Choosing Your First Fly Rod


Choosing your first fly rod can be daunting experience. My first rod was a hand-me-down from a neighbor, a Berkley travel rod, 6 pieces, heavy, and as soft as a noodle. I had the whole summer off from school and spent many hours casting poppers in the neighborhood canals. The heavy weight and slow action helped me to develop a decent overhead cast and by the end of the summer season I was well on my way to learning other casts. It wasn’t until few years later that I actually bought a new fly rod and realized just how much I didn’t know about fly rods. I hope this article will help you to choose a good starter rod that will bring you lots of great experiences.
There are many fine manufacturers producing affordable rods, unfortunately this may leave you overwhelmed with choices. My first recommendation is to find someone locally who can help you with choosing a fly rod. More importantly someone that can help you properly learn the fundamentals of fly casting. I can’t stress how important it is to learn and develop good casting habits. A solid understanding regarding the principles of fly casting can very well make the difference between pleasurable and not-so pleasurable fly fishing experiences. Please do not misinterpret the above comments; I fully understand there are many facets of fly fishing and they are all ingredients to a perfect fly fishing adventure. I simply mean, we all want to catch fish and many times it’s the ability to cast effectively that makes the difference.

What a beginner should consider when choosing a fly rod:
– Progressive action
– Level of casting expertise
– Where Will You Be Using the Fly Rod
– Type of fish that will be pursued
– Price range

Progressive Action
You want a progressive action fly rod. Most fly rods today are designed to have a progressive action. Progressive action means that the rod will bend deeper as more power and fly line mass is applied. In other words, flex increases consistently from tip to butt which gives the rod a smooth balanced feel. So if you make a short easy cast only the tip will bend. If you make a powerful distance cast the rod will bend completely down to the butt. You do not want a rod that only bends at the tip no matter how much line is beyond the rod tip or is so sloppy soft that it fully bends with the easiest of shortest casts. As you demo rods, which I highly recommend, you will feel and see the differences in rod actions.
Look for fast recovery in the rod’s action but not extremely fast. Recovery is how fast the rod straightens when the cast is stopped and then the fly line load is released.
Determine the rod’s bounce. Bounce is defined by how much distance the rod tip moves after stopping the rod. It’s possible to see the bounce shape in the fly line after stopping the rod. The rod has too much bounce, if you see many humps instead of one wiggle in the line. Rods with too much rod bounce should be avoided.
Regarding AFTM rod ratings, don’t pay attention them, go with feel and your fishing requirements. A very brief description of AFTM: The Association of Fishing Tackle Manufacturers (AFTM) created a scale of line weights used to rate a fly rods performance. But due to its subjective nature it is not very reliable.

Level of Casting Expertise
For most beginners, I recommend choosing a medium-slow to medium-fast action fly rod. This action will help you learn, and feel, the basic casts quickly. This action will also help you learn new and advanced skills more rapidly. An important plateau in successful angling is to understand the relationship between good fly casting and successful catching. Before you can catch the big one, sipping stillborns across the stream in the far side eddy, you have to be able to make an accurate presentation cast across three varying speeds of current to the feeding fish. Maybe your out cruising the edge a of a lake and you find a tail tipping Carp, hogging the bottom in gin clear water. You’ve got one chance with a 50 foot cast – ready go.

Where Will You Be Using the Fly Rod
If you’re normally fishing in windy conditions then by all means choose fast action rod. But I also recommend practicing with a slower rod in calm areas before attempting to cast routinely in windy conditions. Because what you really need to cast into a strong head wind is a powerful narrow looped cast that is directed at a steeper angle to the target – a fast fly rod just makes it easier but it isn’t required. Again, the quicker you learn the basics the quicker you’ll be ready for more challenging casts. If you’ll be fishing on tight, overgrown mountain brooks, then a slower rod makes good sense. A slower rod will load a light fly line even on very short casts. It will provide you with a more lively action for fighting small fish such as a native Brook trout. It will also help you to land the fish even on very small, fine-gauged hooks. A shorter fly rod length will help in this type of overgrown, tight environment as well. Conversely if you are normally standing waist deep in a wide river then a longer stiffer rod will help you to mend line and make longer casts. So make sure the rod you choose fits the environment.

Type of Fish That Will be Pursued
The smooth delicate action of a Bamboo 3 weight, spring creek rod, certainly isn’t what you would want when fishing for heavy Tarpon or Carp. Determine what type of species you are after then choose appropriately. What type of fly will you normally be using? Spring creek fishing for Trout usually requires fine tippets and small flies. Small Mouth Bass anglers routinely use a lot of poppers and streamers. Steelhead and Salmon fishing may require weighted line. Choosing a fly rod based on the game fish also doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically have to buy a certain length, weight, or action fly rod. It means your logical choices are narrowed. I believe many fly shop staff assistants can show you a logical beginner’s choice for almost any species – and it wouldn’t necessarily be the fastest action of the bunch.

Price Range
Go slow with your purchases. Get into the sport, grow, learn, and then go big. Unless you have this burning desire to blow your cash, save it until you’re ready to know the difference between good and great – believe me it isn’t always price. You’ll know you’re ready for a better rod when you notice what is truly missing from your current selection. The best fly fisherman can do it with a broom stick or a no fly rod at all; they’ve got what is really important – skills. Today’s market is ideal for purchasing an affordable high-quality fly rod. Modern technology is fueling the advancement for low cost high-quality production fly rods so take advantage of it.

Additional Information:
How do you get to Carnegie Hall…practice, practice, practice.

Fly Rod Manufacturers/Distributors:
C.F. Burkheimer
Echo Fly Rods
G. Loomis
Seele Rods
Spring Creek Bamboo
Temple Fork Rods
Thomas and Thomas Fly Rods
Winston Fly Rods

Tight loop fly casting

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