Remember that Starter Kit I wrote about a few months back?
I now know enough about fly fishing equipment based on my research, the lessons I have taken and a little bit of practical experience. I do need to be this fair - the kit was usuable. You could take that set and head out and have a good time - but as a newbie, I felt my effectiveness was limited by the equipment rather than my skill.
Once you use some equipment that is actually good, you understand the limitations and the difference.
Starting with the rod - in his DVD, The Best of Lefty's Tips, Lefty Kreh explains what to look for in a fly rod. The most obvious thing the starter rod was missing was guides. According to Lefty, a good rod has one guide for every foot of length, plus the tip. The starter rod was short a guide. In addition, the bottom guide was not as large as it needed to be to ensure a smooth flow of the line. In terms of feel, the starter rod felt wooden and inflexible compared to the one I ended up getting. Bottom line... no go.
The reel was even worse. It advertised itself as being a "click drag" and that's exactly what it was. You could not set it, it just merrily clicked away based on the factory setting; a setting which applied no pressure at all to help you control a large fish. To be fair, the rest of the reel was just fine. It held the line, was smooth releasing line out when tugged and would reel it in just fine.
The line was about the cheapest line going. It was not smooth/slick and was a level line - two things that make it difficult for a beginner to use. I could really tell the difference when using an Orvis line that was Weight Forward and had a finish to facilitate a smooth cast.
The backing was fine. Backing is backing. I know some folks will not agree with that assertion, but it seems to me that as long as it is the correct strength and amount, you are ready to go.
The flies that came with the set were also fine. The set provided a range of flies and I cannot tell any difference between them and the other flies I have begun to collect.
To sum up, avoid the starter kit unless it is your only option. Invest that money in at least the next grade of quality up. I certainly did not spend a fortune on what I ended up with, but I must admit, fly fishing is a pricey adventure when compared with spin!
The rod I ended up with cost $139, I got an Orvis reel on sale for $80 (but some other, cheaper ones I looked at would have also been OK in the $40 price point). The line cost about $50. A bit more than I spent on my last Ugly Stik rod and Mitchell light reel!
Starter Flies included in the Kit