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How to Choose Fly Fishing Rods – A Few Things for you to Consider

With all aspects of fly fishing there are many options with this post I hope to show you how to choose fly fishing rods you will be happy with.

Fly fishing can be done in almost anybody of water and it is imperative that you get the correct rod to fish that body of water.

Before beginners purchase a new fly rod it’s important that they decide which style of fly fishing they’re going to do the most.

Over a generation of fly fishing fly anglers will gather up many fly rods because they know that the one rod will not do all situations and its part of the fun to have different lengths and weights to try out.

As you get into the sport you will want to try different venues, different styles of fly fishing and go after different species of fish, these all require different set-ups.

These can be anything from fishing for trout in a small stream to smallmouth bass in an open lake to saltwater fishing from the shore or an estuary or fishing for tarpon off a boat. All these situations could not be covered by one fly rod.

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As a beginner getting a rod that covers maybe a few of these options is better than going strictly for one type of fishing.

That is unless you are definitely set that you want to do one style of fishing over another if that’s the case then do your homework on that particular area and get a rod to suit.

One rod that seems to sit nicely in the middle of the range of fly rods is a 9ft 5 weight this rod is small enough to fish streams and small rivers and large enough with a good backbone to fish stillwaters. However, I would say the five weight is not strong enough to fish for larger species like Tarpon or Pike in that case you would need an 8 or 9 sometimes even a 10.

So for the purpose of this article we will concentrate on the 9ft 5 weight fly rod as it is in the middle of the range and a basic all rounder so it’s ideally set up for the beginner.

What to look out for in your fly rod comes next

The main areas of a fly rod are;

  • The rod specification – length, line rating and weight
  • The rod action – slow, medium or fast
  • The rod materials – carbon, graphite, fiberglass
  • The rod guides – titanium, carbon silicate, steel
  • The rod sections – 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7
  • The rod handle – full wells, half well, fighting butt
  • The rod reel seat – anodized aluminum, steel, graphite
  • The rod tube – Aluminum, cordura, cloth
  • The rod warranty – lifetime, 25, 5, 1 year

Rod spec – How heavy, what’s the length?

First on the list is the rod spec, in this case it would be the 9ft 5 weight that we have talked about and also its physical weight.

If you’re going for one of the top of the end range you would expect your rod to not weigh much more than 3 ounces or thereabouts. This makes it very light in the hand and easy to fish with all day. Middle of the road rods would be from 3 to 4 ounces and the basic models 4 ounces plus.

Rod action – Is it slow or fast?

The rod action is important especially when starting out as the action is designated by three brackets;

soft or slow (which is a big bend or flex),

medium or moderate (which is a medium bend or flex)

fast or hard.(which is very little bend or flex)

So the more a rod bends the softer it is and the less it bends the faster it is. The importance in this is timing. A fast rod needs the forward and backward stroke of the cast to be very quick this means tighter loops and generally longer cast.

This is not always easy for a beginner to do from the start in fact some intermediate anglers can struggle with this. I would suggest that a newbie go for a medium to slow rod first before moving onto a fast actioned rod. This means there is more time to get the forward stroke moving after the backward stroke and is a lot easier for beginners to master before moving on.

Materials – Carbon mixtures and techniques

This comes in various mixtures of carbon, graphite, fiberglass and so forth. The rods at the top end of the range would be a high modulus class carbon and produced in such a way that the carbon is wrapped to give it strength, flex and power.

The way in which these rods are made and the way that carbon is treated makes the rods very light, very powerful and very responsive, however these rods come at a price as those are the top of the spec when it comes to materials and can be expensive.

Sections – 1 to 7 sections, less is better or is it?

The rod sections is the number of pieces that make up the rod on average most rods today are 4 piece. These sections breakdown to pack away into the rod tube for easy transportation.

Some rods come in 5 sections, 6 sections and 7 sections making them smaller again and easily packaged.

The seven section rod would be what we call a frequent flyer and is ideal for going on flying fishing adventures.

You can also get two piece rods and some manufacturers still produce a one piece rod the difficulty with these rods is they are not so easy transported especially the one piece.

You may ask why the differences in sections, well years ago most rods were 2 piece as it was just the standard because the ferrell which joins the two rods together would affect the action of the cast.

Fly manufacturers and anglers alike didn’t like the way it affected the fly action so only one join was put in place.

Then as the manufacturing process got better more sections were added to make it more convenient to pack up your rod to take with you on fishing adventures as a 2 piece will not always go into the back of a car and would have to be strapped to the roof or put into a trailer.

Handle – What are you holding onto all day makes a difference.

Next on the list is the rod handle and nowadays are mostly made from cork as it’s light material, soft to the touch gives it a feel which is nice to hold especially if you’re fishing all day.

Some rods still have foam handles and these would be more at the bottom of the range. Most manufacturers now use cork of which there is 3 grades, A, AA and AAA the better the grade the finer the cork and the smoother it is to the touch.

The top of the range manufacturers and rods would always go for the AAA grade Cork.

Reel seat – Anti corrosion properties depend on venue

Next is the reel seat which would be normally anodized aluminum this makes it strong and anti corrosive especially if you’re going to be fishing saltwater and anti corrosion is a must.

You will find on the lighter weight rods in which case our 9ft 5 weight that there is a wooden insert along the reel seat but as you get into the heavier models 7, 8, 9, and 10 you will find that this is replaced with anodized aluminum as this helps with the anti corrosion properties especially when saltwater fly fishing.

Guides – Lightweight, strength and recoiling

Then we have the guides these are the loops on the rod that hold our fly line. There are normally 2 stripper guides placed towards the butt of the rod and 6 or 7 snake guides and a tip guide up the rod to hold our line.

Again there are different materials for manufacturing from silicone carbonates, titanium and stainless steel. The top end of the market would use the titanium in which case the smoothness adds to efficiency for the fly line going out of the rod and this all helps in the distance of your cast as well as them being very lightweight.

The snake guides come in different materials and the higher grade one’s having an anti recoil material which makes them bounce back into shape if put under pressure or stretched in any way especially when you’re finding large weight species.

Rod tube – Protection of the rod is all important

Also the rod tube is important because a good tube will protect your rod from day-to-day knocks and bumps especially when transporting your fly fishing rod from one place to another.
In years gone by rods would have come just in a cloth bag and anglers found that when they went to go to fish the rod was sitting in no more a four piece but eight, nine or ten as it has been smashed by something else in the boot of the car.

Rod tubes come in many styles with aluminum being the top offering and some of these have screw on caps with painted scenes on the outside excetera, they add to the pleasing show of bringing your rod out to play.

Then you have cordura tubes which serve a purpose but can become tattered and torn after a few years if misused or rolling about in the back of a vehicle.

Some come in nylon tubes which are OK for a while also but not really pleasing to the eye and lastly some just come in a rod cloth bag which will not really protect it in any way.

You can always purchase a rod tube of your own liking anyway so that is not always a problem.

Warranty – Do you get sections fixed or replaced for FREE?

Last on your list is warranty, whatever fly rod you purchase it is important to many anglers especially when they are investing in a high end rod. They want it to last many years and having a backup of a warranty to get pieces replaced is good to have especially if you’re spending a thousand bucks.

Some rods manufactured nowadays come with lifelong warranty for the original owner. When the rod is purchased from the shop at the beginning there will be a warranty card attached and it’s important that the buyer fills in the information and send it off to the manufacturer. In some cases now this can be done online, but this has to be done usually within 60 days of the purchase.

If the fly anger does this at purchase then their details are on record so when things go astray they just point to the details when and where the rod was purchased and can you please replace my tip section etc.

Where the difficult is when a fly angler decide to sell his rod to another angler second hand that warranty does not follow through so if the new owner breaks the rod there is no cover.

It would be a benefit for somebody buying a second-hand rod to keep the details of the seller so if the rod does get broken ask the seller to get a replacement that way the warranty would still be intact and you would get sorted out but this is not always the case especially if buying things online and from people you do not know.

Other manufacturers have warranties that extend to the new owners which is good to know especially when buying second hand. Some rods will have a limited lifetime warranty, some have a 25-year warranty, some have five-year and some only one and as you can imagine the high end of the market will have the lifetime warranties. All good to know when purchasing your rod for the first time.

Conclusion – Things to consider;

  • What is the rod spec – length and line rating and does it suit your fishing?
  • What is the rod action – slow, medium or fast?
  • What materials is it made from strength, flex and power?
  • What are the guides made from – titanium, carbon silicate, steel?
  • How many rod sections – 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7?
  • What is the handle type – full wells, half well?
  • What is the reel seat – anodized aluminum, steel, graphite?
  • What rod tube does it come in – Aluminum, cordura, cloth?
  • What warranty comes with it – lifetime, 25, 5, 1 year?

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