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My advice for newbies is to go with someone who knows where to go and what to do or take a class at a fly store that not only has classroom time but time on a river for a day.
 

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silent_light,

You are a man after my heart. I can't tell you how many trout I've caught on rods costing fewer than $100 but I will say a super high end rod will improve casting and may improve presentation of the fly.

In fact, of the many rods I have, only one is a custom made Loomis and would qualify as a, "high end" rod. I know, someone will want to know what color the blank is. That actually happened to me at a Christmas, oops, holiday party a number of years ago. What a snobbish, completely phony S.O.B. this man was. He wanted to know the color so he would know if it is an expensive blank.
 

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Okay guys...what about fly size?

This last July was my first time to fly fish, hired a guide who took me to the head waters of the Arkansas River. I got so immersed in fishing that I forgot to ask him questions that I had been thinking about.

Now that I'm starting to buy more of my own flies, I'm thinking, correct me if I'm wrong, that dry flies specifically elk hair caddis, yellow humpy, parachute adams, BWO might fish better if they are size 18. Is the 16 too large, or does it really matter?

BTW, here's a pic of the first brown I caught.
 

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Mike B.

IMO size does matter (to a degree) and is largely dependent on the waters you fish. I always prefer to error on the small side (e.g. better to have something a little smaller than whats hatching vs. larger).

For the major patterns I carry, I typically have at least 3-4 different sizes per pattern.

Just my $0.02
 
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