How to Choose a Fly Fishing Rod
Let’s cover how to choose a fly rod for the different types of fly fishing you may encounter. I feel a logical way to choose the best fly rod for the type fly fishing you plan to do is to follow this layout; (1) determine the fly size you will be using for the fish you are targeting. Once you know the fly sizes you will be using for the type of fly fishing you will be doing, you can accurately determine the (2) size of the fly line which will cast these flies. Armed with this information you can now (3) choose the proper fly rod for the fly fishing you plan to do. Keep in mind that the overhead canopy will govern the fly rod length. This is my personal approach and it has never let me down.
One Weight Fly Rod
I use my one weight fly rod a great amount when fishing mountain trout streams. This accurately and delicately casts flies from size 16 down to size 24. Primarily dry flies and emergers vs. heavily weighted nymphs.
Two Weight Fly Rod
I use my two weight rod for fishing spring creeks in the east as well as in the Rockies. For hatches such as tricos, beatis, and sulphurs the delicacy is very helpful on 7X and 8X leaders. I also use this rod on mountain streams because this line will easily cast flies from size 12 down to 24.
Three Weight Fly Rod
This is a very versatile fly rod because it will comfortably deliver flies from sizes 10 down to 24. I use this rod for both freestone streams as well as spring creeks. It is great for mountain trout streams if you want to use one rod for all season because it will easily cast size 10 weighted nymphs in the spring while retaining the delicacy to smoothly present a size 24 Ant on 7X in the low streams late in the summer. Our Murray Mountain Trout Fly Rod at 6 feet, 10 inches, 3 pieces is a 3 weight rod and is the most popular trout fly rod for mountains trout steams we sell.
Four Weight Fly Rod
I use a four weight fly rod on the western spring creeks and large eastern trout streams such as The Beaverkill in New York. I like one with a delicate tip because I can fish a pseudocloeon hatch with a size 24 fly on 7X as well as a size 10 hopper on 5X when the hatch is over.
Five Weight Fly Rod
The five weight fly rod is popular in the west with anglers who like to fish dry flies and nymphs from size 10 down to 20. It is a little too much in the middle of the road for my needs because I want more delicacy on the small flies than a five line permits and I want more muscle on middle size streamers than a size five line can provide.
Six Weight Fly Rod
I use my six weight fly rod for trout fishing in the large streams in the West such as the Yellowstone River where I use streamers size 6 down and going down to dry flies size 18. I also use it for light smallmouth bass fishing in Virginia when the rivers get low late in the summer and I use size 6 surface bugs and size 6 and 8 streamers. A six weight fly rod will also work fine for trout fishing in Alaska in all but the largest rivers (which are typically deeper and moving quickly).
Seven Weight Fly Rod
This is my favorite smallmouth bass fly rod size for fishing flies from size 12 up to size 4. It is also a great Western streamer rod, especially on the largest rivers with sinking heads and flies up to size 4. A seven weight fly rod is a great Alaska Rainbow Trout rod since it can handle the added weight required for deep nymphing and easily cast streamers and large rabbit fur patterns. Streamer fishing for big browns in the Rockies? This is my preferred choice due to the size of fly we are using as well as to buck the wind with sinking fly lines. Steelheading throughout the country can easily be accomplished with this fly rod as well.
Eight Weight Fly Rod
If I am using bulky size 4 surface bugs or heavy streamers for bass this is my favorite fly rod. Fishing for Silver, Chum and Sockeye (Red) Salmon in Alaska and can be used for rainbow trout there. If there is no wind problem it works fine on bonefish and light saltwater angling. I’m comfortable casting saltwater flies up to 1/0 on this weight fly rod.
Nine Weight Fly Rod
This is my favorite rod for bonefish in the Keys and for blues, stripers, and reds at the Outer Banks. A number 9 line easily casts a 2/0 fly and bucks the wind well on the flats. For Atlantic Salmon this will cover many of your needs. I like this line size for norther pike because I can easily cast the big streamers needed. This is also great for large silver salmon.
Ten Weight Fly Rod
Perfect for permit, large stripers, and false albacore, medium size tarpon and medium size king salmon.
Eleven Weight Fly Rod
Yellow fin tuna, king salmon, dolphin, and all but the largest tarpon. This size rod has enough power to lift these fish and cast the size flies needed.
Twelve Weight Fly Rod
I like this for tarpon fishing because it easily cast the huge flies and has the backbone to handle the largest fish. It is also good for the large king salmon, large tuna and wahoo.
As I am sure you have noticed, I make no reference to the action of these fly rods. The way a specific action works or does not work is purely a matter of personal style. Some prefer faster (stiffer) actions while others prefer a medium or even slow (soft) action as in the case of many glass and bamboo fly rods. I recommend to anyone seriously considering the purchase of a fly rod; go to your local fly shop and cast every rod you can get your hands on. Don’t worry about which action your lifelong friend prefers or which action your favorite guide likes, this is purely a matter of personal preference. Another recommendation I feel is worth it’s weight in gold is to buy a new rod with a lifetime warranty! There are many to choose from…..
If this article has done nothing but confuse matters, please feel free to email me or give me a call (540) 984-4212.
Check out our fly fishing video series: Selecting a Fly Rod by Action for more information about Selecting a Fly Fishing Rod.