Fly Rods
How to Select a Fly Rod

How to Select a Fly Rod

Before jumping too far into the gory details about fly rods, let's talk about the function of a fly rod. A fly rod, at the end of the day, has three purposes. These are:

  1. Casting - Like a spin rod, the fly rod allows for the fly line to be casted with power and accuracy. A good fly rod, in combination with good fly casting skills, also allows the fly and fly line to be placed on the water in such a way so as to not spook all the fish into scurrying into cover.
  2. Line Control - Once you have your fly out on the water and it is floating away, the next function of a fly rod is to provide for line control. A fly rod allows you to have much control over the line that is out on the water - at least once you figure out how to do it.
  3. Striking and Landing Fish - The fly rod is used to both set the hook on a fish and to fight and land the fish. As such, the fly rod needs to be flexible and strong enough to bend, sometimes under great pressure, without breaking or snapping.

What Are You Fishing For?

Now that we know what the purpose of the fly rod is, it is time to be honest and ask ourself a question - exactly what types of fish will I be fishing for? You must answer this question honestly - since the answer to this question determines everything else that follows it!

For example, you need a different type of fly rod to fish for trout than you do for huge bass or small panfish. Likewise, a freshwater fly rod is a lousy choice for saltwater fishing.

Thus, think things through and decide what fish species you will actually be going for the most. If you plan on coming to Montana, that answer is most likely trout with some bass thrown in for good measure.

Fly Rod Action Explained

There are few things more confusing in the sport of fly fishing than fly rod action. So let's explain things - its actually quite simple.

The action of a fly rod refers to how flexible the fly rod is. If you forget everything else, try to remember this. The action of a fly rod is simply a fancy measure of how flexible the fly rod is.

Pretty simple, huh?

With that in mind, essentially, there are three different types of fly rods that a beginning angler should concern themselves with. The three different types of fly rods are differentiated by the amount of flex in the fly rod (or the action if you just forgot).

So, how is the amount of flex in a fly rod measured? Simple, it is measured on the backcast. The more the rod bends on the backcast, the more flexible the fly rod is.

The Three Types of Fly Rod Action

If you would like to spare yourself some reading, I've listed some quick recommendations below on features most beginner anglers will want to look for when shopping for a fly rod.

Fast Action or Tip-Flex Fly Rods

A tip flex fly rod is also just what the name implies. At the end of the backcast, the tip of the fly rod will be slightly bent but the rest of the rod will be virtually straight as an arrow. This has benefits in the following circumstances:

  • Need to make long cast. The stiffness of the rod allows for more power in the case.
  • Fishing on windy days. The stiffness of the rod allows easier casing on windy days since the rod is more powerful.
  • Somewhat less physically demanding. Due to the power inherent in fast action fly rods, the angler has to work less to cast the same distance as they would if using a slower, more flexible rod.

The disadvantages of fast-action fly rods are:

  • Real fast-action fly rods can be hard to learn on for beginners. The sheer power in the rods makes "getting a feel" of the fly and fly line difficult. Precise casts in particular will be difficult to new anglers.
  • Not the best rod to be used where short casts are necessary - such as spring creeks. For short casts, a more flexible rod provides greater accuracy and a "smoother touch."
  • For small stream fishing, a fast-action rod has a substantiallly greater likelihood of leading to the fly and fly line being slammed into the water - making the fish you're stalking head for the hills.

Medium Action or Mid-Flex Fly Rods

Medium action fly rods are the most versatile of the rods available. They perform well in a wide variety of conditions. They are also quite a bit easier to learn with than with a fast-action rod. On the backcast with a medium action fly rod, the rod will be bent beginning from about halfway down the rod - thus falling inbetween the fast and slow action rods.

Overall, if you can only own one fly rod - you'll want it to be a medium action fly rod unless your fishing situation falls into one of the other categories above or below.

Slow Actioin or Full-Flex Fly Rods

Slow action fly rods are very flexible. On the backcast, a slow action fly rod will bend beginning about 1/4 of the way down the fly rod - and at full backcast will almost be arched into a shallow, graceful 90 angle.

Ideal uses for slow action fly rods is for fishing small streams, where you have to use stealth to track down fish. The flexible nature of the fly rods makes it substantially easier than with other fly rods to have perfect presentation that don't make a racket on the water. Additionally, slow action fly rods are very forgiving and easy to learn on - although they lack the utility that a medium action fly rod has.

On the next page we'll launch into an in-depth discussion about fly line weight and how it relates to your fly rod. We'll also cover other things such as fly rod length too. So Fly Rods and Fly Line Weight.

Find a Fly Rod

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