"Successful Fly Fishing for Trout"
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Choosing Fly Rods Page One

How to Choose a Fly Rod

Choosing Fly Rods


 Before we look at how to choose our fly rod, let's examine what not to do. 

This said, let's look at what you should do to choose a quality fly rod.

Your best bet is to find a local fly shop where you can trust the owner.  Most fly shop owners are small businessmen and must please their customers to stay in business.  They generally are long time fly fishermen themselves. They may also be guides or teach casting classes. Plus you may be able to negotiate a better deal than at a discount store.

Factors to consider when choosing a fly fishing rod

  1. Budget -- What is your budget for the rod, reel and line total.  Generally you should plan on spending $150 to $225 on a rod, $100 minimum on a reel and $60 on a Scientific Angler or Rio fly line.  This totals out to less than $400.  Combo outfits like the Imperial can reduce this cost. In any case, equipment prices that make you reach a bit to get them.  This way you will appreciate and take better care of your equipment.
  2. Guaranty -- Is there a lifetime guaranty on the rod?  Or a long term warranty?  Most major rod manufacturers offer a lifetime guaranty and Orvis a 25 year one.
  3. Fish Species -- What type of fish will you be going after?
    • Mostly stream fishing for trout
    • lake or pond fishing for trout, bass, panfish, wipers, catfish, etc.

      In Colorado,  most of your fishing will be for the one or more of the above species.
  4. Fishing Distance  -- What is the normal distance you will be fishing?  Generally you will catch the majority of your fish within 20 feet of where you will be standing. 

    This is not just my opinion but the opinion of (fly fishing great and fly rod builder Tom Morgan, "During the last 40 years, most trout have been taken from 20 to 40 feet and I expect the next 50 years will be the same." ) 

    Chris Wells, professional guide and owner of www.trouttrips.com teaches students to fish within 10 to 12 feet. Summer of 2005, I have taken trout within 3 to 4 feet of where I was standing with no more than 6 feet of leader off the tip of the rod.

    Select a rod that will roll or overhand cast comfortably for you out to 45 feet.  This will meet the majority of your fishing needs.
  5. Gender -- may make a difference in choosing your rod.  Generally men have more upper body strength than women.  Where a nine foot rod will be fine for most men, an eight or eight and a half foot length may be better for a woman.
  6. Casting Ability -- Are you a beginner, intermediate or advanced fly caster.  Your casting ability will determine your rod selection.  As will the "Rod Flex" or "Action"

    There are basically four Flex or Fly Rod Actions today.

    • Fast, tip action or tip flex -- main flex is in the top 1/3 to 1/4 of the tip section depending on manufacturer.  This action loads the rod very fast and requires precise timing and control.  (Usually reserved for advanced or expert casters)
    • Medium or Mid-flex -- rod bends in the middle 1/2 to upper 1/3 of the rod.  This action is good for beginners, intermediate or advanced casters who like a "forgiving" feel. (This is also the best action for nymph fishing because you can feel the take easier than with a Fast Action.)
    • Slow or Full-flex -- rod bends from tip to butt section.  While very forgiving of casting mistakes, this type of rod action produces a slow rod recovery rate.  Such a slow recovery rate, can make casting over a period of  hours tiring.  But a slow action can be an advantage in playing a large fish as it allows the full rod to put pressure on the fish. 
    • Progressive -- No noticeable difference between the stiffer and more flexible parts of a rod.



  7. Fly Lines -- Your choice of fly lines should be taken into consideration.  Modern fly lines come in weight ranges from Sage's new 00 to 15.  As the line number increases so does the line weight.  So a 2 or 3 line is for smaller streams and a 15 is for deep sea, large stream or surf fishing.

    Your fly line should be matched to the fly reel and rod you purchase.  This means if your purchase a 5 wt rod, your line should be a 5 wt "double taper" or "weight forward" fly line. 

    Basic fly lines for use in Colorado and surrounding states are:
    • Double Taper -- A 90 foot long line tapered equally at both ends.  The first and last 15 feet of line are tapered to increase in weight from the tip to the belly of the line.  Then the line diameter and weight is constant for the next 60 feet.  Next the line starts to loose weight and line diameter until it reaches a tip size equal to the front section of the fly line. 

      Usually marked as DT1, DT2 and so on through DT6.  When one end of the line becomes worn, you can turn it around and use the unused tapered end.

      I recommend a DT5 or DT6 weight line as a good starter line for fly fishing.  After fishing a double taper line for 33 years and a weight forward for 4 years, I am still convinced a double taper line will roll cast easier than a weight forward.

    • Weight Forward -- Almost all WF lines have heads that are 44 to 49 feet long.  Remember that most of us don't have the need or the ability to roll cast longer than 45 feet.  This first 30 to 50 feet of the 90 feet fly line contains most of the weight.  The line behind the head is a smaller diameter line running line.  Noted as WF5, WF6, WF7 and so on. 

      A weight forward line will load a rod quickly. Generally weight forward lines are used on rods for 5 weight and up. They are good for casting heavy nymphs, bushy dry flies and terrestrials into a stiff breeze. 

    The delicacy of presentation is determined by the mass at the front of the fly line.  A DT and a WF line with the same taper and tip diameter will deliver the same presentation.  To load a fly rod, you must have the belly of the line within the guides.  Since the Double Taper has a 60 foot belly, you can have more line outside the tiptop and still load the rod.

    The Weight Forward line will load a rod quicker but you must get used to watching how much line is outside the tiptop before your casts.

    The fly line is the only part of your equipment that really delivers the fly to the target.  Spend the $60 to get a top quality Scientific Angler or Rio Fly Line.  Using quality fly fishing gear will increase your fishing enjoyment.






Choosing Fly Rods -- Pg2

Other information:
Learning what makes a premium fly rod

Photos of Quality Fly Rod Components