Fly-Rod Buyer's Guide
“What rod are you fishing?”, is one of the most common question between two anglers. Fly rods are the principal point of a fly angler’s collection. Successful fly fishers will know why their rod makes them more likely to catch fish. And though modern-day fly rods are packed with a variety of different technologies, understanding them doesn’t have to be difficult!
Artificial flies have low weights and densities so rods are designed to cast weighted fly lines. This is opposite conventional fishing where the weight of or on the lure carries out the line. A rod’s weight rating represents the weight of line that should be used with it. For example, a five-weight rod should have a five-weight line.
There are several things to consider when determining what rod weight should be used. Some of the most important are the distance of the casts, weather conditions, fly size and fish size. Usually, the larger the fish the heavier the fly, and larger the body of water and stiffer the wind, the heavier weight rating your fly rod should have.
Fly rods can vary greatly in length and are generally longer than conventional rods. The shorter rods (6-8 feet) are excellent for small creeks with many obstacles to cast around. The longer rods (8-10 feet)., work better in larger bodies of water where longer casts are needed to reach the fish. These types of rods are ideal for known waters with aquatic insects and difficult currents because they help you reach over the flows and get a better drift. Rods longer than 10 feet are typically spey or switch rods.
Flex and Action
Flex refers to how arched, or deeply, the rod bends during casting. For the most part fly-rod flex ranges are divided into three categories:
• Tip-flex - The rod flexes in the first third of the rod when casting.
• Mid-flex - The rod flexes to the halfway point while casting.
• Full-flex - The rod flexes all the way to the grip during casting.
A fly rod’s action is determined by how quickly the rod loads and unloads. While this is influenced mostly by line weight (heavier fly lines cause rods to unload slowly), action classifications are given based on how rods cast with the line they were manufactured for (example: a five-weight rod with a five-weight line). Simply put, if a rod loads and unloads quickly, it’s fast action and if a rod loads and unloads slowly, it’s slow action.
The flex and action you want depend on your casting ability as well as the environment and conditions you’re fishing in. Slower rod actions with more flex provide a deliberate casting style, while faster actions with less flex fit well with fast, powerful casting throws.
Though reasonable distance and accuracy are available with almost any well-built rod, fast-action rods are known for extreme distance and powering flies and lines through stiff winds. Slow-action rods are ideal when delicate presentations to uneasy fish are required.
As fly-rod technologies continue to advance, more materials are being used to develop them.
• Graphite – Graphite entered the fly-fishing world in the 1970’s. For the first time, manufacturers could make rods that were light, strong, extremely sensitive and very durable. Since then, manufacturers have continued to improve graphite rods, and today some of the highest-performing rods are graphite.
• Nano-silica resin – This technology increases the benefits of carbon fiber (graphite). Hundreds of thousands of nano-silica particles are infused into the resin that fills the gaps between the cross sections of the carbon fibers. This makes the resin a basic factor of the rod rather than just a “fill-in” which makes it stronger and more powerful.Boron –Added to graphite, boron makes a rod stronger, lighter and more sensitive.• Fiberglass – Characteristically slower than graphite rods, fiberglass rods cater to a slower casting stroke. They fish very well in close quarters because they load with much less line out than most graphite rods do. Many anglers find it not only more effective to go after small fish in small streams with a fiberglass rod.• Bamboo – As the traditional rod material, bamboo has a slightly faster rate of action than fiberglass. It still creates slower rods than carbon-fiber materials. Bamboo rods are typically heavy when compared to graphite and fiberglass, but a finely made bamboo rod is a pleasure to cast.
The grip depends on what you are most comfortable with and the conditions you will be fishing.
- Full-Wells: The handle has two hollow groves one at the forward end, and one at the rear. The shape is asymmetrical, along the axis of the handle. Most often used on midweight to heavyweight rods because it’s easier to add power to the casting stroke with your thumb because of the reverse taper.
- Half-Wells: The handle has only one hollow grove, this can be placed towards the front or to the rear of the handle. The rest of the handle is usually cylindrical and does not taper. Used primarily in midweight and midlength rods.
- Cigar: The handle is symmetrically shaped along the handle axis, tapered at both ends with the largest diameter somewhere in the middle of the handle. Usually used with light rods
Many rods have a fighting butt just underneath the reel seat. The fighting butt lets you comfortably anchor the rod against your body to ease arm fatigue during long battles. A fighting butt is a useful asset when fighting large fish.
Today’s fly rods are most often made in 2 - 7 segments. Of course, the more segments a rod has, the more convenient it is to store. In the past, ferrules (pieces used to connect the segments together) interfered with the transfer of energy throughout the rod (the more ferrules, the deader the action). However, more modern technology has lessened these issues, making a four-piece or seven-piece rod perform more like a two-piece rod.
Sleeve-over ferrules are referred to when one section slides over the tip of the one below it and seem to be the most common and are more often used on faster rods, as they have a stiffness that works well with fast actions. Spigot ferrules comprise of an insert that extends out of the bottom section, allowing the top section to slide over and are used more often in smaller, slower rods – especially fiberglass rods, where the consistent taper supplied by spigot ferrules is useful.
Metal loops attached to the rod using thread and a light epoxy are called guides and they are just that - they guide the fly line up and out of the rod. There are three types of guides: tip-top, running and stripping guides. The tip-top guide is the guide on the very end of the fly rod; running guides are found in the middle of the rod; and the stripping guide is the first and sometimes second guide on the rod. Usually made of stainless steel or plated-wire some higher-end rods will use alloys such as nickel or titanium.
There are several types of reel seats. The right one for you depends heavily on the environment you’re fishing. If you are fishing saltwater, it’s important that you choose a reel seat with saltwater-safe components (example: aluminum, titanium, carbon fiber, etc.). A reel seat with a wood insert will eventually deteriorate in saltwater thus becoming ess effective at keeping the reel snug to your rod.
Another thing to consider is how the reel is “locked” to the reel seat.
• Uplocking – The locking nut turns toward the grip. This leaves more room between the bottom of the reel and the bottom of the rod, adding length to the rod’s fighting butt.
• Downlocking – The locking nut turns toward the butt. Because it locks down, it works with gravity instead of against it, making this system the least likely to slip.
• Slip rings –Two rings slip over your reel foot to hold it in place. A common concern with this type of reel seat is the difficulty of slipping the rings over the reel foot. Over time, the cork molds to the reel foot, making this easier and creating a custom fit that holds the reel snug.