Fly Rod Eyes Explained

Ever wondered why your fly rod rings are set up the way they are? Does it really matter what sort of guides you have? Our blog explains all!

Fly rod guides can have real effect on casting and fish playing performance. Most anglers never pay attention to the eyes when making a rod purchase, but they should – because eye configuration and quality can make a big difference to your fishing.

Fly rod guide types

You will find three main types of rod rings on a fly rod.

At the butt end you will always find a stripping guide. This is the largest eye, with a wide diameter to allow line to shoot through it easily on the cast. They tend to be manufactured with a ceramic insert to reduce friction. They are built to handle the energy from the power generated in a stiff rod butt section. On higher line rated rods designed for distance or throwing large flies, you will often find two stripping guides. If you intend to do a lot of distance casting, then a rod with two of these guides is a must.

Stripper guides

Typical stripper guides

Snake eyes are the most commonly found guides on a fly rod blank. Basically these are simply twisted pieces of wire; designed to help your rod flex and your fly line flow through them unhindered. Made of chrome, stainless steel or even titanium, the standard double snake guide is very lightweight and a favourite the world over.

Double leg snakes

A double leg snake eye

Theses guides will be spaced at an optimum distance apart to allow for smooth flexing of the rod and for good line flow. The diameter of snake guides vary, according to what the rod builder had in mind for the performance of the rod.

If large diameter guides are used, this helps with shooting line for extreme distance; however some line control is lost in the process which can affect presentation and accuracy. Narrow eyes allow for precise control of the cast and better loop formation, but distance is harder to achieve. Most fly rods are built with their guide diameters as a nice balance between distance and line control.

Single leg snakes are also very popular on UK fly rods. These reduce the weight further by having just one leg that requires whipping to the rod blank – thus reducing the quantity of rod epoxy and thread needed to attach them.

In the UK most fly rods sold feature either standard double or single leg snakes, bucking the trend from heavy, narrow, lined ceramic eyes that were very popular a decade or two ago.

Single leg snake

Single leg snake

The tip eye (or tip top) is a vital guide that is fitted to the end of your fly rod. They are especially important as they are the most prone to wear, and need to transfer casting energy at the thinnest part of your rod. So they need to be of superior quality and just the right size for best performance.

Hayfork tip eyes

Hayfork tip eyes

Hayfork tip eyes are the most common, but there are also round tip tops available. These reduce friction because there is nowhere for the fly line to catch or get slowed down in. They are used by some of the top manufactures such as Sage.

In addition to the three main rod eyes described above, keeper rings are generally found just above the rod handle. These are usually just a simple looped piece of wire, placed to accommodate your fly.

The addition of a keeper eye on a fly rod is for convenience – it will help you resist the temptation to plant your fly into the cork handle, or onto the stripper eye and risk damaging the lining. Several modern fly rod manufactures have taken to leaving the keeper eye off their rods –  a trend that some may find annoying, or may not be bothered by. But, it’s something worth considering and checking when making a purchase.

Keeper eye - with or without?

Keeper eye – with or without?

Remember the more you pay for a fly fishing rod, the better the guide quality and overall thought to rod ring size and their placement is likely to be. These little differences can make a rod massively easier to fish and cast with. Be warned that on cheaper rods chrome snake eyes of poor quality can get grooved, or even corrode within a season or two. The old saying ‘buy cheap buy twice’ certainly rings true when it comes to fly rods and their guides.

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