Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fly Rod And Reel Selection

When selecting a Fly rod the beginner and even some people who have had the same rod for a long time can feel overwhelmed. In just the short time I have been fly fishing it seems as though the technology has changed almost daily, and yet a rod is a rod it seems to me. When choosing a rod the major factors to consider have nothing to do with the rod itself. It has more to do with you the angler than what the rod is capable of doing. Think of it like golf clubs, every golf club will hit a ball. They all are made to do basically the same thing, yet that doesn't stop me from hitting them all into the trees now does it. Below are some of the factors you should consider before even holding a rod in your hands.

  • Budget - This is first for a big reason. You can spend anywhere from $50 to "ohh my god my savings is gone". Set a budget that is realistic for you and keep in mind there are some very shiny rods and reel setups that cost a thousand dollars that may fish just as well for you as the ones that cost two hundred. It is very realistic for you to spend somewhere in the $200-$400 range and never need a new rod and reel this lifetime.
  • Where will you fish - If you are surrounded by small streams and creeks then there is no need to get a giant 12' rod with 15 weight line on it. It seems like a fairly simple concept but from what I understand it is generally overlooked because people like to rush into the sport and just get out and fish. Thinking about this ahead of time will benefit you for a long time to come.
  • Will you be traveling - If you think you may be traveling with your rod and reel then it will be important to get at least a 4 piece rod so that it is easily packable. They even have 5 piece rods now I believe which are even more convenient. If you're like me you have grand dreams of fly fishing the world and catching all the exotic fish that can be found in a lifetime. Of course I haven't fished more than a few miles from my house in the past 2 years, but that doesn't stop me from dreaming.
As you can probably tell these things have more to do with a broader "what are your goals?" type of questions. I haven't even gotten into line weights, action, or length yet. However if you know the answer to these questions it will make your setup buying experience a thousand times easier.

Rod Size

Here is a general table you can follow to help you in your selection. Keep in mind there are a thousand different combinations of this very brief table that you can choose from. This is just to simplify things.

UsageLengthLine weightExample
Small Stream, delicate presentation, short casting7'-8'2-4Fenwick Eagle GT
Stream/creek longer casts7'- 8'5Fenwick HMX
Various conditions rivers, creeks, etc8'-9 1/2'6-7Ross Essence FS
Larger Game fish, very long casts9' - 12'10-15Ross Worldwide Essence FS

For adults I recommend the highlighted rod above. It is the most versatile and will get you through most situations. For example I caught a few trout the other weekend then went over and caught probably a 3 foot carp on the same setup. I just switch the flies. I have a 9' 5/6w rod, which falls squarely in that category of rod highlighted above. For children it may be better to go with a shorter more manageable rod such as the first one in the table above. These are the easiest rods to cast and are also the most forgiving.


To add another wrinkle to the rod selection is the action of the rod. Basically this defines how stiff the rod is, again to use the golf club analogy this would be the flex of the club. The rods I have in the table above are almost all slow - medium action rods. You can however get a fast action 7' rod I believe so make sure you check this before buying.

  • Slow - These are very flexible rods that bend uniformly throughout the rod. They are very accurate at close range and have a very delicate fly presentation.
  • Medium - These are the middle of the road between casting distance and accuracy. They flex more towards the upper half of the rod.
  • Fast - These flex almost all the way in the upper third of the rod. You can cast for miles with these if you know what you are doing. They are less forgiving however and you will end up with a fly earring if you aren't careful. Unless you fish for Tarpon all day long I would stay away from these as a beginner.


Some people will go on and on about reels and how some are better than others. I have yet to even tell the difference between the two reels I have except one is a lot shinier than the other one and I think it looks cooler. Essentially make sure that your reel is decently constructed, the spool sits tightly in the reel to avoid the line catching, and that it can hold the line weight and the length of line that your rod requires. Other than that there are a few nice things about some reels. Some have gears in them which can mean 1 turn of the knob equals 4 turns of the spool and things like that. I have yet to find a need for that but it seems cool, and perhaps helps on the ocean when you have a lot more line in the water. Others have interchangeable spools so you can swap out lines. This is actually a fairly cool feature that I am thinking about upgrading to as I want to try to catch different types of fish.


So now you know the basics of selecting a rod and reel setup. This article could have gone on for days, months, and years however this will get you by as a beginner. You can bury yourself in information but these are the basics and should get you out on the water very quickly.

Of course if you would like the easiest possible route that gets you a travel case, rod, reel and fly line already you can do what I did and buy this Ross Worldwide Essence FS Fly Fishing Outfit. There are many other quick start kits like that. I like them because they get you on the water fast and you can learn what your preference is from there without a huge investment.


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