Whip It: How to Choose a Fly Rod

Few feelings rival the anticipation that builds while waiting for a trout to rise, and having the right rod in your hand only elevates the thrill when you finally set the hook. Backcountry Gearhead Brandon Collett spent a day with our video crew on the famed Provo River to share a few tips on choosing the perfect rod.


As applied to fly rods, weight is an indication of the species and river conditions for which the rod is best suited, not a reference to its actual physical weight. Generally, lower weight rods are preferred for smaller streams and species while heavier weight rods are intended for large species and big bodies of water. For a reference point, a rod weight in the four to six range is considered ideal for the typical western trout river.


Fly rods usually range from 7 to 10 feet in length, although some two-handed spey casting rods can be several feet longer. Rods in the 7 to 8.5 foot range are ideal for tight casting on overgrown riverbanks,and will help you achieve a delicate presentation in those conditions.  An 8.5 to 9 foot rod will provide the greatest versatility, and will excel on medium size rivers, yet still provide good performance on small streams and larger waters. Rods measuring 9 feet and longer will be the go-to choice for bigger species, large size flies, and windy conditions that require greater control and casting power.


The action of a fly rod is a reference to where and how the rod flexes. Fast-action fly rods isolate the majority of the flex in the tip of the rod, while the middle and lower sections of the rod will remain fairly stiff. A fast-action flex pattern is ideal for long casts, heavy flies, and windy conditions. Medium-action rods will begin to flex in the middle of the rod, making them a very versatile option. If you’re new to fly fishing or looking to own just one rod, a medium-action is the way to go. Slow-action rods have the softest flex of the three categories, and are favored for the gentlest presentations. When the name of the game is floating delicate dry flies, a slow-action rod is the secret for success.

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