Fly Rods
Fly Rods & Line Weight

Fly Rods & Fly Line Weight

So, what the heck is fly line weight? And why should you care?

Simple. Today, the weight of a fly line is measured in a tiny unit called grains. Rather helpfully, the fly line manufacturers came up with a numbering system that helped how heavy or light a particular fly line is. This numbering system runs from 1 (ultralight) to 14 and beyond (heavy).

Well...thats nice....but so what? Actually, it's important to understand this concept. Remember, in fly fishing, it is the weight of the fly line that casts the fly! If you choose the wrong weight fly line for the types of flies you plan on using, you are going to have many, many problems when it comes to casting and control.

Thus, if you put on a tiny size 14 dry fly onto a fly line that has a weight of 7, control will be lost and when the fly hits the water - it will hit it with a splash due to the heavy weight of the line (which pulls the fly down harder). Conversely, attach a heavy fly to a fly line that has a light weight - and the fly will literally go all over the place. Control will be next to impossible and, once again, the fly will crash into the water.

Because of all this, it is crucial - repeat crucial - to make sure whatever fly rod you get has been designed to "mate up" with the fly line you'll be using.

But....how do you know what weight of fly line to use? That, happily, is simple. Just match up what you'll be fishing for with the chart below.

  • Fly Line Weight 1-3 : Use this weight if you plan on fishing for tiny fish, such as tiny trout or panfish.
  • Fly Line Weight 4 : A good all-around fly line weight for all small fish species such as panfish, as well as small to medium-sized trout.
  • Fly Line Weight 5 : Another good all-around fly line weight. Works ok for small fish, but some of the fun goes out of it. On the other hand, works ok for average sized bass and virtually all trout.
  • Fly line Weight 6 : A heavier version of 5. Not much fun to use for small fish. But idea for all trout fishing. Works well for bass too and even small salmon.
  • Fly Line Weight 7 : Use this line weight for all bass fishing if you want no worries. Also works well for monster trout fishing. Hopeless overkill for average trout and panfish. This line weight is also popular for steelhead and small to medium sized salmon.
  • Fly Line Weight 8 and Above : These line weights are used for ever larger and stronger fish, particular saltwater species. If you'll be in Montana or plan on fishing for trout, there is no need for anything this high.

Let's Match Them Up

Now you know why its so important to determine what you plan on fishing for BEFORE doing anything else. Knowing what you plan on fishing for allows you to choose the right fly line weight to use - which then determines what fly rod weight/fly reel weight to use.

Thus, the rule here is:

Fly Line Weight = Fly Rod Weight = Fly Reel Weight

A happy marriage.

Just be sure to match everything up EXACTLY. While it won't kill you, you will definitely have a better experience - particularly as a beginner - if you match everything up.

Thus, if you are going to use a 5-weight fly line, you will be best served using a 5-weight fly rod and 5-weight fly reel too.

In theory, you can go up one and down one level. However, there IS a performance drop - so there is no reason to "invite" degrading performance unless you have no choice.


Fly Rod Length

Figuring out fly rod length is pretty easy. Depending on what you plan on fishing for and where you plan on doing it, get something from 8 feet to 9 feet.

  • Get 9 feet if you need to make long casts, use a heavy fly line or fish frequently in the wind.
  • Get 8.5 feet for general, all-around fly fishing in a wide variety of conditions.
  • Get 8 feet for shorter, more precise casts, or for small stream fishing. Or for chasing after panfish with a light fly line.

Other Considerations

Here's some other considerations to think about when you are shopping for a fly rod.

  • How Many Pieces? : If you plan on doing lots of travel, carting along a long fly rod that only breaks down into two pieces can be difficult at time. If travel, especially by airline, is common - considering getting a travel fly rod that breaks down into four or more pieces.
  • Fly Rod Construction? : While they are becoming as rare as dinosaurs anymore, fiberglass fly rods can still be found. Unless you need a fly rod for the kids, I suggest avoiding them and getting what virtually all other fly rods are made of today - graphite. Graphite is lighter than fibergalss and is stronger too. It also allows for better casts.
  • Consider Getting a Fly Rod Combo : Fly Rod combos are nice. A fly rod combo includes the fly rod, the fly reel and the fly line (already put on the spool). These combos not only save you money but also guarantee that the whole fly rod outfit (rod/reel/line) is balanced. For beginners, I think this is the way to go if you don't already have one or more pieces of the fly rod outfit.

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