To begin fly fishing for salmon or trout, you’ll need a fishing rod. Experienced anglers typically have two or more fishing rods. Most fishing rods are made of graphite, fiberglass or bamboo. You can get by with an inexpensive new or used graphite or glass fly rod for your first fly fishing trips. But remember, in fly rods, you get what you pay for. The more expensive fly rods provide better materials and workmanship, so the more you fly fish, the more you will come to appreciate the performance high-quality fly rods can provide. They can make you a better caster and, in turn, a better fisherman; so choose wisely.
When fly fishing, you transfer energy to the fly rod when casting. The fly rod casts the line, delivering the fly to the fish. If the fly is delivered properly, the presentation looks natural and the fish takes the fly. The right fly rod, line and leader (tapered strands connecting fly line to fly) are all critical to successful presentation of the fly.
The length of fly rod you choose is important. If you fly fish small, brush-lined streams, most often a 6- to 8-foot fly rod may be more suited to your needs than a longer rod. On the other hand, if you fly fish big rivers where casting room is no problem, a 9-foot fly rod makes more sense. Longer fly rods offer the advantage of easier line control.
Choosing the Right Fly Rod Weight
In fly fishing, the line provides the weight to deliver the fly when you cast. The larger the fly the more wind resistant and heavy it is, so the larger (heavier) the fly line you need to deliver it. When fly fishing for larger fish with larger flies, you need a larger rod designed to cast the larger line and flies you will use.
If you start fly fishing by going after trout or panfish, you will use relatively small flies, and delicate presentation of the fly is often critical. A 5- or 6-weight fly rod is the usual choice of most beginners because it can cast small flies delicately and cast relatively large flies to distant targets.
For trout, most people use fly rods ranging from tiny 1-weights up to 8-weight. Bass fishermen will use mostly 6- to 10-weights for fishing large flies. Most folks start fly fishing for trout and panfish with a 5-weight. You can buy the lighter or heavier fly rods later as you become more specialized in your fly fishing.
Teaming Fly Rod and Fly Line
You want a “balanced outfit” – a fly fishing rod and fly line that are designed for each other. Fly rods are designed by manufacturers to cast a certain weight of fly line. For instance, a 6-weight rod works with a 6-weight line; a 4-weight outfit takes a 4-weight line, and so on. If you look at a fly rod, you’ll find this information printed just above the cork grip.
Fly rod manufacturers code their rods in a variety of ways and places. Some fly rods give the rod length and the fly line for which it is matched on a butt cap located on the end of the rod. Other fly rods give the rod length and fly line weights for which the rod is balanced above the cork grip. Most beginners rod/reel/line outfits have the fly line and fly rod already matched.
Other Fly Fishing Outfit Decisions
What is the right rod for me: 2 piece, 3 piece or 4 piece?
Most new anglers begin with a 2-piece fly rod because they fly fish close to home. As you begin to travel to new fly fishing places, 4-piece travel rods may become more important to you (they can usually be hand-carried aboard an airplane).
Buy the best you can afford to start
Since your casting and fishing skills are at a learning level, less-expensive reels and rods may serve you well at the beginning. As your skills mature, you’ll start to improve your fly tackle with higher-performance fly reels and fly rods. Good equipment is always a better value in the long run and will help you learn faster.
Buying tackle at a fly shop where you can talk to knowledgeable sales staff is the best approach. Fly shop salespeople can help put the outfit together and assist you in casting with it. A knowledgeable store clerk should help you with those important first purchases and help you determine what fly rod is the right one for you and where you will fish.
Always check your gear
When you put your outfit together, take a few moments to make sure the rod is securely assembled and there are no cracks or dings that could weaken it. Check your line to be sure it is not cracked or cut. Make sure the fly reel spool is not bent and turns freely.