Picking out a fly rod can be a daunting task, especially if you are new to the sport. Even seasoned anglers have a lot of options to weigh be for they take the plunge for a new rod. Size, weight, flexibility, rod action, and composition are just a few of the things you need to consider.
“Fly rods come in different weights,” Daniel Uter of Rivers Edge West in Bozeman explained. “From a two weight to a twelve weight. Here in Montana, about 90 percent of the rods we sell would be a 5 or 6 weight about 9 foot in length.”
Uter went on to explain that those weight rods will cover most of the fly fishing we have in the Treasure State.
The weight of the rod generally refers to the weight of the line you will be using. Bigger fish would mean that you will want a stiffer rod to handle how heavy the line is, as well as the size of the fish you are targeting. And there are situations you may want a lighter weight rod for smaller waters, or a heavier rod if you are looking to land a lunker.
“Some people go down to a smaller rod, like a 7-foot 3 weight, which is quite a bit shorter,” Uter explained.
The technology has shifted quite a bit in the last several years. Ten years ago, a lot of the rods were heavier and were often a little stiffer than what you see now.
“Rod and reels, really the last 2 to 3 years have seen a big jump in technology, especially in rods,” Uter said. “They've been able to basically manufacture a rod with a lot less resin or glue. By doing that they have been able to put more graphite into the rod, thus putting much more feel with the rod and quite a bit lighter.”
That feel usually allows the angler to have better response when casting or setting hooks and often leads to either longer casts or more accuracy placing the flies they tie onto the line.
Most rods are made of graphite. Those graphite rods are typically less time-consuming to produce and cheaper for the manufacturer to buy or make. There are also many bamboo rods on the market as well. It is the classic tool that many anglers are looking for.
“That's more of a work of art. You are going to pay a little bit more for that. You are going to sacrifice a little bit of durability and they are going to be a little heavier,” Uter said of bamboo rods.
“But for some guys that's still—actually, fishing with a bamboo rod, that's just part of fly fishing,” he added.
There are also lots of great options for kids as well. They usually have a little lower price point, come as a rod and reel combination, and are built to last.
“They are usually in the seven and a half and eight-foot range and they've got fun colors,” Uter said. “Typically, the kid’s outfits are a little bit more durable. They can take a little bit more abuse than your standard rod."
And they often must be more durable. Young kids will frequently snag the tip of the rod on a branch or bang the rod on a tree, which will damage conventional rods.
The most important aspect to picking the right rod is to check out how that rod feels and casts.
“There are a lot of different options, and not every rod is going to work for every person,” said Uter. “Everybody has a unique casting style, and there's probably a rod that is going to fit it.”
Most fly shops will put together a few rod options for you and take you outside to check how it casts, and help you pick the right rod for you. You don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money to get a rod. Many stores can get you a lower-budget rod or a rod and reel combination set at a reasonable price point. You can always upgrade your setup. But Uter explained that learning with a little better rod will help the feel and can get you a little better cast when you need it the most.
We tried to get an idea of what a shop owner might consider their favorite rod on the market. Uter’s response was probably in line with any seasoned angler out there: “I’d probably say it is whatever I caught my last big fish on,” he joked.
The best advice is that if you are picking a rod as a beginner, you should pick a versatile rod, and try casting it a few times to get the right fit. If you have been fishing a while, decide if you are looking at a specific type of water, a particular feel, and again, give it a few casts before you buy.