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How To Buy Fly Fishing Rods

Fly fishing is part science, part art. While it is demanding, you can improve your chances by selecting a rod that suits the type of fish you want to catch and your fishing style. This rod becomes part of a "balanced" system when combined with your fly line, leader and fly.

How to buy fly fishing rods

Balance is a key ingredient in selecting a rod to match your reel and line. With that in mind, here are several factors to consider in choosing a fly fishing rod.

Rod action

This refers to a rod's stiffness and how it will flex when you put it under stress when you cast or fight a fish. A rod's action depends on its design and its material.

  • Fast action rods
    • These are stiffer and bend more in the upper third. This allows for longer casts, and crisper casts as well, which helps in windy conditions.
    • Besides quick, tight-casting strokes, fast-action rods require minimal changes in rod angles to keep this stroke
  • Meduim-action
    • Sometimes called moderate-action, these rods fall in the middle, flexing more in the upper half of the rod
    • They are more limber and offer a good choice for beginners since they are easier to use and can handle many fishing conditions
  • Slow-action
    • These rods are the least stiff so they bend more uniformly throughout the rod. This makes casting more accurate, a plus in close ranges and in making delicate presentations of your fly.
    • The downside is the adjustments needed in your casting technique if you switch flies

Intended use

Action, weight and length, type of flies, type of fish, type of water and your skill level will help determine the rod you need. Here is a brief guide on selecting a rod based on many of these factors:

Determining Your Fly Rod
Intended useDry fly sizeStreamer fly sizeTippetsLength ftLine weightCompositionAction
Delicate fly presentation14 - 18Up to 84x - 8x7' - 8'2 -4 fiberglass, graphiteslow to medium
Delicate cast & for distance12 - 22Up to 43x - 7x7' - 8'5 fiberglass, graphiteslow to medium
For various fish under varying conditions8 - 20Up to 20x - 7x8' - 9 1/2'6 - 7 fiberglass, graphiteslow to medium
For larger game fish4 - 3/0Up to 4/04x & larger8 1/2' - 9 1/2'6 - 7graphitemedium to fast
For the largest fish2 - 4/0Up to 6/00 x &9' - 12'10 - 15graphitefast

Materials

Materials affect the rod's action and hence should fit your skill level and type of fishing. Two most popular materials are: fiberglass and graphite, with graphite including composite rods that add boron for stiffness.

  • Fiberglass
    • Today's most common material in fly fishing rods, fiberglass is durable, generally less expensive and a good choice for beginners since it can be used in many fishing situations
  • Graphite/Compositions
    • Lighter and better at casting, graphite also handles most fishing situations well so it's a proven material for beginners to skilled anglers
    • Graphite also gives you more fighting power in your rod

Weight and length

A rod's weight and length should be matched to the weight of your line. To make this easier, rod manufacturers determine the best match based on power and stiffness. For example, a "6-weight rod" is designed to cast a 6-weight fly line. Many times, this is describes as #6/9', or a 6-weight, 9-foot rod.

  • Line weights range from 1 to 15. Generally speaking, the lower line weights are for smaller flies and fish, while the higher line weights are for heavier flies and fish. Here's a brief rundown:
    • 1- to 3-weight: For making delicate presentations with small dry flies and nymph, especially designed for trout or panfish on small to moderate-sized waters
    • 4- to 6-weight: This is also very appropriate for trout, panfish and small bass. A 4-weight is perfect for delicacy and finesse, while a 6-weight works best on big waters or in windy conditions. The middle weight - 5 - is the most versatile for trout whether you want finesse on spring-fed creeks or bigger, wider rivers.
    • 7- to 8-weight: A 7-weight provides the extra power needed to land smallmouth bass or steelhead, and bigger trout found in rivers and reservoirs. These weights also work well with bigger flies and bass bugs. Consider these for steelhead, redfish, snook or light salmon fishing.
    • 9- to 10-weight: Large flies for catching salmon and pike require a heavier weight line; these weights also work in saltwater for medium-sized fish
    • 11-weight and up: If you want go after the big boys - tarpon, tuna and billfish - you need these heavier weights
  • Rod lengths give you the desired casting action. In general, longer rods give more action while shorter rods are geared for tight situations such as narrow streams. Here are some guidelines:
    • Less than 8': These are considered short rods and are perfect for fishing in tight areas - narrow streams with overhanging trees or small ponds with lots of brush
    • 8' - 9': These lengths are good fits for trout and bass fishing. The longer length will give you more casting range and should improve your line control.
    • 9' and longer: Designed for long casts and better ability to manage line, these longer rods are best for open waters, such as bonefish flats, saltwater bays and big salmon rivers. Plan on fishing from a float tube? Then consider a 9- or 10-foot rod to help with casting.

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How to buy combos

  • Fly fishing is as much art as it is sport so your equipment becomes extremely important. Line, leader, tippet, fly, reel and rod work together as a balanced system.
  • If you are a beginner, you should consider buying a pre-packaged combo. This assures you of getting that balanced system necessary to increase your chances of landing fish and your enjoyment of the sport.
  • You can then practice making fly fishing an art and refine it with more equipment as you begin to master the art of fly fishing
  • If you want an all-purpose combo, look for 5- or 6-weight rod and reel, with an 8- 9-foot rod, and a rod with a medium to medium-fast action. This combo will tackle nearly all of the fly fishing situations you may encounter.

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