Fly fishing isn't really that complicated...no really I'm being serious. Maybe that sounds ridiculous, but in all reality it's not. It was hard for me though and took years to become effective enough to actually become efficient at it.
I've taught quite a few people how to fly fish in less than 45 minutes. And have had them catching smallmouth on the fly in that amount of time.
Granted these folks were different than most, but in all reality I've worked with all levels and it's not that complicated. Us "experts" would like to make it seem like you need to be absolutely one with nature and have spent a lifetime to be able to catch a fish on a fly. It takes years to reach higher levels and to master certain styles or techniques but to cast line effectively and efficiently enough to deliver a fly to a fish is pretty straightforward. This is the nuts and bolts of fly fishing and also explains how a complete novice can grab a fly rod and catch a 20" plus trout their first time out. It's probably also to inspire us and torment us at the same time.
Learning is sped up tremendously by a good teacher. I fumbled about for years as a teen teaching myself and would have benefited greatly from a mentor or guide. Even in my early years at college I should have hired a guide every chance I had instead of worrying about having enough money to chip in on the next kegger.
And I would suggest doing just that and taking some lessons or spending time with a mentor to save valuable time and effort. It's a lot like a good golf game and swing...lots of muscle memory and moving parts that can easily go wrong or with proper teaching can more often than not go right. It's very hard to see what your doing wrong but someone watching you on the other hand can correct problems almost instantly.
I alluded to muscle memory and this is something that just takes time. AND if you start out incorrectly your digging yourself a major hole. Good form, good instruction, and a little willingness and effort to learn and you'll on your way to success.
Before you know it with some effort you'll be catching bass, pike, bluegills, trout and anything else you can think of. If there's a fish there is a way to catch it on the fly!
I would recommend buying an affordable outfit with line spooled for you and your local fly shop can get you started. Here in the Marshall/Battle Creek area, Paul Jakubiak owner of Uncle Jakes
can hook you up and is one of the best instructors I know (he taught me how to tie my first fly). Also, Brian Bieleki at Nomad Anglers in Okemos has gone out of his way to hook me up many times. And has helped out plenty of anglers in mid and west michigan. Nomad has a huge following...
Don't spring for the expensive rod and reel start out with something in the $100 range (and that's a $100 for the rod and a $100 for the reel otherwise your wasting your time). No wait I have a reason for this - well made expensive rods are much quicker, and less forgiving which are way harder to learn on. If you have a little more to spend in your budget - nothing wrong with the 175 dollar range. Talking price ranges - $300 for a rod is mid range and $800 is expensive. I buy all my "expensive" rods slightly used or at discount. I like to let the more affluent guys break them in for me or get a deal.
Fly rod designers use a weighting system to define the size of fly line the rod should cast best. Fly reels will follow suit by stating that they are for 5-7 weight and so on. Think of 1 wt as very small and progressively increasing in number increases in size. Relatively speaking a 3 wt is for smaller fish like small trout and panfish, a 6 or 7 wt is capable of handling larger fish like bass and steelhead and finally 8-10 wt for salmon and large saltwater species. A 4 wt is a good all around rod and a 7 wt for larger fish, like bass and pike. I was told to grab a 5 wt and an 8 wt to start, but i really wish I would have been advised to get a 4 wt then a 7wt. The five is just a little to beefy for small flies and fish but too small for decent sized streamers so I advise going with the 4 wt which is perfect for trout dries and nymphs, medium to small sized wadeable streams, and allows for enjoyment while fighting fish like trout, sunfish, bass and others. If you go down to a 3 wt you will be disappointed in your ability to fight and turn decent sized fish and you'll have a hard time throwing size 6 streamers or larger, something you'll need for trout and bass streams. The 7 wt is perfect for bass streamers, steelhead, and applications for large trout - like mousing or hexing.
Affordable rods with decent quality leave you: TFO (designed by the grandfather of modern fly fishing- Lefty Kreh) and St. Croix make quality affordable rods. Orvis, Scott, Winston, and Sage are the next natural progression. These companies are starting to make more affordable rods in the $300 dollar range. Some companies with historic names in the industry make rods in the $100 dollar range but just keep in mind your not getting that $300 or better rod blank. A local company that's getting a lot a attention is Mystic Outdoors rods. They are based in Portland, MI just west of Lansing.
It's also important to explain the thought process on choosing what you buy and why. The general idea is that you want a better rod in the 4 wt and not to worry so much about the reel. This is because you'll be catching smaller fish and the rod is more important than the reel. I generally agree with this, however your going to need a reel that can pick up line quickly when you get into a nice fish. Some would argue that you still don't need that because your going to have a hard time getting a fish on the reel (picking up all the excess line from casting so the line is reeled in vs. not getting it on the reel and pulling the fish in by your reeling hand with pressure from your rod hand) which can be true, but just being able to have that capability and just for the ease of reeling in your line go with something with a larger arbor. By larger I mean the diameter of the reel as well as considering the width. The larger the diameter the more line it will pick up. Sage used to make an affordable reel that I still have (and use) the 1600 series. Then it morphed into the 1800 series and now the current 2200 series has replaced the latter. Orvis makes a nice mid arbor reel and offers a few other options depending on what you're willing to buy.
The thought process with investing in a good reel for the 7 wt is that you will be fighting bigger fish with the ability to test the drag. This holds but the only drawback to cheating on the rod is that a cheaper heavier rod can take its toll whole casting all day long.
I'm not going to overwhelm everyone with explanations of rod action and soft tips, bend etc. this is not the place or time to talk in depth about this. Mistakenly most teachers muddle that point to the beginner with to many technicalities. Thise are things that come in to play later in the individuals progression.
A moderately priced rod and reel is more than adequate to learn on and it shouldn't be an obsessing point. Get in the game and purchase your first setup and start the process of beginning a pursuit toward something you've always dreamed of.
The Fly Factor