Picking a rod can be the most mind boggling step to setting yourself up for success on the water. Even for the most experienced fishermen, selecting a rod of different lengths and weights can be quite confusing. Experience level, target species and water size are all factors that come into play.
Length is an important factor to consider depending on your style of fishing and the location. For those small and overgrown mountain streams, a 7-8ft rod. These rods will be able to maneuver the smaller more technical waters. The 8-10ft rod is the more standard day to day rod length. These rods are good for most fresh and saltwater species. It will be a breeze executing a roll cast, it gives you the ability to reach across currents, and will give you enough length to shoot 40-50 feet and even further in saltwater scenarios. The 10+ft rods are gears more toward the Euro styles fishing. The main advantage to a longer rod is being able to reach out further and keep the line of the water, ultimately reducing drag.
Weight is the most crucial measurement when selecting a rod. We all hate to be outmuscled by the brute on the other end of our line. In my experience, “what is a good weight” is one of the most recurring questions. A solid rod to start is between a 5-6wt which is more than sufficient for most trout and bass. This is the rod that’s easy, fun and bulky enough to take to your neighborhood pond and pull out a 5lb largemouth. As we move smaller in weight, the more technical we get. The 4wt is great for having some fun on the lake for panfish or to take to your favorite steam to fishing for some wild trout. 2-3 wt rods are for those little picturesque streams tucked high and away in the mountain where the trophies there are no bigger than a hand. Moving up the ladder, the 7-8wt are ideal for larger trout, steelhead and carp in addition to many saltwater species. The 9-10wt is sufficient for larger redfish, large bonefish, permit, juvenile tarpon whereas a 10-12wt rod is great for targeting Musky, Tarpon, Tuna, GTs and False Albacore.
Action is sometimes a forgotten attribute when selecting a rod and is often confusing to newcomer anglers. There are three types of rod actions; slow, moderate, and fast. Each of these actions hold a valuable spot in a flymans quiver. A slow action rod is best used to present a delicate fly. The feeling of a slow action rod load and then release is such a joyful feeling, it’s half the fun! A fast action rod is just that, fast. An angler needs to have a faster casting motion to load this rod. What is the advantage to a fast action? Distance. This rod is perfect for throwing weight flyes and swing streamers. Now, if we split the two down the middle we have the moderate action rod. A moderate rod is slow enough to throw a dry to rising fish but also has the beef to be able to shoot out weight flys, with accuracy.
I made a mistake last summer preparing for a trip to the South Platte with my girlfriend, Lauren. She wanted a rod to call her own. After doing some research, reading reviews and online shopping, we both fell in love with the Redington Butter Stick, 9ft – 5wt. Let it be known, we did not make it a priority to find one in a local retailer and get a good feel for it. Out of the box, she was beautiful! The Butter Stick is a slow action rod that is good for a beginner angler. The trip to Colorado was a success and we caught many fish on a hopper – dropper rig, a perfect task for the Butter Stick. Fast forward a couple months to the fall and winter months when the fish are hugging the bottom in the deep pools. We found out fast that slinging two to three fly rigs with a freight train of weights was not a job the Butter Stick was up for. We had a hard time getting the flies to roll out and hook setting, well forget about it. The rod was just too slow (flimsy). We needed a rod with a little more backbone, a moderate action rod that was not only good for delicate dry fly presentation but also a rod that could fish down deep with weighted nymphs.
The best advice is to not be wooed by the flashy colors or sexy names. You must get the rod in your hands, throw some line and really feel the backbone and the flex of the rod. If you take the time to do your homework, you will have a stellar rod that you will be confident fishing in different conditions for many years to come.