid Layers

Dress in layers to ensure comfort through changing conditions.

Gloves and Hat

Pack a pair of gloves and a hat for extended coverage. For gloves, consider fly-fishing gloves or sun gloves for really warm locations and lightweight gloves or fingerless knit gloves for locations that can get chilly. A baseball cap, fishing hat or cowboy hat are ideal for keeping the sun out of your eyes.

Sun-Protective Clothing, Sunscreen and Lip Balm

Protect your skin from the sun, which is particularly strong next to the water, with UPF-rated clothing, sunscreen and lip balm.

Insect repellent

You're bound to be bothered by a few insects (if not a swarm) when you're by the water. Bring bug spray or look into buying Insect Shield® clothing.


Keep a camera on hand to capture the beautiful surroundings and big catches.

Remember to check out our fly fishing buying guide to get more information about the gear you need for a successful day on the water.
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