Your First Fly Rod and Reel
We often get asked, "What is the best rod and reel set up for a beginner?"
Unfortunately, I can't say one fits all since the answer depends a bit on where you live and what species of fish you intend to fish for. However, I can give the following advice for an all-around trout rod that will get you started and allow you to fish for other species like panfish, small bass, etc.
The most versatile trout rod, and the best for a beginner to learn with, will be an 8 1/2 or 9 foot rod rated for a 5 weight fly line. You can spend a lot or a little on this size rod depending on the brand and model. Most beginners go for a low price range to mid price range rod. This is a bit unfortunate since a fast action rod, which usually costs more, is much easier to learn to cast since most begginers don't have the timing and patience to allow a slower action rod to load.
Sage makes some amazing medium fast and fast action rods in the VXP, Z-Axis, & ZXL series. However, if you're looking at more of a value rod that will perform well, the TFO Curtis Fleming Series is a great choice.
Get just a simple reel to start. Ross, Lamson, and Sage all make great reels. Just make sure you get the right size for a 5 weight line. In reels you pay more for durability and dependability than you do for performance. Generally the more you pay the more solid the reel will be and the longer it will last. The only exception is if you are going to start saltwater fly fishing immediately. In that case you will need a high performance reel with a great drag.
Get a weight forward, 5 weight floating line (WF-5-F) to start with. Get a few leaders, 9 ft 4X or 5X and a few flies like Parachute Adams, Bead Head Krystal Buggers, Bead Head Hares Ear Nymphs, Elk Hair Caddis, Bead Head Prince Nymphs and Stimulators (trust me, this collection will grow, but these are a good start).
It's always easiest to learn with a guide or casting instructor. I guide in the Utah area and would love to show you the ropes. I also have friends that guide across the country that I could recommend. Just let me know.
I hope this helps you get started. It is an amazing sport that pays back more than you put in. Feel free to send questions any time.