Fly Rod Basics

Not all fly rods are created equal.  There is a fly rod for every situation and some fly rods for most situations.  Most experience fly fishers will recommend starting out with a 9ft 5 weight (wt) rod, as do I.  This rod can handle most situations especially when starting out.  Lets break down what rod weight, length, and flex/action means.

Fly Rod Characteristics:

Weight – This defines how heavy a rod is the lower the number the light the rod.  The higher the number the heavier and sturdier the rod will be.  The 5wt is in the middle between having enough control for delicate presentation while having enough power for casting larger fly or landing larger fish.  Fly rods weights go from 0wt up to 14wt

  • 0-4: sunfish and small trout, small streams
  • 4-6:  general trout, larger streams and rivers
  • 6-8:  bass, carp, light steelhead, salmon. and saltwater
  • 8-10: larger steelhead, salmon, musky and saltwater
  • 10-14: very large fish

Length – In this example the 9ft is the length measured from end-to-end.  A 9 foot rod is great for medium size water.  On small brook trout mountain streams a fly rod as small as 6 ft would be optimal as its more about being able to maneuver and cast in mountain laurel.   For big rivers or while tight line nymphing its common to use a 10ft rod or longer. 

Flex/Action – Action of a fly rod or any rod is typically classified into Fast, Medium, and Soft action.

Fast action the only the section of the rod closest to the tip will flex. Great for aggressive casing and heavy streamer fishing

Medium action is the most forgiving as its in the middle of the road.  Is able to handle the widest set of applications

Soft action the entire rod will bend with ease.  While casting it will almost make a parabolic shape.  Great for small presentations and light tippet.

Fly Rod Collection Strategy

A good game plan to have when building out your fly rod collection is to start with a 5wt and then upgrade to a 3wt or 7wt depending on your most common fishing conditions in your area.  If you find that you are fishing small mountain streams and panfish where a trophy is 5 to 6 inches go with a 3wt.  If you are fishing for large trout or salmon in larger or swift rivers move up to a 7wt.  By going with to the next odd rod weight up or down you’ll over the most ground for your fishing style without breaking the bank.

For my first 5 rods I started with a 9ft 5wt moved up to a 9ft 7wt for Great Lake Steelhead.  I next added a 9ft 3wt.  Here the first 5 rods I collected.  I was fishing a wide variety for streams so sticking with the 9ft length made since for my 3 rods to cover my bases I then moved to different lengths for small brushy mountain streams and large streams and rivers.

  1. 9ft 5wt
  2. 9ft 7wt
  3. 9ft 3wt
  4. 6ft 2wt
  5. 10ft 4wt

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