Budget Friendly Angling: A guide to buying used fly fishing gear

Budget Friendly Angling: A guide to buying used fly fishing gear

No one has ever said, today or at any time in history, that fly fishing is a cheap hobby. Spin fishing? Sure. You go down to your local Walmart. You walk in. You pick out your Ugly Stick combo (still an amazing rod), a few lures, some hooks, and some Power Bait, and you’re out of the self-checkout lane in 15 minutes and your wallet is only lighter by $100. You maybe even got away for $50.

The barrier of entry into fishing is fairly low. This isn’t true for fly fishing. Fret not my frugal friend, I’ve got you covered. I’ve bought a ton of used fly fishing gear over the years and I’m going to help you “wade” through it.

WHAT YOU REALLY NEED IF YOU’RE JUST GETTING STARTED TROUT FISHING

This, alone, can be very daunting. How much gear do you REALLY need? Well, there are some things in fly fishing that you can’t do without. This article isn’t intended to be a beginner gear guide, you’ll have to read our other articles for that. The things that you’ll need at a bare minimum, in my opinion, are an applicable rod (the size and weight determined by where and for what you’re fishing – a 9’ 5wt for most trout), a reel, fly line matched to your rod (5wt weight forward – floating), waders and wading boots, a net, sunglasses, a hat, flies, tippet, weights, nippers, and a pack of some kind.

You’ll also probably want, but don’t “absolutely need,” things like fly boxes, forceps, zingers, floatant, sun shirts, polarized sunglasses, fly rod cases, dry shake, tippet rings, backup fly rods, etc.

This may seem like a lot of must-have gear for fly fishing and I know some of you are going to say that you don’t need waders, that you can shove your flies into a pocket, or that you can just bank your fish instead of netting them. You can technically fly fish with a horsehair and a twig, but that isn’t going to make for much of a starting point. Here in Colorado, as are most western rivers, our water is cold; thus, the waders. Banking the fish is bad for the fish. Keeping your stuff organized is pretty important when you’re spending $3 on each fly.

WHERE TO SHOP

This article is about buying “used” gear. Used doesn’t always mean that it was actually used, but I’m not going to focus on buying from stores here. The one thing that I will say in fly fishing is that you generally get what you pay for. If you buy the waders they have at Walmart, they will work for a minute, but there are a ton of downsides. Check out our other blog articles for more on this. For now, let’s just focus on where to find quality used gear that will get you out on the water.

I’ve bought so much used fly fishing gear from so many different places. Most experiences were pretty good, but some weren’t. Here are some places to buy:

• Craigslist, Offer Up, etc. – This is a good option as you’re pretty much always buying local, and you can see and even try on the gear first. Be safe anytime you meet up with anyone online. I’ll tell you that most people in the fly fishing world are pretty awesome, but still take the necessary precautions by meeting in a very public place during the day. If something makes you nervous or the hair stands up on your neck, walk away or maybe don’t even go.

• Nextdoor – This goes for any very localized social media sites. Refer to Craigslist.

• Facebook Marketplace – This can be both local or national. Facebook Marketplace is a pretty easy place to buy, and I’ve found some good deals on there. Be prepared to have your items shipped, though. I’ll just tell you right now it’s going to cost at least $20+ to ship a fly rod because of the length. This needs to be considered in the total price.

• Forums – There are many fly fishing forums out there and several have a place to buy and sell used fly fishing gear. Again, be prepared to have items shipped.

• Geartrade.com – I found this site recently and it’s interesting. This company essentially allows other companies or individuals to sell on their platform. The selection is pretty small, and the deals aren’t always the best, but sometimes they are amazing.

• eBay – eBay and other auction sites can be nice as well. There’s a ton of gear there and you can often find a good deal. Just remember to account for shipping costs if the ad requires it and always look at the seller’s rating. A “0” rating means you shouldn’t buy from them. There are a lot of scams on eBay.

SHIPPED OR LOCAL PICKUP

When you’re buying used fly fishing gear, which can be a huge savings, always remember that there may be other costs like shipping. Even driving two hours with the current price of gas may make that fly fishing pack a worse deal. In addition to the other potential costs, you need to consider whether you want to see the items in person. Do you need to try on those waders or boots? Are the pictures terrible and you can’t really tell the quality or condition? Is it a brand or size of something that you’ve never seen in person?

If it’s shipped, can you return it? All good questions and things to think about when you’re buying used fly fishing gear. As a side note, I once bought an extra pair of waders on eBay several years ago before I was a guide in case a friend wanted to go with me. I could smell the box before I even picked it up on my porch. It wreaked of marijuana. No judgment if that’s your thing, but it took months for that pair to air out and I wouldn’t have bought them if I had seen, or really smelled, them in person first.

Budget Friendly Angling: A guide to buying used fly fishing gear, man holding fish in fly fishing net in a natural river

 

THE WHOLE SETUP

 

If you’re just getting into fly fishing and you need everything, you can often find someone who is selling all their gear. Maybe they bought it for one trip or they decided that they don’t like fly fishing. I’ve also seen people selling everything as part of an estate, unfortunately. Either way, there are times when you may be able to buy everything at a much larger discount just by the fact that you bought it all together.

Be aware, though, that a lot of people who bought everything last week aren’t going to want to take a huge bath on the cost of the used fly fishing gear. I’ve seen plenty of sellers who bought a pair of waders for $200 a few weeks earlier and want $195 today. I’ll touch on this more later in this article.

 

 

 

BRANDS

This is a big one. If you’re going to buy used fly fishing gear, at least buy quality brands. If you’re looking for waders, as an example, Simms, Patagonia, and Orvis are all great brands. Redington can be good too. The off brands that are made for the big box stores, I’d stay away from, at least when it comes to waders. Regardless, if you’re going used with anything, make sure you’re getting a good brand. They tend to last longer (I’ll talk about that next), there still may be warranties, and the resale will be higher if you need to put them back on the market for any reason.

I’ve often seen that cheap off-brands when they are used, are actually not much cheaper than when they were new. I’m assuming this is because the bottom of the market is so much closer. If you’re going for an off-brand, just spring for the extra few dollars and go new. There’s a big retailer on Amazon for fly fishing gear that sells mainly rods but recently has moved into other things. I’ve bought a few of their rods just to test them and they aren’t great. However, when I went to sell them, I sold those rods for about $10 less than what I paid for them. Pretty crazy in my opinion.

AGE AND USABLE LIFE

I grew up using a spin real on my lake setup that was from the 1960s. I loved it. It was an antique even when it came to me, but I caught a lot of fish on that reel until it fell off the wall and got run over by the car in the garage. With fly fishing gear, you can fish your grandfather’s bamboo rod, or that hardware store fiberglass rod that has been in the corner of your dad’s basement for 45 years. Shoot, my father-in-law and I have vintage days where we fish older gear like that. However, you need to know the limits of whatever you’re buying and whether it is past its serviceable life.

If you compare a fly rod designed today to one built and designed 20 years ago, they are light years apart. Sure, they will both catch fish, but there may not be much of a comparison in joy of use. Also, if you break that older rod, you’re not likely repairing it. The same goes for waders and some other gear. Waders that have been hanging up for 30 years may have micro-cracks in them that you can’t see. You can ask my wife’s uncle about insisting that he use his old waders instead of my new ones and how long he lasted in that river full of snowmelt.

I’m not saying that old gear isn’t good. What I am saying is that just because those used waders are only $20, but also 40 years old, may not make them a good deal at all. A “good deal” isn’t always a smart deal or the right deal. If you buy used fly fishing gear that is too far out of date or serviceable life, you might have been better off to pass on them or just go new.

I bought a “waterproof” hip pack several years ago that was silly-cheap. Well, it was so used that it wasn’t even remotely waterproof anymore. I still have it for storage of other things, but I won’t use it in my drift boat or raft.

When you’re buying used fly fishing gear, make sure it’s not “too used.” If it is, you’ll be out shopping on your way home from the river with wet socks, a broken rod, and likely a ton of frustration.

OTHER RED FLAGS

I’ve bought enough used gear in my fishing life that I’ve learned a thing or two. Here are some red flags that should make you hesitate to buy that particular item:

• “When I got it used . . .” – A lot of guys will buy used fly fishing gear, fish with it, and then sell it. That’s fine, but it means that you are at least the third owner. You don’t know how many river miles are on those boots, waders, or rods.

• “The manufacturer won’t repair it . . .” – If the manufacturer is saying they won’t or can’t repair the item, that means that it’s either not repairable or it’s too old which will cause you problems down the road.

• The items are really dirty – If you’re buying items that are dirty in person or in the pictures, they probably weren’t well maintained. Sometimes this means you can get a great bargain and it just needs to be wiped down. More often, however, it means that whatever you’re buying wasn’t cared for and you’ll be left dealing with that.

• “I’m a guide . . .” – Most of the guys that I fly fish with either were or are fly fishing guides. All of them take great care of their stuff. The one thing to consider, however, is that item may be on the river 100 days a year. Even though a pair of waders was purchased last year from a reputable company, they may be on their way out. That rod which is still the newest model, may have been pretty thrashed. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t buy from a guide.

We know that our rods, waders, etc. are simply tools of the trade and we have to sell them to buy new ones sometimes. I recently sold a high-end rod that had been fished once because I needed a different rod. The buyer got a great deal. I sold two Euro setups at a great deal because I was switching over to some newer models of a different brand. Those setups were in excellent shape and had years left in them. My point is that even if it’s a newer model but looks very used and it was owned by a guide, it may be worth it if the price is right, but it also may not.

Of course, there’s always the safety conversation. Don’t put yourself in unsafe situations when buying used fly fishing gear.

IS IT WORTH IT? – WHEN TO GO NEW

If an item is cared for, is relatively new, and is at a good price, then going used to get into this hobby is totally reasonable. When, the item ages quickly, isn’t cared for, or is beyond its serviceable life, then you may want to just go new.

There is are some things I would never buy used. Tippet, leaders, and line are less ideal to seek out as used fly fishing gear. All of these age. Tippet and leaders age the fastest. I pretty much buy new tippet at the beginning of each season whether I’m out or not. Line ages, but not as fast. I bought some older Scientific Anglers fly line several years ago and it was “new old stock” meaning that it wasn’t a current model but also hadn’t been used. That line was so stiff and had so much memory, I couldn’t even fish it. I had to get off the river early.

I would also go new on the items that resell for basically new prices. Fishpond nets are a great example. These nets go for about $20 less than new when they’re used. The hassle of buying used isn’t worth the $20. Orvis rods, Scott rods, Sage rods, Simms waders, Patagonia Waders, Fishpond Packs, Abel reels, Ross reels, and many others can all be like this too.

Sure, you can find a deal, but often, you’re going to be spending on those used items nearly what you’d spend on a new one, but you likely won’t get the warranties. I saw a pair of Simms waders online the other day that someone was asking $40 less than what they were going for new.

Another reason to go new is when an item is on sale. I’ve seen it happen so many times when someone lists a used rod or pair of waders online and the manufacturer already has them on sale for less than what the person is trying to get for their used items.

THE LAST CAST

Buying used fly fishing gear can make it easier to get into this hobby, it can allow you to get more gear or different types of gear that you otherwise couldn’t afford, and it’s arguably greener and more sustainable. There are many great deals to be had out there but be patient. I will also tell you that a lot of fly fishing is a “buy-once-cry-once” type of thing.

If you buy a quality fly fishing net from Fishpond or Orvis, it can last you a lifetime. A good quality pair of waders can last you 20 years if you’re not on the water every day. My father-in-law just retired a pair of 20+ year-old waders a few seasons ago. A quality rod can last years and years.

Sometimes the hassle of buying used also isn’t worth the few dollars that you’ll save. If you’re going to buy used fly fishing gear, I’d really encourage you to buy quality, long-lasting products that haven’t been thrashed while keeping yourself safe.

For those items you shouldn’t by used or for those items that don’t make sense to buy used, stop by one of our two locations (Minturn, CO or Lone Tree, CO) or check out our online store.

It’s time to nail down your 2024 fly fishing trip with Minturn Anglers.

About the Author

Dave

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