What You NEED to Know Before Buying a Fly Rod
Choosing a Fly Rod to Fit Your Needs
We are extremely lucky as fly anglers to be living and fishing when we are in history, it truly is a golden era of fly fishing! There are hundreds upon hundreds of fly rod models available to us, each available in many different configurations. This is great news to us anglers as it means that we can really dial in what we’re looking for in a rod, and at the same time means that you tend to get a much better quality rod these days for your money due to the competition between brands.
With all this said, too many options can be daunting and many anglers, both new and experienced alike can have a heck of a time deciding what they need! The goal of this post is to help you ask the right questions and hopefully narrow down your options a bit, making this task as easy as possible.
What Will You Be Targeting?
The first point you should be considering when looking for a new fly rod is what species you plan on targeting with the rod. Most models will be able to handle multiple species, but using a small stream trout rod for salmon is a recipe for a broken rod. Below is a guideline for what weights of rods are suitable for different common gamefish. Trout – 0wt to 6wt Steelhead – 7wt or 8wt Smallmouth – 5wt to 8wt Largemouth – 5wt to 8wt Walleye – 6wt to 8wt Pike – 8wt to 10wt Musky – 9wt to 11wt Panfish – 0wt to 4wt Carp – 6wt to 9wt Bonefish – 7wt to 9wt Tarpon – 9wt to 12wt Snook – 8wt to 10wt Barracuda - 9wt to 10wt
How Will You Target These Fish?
You should also consider how you think you might be fishing for your preferred gamefish. For example, if you’re going to be casting large streamers for trout, something on the more powerful side of what is recommended for trout would be ideal, say a 6wt. If you don’t know or intend on this being an all round rod (what most anglers should be buying for their first rod), then stick with a weight in the middle of the road of the recommendations, for an all purpose trout rod for example a 4wt or 5wt will work well.
Understanding The Finer Points
Now you’ve narrowed down what weight rod you’re looking for, great! You still have a lot of options on the table though, let’s see if we can narrow that down a bit. Let’s go over the features every rod shares and what they mean to us.
The Length of fly rods can vary considerably, for the purposes of this post we’ll be talking about single handed rods. You’ll find that most single hand fly rods range from as short as 6’ to as long as 11’, the length you choose will have a very big impact on how it fishes. You’ll notice that probably 90% of rods on the market are 9’ long as this is a nice middle ground, other lengths do allow you to tailor your setup to your conditions though. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of longer and shorter rods, we’ll try not to ramble here but if you have questions on why any of this works the way it does we’d be happy to explain further.
When in doubt, go for a 9’ rod! But if you have a specific body of water or style of fishing in mind you’ll want to consider the above points.
The action of a rod refers to how it bends. Fast rods will bend only in the top part of the rod, where slower rods will bend further down the rod. What is important to understand here is that both a fast and slow rod in the same line weight will exert a similar amount of power while casting or fighting a fish. Anglers often get action confused with power. The action will affect how you cast, and how forgiving a rod is when fighting fish. Generally, for a newer angler or someone who wants an all purpose rod, a middle of the road “medium-fast” rod will work well. Many anglers will find that apart from this list of pros and cons they will have a preference one way or another as they figure out what they like the feel of, some anglers like the soulful feel of a very soft rod, while other anglers may have a very quick casting stroke that lends itself to a stiff/fast rod. Again, here is a short list of pros and cons to each.
Speed of Recovery (Dampening)
Recovery speed is something that you won’t necessarily see labelled on a rod, as it’s less of a matter of preference and more a matter of quality. Recovery speed is simply a measure of how quickly a rod goes back to its natural straight resting position after being flexed/casted. The faster a rod does this the better, regardless of it’s a fast or slow rod. A faster recovering rod will be more accurate and will give you a smoother cast with less wobble. This is not an easy quality to judge as a beginner and it’s a point even experienced anglers neglect but it does have a large impact on casting, as a rule of thumb, higher end rods recover better than lower end ones.
Tracking, like recovery, is an aspect of a rod that you won’t usually find labelled on a rod, but it is also one quality of a rod that really defines how well it’s made. Tracking simply refers to how straight the rod tip will travel through the cast, the straighter the line drawn, the more accurate the cast. Again, in general, the higher end the rod, the better the tracking.
Hopefully this has helped you in understanding the effects that different weights, lengths, and actions will have for you. Below we’ve taken the time to also outline which of these features we would recommend for specific applications if you’re looking to build a technique dedicated setup.
Large Trout Streamers
For chucking big and nasty trout streamers we would recommend a 9’ 6wt or 7wt. The heavier weight rod will aid in casting heavy sinking lines and large flies. It will also make setting the hook with heavy hooks easier, as they can take more force to stick.
Small Trout Streamers
For more traditional trout streamers (think woolly buggers) that you may cast on a floating or slow sinking line we would recommend a 9’ 5wt or 6wt. The lighter weight will make it easier to fish lighter line on and will present more delicately.
Not many anglers fish enough wet flies to justify a dedicated rod for it, however this usually translates to a good nymphing or dry fly rod too. Something 9’-10’ will be perfect in a 2-4wt. The longer length gives you more control in how the fly will swim, the light weight will give you great sensitivity and the ability to fish light line!
For moderate to large size rivers a 9’ rod in a 3-5wt will be good. If you’re fishing very small rivers then something more in the neighbourhood of a 6-9’ rod in a 1-3wt will be great. It would be advisable to use as long a rod (up to 9’) as you feel comfortable with for the water you’re fishing as it will allow you more line control when presenting to fish and will also allow you to use lighter tippet which will give you a better presentation.
Euro Nymphing For euro nymphing almost anywhere a 10’-10’8” rod in a 2wt or 3wt will work exceptionally well. Don’t be scared of the light line designation, these rods have powerful butt sections that can turn fish as well as any 4wt or 5wt. The benefit to the lighter weight is that it will absorb more shock when fighting a fish meaning you can actually apply more pressure to a fish without breaking off and as a result, land it quickly.
Casting indicators requires more power to be able to carry the additional weight of the indicator, split shot and fly. A rod 9’-10’ in a 4wt or 5wt will be perfect. The long length will allow for effective mending and line control and give you the ability to fish light line when need be.
Whether fishing from the bank or from a boat, we would recommend a 10’ rod in a 5-7wt. The long length will allow you to cast further, covering more water, as well as making it easier to handle long leaders which are common in pond and lake fishing. Heavier 6wt and 7wt rods will handle sinking lines better, while a lighter 5wt will work better for wet fly and dry fly presentations.
Steelhead Single Hand
Without a doubt our favourite single hand rod for Great Lakes steelhead is a 10’ 7wt. It has ample power to land even large fish while being light enough to comfortably fish all day. It has good line control for nymphing or fishing streamers and works incredibly well paired with shooting heads like the OPST Commando heads when you want to play with a single hand spey setup!
All Purpose Saltwater
For those gearing up for their first trip to the tropics to fish on the flats the best way to go in our books for your first rod would be a 9’ 9wt rod. It’s on the heavier side for bonefish but will land them no problem, while being able to handle permit, juvenile tarpon, jacks, barracuda, snapper, and snook, among other species!
We hope this article makes the task of choosing your next rod an easier one! If you have any questions on your next fly rod please feel free to get in touch with us!