Fly fishing isn’t as inaccessible as it often appears to be. While there’s certainly an art to using a fly rod, it’s a skill that absolutely anybody can learn.
What really keeps a lot of people from getting invested in fly fishing is the cost. When even a middle-tier fly fishing combo can cost several hundred dollars, it’s not exactly a sport that one can casually dip their toe into.
But there are a few surprisingly good entry level fly combos out there, and the Martin Complete Fly Fishing Kit might just be the best in the absolute rock-bottom price category.
Usually priced between $35 and $45, the Martin Fly Fishing Kit is a great, budget friendly fly rod for beginners. If you’re interested in fly fishing but find yourself put off by the high price point of a good fly rod (or the low quality of most cheap ones), this might be the combo you’re looking for. We tested it out, and are happy to share the results.
Martin Fly Fishing Kit: What You Get
Martin is the fly fishing branch of Zebco, a company well known for making rock-solid, budget conscious fishing gear (and, of course, for inventing the spincasting reel). True to form, the Martin Complete Fly Fishing Kit is basic, but effective.
The main components of the kit are the fly rod and reel themselves. The fishing kit comes with an 8-foot, 5/6-weight fly rod and a matching reel. The reel is made of plastic, so it’s clearly not a high-end model, but it gets the job done and is easy to use. The rod is a three-piece, which is convenient for travel.
Best of all, the reel comes already spooled with backing, floating 6-weight fly line and leader, so it’s essentially ready to fish right out of the packaging. The Martin kit also comes with six assorted flies and a handy little book with some basic instructions on knot tying and fly casting.
Using the Martin Fly Rod
Fly fishing has a learning curve to it. The Martin fly rod isn’t necessarily better or worse to learn on than a more expensive rod, but it is an effective fly rod for beginning fly anglers to work on their technique. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but there’s something pure and refreshing about its simplicity.
The reel, in particular, has no drag to speak of, so it’s essentially a spool that holds the line, and nothing more. One controls it entirely with their palm, which is a great way to learn, and a fun way to fish even for more experienced anglers.
The instruction book that comes with this kit has some very useful information for getting started. That, coupled with a few instructional videos (of which Youtube offers an abundance), should be enough to get even the greenest fly fishing newbie off to a good start.
It seems like the specific fly assortment that comes with the kit may vary a bit, but most variations I’ve seen have a good range that can cover quite a few situations. Mine came with a couple of dry flies, a couple of wet flies, a popper and a yarn-type steelhead fly.
The flies are well-matched to the rod, which is a pretty versatile size and weight. An 8-foot rod is short enough to work in fairly tight spaces, like a stream with trees overhead, and as a 5/6-weight (these numbers refer to the weight of the line) it’s a good size for catching trout, panfish and smaller bass.
This isn’t a fly rod that is designed for catching huge fish, or making exceptionally long casts with heavy flies. That’s not a strike against it—fly rods come in all lengths and weights for various applications—but it’s worth knowing in advance.
Room for Improvement?
Again, we’re not talking about super high-end stuff here, but the Martin fly combo is great for what it is. It holds up well, and it’s inexpensive enough that you don’t have to be too precious with it. With pricier fly rods, one sometimes feels like they have to baby their gear, which isn’t necessarily ideal for a newcomer just learning the ropes.
One very minor issue, for me, is that the line that comes pre-spooled on the reel is level fly line. “Level” essentially means that the line is of uniform weight and thickness, as opposed to “weight forward” line, which is heavier at the forward end.
Weight forward line is easier to cast than level fly line, so for a beginner, this setup is a little more challenging than it needs to be. Of course, if you were so inclined, you could remove the line and replace it with a weight forward line, which would also give you an opportunity to learn an essential fly fishing skill.
Other Good Budget Fly Combos
We tested the Martin Complete Fly Fishing Kit hands-on, and found it to be an excellent starter rod for beginning fly anglers. It’s a really great budget option, but not the only option. Based on our research and customer reviews, these are some other quality fly combos that won’t break the bank.
Maxcatch Extreme Graphite Fly Fishing Combo
You can choose a Maxcatch fly rod in several weights and lengths, which is a nice feature of this kit. It has the look of a significantly more expensive rod. The reel features a smooth drag, and comes pre-spooled with line that matches the weight of the rod. This kit also comes packed with extras, including forceps and a line snipping tool, a neoprene reel case, and an assortment of 12 flies in a waterproof fly box. Buy It Here
This starter kit really has everything you need to get off and running. The rod is made of durable graphite with a western-style natural cork handle, and the reel is die cast aluminum with stainless steel internal components. Wild Water is a trusted brand that makes some quality, budget-conscious fly fishing gear, and this kit is a great all-around starter package. Line, leader and backing are all pre-spooled on the reel, and the kit also has a good assortment of flies and tools. Buy It Here
Redington is quite a respected name in the fly fishing world, and the Crosswater is essentially the budget entry into their line of fly rods and reels. This particular combo doesn’t come with any extra goodies other than the rod, reel (line included) and carrying case, but it’s a great option if you want a slightly better quality rod and reel, and aren’t so interested in having flies or other extras thrown in. The Crosswater combo is available in various lengths and weights. Buy It Here
The NetAngler Fly Combo comes with one of the best fly assortments of any kit we’ve seen: 28 total flies, plus a box to carry them, along with tools like a line cutter and forceps. The rod and reel themselves are lightweight, durable and easy to use. It’s a 9-foot 5/6-weight rod with an extra-large arbor aluminum reel. This kit also comes with a spare backup rod tip, and an excellent carrying case that holds the rod, reel, and all the tools and extras that come with it. Buy It Here
Alan Dale is an experienced backpacker and adventure sports athlete who pays the bills by writing. Married with a small brood, Alan often has his kids in tow on many of his adventures.