Fly Rods come in a wide variety of “shapes and sizes” as the saying goes. It is important to understand the myriad of variations because you want the right fly rod to suit your skill level and the type of fishing you’ll be doing. Most fly fisherman/women will own multiple rods specifically because they enjoy multiple type of fly fishing and they want the rod that best suits them. While not exhaustive, we’ll try to explain the basics.
Fly Rod Action
There are 3 basic “actions” for a fly rod; slow, medium/moderate, and fast. Then you have a few in between, i.e. moderate-fast. The action dictates the speed at which a rod bends and recovers. A slow-action rod bends and recovers slower than a moderate or a fast-action rod. Uh, o.k., so what you might ask. Exactly.
The action of the rod is important when you’re determining the type of fly fishing you’ll be doing, and some say your skill level at casting. While all fly rods will enable you to fly fish, some are better suited for certain types of fly fishing. For example, if you need to cast far and accurate then a fast-action rod might suit you best. If you’re going to be nymph fly fishing, then a slow to moderate might be better.
As mentioned, if you’re just starting out it might be better to work with a slow to moderate-action rod until you get your casting cadence/rhythm down, because a fast-action rod is less “forgiving.”
Fly Rod Weight
The weight of a fly rod and the subsequent line weight (we’ll tackle this subject later) is critical to the type of fly fishing you’ll be doing. Rod weight can run from a light weight 3 all the way up to 10 weight. Lighter weight rods – shorter and lighter – are for fishing smaller streams and smaller fish (pan fish and small trout), while heavier weight rods – longer and heavier – are for fishing bigger rivers and larger fish (bass, larger trout, steelhead, bonefish, and tarpon). For “most” fly fishing situations a good 5/6 weight will cover most of your needs.
Fly Rod Length
Fly rods come in many lengths; from small 6-foot rods all the way up to roughly 11-feet. The length of the rod is usually indicative of the weight as well, meaning it is highly unlikely you’ll find a 6-foot rod in an 8 weight.
Shorter fly rods – 6′ to 7′ – are best for fishing in tighter areas where there is less clearance for false/dry casting, fishing for smaller fish, and they’re great for teaching kids.
Mid-length rods – 8′ to 9′ 6″ are good all around rod lengths, probably the most widely used lengths for all types of fly fishing; nymphing, dry flies, and light streamers.
Long fly rods – 9′ to 11′ plus are most often made in higher weights (7W to 12W) for larger areas and larger fish. Although the newer Euro Nymphing rods can be 11′ long and come in a lighter weight.
Fly Rod Materials
Fly rod manufacturers can use a variety of materials to craft their sticks; carbon, graphite, fiberglass and bamboo. Bamboo and fiberglass are what was used most for older rods, but nowadays fly rod manufacturing is high tech. While we’ll save the technical details for another article, it is safe to say that most inexpensive rods will be made out of carbon or graphite and some fiberglass, but that doesn’t mean these materials are inferior. In fact, the majority of the higher-end rods use these same materials with much more engineering behind the structure of the rod.
Bamboo rods are most commonly hand made and are generally very expensive. The allure of a bamboo rod is some say they add more finesse and feel to casting and catching, while others simply like using a rod made from natural materials and are hand-crafted.
It is important to note that even if manufacturers of fly rods use the same materials, their “recipe” and technologies which make them a bit unique. Because of this, not all fast-action rods of the same length and weight will cast the same. Confusing? Well, yes it can be. If you’re looking for a first-time fly rod, or another to add to your collection, your best bet is to go to your local fly shop – one you trust – and try several of them out.
We’re also often asked, mostly by beginner’s to intermediate folks who are looking to “upgrade” from their starter-fly rod, how much they should spend on their next rod?? Simply click on the blue link to find out.
Below are links to specific rod manufacturers, as well as links to the blog post featuring them: