Once upon a time, someone gave me a fly rod & reel after I mentioned that I wanted to learn to how flyfish. Years later, I finally had the opportunity to take a class through the local forest preserve to learn how to use the thing and, of course, I ended up picking up new gear. This lead to setting up yet another kit for yet another hobby, though technically I never had a proper kit for the first fly rod. Based on what I’ve read in past and present, decisions (right or wrong) were made. Here’s what I assembled and why.
Assembling the Kit
Your gamefish of choice will dictate which kind of rod you should buy. Usually, I’m fishing for panfish like blue gills and small mouth (“smallies”) are all landable with a 5 weight rig. The fly rod I bought was a Browning 4 piece 5-6 weight because my casting instructor recommended it as a traveling rid. I was intrigued by the idea of having a small kit I could reasonable take everywhere I thought there would be an opportunity to fish.
Selecting a reel was harder. I finally elected to go with an Orivs Battenkill II, which will handle 3-5 weight line. First, I sorted through the chinese offerings from Amazon, as well as higher quality offerings from Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s. While Bass Pro’s were better quality reels then Amazon’s chinese offerings, the reels were ~$60-70, cast aluminum and had disc drag systems. Looking at the offerings as an engineer, the Battenkill enticed me because it is made from solid bar stock (instead of castings), and a mechanically simple click and pawl drag system versus a disc drag. I believe the mechanically simple click & pawl, milled bar stock reel would be stronger & more durable then a cast reel with a disc drag of equivalent price. I also feel that the price was reasonably fair. The Reddington Fly Reel Zero gave me pause but I decided on the Battenkill for the same reason I don’t like glocks – plastic is for tupperware. I should note that the reel came set up as a left handed retrieve and I left it this way. My favored spincast, the Zebco 11t is also configured this way. A note – with this rod and reel combo, I can “cheat” down to 4 weight line on the rod or “cheat” up to 6 weight line on the reel which is a pretty comfortable range all things considered.
Then I had to select backing, fly line, leaders, and tippets. I would recommend using a dacron backing line and finally settled on some RIO backing from Ebay comparing price & shipping times. I had considered using mono as backing, but after purchasing dacron I’m a convert. Also, while researching the idea I found that the expansion of mono will cause damage to the spool. The dacron line is a bit like embroidery floss and bites the fly line better then mono could dream of. I only put roughly 1/2 the spool of backing on as I had seen some recommendations in my Orvis book to do so. Panfish are unlikely to run a 90′ length of fly line I think, but even 150′ of dacron backing should be more then enough.
For my fly line, I chose a weight forward, floating line in 5 weight. Typically, the floating line is considered the most flexible across the different applications of fly lines. Weight forward is good casting material for beginner and experienced alike per the Orvis book. I have read that sinking is recommended for panfish, my intended quarry, but I think I can compensate for this with my leader easily enough. If not, I’ll try a roll of sinking line then. I went with the White River due to the low cost of the line. I actually thought it was 90 yds … don’t be an idiot like me. The battenkill has enough capacity for the full 90′ spool of fly line. Unlike my last roll of fly line, the backing end was labeled.
For a leader, I will be making furled leaders of 6/0 unithread. I’m going to make a separate blog post on the construction of furled leaders but you can see the general idea by checking out these furled leaders on ebay. I decided on furled leaders because of the relatively low cost of raw materials. Several leaders can be made from a single roll of unithread. To keep the leaders from getting tangled during storage I 3d printed some leader holders that I found on Thingiverse.
I’ll use a piece of simple 2lb test monofilament as a tippet. I haven’t seen a reason not to.
I did buy a fly fishing vest, and went with one that is 100% cotton. Realize that fishing is likely to impart a certain fishy smell dirty done right. While the newer nylon vests are neat, they won’t handle a washer & dryer like a good cotton vest will. I also figured that being a germophobe I would want to was the vest often enough. I found a lightly used offering on Ebay. $20 later it was mine and it arrived in a few days. Until I get my preferences settled out, I do tend to buy a cheap. No need to buy twice cry twice because I couldn’t try it out in a store.
Tying it All Together
There are many different knots that need to be used to put a fly reel together. Here is the list, sorted from the reel to the tippet. These are the knots recommended by my LL Bean Fly Fishing book I purchased.
- Backing is tied to reel using arbor knot – [101 Knots Arbor Knot]
- Backing to fly line knot is the duncan knot aka uni-knot aka nail knot – [Fishing In Schools Nail Knot]
- Fly line will get a Perfection Knot in the end to connect the loops on my leaders to – [Fishing in Schools Perfection Knot]
- Leaders come with a Shorb Loop, but I needed to know how to tie them myself – [FurledLeaders.co.uk Slide Deck]
- Perfection Knot and Shorb Loop are put together with the “Hand Shake Loop” – [Fishing In Schools Hand Shake Loop]
- I’ll use the perfection loop\Shorb Loop\Handshake Knot arrangement to go from leader to tippet
I’m not saying that I made the right decisions, but I feel that this kit has as much ability to catch a fish as the next. That’s what I’m after. If its sub-optimal then there’s a good chance its user preference and not something I can find in a book or youtube videos online. I’ll leave a list of my complete kit below, as well as some recommended resources. Thanks for reading.
- Rod: Browning 4 Piece 5-6 Fly Rod.
- Reel: Orvis Battenkill II
- Backing: RIO Dacron 20lb backing, cut to about 50 yards
- Fly line: White River Fly Shop Hobbs Creek Fly 5 Weight, Weight Forward
- Leader: Home made furled leader of Uni-Thread. See my blog post on making furled leaders. (Upcoming).
- Tippet: 2lb mono, from walmart.
- Vest: Pflueger 100% Cotton Vest