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. (

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.  Continue reading “How to Choose Fly Rods”