Why Is Fly Fishing So Expensive?

Fly fishing is one of the most satisfying and relaxing hobbies. It became even more so during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic. With natural social distancing tendencies, more people took advantage of this outdoor sport and have continued to enjoy it.

Yet, along with the excitement of catching your first fish comes costs. The reason fly fishing is so expensive relates to the equipment you purchase. First-time hobbyists spend as much as $200 for lines, rods, and other items. On the other hand, top-line fly fishing equipment has a price range between $400 and $5000.

What is Fly Fishing?

Fly fishing is a type of angling that requires you to cast a “fly” (bait) on the top of the water or slightly below it. The hobby requires a good deal of technique and patience. Overall, fly fishing is considerably different than other forms of the sport.

First is where you fly fish. Other forms allow you to angle off of a pier or dock. Other types allow you to fish from a small boat or a deep-sea craft.

Fly fishing normally takes place in a rushing stream, creek, or river. Since the fly isn’t directly underwater, the fish doesn’t come to you. Instead, you need to continually cast your line as sea life moves along with the current.

Another difference is how the line is cast. In bait (spin) fishing, the line is weighed down by a hook, some weights, floats, and a lure. Therefore, at the time of the cast, the line gets great distance but not a lot of control.

The procedure is different with fly fishing. The bait, broken into categories dry flies, nymphs, and streamers, is much lighter. On top of this, the line is normally drawn out by hand and released. As a result, the cast is more accurate.

Then there’s the difference in strategy between the two. The concept behind spin fishing is to catch a lot of fish in a short period. As it’s done in different water depths, you have the potential of snagging a variety of species.

Conversely, the goal of a fly fisherman is to fool the fish while challenging themselves to catch as many as possible. This angling form takes a great deal more patience and skill. Yet, it’s also peaceful. Many fly fishermen believe it’s the purest form of the hobby.

Fly Fishing Equipment and Expenses

There are several pieces of equipment required for proper fly fishing.

Fly rod and reel

A fly rod differs in several aspects from a standard pole. At approximately nine feet, it’s much longer than one utilized for bait fishing. Plus, since the line is constantly cast, the fly rod is much lighter.

It’s normally made of graphite. This material is highly resistant to elevated temperatures and wear. Though it isn’t considered waterproof, graphite is easily dried without the risk of corrosion.

As the material is softer than fiberglass, a graphite fly rod is incredibly flexible. It’s designed to bend to extend a cast’s distance.

The reel, where the line is collected, is also different from a bait fishing pole. Instead of a closed reel, the space is open. This allows the angler to manually release the proper amount of line for a long cast.

Due to its open status and the lightness of the rod, fly fishermen place their casting hands at the front of the reel. This establishes an even distribution of weight. Furthermore, it allows the user to send out a firm and balanced cast.

Why are fly rods so expensive?

There are several reasons why fly rods are expensive. Generally, it comes down to their construction, metals, size, and reels.

For instance, manufacturers categorize their graphite rods by tonnage or modules. The more tonnage or modulus the stiffer the equipment. Thus, it takes more effort for the rod to bend during a cast.

Less expensive fly rods, such as those used by beginners, are stiffer to use. As the tonnage and modulus decrease, the more flexible it becomes. The best equipment can run for $1,000 or more.

Another reason for the increased price is construction. Though a majority of fly rods are made from graphite, higher-end models could be comprised of bamboo. This flowering plant is somewhat stronger, more flexible, and contains built-in thermoregulation capabilities.

The price of these types of rods could run several thousands of dollars. This is especially true if the product is hand-crafted per the request of the customer.

The composition of the handle is also a consideration of price. Cork is the normal material used for this part of the fly rod. It gets upgraded along with the other construction materials.

Handles made with Flor Grade cork are considered the most expensive. In turn, they offer the most comfort and control. These types of fly rods can run between $300 and over $1000.

Regardless of the equipment’s expense, you need a sturdy rod tube to protect it while not in use. This is particularly true if you intend to travel with it to other fly fishing destinations.

If you regularly take it in a car or plane you don’t want a flimsy rod tube. That simply brings trouble as it gets jostled around the trunk or luggage hold. So, make sure the holder is made of a high-grade material when you purchase an upgraded fly rod.

The rod tube must have a hard shell comprised of PVC or aluminum. Meanwhile, the interior should be soft and padded. Additionally, the cap needs to have a screw top and D-rings for enhanced locking.

Why are reels so expensive?

Where high-end fly rods are more flexible, expensive reels are sturdier. Their construction helps minimize and smooth the drag anglers encounter when fishing for large fish. How well the anti-reverse switch operates is also a factor in high-priced reels.

Other factors that calculate into the expense of a reel are:

  • Brand name
  • Research & Development to create the latest models
  • Custom design
  • Finish (Looks)

When it comes to name recognition, a store-brand reel purchased at a sporting goods outlet is probably going to be less expensive than something from a well-known company like Tibor Reels. It’s not any different than purchasing a pair of jeans with a big-box store label and one from Levi’s.

On average, expensive fly rod reels can run between $600 and $900.


A fly rod guide serves two purposes. First, it transitions the fly line into a controlled state during the cast. Next, at the point of casting and reeling in a fish, it equally distributes force across the entire line.

There are three types of guides along the fly rod. The stripping guide, which is closest to the reel, handles the energy and vibration generated at the stiff butt section of the rod. The snake guides that run along the length of the rod distribute force without increasing weight. At the tip of the fly rod, tip-tops add weight to the line and transfer the force down to the snake guides.

Why are guides so expensive?

Again, it comes down to the materials and construction. Newer fly rod models from some manufacturers are now designed with single-foot guides. These feature a full circular ring that helps the fly line off the pole.

Some of these guides are now made with titanium, which makes these fly rods more expensive. However, you receive a good return on investment as the metal has many advantages. It’s non-toxic and non-corrosive, it doesn’t expand and contract with temperature changes, and it’s incredibly strong.

Fortunately, titanium guides aren’t hundreds of dollars. They range between $30 and $40 depending on the length of the rod and the weight of the line.

Fly Line

Simply put, the line is what’s used to cast off the fly rod. It’s where the flies, nymphs, and streamers go to be placed on top of the water and what’s used to reel in a catch. The heavier the line, the more the rod bends. Thus, your throw more accurate casts.

Why is a fly line so expensive?

Similar to the above items, the fly line is expensive due to its construction. It’s one of the few items anglers should invest in no matter their skill level or what type of rod they own. Higher-priced lines offer:

  • Impact resistance: Minimizes the risk of a line break when reeling in a tough catch.
  • Abrasion resistance: Prevents the line from fraying when it scrapes along rocks and other rough objects.
  • Water absorption: Stops the line from getting weak during prolonged use.
  • Smoothness: More expensive lines are coated to smooth their pass through the guides and extend the cast.
  • UV Protection: The coating on high-end lines also protects it from UV rays, which are much stronger when they hit the water.

A more expensive spool of the fly fishing line tends to start at the $100 range.

Is Expensive Fly Fishing Equipment Worth the Investment?

Together, the cost of fly fishing equipment runs from several hundred to several thousand dollars. The question is whether or not purchasing high-priced rods, reels, and lines is worth the investment. The answer depends on your intentions.

For instance, if you’re a novice who wants to try out the hobby, then it’s better to purchase standard equipment. Or, if you want to use lighter rods and stronger lines, consider renting a more expensive setup. Either way, if you decide fly fishing isn’t for you, then you don’t make a huge investment.

On the other hand, if you want to make fly fishing your primary hobby or have done so for years, then it’s a good idea to save the funds to purchase expensive equipment. In the end, its construction will create long-lasting adventures and memories.

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