Analysis of Fly Rods

 Analysis of Fly Rods


How to tell premium fly fishing rods 
from cheap fly rods

Are there ways to tell premium fly rods from cheap fly fishing rods?  The answer is a definitive Yes!

Here are some items to examine when looking for a premium fly rod.  See the premium 9 foot 4 piece travel rod shown above.

  1. Premium fly rods will generally have 1 guide for approximately each foot of rod not counting the main stripping guide. Premium fly rods may have two stripping guides but the second one is counted in the guide count. For example, the nine-foot premium fly rod pictured above has a total of ten guides not including the main stripping guide.

    As the rod length increases so should the number of guides. Remember the rule of 1 guide for approximately each 1 foot of rod length plus a tip top guide.  (Ex.  A premium 8’6" fly rod should have 9 guides plus the main stripping guide = 10 guides.  (Round up to the next higher whole fly rod length number, then count your guides)


  2. A good model fly rod will generally have 1 less guide than the premium models.  For the nine foot model shown here, a good rod would have nine guides not counting the main stripping guide.


  3. A cheaper model fly rod will generally have still fewer guides not including the stripping guide. For example, a cheap nine-foot fly rod may have only eight guides not including the main stripping guide.

    These less expensive fly rods will not cast long lengths of line as easily as premium fly rods will. Think about it. The guides carry the line as it shoots forward toward the target.

    With less guides on the fly fishing rod, the line will tend to develop a little belly between the guides. With any belly in the line between guides, a lot of energy is lost.  Loss of energy equals loss of forward motion and casting distance.  Cheap fly rods also make you work harder to cast because you have to work to put more energy into the cast instead of letting the fly rod do it for you.  Thus, a 60-foot cast with a 12-foot leader is more difficult using a cheap fly rod than with a premium rod.


  4. Quality of the fly rod components:

  • Reel Seat– This is the part that holds the reel to the fly rod. Reel seats on rods for fresh water fishing are generally made of metal holders with a wood insert in between. They may also be made of aluminum or stainless steel.  Personally, I like the reel seats with wood spacers as they add beauty and charm to the rod.  There are several different types of wood reel seats spacers out there.  Ask your local fly shop owner about them when looking at fly rods.

    Does the reel you are going to use fit snugly in the reel seat.  Take your reel in with you when shopping or put one on you are looking at buying.  (This is hard to do when shopping online so make sure you get a money back satisfaction guarantee when purchasing.)

    A good reel seat these days is uplocking.  This means that the retainer rings screw up toward the reel to hold it in place. This model reel seat keeps the rings away from your hand when casting and avoids accidental loosening of the rings.  There is nothing worse than having a lifetime trophy fish on and having your reel fall off in the middle of the fight.

    REC — Nickel Silver or anodized aluminum reel seats are used by St. Croix in their top line rods series.


  • Cork Grip – This is the part you hold to make your cast. Cork comes in grades A and B. Less expensive Rods may use a B grade but that won’t affect your casting. A quality fly fishing rod should use Grade A cork with no holes or crumbly grainy parts when sanded smooth. Grips may in the shape shown or in a modified curl at the top end, allowing a place to brace your thumb when casting. 

    Style 1 — Reverse Wellington — flare above reel seat

    Style 2 — Reverse Wellington with cutout — reel seat inserted into grip

    Style 3 — Full Wellington with about a 1 or 2 inch fighting butt — Normally most fly rods for fly fishing in Colorado, Utah, Montana or Wyoming would not use these fighting butts.

    Style 4 — Used with a two handed Spey salmon or salt water fishing rods.


  • Stripping Guide – is the first guide above the grip. It is round and looks a lot like a guide on a spinning rod, except it is lined inside with a ceramic insert. The insert reduces line wear when the line passes over the guide.  If there are two stripping guides, both of them should be ceramic lined.  

    Fly Rod Strip Guide with Ceramic Insert  Fuji® SiC stripper guides with titanium-plated frames are used by St. Croix on their top line models. 



  • Mid or Snake Guides come in both double foot and single foot models.  If a fly fishing rod is built using single foot guides, it will be for smaller line weights.  00 through 6.  Heavier line weights will generally use a traditional double foot guide.  In either case a high quality premium fly rod should be using titanium or nickel plated guides.  Lesser quality fly rods should be using chrome plated guides at a minimum. Coated Guides  reduce line friction, line wear, guide wear and ease of casting from reduced friction over traditional wire guides.

    traditional double foot fly rod snake guides 
    Traditional Double Food Snake Guides shown above.

    Single Foot Wire Round Fly Rod Snake Guides
    Single Foot Round Wire Snake Guides

    Single Foot Round Ceramic Fly Rod Guides

  • NEW Product ===> A new product in the fly rod guide market are RECOIL® Guides & Tip Tops.  RECOIL guides are marketed exclusively by REC Components and designed in partnership with Ultimate NiTi Technologies, Inc, the exclusive manufacturer

    These new guides are manufactured from a nickel titanium alloy.  This "Special Shape Memory" alloy is so hard yet flexible that fly rod guides don’t need ceramic inserts to reduce wear and they return to their original shape after many deformations.  My local fly fishing shop owner in Aurora, CO said Gary Loomis is using them on the G. Loomis $600 Rods. So there appears to be exciting changes ahead for the fly rod industry.

  • Top Guide – This guide is again a round guide that fits over the end of the rod blank. It is glued in place and wrapped on the bottom end. The round shape facilitates shooting the line. The round shape also allows for the line leader connection to slide easily inside the tip area during the landing of a fish.

    Fly rod wire loop top guides
    Fly Rod ceramic top guides


  • Ferrules – These are the parts where the rod pieces fit together.  There are two main types of ferrule systems in use today.  Tip over butt where the butt of the section above fits over the tip of the section below.  

    Then there is Scott Rods internal ferrule solution where a specially designed rod piece is fit into the tip of the bottom section.  This tip piece then fits inside the butt of the top piece.  Scott claims this allows the construction of a "continuous tapered" rod which will cast better.  Whether one is better than the other is your choice.  But remember the more labor that goes into a fly rod, the more the cost.

    Rod Windings – These are the thread windings over the feet of the strip guides(s), the snake guides and the ferrules if Tip over Butt.  The windings should be close together with no loose ends showing.  There should be several coatings of epoxy finish over the windings to protect them from wear and unraveling.

    Rod Finish – In the past most fly rods, would have several coats of rod epoxy on the blanks to protect the blank and to enhance the appearance.  Newer blanks may not need any finish to be attractive and are tough enough to be wear resistant without rod epoxy.