Choosing a Fly rod (Part One)
  |  First Published: June 2005

When I was first thought I would put together my thoughts on this subject I assumed it would be a simple matter. It’s not. You see, there are so many different types of rods available these days, and they are designed for just about every fishing application you can dream of, that it is very difficult to make the choice a simple one.

If you can eventually narrow the field to a specific type and style of rod, then you are faced with choosing from possibly four or five different brands.

This final choice I liken to selecting a partner. Some of us prefer the tall slim types while others the more curvaceous models. With both fly rods, and your partner, it is imperative that you look after them and most importantly – understand how they work. If you can do this, then it doesn’t matter which model you choose – it will work well and be a lasting relationship with much joy.

So with fly rods, how can we work out what suits us, and our needs best?

Firstly, let me say that just about all fly rods in any price range on the market today are good and initially you should not disregard any of them. Car manufacturers make many different models under the one badge but as we know some of them are brummies and some are exceptional. The same goes for rod makers. Some may have an exceptional 8’ 6” 5 weight but the 9’ 7 weight is ordinary. Within reason, you don’t need to be too brand-specific.

Your choice should be more a matter of deciding how much you can spend, looking at what your needs are and finally, having a good look and feel of what is available. Let’s look at it in that order of priority.

You may eventually end up with a couple of different brand names in different weights and lengths for different situations. (This is how it is for me. After 24 years of high level tournament casting and 12 years of full time guiding I have 5 different brands of rod, in three different lengths and 4 different line weights)


The cost of a standard fly rod varies enormously from $150 to $1,300. The old story of ‘you get what you pay for’ does in most cases apply to fly rods. However, just because a rod is expensive doesn’t mean it will outperform a cheaper version. The old guy that taught me to cast all those years ago used to say that the most important aspect was the “nut behind the butt”. Perhaps in fly casting more so than any other sport this is true. A good caster will be able to make the $150 rod far out perform the poor caster with a $1,100 job. The bottom line is that before you part with heaps of money for any rod you should start thinking about paying a little for some proper casting instruction!

Looking at it from a beginner’s point of view, if you are really keen and believe you will be flyfishing for years to come, I think you should spend more that $500 on a rod unless you really can't afford it. This will buy you a well-known brand name that will work better than the cheap versions if you spend the time learning how to use it. It will in most cases buy you, as the original owner, an unconditional lifetime warranty.

A fly rod at 9’ long and as thin as a match is about as strong as an eggshell. This guarantee could be worth two or three times the original investment to you. (I don’t think I know of any of my fishing friends that haven’t busted a fly rod).

Rods in this price range will have better quality fittings that last longer than the cheapies and finally – they look good. Remember, if you can’t catch fish you may as well look good.

If you can afford it there should be no question about it. Don’t be a cheap skate.

If your budget doesn’t allow for an extravagance like this, don’t worry, there are plenty of good rods around under the $500 mark.

Some makers target the beginners market by offering combos (rod, reel and line). This is a reasonable concept and the value for money is hard to beat. Remember, you get what you pay for though. You may prefer to spend a little extra and buy a steel reel instead of a plastic one (they will try to sell the plastic as ‘graphite composite’). You may also want to put a higher quality full-length fly line on, or even one line weight heavier.

One way or another, you should look for a brand that feels light yet strong (whippy as most people think is not necessarily better). The rod should have larger rather than smaller diameter runners and there should be enough of them. When you join the two sections together and wobble the rod you should not be able to feel a ‘knock’ in the ferrule. Chrome steel type runners are better than the inserted type.

Generally, the less or shorter the bindings on the rod, the better it will work and feel (a weight reduction). If you are starting in flyfishing and the rod is weighted for two line weights, say a 6/7, then my advice is to buy the heavier weight line. This line will help you feel the load on the rod at the short distances you will start with.

Regarding Lines

Think about buying a double taper line as your first line rather than a weight forward. If you do not understand the differences then you must find out. Also think about purchasing one of our ‘practice casting kits’. This kit consists of a reel spooled with a fluoro orange double taper line, leaders and targets. There are three practice exercises explained in a booklet and if you invest some time and effort into practice I guarantee you will improve your fishing outcomes. Besides, it is a bad idea to practice casting with your expensive fishing line.

In next month’s issue, I’ll conclude this article by discussing the importance of knowing what type of fishing you’ll be doing, multi piece rods and extra considerations for ladies and children.

Buying good quality gear should provide you with years of pleasure – and a few good fish too!

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