Fly Fishing Rods for Beginners – Fly Rod Action Explained

Fly Fishing Rods For Beginners – Fly Rod Action Explained

If you’re interested in fly fishing, one of the first things you’ll need to buy is a fly fishing rod. If you’ve already taken a look at the variety of options available online, you know that there are a lot of fly fishing rods to choose from. To figure out which is the right rod for you, it helps to know a little more about what a fly rod does and what makes it special.

Features of Fly Fishing Rods

Before we get to fly rod action, let’s take a close look at the attributes that make these rods so unique and other things you need to know to choose the right one.

Line Weight

If you’ve spent any time looking at fly fishing rods, you probably already know that they come in weights, but you might not be so sure that that means. Basically, the higher the weight, the bigger the fish the rod can handle. For example, weights of zero to three are good for small trout while middleweights between four and seven are meant for larger trout, bass, and most average-sized fish.

Fly fishing rods with line weights between eight and 10 are for larger varieties of fish like steelhead, pike, muskies, and largemouth bass. The heaviest fly fishing rods range from 11 to 14 and are made for serious fly fishing in saltwater. They’re tough enough for swordfish, marlin, and other fish that are known for putting up a fight.

So, which weight is right for you? That depends on the type of fish you’re going after, but starting with something in the four to six range is a good idea for a beginner.

Rod Length

Length is another important factor and is determined by where you’re planning to fish and what type of fish you’re trying to catch. Fly rods come in a variety of lengths, from four to 14 feet. So, there are a lot of options to choose from.

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Why is length so important? Shorter rods are great for smaller streams and wooded areas where it’s just not possible to use a long 10-foot rod without hitting a tree branch behind you. On the other hand, if you’re fishing on a pier in a large, open lake, a short four-foot rod isn’t going to cast nearly as far out on the water as you need it to.

So, the smaller the area where you’re going fishing, the shorter the rod should be. For beginners, stick with something around eight or nine-feet long. This is right in the middle or the range and considered a sort of multi-purpose rod length. Unless, of course, you know you’re always going to be fishing in one spot and a shorter or longer rod is warranted.

Materials

Fly fishing rods are generally made of one of three materials: graphite, fiberglass, and bamboo. Bamboo rods are considered traditional because they were one of the first types ever created. They’re made from gluing multiple pieces of bamboo together and usually have a hexagonal shape. This type of rod is one of the most expensive and is a very slow action rod.

Fiberglass rods are often seen as an alternative to bamboo but they are much more affordable. They’re lightweight, very durable, and slow action. Fiberglass rods are also very responsive so they’re fun to fish with – you can feel everything, even the slightest tug.

Graphite rods are the most common type used today. They’re basically the best of fiberglass and bamboo combined. They come in a variety of thicknesses and weights and there are a lot of different price points to choose from.

Fly Fishing Rod Action

All of the things that we talked about – line weight, rod length, and material – contribute to the action of a fly fishing rod. Action is the way that a fly fishing rod flexes and bends and there are three general types – slow, medium, and fast.

Slow Action

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Slow action fly rods flex from the tip all the way down to the handle. Bamboo and fiberglass rods are almost always slow action and there are plenty of graphite options, too.  Slow action rods are meant for close casting. In the right location, these slow action rods are a great choice for beginners.

Medium Action

A medium action rod only flexes the upper two-thirds, which is a nice balance between slow and fast action. They’re forgiving for beginners just learning how to cast and don’t create as tight a loop. Plus, they have a nice amount of sensitivity. Longer casts are possible with medium action rods, but take a little more effort than they would with something a little more powerful. These rods are considered all-purpose rods and are a good choice for a beginner.

Fast Action

Fast action rods are also called tip flex rods. They’re the most powerful. These rods are very stiff and only the top third flexes, producing a longer cast, tighter loops, and a high line speed. A fast action rod is a  good choice for catching large fish because they have so much more power and stability.

Which Fly Fishing Rod is Best?

As you may have guessed, choosing the best fly fishing rod is not really straightforward. It depends on your budget as well as where you’re planning to fish and what you’re trying to catch.

That said, a beginner angler would be smart to choose something that’s considered multipurpose. As you get more and more into the sport of fly fishing, you can decide whether you need something that’s tailored to larger fish or a particular region where you’d like to fish. A good choice for someone new to fly fishing is a medium action rod. It’s a great place to start and allows you to develop your technique. As you learn and improve, you’ll begin to get a feel for whether or not you want something faster or slower.

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