What is wrong with you.... I mean welcome. Welcome to the fold. Come right this way. Over here you have our $500 waders. Here you see the rod that you must have to properly catch the trout- it's $700. Did I mention that you need these $400 dollar boots? This Abel reel will suit nicely, it's only $860, pissant for someone such as you. Now we'll move on to accessories.
Not for you? Me neither. I have other things to spend my money on, like cameras and kayaks and fishing trips. But you've always wanted to try this fly fishing thing. You've seen "A River Runs Through It" or maybe even "Eastern Rises" and now you want to give it a go.
Here's the deal. You don't have to spend $1000 to get started, but you do have to spend something. Too many times I've seen people buy crappy gear to "try out" fly fishing and then give it up because they didn't enjoy it. While you shouldn't do this, you don't have to sell a kidney either in order to start fly fishing- there's lots of great gear to be had for reasonable prices. Remember, you will get what you pay for, but the law of diminishing returns also applies ($700 doesn't get you that much more in a rod than $300 in my opinion).
Don't go to Joe Boxer sports shop and just buy a rod- there's a lot of junk out there for $29 that will just frustrate you. Buy an entry level rod from a reputable source. Don't spend less than $50 for the rod. Do go to Joe Boxer sports shop for the reel- I bought a $130 Pflueger reel at Dunham's for $20 two years ago. Deals like that come along every day.
Wait, I'll write the list.
5 weight rod, 9' in medium action.
A cheap reel from any source- those old Pflueger Medalists are classic, cheap, and they still sell them for $20.
5 weight, weight forward floating fly line.
I am not writing a compendium of gear here, I just want to help you get started with gear I'm familiar with. I'm going to make a couple of assumptions here- you're mostly interested in fishing dry flies for trout, you'd also like to dink around with bluegills or bass and pike, and you want one outfit to do all this. One size does not fit all, but the closest you'll come is a 5 weight. It will handle a lot of different situations, is a fair match for most trout, with some finesse it will handle bass and small pike, and is still fun for the bluegills. It will throw small streamers, but be warned it is not intended to be a streamer rod. It's a perfect middle of the road, daytime setup. I've used my 5 weight Temple Fork travel rod for local trout, panfish and bass, took it out west and indy fished big San Juan rainbows with no problems, and caught a huge brown at night with it last season.
The reel doesn't matter, by the way- it's there just to store line. If you're just getting started, and chasing small to moderate sized fish, drag isn't a factor. Definitely do not drop a pile on a reel if you're just dipping a toe in the waters. I'd spend $200 on a rod and put a $30 reel on it and be perfectly happy for this kind of fishing.
I am not sponsored in any way by any gear manufacturers, but I'm going to drop some names. Like Redington. Their Crosswater rod sells for $60-$90, and is a great entry level rod. $129 gets you the Crosswater combo at Cabela's. LL Bean has a beginners combo for $100 to $120.
If you want a really sweet casting, under-priced rod for a little more dough, you'll love the Redington Classic Trout series. I have one in 3 weight, and it brings tears of joy to my eyes when I cast it. I got in on the ground level when they were only $130, now they sell for $150.
As for the line, it's not hard to find a basic weight forward floating line for $30-40, but if you go the combo route they often come with the fly line and backing. Combos can be a good way to go, as long as you didn't buy the one in the clear plastic box at Walmart.
So let's say you bought the 2-piece Crosswater for $60, the Pflueger Medalist for $20, and a fly line for $30. My calculations say that's $110. Not bad. Sure, you probably need waders (get breathables. $100-$150), you need flies and leaders, skip the net if you want, you'll want some line nippers, floatant and a few other things, but by my calculations you could pull this off for less than $300. Get a friend to teach you to cast. Spend your evenings on the internet learning- Fly Anglers Online, Youtube, and Midcurrent are great resources. Obviously you could spend a lot more on gear, classes and guides if you like. I'm just trying to get you out the door and on the water. This post should get you a rod, reel and line, I'll continue this as a series and give my thoughts on waders next.