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A Guide to Choosing the Right Fly Fishing Rod

June 15, 2021

A fly rod can make or break your experience out on the water ‒ but knowing which type you need isn’t always as straightforward as it seems.

Fly rods vary in weight, length, and action, and when it comes to choosing the right fly fishing rod, it all boils down to where you are fishing and the type of fish you’re targeting.

So, which fly rod is perfect for you? Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned fly fisherman, Wild Water Fly Fishing is here to explore the different types of fly fishing rods and everything you need to know for a successful day on the water. Let’s get started.

How to Select the Best Fly Rod

There are all different types of fly rods ‒ and there is no such thing as a wrong or bad fly rod.

Fly fishing is a sport of personal preference and style. You want a versatile fly rod that suits the water environment you’ll fish the most. But don’t be surprised if a rod serves you well one day and not the next. So, when selecting any particular fly rod, you must take the following three variables into consideration:

  • Line Weight
  • Rod Length
  • Rod Action

Line weight, rod length, and rod action are the distinguishing factors among fly rods, and next we’ll explore each of these variables more in-depth.

Line Weight

First things first: What are you hoping to catch? The size of the fish, as well as the type of water body it inhabits, will determine the weight of your fly rod.

As a general rule of thumb: The larger the fish and the rougher the water, the heavier the line should be.

If you’re fishing for large trout or smallmouth bass, you’ll most likely find yourself wading and fishing in small to medium-sized rivers and streams, and potentially lakes. Targeting these types of fish will require a 7 or 8 weight fly rod.

When up against largemouth bass, carp, or salmon in lakes, large rivers, open freshwater, or inshore saltwater, you’ll need to up the ante as far as fly rod length and line weight are concerned, in which case you’ll want a 10-weight line.

Lighter rods lend better to creeks, small rivers, and gentler lakes. The higher the intensity of the river or lake, the heavier your rod should be. Saltwater fish also tend to be stronger and faster than freshwater fish. They fight longer, as well, requiring a heavier line weight. When fishing for saltwater fish, you’ll also want a heavier fly rod that can duke it out with these fish.

Rod Length

Fly fishing rods can range from very short (around 6 feet) to very long (12 to 14 feet.) There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

A long rod provides extra reach for roll casting and covering more water. They’re also better for mending, drifting, steering, and lifting fish through long drifts. They’re ideal for medium-sized rivers and lakes. Long rods require extra space for casting. If there are a lot of trees, brush, or other obstacles, a shorter rod may work better.

Short rods are best when you’re targeting smaller fish or fishing in smaller streams. They’re also great for children to use as they learn. As a child develops their skills and grows taller in height, they can eventually work their way up to a 9-foot rod.

If you’re looking for a middle-of-the-road rod, a popular size is

-feet in length. 9 foot rods are also highly recommended for beginners.

Rod Action

Now that we’ve discussed rod length and line weight, next we’ll explore the different kinds of rod action. Rod action refers to a rod’s ability to bend under pressure and revert back to its natural shape.

The tip of any rod will always have the most flex. Anglers with more advanced casting skills can cast further and in windier conditions with a fast-action rod. These rods typically bend ½ or ⅔ towards the tip. Fast-action rods also have the stiffness required to forcefully land heavier fish.

Wild Water recommends starting with a medium-fast action fly rod to help learn casting. This rod isn’t too soft or fast and will still be useful and give great casting performance once you learn fly fishing. We also recommend a 9 foot rod unless you have a specific type of fly fishing you want to do.

A medium fast action rod will bend deeply to half its length with minimal line in use. This type of rod is universally suitable for most fly fishing methods.

Are You Ready to Fly Fish?

When choosing the right fly fishing rod, keep in mind that you won’t use that same fly rod for the entirety of your career.

Fly fishermen will build their fly rod collections over time. It’s common to go between rods, depending on where you’re fishing, what you’re targeting, and how you’re casting, on any given day or time of year. As you become more confident and experienced, your preferences will most likely change as you begin to try out different rod lengths, actions, and line weights.

For more fly fishing tips, stay tuned to Wild Water Fly Fishing’s blog or check out our learning pages!