How To Buy a Fly Rod

Final­ly decid­ing to get your­self that new rod is a big step. Over time, your new fly rod will become an exten­sion of your arm — land­ing you mem­o­rable trout on del­i­cate dry flies or chas­ing bone­fish on the flats. There are a few things to con­sid­er when find­ing the right rig.

Mate­r­i­al: Most rods on the mar­ket today are made of graphite, fiber­glass or bam­boo and each one has its ben­e­fits and shortcomings:

Graphite: In the last ten years or so graphite and graphite com­pos­ite rods have tak­en over the mar­ket. The price to qual­i­ty gap has got­ten small­er and small­er. For novices and riv­er rats alike, graphite rods offer pre­cise, crisp action for accu­rate casts and superb durability.

Fiber­glass: Unless you’re pulling granddaddy’s old rod from the garage you’ll be hard-pressed to find a fiber­glass stick worth your allowance. If you’re in the mar­ket for a fly rod and actu­al­ly want to enjoy your­self, steer clear of fiber­glass. Once used due to inex­pen­sive pro­duc­tion costs, tech­nol­o­gy has all but sent these types of rods to the grave. Their dura­bil­i­ty is poor and you might have bet­ter feel cast­ing with a broomstick.

Bam­boo: When it comes to find­ing a rod that is just as much a fam­i­ly heir­loom as a fish stalk­er, there is no bet­ter mate­r­i­al than bam­boo. How­ev­er, novice cast­ers and even some advanced anglers find cast­ing these heavy rods a chore. These rods are slat­ed for the hard-line purists and aes­thet­ic voy­agers. If you’re look­ing for your first rod, stick with graphite.

Length: The length of your rod doesn’t deter­mine how much of a man you are, but it does deter­mine what type of fish­ing you’ll be doing. The stan­dard riv­er rod length is 8’ to 9’. This allows the cast­er to get their fly long dis­tances with more pre­ci­sion but isn’t over­ly cum­ber­some. For small stream anglers cast­ing in tight, woody con­di­tions a 6’-8’ rod is all you’ll need to roll cast into tight pools all day. If you’re steel­head fish­ing in the North­west or chas­ing after big­ger fish, opt for a rod larg­er than 9’ to han­dle the lunkers.

Rod weight: Ask any trout guide in the coun­try and they will tell you that a 9’ 5‑weight should be everybody’s first rod. A rod’s weight refers to its abil­i­ty to han­dle large amounts of line and large flies. A 5‑weight rod offers the novice cast­er accu­ra­cy and touch for long casts and del­i­cate mends, and won’t make your arm feel like a noo­dle after a long day of cast­ing. Weight and length usu­al­ly go hand in hand — small­er weight rods are well suit­ed for dry fly cast­ing on small streams and larg­er weight rods appeal to big game fish­er­men strip­ping stream­ers all day.

Action: A rod’s action refers to its recov­ery rate from flex­ing the rod dur­ing cast­ing. Most anglers want to hit the mid­dle of the road here and find a rod with a medi­um flex that graces the line between touch and abil­i­ty to cast long, tight loops. A rod with a faster action is gen­er­al­ly asso­ci­at­ed with longer, heav­ier rods and is able to trans­fer more pow­er from the caster’s arm to the line for cast­ing big flies into a strong head­wind. A slow­er action rod excels at short­er dis­tances and gives the cast­er more pre­ci­sion with less line out — a neces­si­ty in tight, small streams.

Pieces: Once you have your fly rod, you’re going to want to take it fish­ing and trans­port­ing a nine foot- long pole is any­thing but easy. If you don’t plan on get­ting too adven­tur­ous with your fish­ing, a sim­ple two-piece fly rod will give you the purest cast­ing feel and are usu­al­ly the least expen­sive. How­ev­er, if you want to chase high moun­tain fish in cold clear streams and lakes, don’t waste your time with any­thing below four pieces. Many man­u­fac­tur­ers even make back­pack­ing spe­cif­ic rods that break down into sev­en pieces for great packability.