Best Beginner Outfits?

What is the best setup to start with for shallow-water species?

Q: I have been fishing most of my life and want to start fly-fishing in salt water. What is the best setup to start with for redfish, trout and Spanish mackerel?

Carson Pope
Panama City, Florida

A: With minor exceptions, first consider what line will best cast the flies you will use, Carson. Then select the rod, and then the reel.

Flies for the three mentioned species are usually small and fairly easy to cast. An 8-weight fly line will do the job when matched with a rod designed to cast an 8-weight line. Since rods range widely in terms of price, I suggesttalking to a good fly-fisherman in your area and getting his rod suggestions. Try casting a few of your friend's rods, if possible, before making a decision. Reds, trout and mackerel don't run long distances, so a moderately priced fly reel with a light drag that holds a fly line and 75 yards of backing will do the job.

Last thought: If you have a local fly-fishing club, I urge you to join. The members typically go on trips, offer advice and teach newcomers about the sport.