SELECTING YOUR ROD:
Selecting a fly fishing rod is not difficult. Though there are literally thousands of choices, there are three things you will need to know: the rod “weight” , the rod length, and the action of the rod.
Most rods sold today are made from graphite which is a huge improvement from years past. The advantages of graphite rods are that they are very lightweight, strong, and will consistently cast your fly. For a beginner, I wouldn’t consider anything but a graphite rod.
Also, most reputable manufacturers have an unconditional replace or repair lifetime warranty for their rods. Don’t buy a rod that doesn’t have this warranty. I’d bet a majority of anglers have broken a rod or two in their lives and knowing you can get a free replacement is worth paying the extra money up front.
The prices of graphite rods can range from less than £50 to over £1,000. You should be able to purchase a good quality graphite rod with a lifetime warranty for about £100.
Rod Weight - The purpose of the fly fishing rod is to cast the fly to a desired target to catch a fish. Since the fly tied at the end of the line is very light, the line must have weight in order to cast it any distance. This is different than spin fishing where the weight comes from the lure.
Fly fishing rod manufacturers design rods to cast a specific line weight to achieve optimum results. 2, 3, and 4 weight rods are designed to catch smaller fish and casting relatively short distances. They are ideal for small streams or fishing for small fish in lakes. 5 and 6 weight rods are good general purpose rods that can be used just about anywhere. Rods weight 7 and larger are good for fishing for larger fish like steelhead or salmon where you will catch heavy fish or need cast long distances.
If the bulk of your fishing will be in small streams, rivers, and lakes, a general purpose 5 weight rod should be all you need. As you gain experience and want to try hand at small creeks or for larger fish, you can always purchase a second rod.
Rod Length – Rods come in varying lengths from 7 to over 10-feet. The majority are manufactured around 9-feet. You will want a shorter rod if you are casting short distances in tight areas with lots of brush or trees around you. Most short rods are lighter weight rods. Conversely, longer rods are available if you need to cast a long distance with little obstructions around you.
A 9-foot rod is a good length for general purpose fishing unless you know for certain you will need a shorter or longer rod.
Rods are manufactured in several pieces so they can be stored and transported more safely and easily. They come in 2, 3, 4, and sometime even 5 pieces that are slid together to make your final length. There is no loss in performance with a rod that breaks down in more pieces, so I would recommend purchasing a 3 or 4 piece rod. They may cost slightly more, but they much easier to pack around than a 2 piece rod.
Rod Action – The action of the rod is a little more ambiguous than the rod weight or length. The action is essentially where the rod flexes when a load is applied. Rods come in three action types: slow, medium, and fast.
Slow action rods will bend in the bottom third of the rod near your reel. A slow action rod could be described as “whippy” and can be hard to cast long distances. A Medium action rod will bend near the middle of the rod. Fastaction rods could be considered “stiff” and bend in the last third of the rod. They will provide more power when casting and thus more distance. A drawback is that fast action rods are more susceptible to break near the tip if not used correctly when landing fish.
In general, most beginners should purchase a fast action rod as it is easier and more accurate when cast longer distances. However, you should try casting the rod before purchasing it. Take it for a test drive. This will determine what action best suites your style of casting.
FLY FISHING REEL SELECTION
Construction Material – Reels can be made of many different materials ranging from graphite to titanium but most are made from aluminum. Expensive reels are machined from bar stock while less expensive reels are formed or pressed. Internal components include sealed ball bearings, stainless steels gears, and other parts.
Drag – The drag system is one of the most important parts of the reel. You should look for a reel that has a Teflon (or similar synthetic material) or cork drag system. The drag allows you to keep constant pressure on the fish preventing it from breaking your leader. Drag systems are fairly simple. As you tighten the drag lever, the spool is compressed on either cork or Teflon increasing the friction or pressure. Some reels have no drag system at all. The fisherman applies pressure with his hand to control the drag.
Arbor Size – The arbor is the inner cylinder that your line is wrapped around. There has been a lot of talk lately of the advantages of arbors with large circumferences. Advantages include less line memory, faster line retrieval, and most important, better control of hooked fish. A large arbor is certainly not a requirement, but you should look for the largest diameter arbor within your price range.
Saltwater Proof – If you are going to be fishing in saltwater, you should definitely purchase a reel that is sealed from the saltwater. This will increase the cost but it is necessary. A word of caution. An expensive reel does not mean it is saltwater proof.
FLY FISHING LINES
while the designation of fly lines: may be the same between manufacturers, there are some differences between lines. Manufacturers may use different materials and different structural designs for floatation. They use different coatings to make the lines harder or softer. Most fly lines are floating lines, but manufacturers also make sinking lines for fishing nymphs in deep water or lakes.
Double Taper (DT) Lines – Double taper lines are tapered on both ends of the line. You can reverse the line on the reel when one end begins to crack or is worn and you essentially have a new line. Double taper lines have a more gradual taper than weight forward lines. This design increases the precision of the cast and gently lies down on the water. Because of this, double taper lines are a good choice for beginners.
Weight Forward (WF) Lines – Weight forward lines have a section of the largest taper near the end of the line. This puts most of the mass at the end of the line allowing anglers to more easily and quickly load their rod for more casting power. This translates into longer casts. However, the fly presentation may not be as gentle as a double taper line.
Make sure to match your line weight with the type of fishing you will be doing and to the rod and reel size. Also, weight forward lines can be matched to the action of your rod. They are made for slow, medium, and fast action rods.
Level Lines – Level lines have the diameter thickness throughout the line. These are the most inexpensive lines and are hard to cast and not as accurate as double taper or weight forward lines.
Triangle Taper – Triangle taper lines have a gradual taper increasing in diameter from the tip of the line to about 25 to 40 feet. It then necks down to a level line. It provides the mass for long accurate casts, but also gives gentle presentations because most of the mass is away from the fly.
Backing – Backing is a inexpensive cord like material wound on the spool of the reel before the line. Your fly line is attached to the backing. The backing provides several purposes. It fills the spool to its capacity making it easier to reel. It also provides backup line in case a big fish runs and takes all your line off your spool. Reel manufacturers will recommend the type and length of backing needed to fill your spool