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New Fly Guy - Starter Kit - Bass Pro vs Wal-Mart
Thursday, December 28, 2006

I have officially launched down the path to learn how to fly fish.  Fellow spin fishermen - pay attention - I may learn a thing or two that will cause you to either stay where you are with bits of bright metal or come join the ranks of the fly addicted. 

Recall that it was my frustrating experience this fall with spinners hooking leaves on Town Creek that drove me to this extreme.  I needed another weapon to leverage in the war on fish and fly stuff was the easy answer.  With spin gear, all I have is the equivalent of the "BFH" (big f.... hammer) that tends to solve all my home improvement projects.  If one BFH is good, then two are better - spin + fly -> versatility!

I must admit that this is not my first run at this.  When I was 7 years old and living in Norway, a friend of my father, Colonel John Bade of the British Army gave me my first fly rod, reel, a box of flies and an hour's worth of instruction.  I tried it a few times, but the patience threshold of a 7 year old was not up to the task and I quickly returned to spinning.  In 1999, I was on a trip to Maine and the Basswife and I both took a 4 hour lesson that included some exercise of the principles on a lake.  Nah... it did not take.

This time is different.  Based on the fanatical opinions of folks who already fly fish, I feel like I am blazing a trail to the promised land for those spinners in need of redemption.  I am committed to the mission this time.  Bear with me over this next season as I discover whether fly fishing is worth it or merely a false promise of great pleasure at huge expense.

So... the first step is to get some stuff.  The Basswife got me a kit at Bass Pro Shops.  When I was nosing around Wal-Mart, I also saw the kit on the right bottom.  Since Bass Pro cost $50 and Wal-Mart was only $20, I was curious about what the extra 30 bucks gets you.

The Bass Pro kit is more complete in that it comes with 50 yds of backing (spin guys - I'll explain what all these components are used for in a following post - but you need all this stuff).  Other than that, the kits are pretty much the same.

Bass Pro gives you 25 yds of fly line; Wal-Mart only 22 yds.  Both are not labeled so are probably "level line" instead of the weight forward the books indicate are easier for beginners to learn on.  The Wal-Mart leader/tippet does not look like it is tapered - so it will probably not work very well.  In addition, it does not have a label like 5X so you do not know what it is.

Looking over on Orvis.com and Amazon, it appears that the normal amount of fly line is 80 - 90 ft. This means that 25 yards (75 ft) is probably Ok, but I wonder if 22 yards is enough.  Also, you must have backing - so you would have to buy that if you got the Wal-Mart kit.  On Amazon, you can get backing for about 8 bucks.

The box of flies is identical.  And... the reel is exactly the same except for the brand name.  Both are model 1094s and allege to have some kind of a drag - but the setting is not adjustable.

The rods are the same except for the handle - cork from Bass Pro and foam from Wal-Mart - both 8 feet 5/6 weight.  On closer examination, the Pflueger rod that comes with Bass Pro looks like it is higher quality - but I doubt a beginner like myself would be able to tell the difference.

Bottom Line:  My conclusion is that the Wal-Mart kit is probably the most cost effective kit.  All you really will use here is the rod, reel and the flies. You will end up buying longer fly line that is weight forward, and will certainly need a boatload of leader/tippet - so the fact that one small piece is included in both kits is meaningless.

Add onto this the fact that you can go into Wal-Mart and just pick this thing up instead of paying shipping tilts the indicator away from Bass Pro as you save a few bucks there as well.

Now, whether any of this stuff is any good is another issue beyond the scope of this post.  I already mentioned my concern over the lack of an adjustable drag with these reels.  Not sure if it matters, but I know I am used to having a drag on my spinning gear.  I did not want to spend a fortune to take another run at fly fishing - so I'll make do with this for now and wait for the addiction to kick in.

Bass Pro Version

Wal-Mart Version

The selection of flies that came with both kits was identical.  As best as I can tell, from left to right its a gnat (wet), a royal Wulff (dry), a Hendrickson? (dry), maybe another Hendrickson and a wooly bugger (streamer).  But, don't hold me to this - I'm the new guy and all I have is a book to compare these to.  So - what's missing is a nymph.  If any expert reads this, please send me an email and tell me what they really are.

Here's where my first tentative casts were made and I lost my first fly - a wooly bugger thing - in a quick snap at the end of the backcast that sent it into another dimension.  The ease of the loss makes me believe that fly guys lose tons more lures than I ever did spin fishing.

Wal-Mart includes knots, a where to find fish section and a quick and dirty tutorial on how to cast - something I had to dig in a fly fishing book to find out.

The Bass Pro kit has a small pamphlet on knots and a "where to fish" section on the back of the box.


 Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore

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