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How to Choose a Fly Fishing Combo – Some Tips for the Newbie

Like all things in fly fishing, there are many options to choose from, fly fishing combos are no exception.

Fly fishing combo setup is a full kit designed specifically by the manufacturers to encourage beginners to the sport of fly fishing.

These manufacturers have put together a fly fishing rod, fly fishing reel fully loaded with backing line, a fly fishing forward floating line and possibly accessories including flies, fly box, sunglasses and a carrying case.

How to choose a fly fishing combo for beginners and knowing where to start in the sport can prove to be difficult.

Some come to the sport because they have seen some of their friends try it or seen it on TV or whatever but their exact notion of where and when to start fishing is somewhat elusive to them.

However, it’s important to know what type of fishing you want to do.

If it’s because you have been watching fishing on TV or seen your mates fly fishing them you may follow them but ideally, you want to know what type of fishing you want to do because the rod and reel need to match that aspect of the sport.

For instance, fishing for trout in a small stream will only require maybe an 8-foot or a 9-foot weight 4 or 5 fly rods.

how to choose a fly fishing combo

Check our Combo List here!

However, fishing onshore into salt water with an onshore wind will require an 8-weight 10ft rod to give you enough backbone to get your fly out into the breakers.

There are many set-ups available on the market today and they start anywhere from a 7 foot 4 weight up to 11 foot 8-9 weight.

To the new beginner that may not seem like a lot but that difference of four feet will mean a big difference when you’re trying to fish a large rod in a small river as the foliage gets in the way of your swing.

So when you’ve got the notion in your head as to which you’re going to do be it fishing for trout in a small river, fishing for them in a bigger river, fishing for them in stillwater or fishing the saltwater off the shore there are numerous other options to choose from but for this article, we will concentrate on small river trout rod of 9 foot 5 weight.

So we have decided we’re going to fish for trout on a small river when I mean small river that means one that we can cast across from banking into the opposite banking easily with the fly rod in which case the 9ft 5 weight will be ideal.

On the 9 foot 5 weight set-ups available to us it comes down to a matter of budget because the manufacturers out there have put together balanced setups.

Some may be a bit more advanced than others in the materials used and in the quality of the rods and reels in which case the price will reflect that.

However, all the set-ups are usually balanced in which the fly rod matches the five-weight reel along with the 5 weight fly fishing line, all matched to work together very well.

After all the manufacturers don’t want to put off newbies but encourage them to buy more gear as they get more advanced in the sport.

It’s in their interest to produce good combos for these newbies to start out on.

These are all put together and loaded onto the reel with good quality fishing knots so the set-up is ready to fish all you need to do is basically add water add possibly some flies depending on the combo you buy.

Other kits out there will come with extra accessories as in a box of fly fishing flies, nippers forceps, zingers for your fly vest, sunglasses, and maybe a rod carry case to hold all your items.

These extra items are more of a selling point than being practical but that depends on what type of fish are you going to do.

They may or may not be useful to you sometimes the flies that come in the boxes are not much use for certain types of fly fishing.

However, some manufacturers have come up with a series of combos and they are matched and balanced to be able to fish in certain conditions like river, lake, saltwater etc.

These combos have flies suited for the task.

How to choose a combo

Combo fly fishing rods – What to look for

The main aspects of the fly rod to see how good it is are the weight, the material used to create it, the guides, the reel seat, sections, and action.

The lighter the fly rod the better as you will be able to cast much longer without getting fatigued.

This will cost however as the materials used to make light rods are usually kept for the top-of-the-line models.

Different manufacturers have different techniques in making rods and how the fibers are wrapped to form the taper etc, again the better tech will cost more so it’s a trade-off as to what you can afford to how good the actual rod is going to be.

Saying all this though the techniques used to make cheaper rods is getting better and better and now rods which perform very well are being produced on a good price.

Most rods come now in 4 sections. This makes it easier to transport and take with you on vacation or in the back of the car.

Some rods are shortened further and can have 6 or 7 sections usually called frequent flyers so they can go into the airplane with you.

However, the number of sections a rod has affects the action slightly as the rod is thickened at these points more than the rest so the flex is not continuous.

To a newbie, this will not make much of a difference but to the advanced angler, the way the action is transferred down the rod can make the difference.

The joints in rods are mostly over joins where the upper section slides down over the lower section.

Some will have alignment labels so you can align the rod correctly.

This helps in keeping the guide straight so the fly line goes out correctly.

If using a swing, switch or spey cast these sections will start to twist and open up.

It’s important that you check them regularly as they can fly open or worse get broken if a large fish hits you fly.

Guides come in several types mostly with single legs.

The main focus is the material used and to how smooth it is as the smoother the better so the fly line will move quickly through them.

The action of a fly rod is most important also, the faster the rod the quicker you need to be in timing between the backward and forward strokes in the cast.

This speed makes for tighter loops and further casting. Great for when you get more into the sport and need to cast into strong winds etc.

However, for a newbie, the medium to fast is better as the timing is slower and easier for a beginner to master.

Lastly, the reel seat can affect the overall strength and weight of the rod, some are made with wood and metal others are aluminum which is lighter and stronger.

Preferably a reel seat with two locking nuts is better to keep the reel in place.

Fly Fishing Beginner Combos – What do you need in the reel?

Not to go over old ground here you can check our reel buying guide here to see the properties that a good reel should have but to summarize here is a list of the options that make it good.

The more of these that are ticked the better although that will increase the price.
how to choose a combo for begineers

1 Lightweight – Less than 5oz is good

2 Large Arbor – Medium Arbor will hold more line but pick up less

3 Anti Corrosive – Anodized and protected

4 Seal disc drag – Keeps dirt and grit out of the mechanism

5 Strong – Strong so it doesn’t get damaged too easily when dropped

What fly fishing line is good for a combo fly fishing outfit?

As mentioned above manufacturers will match the rod, reel, and line to make it balanced.

However, some of those fly lines are pretty basic and an upgrade in line may be required after purchase to get more from the outfit. (would make better sense to go for a better combo).

Still some suppliers have developed a line specifically for the kit.

a) so they can produce cheaply and

b) make it unique to the kit and these are fairly decent lines.

When you get further into the sport the need to get good quality fly lines is apparent but for a beginner to get started and get fishing them the combo deal is the best option.

Additional extras that come with fly fishing combos

The main things that come extra with a combo kit are the leader and flies.

The leader which is the section of tippet used to tie on flies can be cheaply produced and a spool of fluorocarbon bought after the combo can keep you going for a long time.

However, the drawback for a beginner is tying the knots. If a leader comes already on the kit you are almost ready to go. You just need to add the flies.

Flies come in all shapes and sizes and some suppliers have put more thought into it than others.

Some flies are designed to be used in a certain situation IE saltwater, rivers etc.

Some suppliers have added the flies in a waterproof fly box which is something that you can use for a long time after the flies have been destroyed by trout teeth or rocks and is a good addition.

The inclusion of tools like nippers used to cut tippets etc zingers used to attach tools to a wading jacket or vest, line straighteners, forceps, etc are worth having and can add a nice touch to a combo set if buying for a gift but I wouldn’t put any emphasis on them at this stage.

The bag that holds the kit or rod being well-made and having an extra pouch for you fly box and accessories is worth having though as this will protect your combo from the journey to and from the fishing.

If you are going to be doing long distances a tuff travel tube may be a better option as an extra but for the whole the cordura tubes will suffice for normal day to day journeys.

Conclusion on how to choose a fly fishing combo

So there you go a few tips on how to purchase a fly fishing combo.

First off you need to know what type of fishing you want to do follow that with what your budget is going to allow you.

When deciding the fishing make sure to allow the proper size of rod and reel to match the activity, as a general rule small light species will only need a small light setup.

If going after larger prey or difficult conditions a rod with more backbone is required.

The reel and fly line need to match these and in most cases as mentioned the manufacturers have taken care of that for you.

All that is left to do is make a purchase and go fishing.

Check our Combo List here!


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