Choosing a fly rod (Part 2)
  |  First Published: December 2005

In this, the second part of the choosing a fly rod series, we look at different fishing conditions and the multitude of choices in fly rods that are available these days.

common fishing conditions

Once you have set a price range and narrowed the brands down a little, the specific rod in the range that will most suit you is dictated solely by what you want to use it for. Let’s take a look at some common scenarios.

Small/medium streams and rivers

Any rod between a 4-6wt would be fine in smaller streams and rivers. The most important thing to me is length: a 7’ rod is much more useful than a 9’ model and anything longer is useless. When I get a chance to fish small streams with mates it is painful to see the number of times they get hung up in trees. They often say, “you had better cast into that run, my rod’s too long to cast there.”

Make sure you don’t pay too much for this sort of rod unless it comes with a guarantee, as you are more likely to break a rod in this environment than any other.

Larger rivers/lakes

Rod and line weights between 5-8wt are suitable. A 9’ 6wt is a good all-rounder. I like a 9’ 5wt for tailing fish but I couldn’t live without a high quality 10’ 6wt for windlane fisheries or larger lake fishing.

If you are likely to be doing a lot of boat fishing you should consider a 9’6” or 10’ rod. The longer rod makes it much easier to cast, roll cast and also control flies when using a loch-style technique.

If you think you might want to dabble in saltwater flyfishing, opt for a heavier rod.

Multi-piece rods

My advice is to buy a multi-piece rod, particularly if you plan to use it for what it was designed for – travel. There is no doubt the fishing is better if you travel around and get off the beaten track and a long rod tube really is a hindrance.

Rod action

Some manufacturers make rods from differing qualities of graphite. This is primarily done to suit the different price points of their markets. Of course, lower quality graphite is cheaper and this generally means the cheaper rods are slower or more parabolic in action. Some manufacturers change the action by making a faster tapering blank, automatically giving a faster action.

Until recently, the top rod makers were in a race to develop the fastest tip actioned rods available. There was a common perception that the expensive, super fast action rods were the best and most desired. Interestingly enough, they now focus as much development and marketing energy on the slower actions.

Sage for instance recognise that faster rods don’t suit everyone. Another well-known top of the range brand is Winston – they build a more moderate actioned rod. Scott and Thomas are other medium action brands.

You really need to settle on a rod action that will suit your casting style and the fishing circumstances. For example, if you’re older with a little arthritis and have no desire to pelt heavy wet flies into the wind all day, then the slow/medium action rods will suit you better. If you are young, strong and gung-ho, then the more powerful tip action rods are for you.

Ladies and children

I don’t mean to sound sexist by singling out ladies but in most cases they are not as physically strong as men. When it comes to casting performance this does not matter much. What is lacking in strength can, and usually is, made up for in timing and technique.

A good example of this remains vividly in my mind some 20 years after the event. I was competing in a world casting championship in Canada and just before one of the distance events, was introduced to a German guy who was the world record holder at the time. I remember the intimidation I felt – this guy literally towered over me and his handshake was like the grip of a 6” Dawn vice. At 5’10” I was a foot shorter than him and my chest was like a sparrow’s compared to his. I am proud to say that at the end of the day I cast several metres further than him to win a silver medal. It was timing and technique that enabled me to beat him.

For ladies and kids, a rod that is long, heavy and strong would not be suitable. It would make it impossible to get the best from their technique and timing. However, an 8’6’ 6wt would be ideal. Innovator is just one manufacturer that makes an exceptional rod of this size. They retail for around $200.

The size of the grip is another important consideration for people with small hands. If the rod grip is too large, it will be uncomfortable to use for long periods and learning a proper casting stroke will be difficult. Some manufacturers make a series of rods with small diameter butts specifically targeted at women and children. This doesn’t mean that these are the only ones you should look at.

If you find a rod that you like and it’s uncomfortable to hold because of the size of the grip, don’t worry as you can fix it with sandpaper. Take a small piece of medium grit paper with you when you next use the rod and, every so often, take time out and sand a bit from here and a bit from there. Don’t sit down in the garage and try to get it right in one go. I’ve attempted this myself and you just can’t do it!

Where to from here?

Listen to the tackle store staff – they know their products better than anyone. They should also listen carefully to your needs and requirements. Make sure you talk with a good cross-section of tackle stores. Some have relationships with a select few manufacturers and won’t tell you too much about others.

Finally, try before you buy, particularly if you are spending heaps of dough. A good tackle retailer will produce a reel and line then offer you a cast outside on the footpath.

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