Basic Fly Fishing Rod, Reel, Line, and Leader Information

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Basic Fly Fishing Tackle Information

  • Rods are chosen for their fishing application.
  • They are designed for use with a specific weight fly line.
  • The amount of bend and how quickly it straightens after the cast is considered the action.

Fly rod actions:  whippy = slow, stiff = fast.

Fly rod application examples:

–   Small Streams using short casts, 7ft, 3 wt., Slow Action

–   Long casts using heavy flies, 9ft, 6wt. Fast Action

  • Rod specifications are usually found near the butt of a rod, they include: Rod Length, Line Weight Rating, Weight of Rod and Rod Action.



  • Four line parts make the connection from the reel to the fly: Backing, Fly Line, Leader, and Tippet.
  • Backing is connected to the reel spindle it provides additional line for playing fish and faster retrieval.
  • Most commonly, fly line is made to float, but there are varieties made to sink at various rates.
  • Fly line provides the physical solution for casting flies. It is the weight of the fly line that helps to bend the fly rod making it possible to propel lightweight objects.
  • There are many types of fly line tapers.  Taper shape is formed by the increase and decrease of fly line diameter.

Fly line is measured by weight (grams).  Fly rods are designed for use with specific fly line weights.


Leader and Tippet

  • Leader is the connection between the fly line and fly it is made from monofilament or fluorocarbon material.
  • Leaders are tapered starting from a large diameter attached to the fly line and ending with a small diameter (tippet) attached to the fly.
  • Leader can be purchased pre-made and knotless or you can make your own.

Basic Leader Examples:

  • Nymphs, 4 to 7 ft., ending with 3X tippet
  • Dry flies, 8 to 12 ft., ending with 5X tippet
  • Tie on tippet material as needed:

–   When you lose flies, change flies or use different hook sizes.

–   Natural drift (presentation) of the artificial fly are aided by using a fine tippet.

  • Tippet Rule of Thumb:

Divide the hook size by 4 to get the “X” designation.


#12 Hook divide by 4 = 3X Tippet

#16 Hook divide by 4 = 4X Tippet


Fly Reel

  • Fly reel drag control is used for playing a fish by utilizing mechanical resistance.
  • Playing a fish with the drag set with too much resistance will snap your line and/or loose the fish.
  • Many reels are designed to use the spool rim to apply resistance (drag).  This is accomplished by applying pressure with your hand; called palming the reel.
  • Match the weight and size of your reel to balance properly with the fly rod.


Basic Leader Formula

Remember 4-3-2-1

General trout leader butt section use .015 diameter line. Modify as needed.

  • Section 4: One half of the total leader length
  • Section 3: One half of section 4
  • Section 2: One half of section 3
  • Section 1: Two times the length of section 2
  • For finer diameter tippets such as 4x or 5x, chop
    back section 1 to half the length and add two times
    the length of section 2 as an additional Section 5.

Distribute diameters e.g.:

Section 4 3 2 1
Diameter .015 .013 .011 .008

There are many different leader formulas used to accomplish a vast range of fishing situations.


Care and Maintenance

  • Carry fly rod butt first when near objects.
  • Maintain your equipment by drying off after use and storing in a cool dry place.
  • Checks fly line for cracks in the coating which causes the line to sink.
  • Check knots and replace leader often.
  • Clean fly line with mild soap and water.
  • Lube reel gears occasionally.

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