How to Set Up and Rig a Fly Rod

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Setting Up Your Fly Fishing Rod

How to set up your fly fishing rod introduction

The first part is assembling and dissembling the fly rod. The second part is attaching the fly reel, stringing the fly line through the guides, attaching a leader if you do not have a leader attached to the line and attaching a fly or nymph rig to the leader.

Most rods come in an aluminum, metal or hard plastic case. Modern rods are usually four piece models. A cloth sack is used to protect the rod. This cloth sack has special compartments for each segment.

Carefully unroll the cloth sack and pay attention to which section is in which compartment of the sack. Generally you will find the butt section with the handle and the top section with the tip top guide next to each other.  The handle may be pointing toward the top of the case and the tip section toward the bottom or vice versa.  However they are stored, you can mark the sock sections by putting a small piece of masking tape on the section and writing the name of the section on the tape.

When putting your fly rod back into the sack, the same section needs to go back into the same sack compartment before rolling the sack up for storage in the case. Examine the case lid. Better lids may have a piece of dense foam padding in the lid to protect the rod sections from any shock of hitting the lid.

The foam should have a small hole in it to allow air to circulate and prevent moisture buildup during long periods of storage. Never put your fly rod away wet. Wipe each section off before storing it in the cloth sack. If you have been fishing in salt water wash the rod in fresh water and completely air dry before storing it.

How to Set Up a Four Piece Fly Fishing Rod

Setting up a four piece fly rod is pretty easy.

Unroll the protective cloth sack. Start with the butt section first. This may be stored with the cork handle toward the case lid. Remove the butt part and the next largest section.  Fly rods are joined together with ferrules. Most rods use a slip over female ferrule that slips over the male ferrule of the section below.

Inspect the male ferrule of each section and clean them off as necessary before assembly. Wipe off any dirt inside the female ferrule and off the outside of the male ferrule.  Dirt trapped on either part of ferrule can score and damage the fly rod blank. A Q-tip can be used to remove dirt inside the female ferrule.

Carefully insert the butt section into the top section. (For Right Handers. Hold the top section near the ferrule. Keep the top section at 90 degrees to the bottom piece. With a slight downward twisting motion, seat the top piece on the butt segment until all the guides are in a straight line.) CAUTION: Do not force the top part straight down on the butt, you can split the end of the female ferrule and ruin the blank. For left handers — use the left hand to hold the top part and seat it onto the butt section.

Remove the two top pieces from the rod sack. Perform the ferrule inspections as described above. Join the top pieces together with the process described above. Finally join the top two pieces to the bottom pieces with the same twisting motion procedure described before. Sight through the guides to make sure everything is aligned properly. Adjust as necessary so all guides are in proper alignment. Some modern rods have alignment dots on them to make the guide alignment process easier.

Disassemble your rod in reverse order and store in the proper cloth sack compartment. Store the fly rod sections in the same order and pointing the same way that you found them originally.  (Here is where marking with a bit of masking tape can help.  You can mark the rod section and the direction it points in the sock.)

 Care of your fly rod

After each use, wipe down the rod blank and guides with a clean dry cloth. Never store your fly rod wet. It can cause mildew on the cork handle or eventually may rust the guides.

Once a month, take a clean soft cloth such as an old t-shirt and wipe down the blank including the guides to remove dirt and debris. A little furniture wax sprayed on the cloth and wiped on the blank will shine it and lubricate the guides.

Next run a cotton ball or small piece of nylon stocking through each guide. Any burrs or wear will snag the cotton or stocking. Using special wet dry automotive 600 or 1000 grit sandpaper lightly sand off any burrs to reduce damage to the fly line.

Don’t “high stick” when fighting a fish as you can bend your rod into a breaking arc. If you snag your fly on a bush or tree, point the rod at the fly and pull on the line, until your fly comes free or you break the tippet. Using your rod to leverage a fly out of a tree can break your “stick”.

When casting weighted flies, open up your casting stroke to avoid hitting your head or the blank with the fly which can damage you or the blank.

DO NOT fish with graphite fly rods during an electrical storm as these rods are excellent conductors of electricity.

Now that you know “how to set up a fly fishing rod”; disassemble and care for your rod, lets look at how to rig or string the line so the rod is ready to use.

How To Rig A Fly Rod

After assembling your rod, attaching the fly reel and rigging or stringing the line through the guides of your fly rod are the next steps in getting ready to fish.

There are other ways to attach the reel but this is the way I like to do it. My reels are set up for a left hand retrieve so just reverse the directions if you crank the reel with your right hand.

First turn the rod over so the guides are pointing up. Hold the reel in your right hand with the crank in your palm. Next insert the top reel foot into the top reel seat. Then slide the bottom reel seat over the bottom reel foot and screw the retainer ring up against the bottom reel seat until the reel is firmly attached. ( ie. not loose when you wiggle the reel side to side gently.) When you turn the rod over so the guides are pointing down, the reel crank will be pointing to the left so you can crank with your left hand. To reel line in, the crank is turned toward the top of the rod with the reeling hand.

Now locate the end of the leader if one is attached to the fly line. Or the end of the line with the braided line to leader connector attached if you have not put on a leader. If you have a welded loop fly line, so much the better. On the bottom of the reel will be one or two cross bars but usually one. Pull off line or leader so that the line or leader is coming off the reel and passes under the the cross bar. In other words, the line will pull off the reel directly to the bottom stripping guide. Pull off enough line and leader to string the rod.

You can use this technique with either the line or with the leader. I suggest using the leader since pinching the fly line over time will tend to crack the finish. Make a loop in the leader about 2 feet from the end of the line. Insert the loop through the bottom stripper guide. (Do Not insert through the hook keeper just above the handle). Continue inserting the loop through each guide until you come out the top guide. Then pull the rest of the line and leader out of the guides until you have the line coming directly off the fly reel. When pulling the line through the guides, don’t bend the fly rod or you could break it. If you need to, attach a leader to the fly line.

Now that you know “how to rig a fly rod” or “how to string a fly rod” depending on what you call the process, you are ready to tie on your favorite dry fly or set up a two or three nymph rig and go fly fishing.