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How to Choose the Right Fly Rod

by: AverageJoeFish (View Article Source)

When confronted with the purchase of your first fly rod it is easy to become intimidated and if you make the wrong choice it could ruin your experience altogether. No pressure or anything, but you better get it right! Although I am average when it comes to catching fish, I am an Average Joe Fisherman after all, I do know my way around a fly rod and I am happy to lend a helping hand. When purchasing a fly rod here are the things you need to consider:


Just what are your intentions here mister? Seriously, in what kind of environment do you plan to use your new fly rod? Fly rods are designed to meet the specific needs of a fisherman based on the environment he or she is fishing in. A couple of things you need to consider are:

•The size of the water you will be fishing. Will you be fishing tiny creeks, big rivers or ponds? Your answer will help determine the length of the rod you should choose.
•The size of the fish you will be targeting. Will you be fishing for brook trout or salmon? Your answer will help determine the weight of the rod you should choose.
Most fishermen own several different fly rods because he or she might fish a large body of water one day and a small trickle of a stream the next. I, for example, own four fly rods. I suggest if you are purchasing your first fly rod that you make your decision based on the type of environment you see yourself fishing the most. You can always add additional rods later.

Fly rods come in a variety of weights. For example, St. Croix makes their Avid series ranging from a two weight to an eight weight. When deciding what weight fly rod you will need, it best helps to consider the fish you will be catching with it. As an example most small stream fisherman, or those targeting blue gill, use between a zero and a three weight fly rod. Steelhead and salmon fisherman usually prefer a fly rod ranging between a seven and nine weight. If you choose incorrectly you might end up feeling like you are using a pool cue to fight a small trout or blue gill.

Does length really matter? Why yes it does. “That’s what she said!” as the character Michael Scott from The Office would say. Like weights, fly rods come in a variety of lengths. Using St. Croix as an example again, the Avid series comes in lengths ranging from six feet to nine feet. Why is length important? Length serves several purposes in a fly rod. Generally speaking, the longer the fly rod the more line you can throw. Also, the longer the fly rod the more fish fighting and leader protection capabilities it has. Longer rods are beneficial on larger bodies of water. The exact opposite is true for smaller rivers and streams. If you desire to fish small streams then a shorter fly rod should appeal to you. You do not need to cast great distances and longer fly rods are difficult to maneuver with stream side vegetation. If you try to use a nine foot fly rod on a small creek you may end up in the bushes before you even make a cast. This is known as the Average Joe Fisherman, Scott, technique!

Below are pictures of two different streams that I fish regularly. The first one, when fly fishing, I use a seven foot fly rod. It allows me greater maneuverability than a nine foot rod would. In this situation a longer rod would limit my casting abilities due to the cramped quarters. Not to mention that being able to throw longer casts, as a longer rod would allow, serves no benefit when fishing such a small stream.
The second picture showcases a stream where I would choose to use a nine foot fly rod. The extra two feet allows me to cover more water with longer casts and in this situation I have plenty of room for all of that line whipping around.
That leads us back to the question, what type of water are you intending to fish? Your answer will help you to determine the length of the fly rod you will need.


Flex is the last characteristic of a fly rod that we are going to discuss. Fly rods are available in the following flexes:
•Medium fast
• Fast
The term “full” makes reference to the flex point on the fly rod being lower, or closer to the handle than the other flex points that are available. Full flex rods excel at delivering shorter finesse casts in small streams where the water runs clear. Because the flex point is so low, a full flex rod is often called a slow or slower action rod. Benefits of a full flex fly rod include:
•Leader/tippet protection – Full flex rods, being a slower action, allow you to use long fine leaders and tippet. This allows you to present your fly to the fish without “spooking” them.
•Forgiving – Because the rod is a slower action it allows greater control. A full flex fly rod is an excellent choice for a beginning fly fisherman.
•Fun – Small fish will put a great bend in a full flex rod.
Full flex rods, however, are not an ideal choice in windy conditions. And if your intent is to purchase one fly rod for many different situations I would shy away from a full flex fly rod.

A medium fast flex point is higher up the rod, between where a full flex and fast flex point are. A medium fast flex point has the greatest versatility of the three flex points. If you plan to own only one rod and use it in wide range of conditions, this is the flex point for you. Benefits of a medium fast flex fly rod are:

•Maximum versatility – You can fish a medium fast action fly rod in most conditions.
•Forgiving – While not as forgiving as a full flex fly rod, beginners will find learning on a fly rod with a medium fast action to still be forgiving and fun.
•Your best choice – A medium fast fly rod will meet the demands of fishing in most conditions.
•Longer casts – Since the flex point is higher, the rod generates more line speed allowing you to make longer casts.
A fast action fly rod is the stiffest of the three flexes. The flex point is the furthest up the rod, close to the tip. Since most of the rod is stiff, a fisherman using a fast action fly rod is able to generate an extremely fast line speed which in turn allows him to throw more line making longer casts. Some of the advantages of a fast action fly rod are:

•Long distance casts – The fast line speeds generated mean longer casts.
•Windy conditions are no problem – With faster line speed comes the ability to “punch” your cast through the wind to your target.
•Stiffer rod – Since the rod is stiffer then the other two flex points, a fast action rod makes it easier to fight and land bigger fish.
A fly rod with a fast flex point is not the right choice when a fisherman needs to cast to wary trout in gin clear water. This type of fishing often requires fine tippet, which due to the stiffness of the rod, puts greater strain on the tippet instead of absorbing it.

So, What Fly Rod Should You Purchase?

I wish I could answer that question for you. The good news is that you should now have the tools to make a good choice that will meet your needs. Remember, if you only plan to purchase one rod then a medium fast action will be your best choice. I would also select a versatile length and weight. I believe an eight foot six inch or nine foot, medium fast action, five weight to be one of the best all around rods.

Here are the four fly rods I own and the conditions I use them in:
•St. Croix Avid, seven foot, medium fast, two weight – used on small streams targeting brook trout.
•Scott A2, seven foot six inches, medium fast, three weight – used on medium size streams targeting brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout up to fifteen inches.
•Scott SAS, 8 foot six inches, medium fast, five weight – used on large streams or lakes targeting brown trout and bass.
•Temple Fork Outfitters Professional Series – nine foot, medium fast, eight weight – used to target salmon and steelhead.
How Much Do You Need to Spend?

Unfortunately fly rods can be very expensive. Keep in mind that just because it costs more does not mean it is better than a less expensive rod. Many of the main manufacturers offer “value” rods that are truly remarkable. St. Croix, Sage, Redington , Temple Fork Outfitters and my personal favorite Scott all offer rods in the $200 to $300 range. And if you do a little research you might even find one or two that are built in America. If your budget is a little tighter, Cabelas offers excellent package deals where they offer a significant discount when purchasing the fly rod, reel, line and backing altogether.

One Last Piece of Advice

When purchasing a complete fly fishing outfit, remember that, unless you are fishing for large fish, that a reel is merely a line holder and I would recommend the majority of your budget be spent on the fly rod. On the other hand, if you targeting large fish such as salmon or steelhead, you will need to purchase a quality fly reel capable of slowing and turning the powerful fish. But reels are a whole other article!

Added: Thu Nov 11 2010

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Reviewed by: loganG, Apr 16 2011 3:55PM

you did not mention the bluegill and bass and stuff down south
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