Fly Fishing for Beginners - Rods
Selecting a fly fishing rod is not difficult. Though there are literally thousands of choices, there are three things you will need to know: the rod “weight” , the rod length, and the action of the rod.
Most rods sold today are made from graphite which is a huge improvement from years past. The advantages of graphite rods are that they are very lightweight, strong, and will consistently cast your fly. For a beginner, I wouldn’t consider anything but a graphite rod. Also, most reputable manufacturers have an unconditional replace or repair lifetime warranty for their rods. Don’t buy a rod that doesn’t have this warranty. I’d bet a majority of anglers have broken a rod or two in their lives and knowing you can get a free replacement is worth paying the extra money up front.
The prices of graphite rods can range from less than $50 to over $1,000. You should be able to purchase a good quality graphite rod with a lifetime warranty for about $100.
Rod Weight - The purpose of the fly fishing rod is to cast the fly to a desired target to catch a fish. Since the fly tied at the end of the line is very light, the line must have weight in order to cast it any distance. This is different than spin fishing where the weight comes from the lure.
Fly fishing rod manufacturers design rods to cast a specific line weight to achieve optimum results. 2, 3, and 4 weight rods are designed to catch smaller fish and casting relatively short distances. They are ideal for small streams or fishing for small fish in lakes. 5 and 6 weight rods are good general purpose rods that can be used just about anywhere. Rods weight 7 and larger are good for fishing for larger fish like steelhead or salmon where you will catch heavy fish or need cast long distances.
If the bulk of your fishing will be in small streams, rivers, and lakes, a general purpose 5 weight rod should be all you need. As you gain experience and want to try hand at small creeks or for larger fish, you can always purchase a second rod.
Rod Length – Rods come in varying lengths from 7 to over 10-feet. The majority are manufactured around 9-feet. You will want a shorter rod if you are casting short distances in tight areas with lots of brush or trees around you. Most short rods are lighter weight rods. Conversely, longer rods are available if you need to cast a long distance with little obstructions around you.
A 9-foot rod is a good length for general purpose fishing unless you know for certain you will need a shorter or longer rod.
Rods are manufactured in several pieces so they can be stored and transported more safely and easily. They come in 2, 3, 4, and sometime even 5 pieces that are slid together to make your final length. There is no loss in performance with a rod that breaks down in more pieces, so I would recommend purchasing a 3 or 4 piece rod. They may cost slightly more, but they much easier to pack around than a 2 piece rod.
Rod Action – The action of the rod is a little more ambiguous than the rod weight or length. The action is essentially where the rod flexes when a load is applied. Rods come in three action types: slow, medium, and fast.
Slow action rods will bend in the bottom third of the rod near your reel. A slow action rod could be described as “whippy” and can be hard to cast long distances. A Medium action rod will bend near the middle of the rod. Fast action rods could be considered “stiff” and bend in the last third of the rod. They will provide more power when casting and thus more distance. A drawback is that fast action rods are more susceptible to break near the tip if not used correctly when landing fish.
In general, most beginners should purchase a fast action rod as it is easier and more accurate when cast longer distances. However, you should try casting the rod before purchasing it. Take it for a test drive. This will determine what action best suites your style of casting.