Choosing the Right Fly Rod

We believe that selecting the right fly fishing rod is one of the most important decisions an angler has to make – especially one new to fly fishing.

A correctly chosen fishing rod will become a lifetime friend and fishing companion, the incorrect choice will leave you frustrated and ready to take up another hobby! Below are some of the key points that are discussed in this article.

How to choose a fly rod:

  • Rod length: 7ft – 8ft 6in (short lightweight rod), 9ft – 11ft (longer single hand rod), 12ft – 16ft (large double hand rod).
  • Rod action: through action, medium/middle-tip action or tip/fast action.
  • Materials. This plays an important role in your rods performance, durability, weight and price.
  • Rod build. Multi-section rods are convenient for travel, two-piece models have a sturdier reputation.
  • Handle shape. Half Wells handles are ideal for lighter one-hand rods, while Full Wells provide a better grip needed for longer, heavier set-ups.

No one fly fishing rod can do it all; in fact, each rod is designed for the specific purpose and line weight. Before choosing a fly rod you must ask yourself three questions.

  • Where will you be using the rod (rivers, streams, lakes, or saltwater)?
  • What species do you intend to pursue (trout, salmon, pike, or saltwater species like bonefish, permit and tarpon)?
  • Will you be doing a lot of travelling with fishing?

Different fishing rod lengths and actions are used in different fishing situations. Short light weight rods (7ft – 8ft 6in,) taking light weight lines AFTM 3 – 5, are used for dry fly and nymph fishing on small to medium rivers and stillwaters where delicate presentation is required at short range.

Longer single hand rods (9ft-11ft), taking heavier line weights AFTM 6 – 9, are used for bank and boat fishing on larger stillwaters where longer casting is sometimes required.

Large double hand salmon rods (12ft – 16ft) will give you line control for casting long distances on the bigger salmon rivers.

Through or Slow action fly rods flex from the tip right through to the butt. Slow action fly rods do not generate high line speeds due to their flexibility, and are designed for anglers who need to make short and very accurate and gentle casts. As such, slow action fly rods are ideal for fly-fishing smaller rivers, streams and other areas that require anglers to make short and accurate casts. Additionally, slow action fly fishing rods excel in protecting light tippets.

Medium or Middle to Tip action rods are probably the most common action used and are the workhorses of the fly fishing rod world. They are by far the most popular fly rods on the market today. Medium action fly rods are also the most versatile of fly rods. They can make longer casts quite adequately, especially in the hands of a good caster while being forgiving to the beginner. A great all round action suitable for a range of different fishing situation.

Tip or Fast action fly rods tend to be stiff, only flexing in the tip section. This generates high line speeds and tight loops for extreme distance and greater accuracy. Due to the high line speed generated by fast action fly rods, casting in windy conditions is much easier – especially if used in conjunction with advanced casting techniques that help reduce some of the effect of wind resistance.

The material from which a rod is made plays an important role in determining its performance, durability, weight and – finally – price. Graphite (Carbon) is the most commonly used material today. High modulus Graphite is extremely strong and light, which gives it the ability to recover to its original straight position with very little vibration. This improves your casting distance and accuracy. Usually the better quality the graphite – the higher the price.

The recent advances in rod building materials have made multi section rods virtually identical to two-piece models. In short, a multi-section fishing rod now offers the fly fisherman a much higher level of convenience, and is a boon to those who travel with their fly fishing tackle; at little or no cost to the fishing rod’s performance or weight.

Almost exclusively, rod handles are made from cork. The higher the grade of cork used, the longer the handle will last. The two main shapes of fly rod handle are Half Wells ( usually used on lighter rods 9ft AFTM 6 and below), and Full Wells (this type of handle gives a better grip and used on longer rods casting heavier AFTM 7,8 & 9 lines)

Fighting butts are an extensions of cork or rubber at the base of the rod, behind the reel seat. Typically found on heavier fishing rods, (7 weight and above), they’re designed for prolonged battles with large, powerful fish. A fighting but provides a large diameter area to firmly place the rod against your body while fighting a fish.

This depends; there are a number of perfectly good rods on the market priced between £50 – £100. There are big differences between the cheaper and expensive rods, such as quality of fittings and finish. An expensive fishing rod will almost always be lighter, more responsive and have a quicker recovery speed for generating tighter loops for superior casts. Our advice is to never hesitate to spend as much as you can reasonably afford, but try not to go over the top, especially when starting out in the sport. Why not contact one of our expert advisors for free advise on choosing the right model?

9 thoughts on “Choosing the Right Fly Rod

  1. Looking to put together a reasonable bit of kit for salmon fishing. Using a bit of bottom end gear right now and 5 years into the sport I feel i would like to upgrade. Thinking of either Loomis Stinger or the Guideline Lpxe in a 13 ft size for he rivers here in Northern Ireland. I also would like a few suggestions as to what Large Arbor reels would match with these rods and possibly the line to use as well. Am using the Rio AFS shooting head with multi tips right now and I feel this is a very good line but could perform better with improved rod and reels


  2. Hello,

    Looking to buy a multi section fly rod for small rivers, some hill loch and boat fishing.

    Looking to spend £50 – £80 and would like something around 9ft and #7, so a middle of the road multi purpose job!



  3. Pingback: Daiwa NewEra Fly Rods Explained

  4. Hi. Am planning a trip to Monmouth to fish the monnow for grayling. I would like to get some lighter tackle say 4/5 for nymphng but not sure whether to get a shorter rod 8-9ft in case the space is limited or an 11ft to help guide the nymphs

  5. This is a useful article. I fish on a small river in mid wales for wild brown trout. the river is only about 6 or 8 foot wide. What rod would you recommend? at the moment I have a really old 7 ft rod, but I fear it may give up the ghost before much longers, so I want to get a replacement (no ore than £150).
    Many thanks

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