The Most Versatile Fly Fishing Gear

Posted by Brad Miller on 20th Apr 2017

Good quality fly fishing gear for freshwater bass can be used on a number of other fish, worldwide. In Minnesota, we suggest people use an 8wt outfit using either 8wt or 9wt weight forward floating line when fishing large rivers. I love the "bass tapers" to aid in shooting line.

Remember This: To become a proficient fly caster, you must be able to shoot line! Once mastered, you can take this equipment almost anywhere and do some real damage.

This type of equipment can be put to use on many other species besides bass:

  • Baby tarpon
  • Snook
  • Redfish
  • Bonefish
  • Steelhead
  • Silver Salmon
  • Stripers
  • Pike
  • Carp
  • More

Everyone should have an 8 weight fly rod in their arsenal if you're serious about going after other fish in other lands.


Recently I returned from a tarpon trip down to the western Yucatan of Mexico where we had good fishing for baby tarpon. These fish ranged from 5 - 15 pounds and showed some great acrobatics when hooked. The outfitter suggested 9 & 10 weights, but the 8's worked great in most situations.

We used Smokin Hot Carbon Fiber Fly Rods in both an Eight and 8+ Model.

Heavier equipment helps when the wind is blowing, so it's not a bad idea to bring some beefier rods. But in almost all cases, the trusty eight weights did the job. If wind is a problem, some of my party simply up-lined to 9wt WFF (weight forward floating) line on the 8wt rod, and this combo worked great.

In my opinion, fly fisherman should have at least two rods. Those are a 5wt for trout, panfish, and lake fish such as smaller largemouth & smallmouth bass. You should also have an 8 weight for the aforementioned applications mentioned above.


I will also say a saltwater reel, while helpful, is not a necessity when jumping a plane for the tropics and saltwater. Most of the fish we encountered did not go into the backing and if they did, only around 50 feet. 

The key is a smooth start-up for the drag.

As long as you thoroughly rinse your reels in freshwater, each day after saltwater fishing, your bass equipment will work well.

I disjoint the nine foot rods in half and put everything in the shower with cold water running over them for about 10 minutes after each day of fishing.

The exception to freshwater reels are bonefish, of course. They will easily rip out 100 feet of line on the first few runs. A quality reel with a trustworthy and smooth starting drag is essential. 

There are "freshwater reels"  that can handle bonefish provided you have enough backing capacity. A sealed drag system, seen in nearly all saltwater reels, will ward against incursion from saltwater. So if you plan to do a lot of salt/brackish water fishing - you should invest in a quality saltwater reel.

Fly Line

Fly fishing line manufacturers make a lot of money selling specie-specific fly line. You can get line just for bonefish, tarpon, largemouth, smallmouth, and a bunch of others. 

Most of the time you're sight-fishing in shallow water and floating fly line works the best. For example, in Mexico recently, I used a $25 Canadian cheapo fly line on my 10 wt. rod and it worked superbly in the wind. So don't be fooled by all the marketing hype.

You can use an inexpensive fly line, provided you have a good thick bullet taper or head, to shoot line with gusto. Other considerations are for larger tarpon, where you may need a very slow sinking intermediate sink line, in which case you may want to invest in this specialty line, based on where you're going and what you're after.

Most of the time, the same gear you use for smallmouth bass in the river, will work great in nearly all other environs!