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Choosing a Fly Rod

Choosing a Fly Rod

    There are a ton of choices out there for folks looking for a fly rod, and it can be intimidating to say the least. There are super cheap, big-box-store options... or premium-quality rods from the industries top manufacturers. The difference today is that most of these leading manufacturers are now making rods at nearly every price point - to include high quality rods at entry level pricing. Some of the rods available today for a couple hundred dollars simply did not exist 10 years ago. Quality and performance are just a few things to consider when looking to buy a fly rod.

   One of the main questions you should ask yourself is what species of fish you're targeting, and also the type of fishing you are looking to do. (For example: casting small, delicate dry flies with skill and precision utilizes a different type of fly rod compared to casting large, air-resistant streamer patterns)

Below is a rough outline of common rod weights and the species of fish you will fish them with. Keep in mind there's always wiggle room and some overlap. 

Brook & Small Trout       Trout & Bass    Salmon Steelhead Bonefish       Tuna        Tarpon 

     0   1    2   3               4    5    6                  7         8       9                10   11     12   13   14


Weight, Length, and Action:

  Weight: Fly rods are constructed according to the preferred sized line that particular rod will cast. So a 5 wt. rod often is paired with a 5 wt. line. The higher (and thus, bigger and heavier) the line weight of a rod - the easier that line will cast bigger flies, or cast in the wind, etc.  The lower weights are designed for casting small, delicate flies with often more delicate and soft presentations. The fly rod and line weight also correlates roughly to the species you are fishing for. You wouldn’t want an 8 weight rod for brook trout - that would be too powerful.

 Length: Fly rods come in a variety of lengths as well. The most common length is 9 feet. Longer rods can help cast better when utilizing roll casts or with longer leaders. Mending the line can also be easier with a longer rod. The increased leverage also makes fighting the fish easier. The down side is that they are, well, longer. So fishing small, narrow streams with a lot of trees can be challenging. Shorter rods can cast better in windy conditions but are far less ideal when nymphing, roll casting, or line mending. However they excel in those small-stream, heavy cover areas. For the bigger saltwater rods, these shorter lengths are superior for turning and lifting fish making them easier to land.

 Action: Probably one of the most confusing terms you will encounter comes from describing the action of a rod. Ultra fast, fast, medium fast, slow, these are all terms used to describe the action of a fly rod.  This simply means the rate of recovery from flex a rod has. Or - how easily does it bend and flex. Does the rod flex easily and deeply, or is it very stiff? Your individual casting style and the types of fishing you plan to do will help you hone in on the type action you prefer. 

   Ultra-fast: The stiffest of all rods. They recover from flex very quickly, and are very powerful fishing tools. These are great for casting into high winds, or when trying to cast very heavy and large fly patterns. However, this is not the tool for dry fly fishing.

  Fast: Not quite as fast as the ultras, but still pretty stiff. Like the ultra-fast rods, these usually require an up tempo casting stroke, and they also recover rather quickly from the flex. Fast action rods still have a lot of power, and cast small streamers and nymphing rigs well. 

  Medium-Fast: These rods are a nice balance between the fast and slow actions. These are great general, multi-purpose rods that will do a little of everything ok (thus popular with beginners). They can cast some dries, they can cast some smaller streamers, they can cast some nymphs - however, other rods will do these individual tasks better.

  Slow: These very flexible and "bendy" rods are for a slower casting stoke. You could also describe them as feeling "noodley.” These rods flex and bend a lot, allowing you to cast the fly line very slowly - this allows you to make delicate and precision casts. It also helps allow the flies to land more gently on the water. Because of the flex, these rods are also great shock absorbers to help protect tippet.

NOTE - We highly recommend you come cast rods and "try before you buy." The same rod touted as "fast" in one persons hand may feel more like a "medium fast" in another persons hand. Personal preference and your individual casting style will dictate a rod that feels good in YOUR hand.


Number of Sections (or pieces):

  The majority of rods manufactured today are 4 piece rods. These are ideal for most travel and storage situation, but are very strong and durable. If at all possible, we would recommend a 4 piece rod. 2 piece rods are common in big-box-stores or other low price point options. However they are much harder to transport.



  This is often a buyers most important question! Now, you certainly don’t need to spend a grand on a rod to go fishing. There ARE high end options out there and in our opinion they are worth it - but they're not necessary to just go fishing. Like stated above, the industry has done a superb job of making great entry-priced products that still perform well for beginners. The higher end rods have higher levels of detail and craftsmanship, will weigh less but be stronger, and will perform superbly, making your cast more accurate and your presentation more precise.

  We would recommend always purchasing a rod with some sort of manufacturers warranty. Most reputable rod manufacturers have some sort of warranty on there rods. Each manufacturer is different so read the fine print or ask us so you are sure about the exact details of the plan. While most rods have a "lifetime warranty," rod manufacturers still often impose a "repair fee" to help them cover shipping costs and some of the repair/replacement cost. 

If at all possible, try and cast the rods you are considering before you buy. Its like test driving a car. At Angler's Covey we have two casting ponds right outside for exactly this purpose.