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.