How to Choose Fly Rods

 How to Choose Fly Rods

 description of rod actions,
tests to use in choosing a fly rod,
how to save money on a fly rod

Fly Rod Actions

are described in a variety of terms depending on the manufacturer.  But essentially each description relates to where the rod flexes under load when casting.

  • Fast, tip action or tip flex — main flex is in the top 1/3 to 1/4 of the tip section depending on manufacturer.  This action loads very fast and requires precise timing and control.  (Usually reserved for advanced or expert casters)
  • Medium or Mid-flex — rod bends in the middle 1/2 to upper 1/3 of the rod.  This action is good for beginners to advanced casters who just like a “forgiving” feel.
  • Slow or Full-flex — rod bends from tip to butt section.  While very forgiving of casting mistakes, this type of rod action produces a slow rod recovery rate.  In my opinion, a slow action can be so slow that it can interfere with hooking fish.
  • Progressive — No noticeable difference between the stiffer and more flexible parts of a rod.

 

How to Choose a Fly Rod

As a beginner starting out there are a bewildering number of fly rod choices ranging from 6 feet to a monster two handed 13 to 15 foot spey rod.  For fly fishing Colorado and surrounding states you obviously don’t need a two handed rod.  Choosing a rod suited for Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah or New Mexico depends a lot on understanding that most trout are caught at distances under 20 feet from you.  This is not just my opinion but the opinion of fly fishing great and fly rod builder Tom Morgan, “During the last 40 years, most trout have been taken from 20 to 40 feet and I expect the next 50 years will be the same.”  (From fly fishing legend Andre Puyan’s column in the 2004 Gear Guide in Fly Fishing America on page eleven.)

A professional guide I know teaches her students to fish within 10 to 12 feet. I have caught fish within 3 feet of where I was standing so long casts are not always needed.  But good presentation is a necessity. (http://www.fly-fishing-colorado.com/nymph-fishing-and-gourmet-cooking/)

A trout can take a fly and spit it out in less than 1/10 second.  Do you really think you are good enough to put out 60 feet of line, mend it for a perfect presentation, detect a strike and set the hook with 60 feet of line out in less than 1/10 second. “Let’s get real here.”  If you are planning on purchasing a rod and line to put those 60 foot casts, stop reading here.  What I have to say will be of little interest.

Line Weights

Line Weights are one of the most important considerations in choosing a proper fly rod outfit.  Lines range from Sage’s 00 to a 16 for use in salt water fishing.

Bruce Richards, former product engineer and fly line designer for 3M Scientific Anglers says that the delicacy of presentation is determined by the mass at the front of the fly line.  A DT and a WF line with the same taper and tip diameter will deliver the same.

The trick to roll casting with a DT or a WF line is to make sure the larger diameter belly is in the rod tip.  If you are trying to transmit energy through the smaller diameter running line, you will not transmit enough energy to the belly to make the line do what you want.

Almost all WF lines have heads that are 44 to 49 feet long.  Remember that most of us don’t have the need or the ability to roll cast longer than 45 feet.

Basic fly lines for use in Colorado and surrounding states are:

  1. Double Taper — A 90 foot long line tapered equally at both ends.  The first and last 15 feet of line are tapered to increase in weight from the tip to the belly of the line.  Then the line diameter and weight is constant for the next 60 feet.  Next the line starts to loose weight and line diameter until it reaches a tip size equal to the front section of the fly line.Usually marked as DT1, DT2 and so on through DT6.  When one end of the line becomes worn, you can turn it around and use the unused tapered end.Janice O’Shea , a professional fly fishing guide recommends a DT5 weight line as a good starter line for fly fishing Colorado.
  2. Weight Forward — The first 30 to 50 feet of the 90 feet fly line contain most of the weight.  The line behind the head is a smaller diameter line.  Noted as WF5, WF6, WF7 and so on.  Generally weight forward lines are used on rods for 7 weight up.  A weight forward line will load a rod quickly.  They are good for casting heavy nymphs, bushy dry flies and terrestrials into a stiff breeze.

 

Choosing a Balanced Fly Rod, Reel and Fly Line Combination

In my research, I have found these three considerations seem to be common. 

  • Pick a rod weight suited to the species of fish you normally fish.
  • Pick a rod length for the water you normally fish.
  • Pick a rod price that makes you reach a bit to get it.  (This way you will appreciate and care for your rod.)

That seems simple enough right.  Wrong.  There is the question of matching the line wt to the rod and to the reel, upper body strength of male vs. female when picking a rod, the physical balance test, the spine test and the casting test.

  • Rod Length — What is a good length for use in Colorado.  Most of Colorado you will be fishing at 30 feet or less. Or on smaller streams.  I use a 9 foot rod most of the year until late August when water levels in my favorite small creeks are way down.  Then I switch to an 8.5 foot G. Loomis rod. An 8 to 9 foot rod is a good choice to begin with.  Later you may wish to acquire a 7.5 or 7 foot rod for the small streams.  But I fish Bear Creek which is about 20 feet wide most of the year with a 9 foot rod so I know it can be done.Gender will make a difference in choosing a rod length.  In general, women have less upper body strength than most men.  So I would recommend a nine foot rod for a 5 wt line for a man and an 8 foot rod for a 5 weight line for a woman.Warranty — Never purchase a fly rod without a lifetime warranty.  Sooner or later you will shut it in a car door, hit the ceiling fan with it or just step on it.  You will want your fly rod fixed at little or no cost to you.Brands — Recommendations from professional guides range from Sage, St. Croix, Scott to G Loomis in 8 to 9 feet for a 5 wt WF line.Orvis offers Streamline Fly Fishing Combos with rod, reel, backing, line, leader and case for only $198. The Streamline Fly-fishing Combo fly rod is a tip flex action.  Streamline Fly Fishing Combo contains a — 9foot; 5wt; 4pc; tip flex rod, reel, backing, line and leader.  This is an Orvis best selling outfit for Trout fishing. But the Streamline Rods are only guaranteed against defects in materials and workmanship. And the reel is diecast rather than a machined reel.

    The Orvis upgrade Clearwater II Trout Fly Fishing Outfit comes with an 8ft 6in 5wt tip-flex 9.5 fly rod, a Battenkill Bar Stock III fly reel pre-spooled with 20 lb. backing, a WF5F Clearwater fly line and a great Safe Passage case.  Plus a 25 year Warranty for $365.  Clearwater Rods are individually available in a variety of actions from 6.5 mid-flex through 9.5 tip flex for prices from $179 throuth $219.

    St Croix Legend Ultra are the second best fly rods St Croix makes.
    Quality in a Mid-Priced Rod from $300 to $390

    Avid Fly Rods are St Croix’s mid-level series
    Quality Value Priced Rods from $180

  • Spine Test — Remember how on the fly rod manufacturing page, we talked about the spine of a rod.  Take time to locate the spine of the rod you are considering buying.  Make sure the guides are lined up with the spine or are 180 degrees from the spine.  Some say guides aligned on the spine increase the distance and some say opposite the spine increases accuracy.  In either case you want the guides on the spine or opposite or your rod will not cast accurately or easily.
  • Choosing a balanced fly rod outfit.  Balanced means the line weight and the rod are matched to each other.  Just above the rod grip, you should be able to find the line weight the rod was designed to handle.  Line wt 2, or 3 or 4 or 5 and so on.  Generally a modern fly rod will be designed to be used with only one fly line weight.  (However, you can usually up-line a fly rod by one line weight and get away with it. Ex. A 5 wt rod can handle a 6 wt line.  Up-lining will load the rod faster and can make casting easier.)
  • Fly Reels — Modern fly reels are also marked for the line they are designed to handle.  Match your reel to your rod line weight.  A 5 weight rod for a 5 weight line and a reel designed to handle a 5 weight line is a good starter outfit for Colorado and surrounding states.
  • Physical Balance — Put the reel with the line on the rod under consideration.  String the line through the guides and leave about 3 feet of line out. Next put your forefinger crosswise on the rod just behind the front of the grip.  Ideally the rod should balance level or close to it.This is not a test you will find in many books but think about it.  You will be making 100 or more casts a day when fishing all day.  Do you want to do that with a physically unbalanced rod.
  • The Casting Test — If you are purchasing a balanced fly rod, reel and line from a fly shop, take it to a casting area and try it out before purchasing it.  Try some 25 foot roll casts.  Try some 40 to 50 foot overhand casts. If the combination of rod, reel and line feels good to you then you have a winner.  If not, go talk to the shop owner and tell him or her your concerns.If you are a beginning fly fisherman, you may want a rod with a medium or mid-flex action as opposed to a fast or tip-flex action.  The medium action is more forgiving of casting mistakes when starting out.  (I don’t mean you should not learn correct casting technique by using a medium action.  But you may avoid needless frustration while learning to cast with a medium or mid-flex action.)

    How to save money when choosing fly rods

    Purchase a combination fly rod, reel, line, backing and leader as a starter set will save you money when getting started.

    Recommended beginning fly fishing outfits for Colorado Fly Fishing:

     

    Orvis Fly Fishing Outfits:

    Recommended for all around Colorado trout fly fishing.
    The “Streamline” outfit is an Orvis best selling product.
    target species — Trout
    Streamline Fly Fishing Combo — 9foot; 5wt; 4pc; tip flex rod, reel, backing, line and leader.

    Nine Foot length helps in mending line, nymph fishing, or reaching out with a dry fly.   Streamline III Die-cast aluminum Reel with adjustable disc drag.  Outfit has a 5 weight-forward floating fly line, backing, tapered nylon leader, tippet. *Guaranteed only against defects in materials and workmanship.  Here is the best part — the price is only $198 for the entire outfit.  

    Fish Creek Outfits

    The Fish Creek Fly Fishing Outfit offers a 9ft 5wt 4pc fly rod, 5wt disc drag machined fly reel and 5wt line. We also offer the Fish Creek in a 71/2ft 4wt 4pc configuration that makes for a good packin rod. The Fish Creek 71/2 rod has excellent accuracy for the short casts and reserve power to reach out to 60 feet plus for those occasional long casts.

    Stone Creek Outfits

    We also offer Stone Creek outfits in a variety of configurations. The fly rods are solid technology designed to take abuse and keep on going. The Stone Creek fly rods have the power to handle bushy dries and big nymph rigs in a high wind with ease. The Reels are machined from 6061 T-6 Aluminum and come with a sealed spindle bearing set and a sealed disc drag system.

    Our best value fly fishing outfit is the Trout Stalker. A medium action 4pc fly rod, reel, line and leader starting at $180 for 4,5,6 weights and only $210 for an 8wt.

    These outfits are offered in our main fly shop at http://www.fly-fishing-colorado.com

    Fly Rod Manufacturing — How is my fly rod manufactured?