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Selecting Your First Fly Fishing Rod

Fly Fishing for the first time can be intimidating to most people. There are tons of information online about selecting your first fly rod alone. The first fly rod combo that I purchased in 2013 has worked well for what I planned to do, even if I did not know where to start. But after getting some fly fishing lessons, I learned that my experience learning fly fishing could have been smoother than how it was if knew what I know now.

While I still consider myself new to the game, because I strive to keep on improving, the recommendations I am sharing below are based on what I've learned in the years I've spent on the fly rod. And as a side note, I still use my first fly rod with a minor change to match my casting style.

My First Fly Rod Scientific Anglers Panfish Fly Fishing Outfit-4Piece-5/6WT

Selecting the Fly Rod Weight

Selecting the weight of your fly rod is slightly different than how one would select their conventional fishing rod. The main similarity is that, you base it off your target species. With the target species set, you can determine the size of fly you would be throwing. And with that information, you select they fly rod weight. The rule of thumb is for small flies, you would use a lighter weight rod. Larger flies need heavier rod weight. For a quick guideline see the chart below:

Rod Weight Species
0wt - 6wt Trout and Pan fish
6wt - 8wt Bass, Pike, Steelhead
8wt - 10wt Salmon
11wt - 15wt Salt Water

Rod Construction

Most rods comes in sections, it can be two pieces, four-piece, six, or 7-piece. Rods with more sections are designed for travelling. I use my two-piece rod for fishing bigger game fish like Pike, Musky, and Salmon. The four-piece is my all around workhorse, while my six-piece is used for my backcountry hiking/canoe trips and travelling by plane, since it fits well in a suitcase or a backpack.

There are also different types of materials used to make these rods. Bamboo or cane rod is the traditional (old school) rod. Anglers buying bamboo rods mostly hang them on the wall, I know I would, because most of them are works of art. Fibreglass eventually replaced the bamboo rods. They are more durable but heavier than bamboo. Then there's the Graphite rods, these are the better casting rods but are much more expensive and brittle. Graphite Composite rods are the most common, they are lighter than fibreglass and priced lower, great for beginners.

Fly Rod Length

Fly rod length can go as long as 12 feet down to 5 ft. The longer rods are better used when you need to cast longer like when you're in a boat or a wide river. Shorter rods are used on close quarters fishing like when fishing a small stream where it does not require you to cast more than 40-60 feet. A good all around rod length for beginners would be a 9 ft rod.

Casting, Presentation, Rod Strength

Lighter weight rods will always be easier to cast than the heavier weight rods. If you need a delicate presentation, like when you're fishing for spooky trout, a lighter weight rod might be more advantageous since the heavier weight line will make more of a splash when it lands on the water. When you are fishing for Bass or Pike, the heavier rod will give you more rod strength and the splash the line makes when it lands can trigger the fish's curiosity to inspect your fly.

Rod Recommendation

For learning purposes, a 9ft 6wt rod would be the best in my opinion, as it will cover the range of species you will be targeting as a beginner. You can cast small dry flies, heavy nymphs, and small streamers with ease with a 6wt rod. To me, it is the sweet spot rod weight to learn on for beginners. You can feel the rod load better compared to lighter weight rods without getting tired quickly when using a heavier weight rod.

Recommended Combo

Unless you have a reel and line already, you might want to get a rod and reel combo for you first fly fishing rig. Most manufacturers carries a whole array of beginner friendly combos that would not break the bank. The first fly rod combo I got was the Scientific Anglers Panfish Fly Fishing Outfit-4Piece-5/6WT and I still use it to this day as my all-around rod. I did however change the line to a 7wt line after a few years of use. This made me roll-cast better, which helped me in fishing tight spaces.

In the end you want a quality rod that is affordable for your first rod as this will be your practice rod. You also need to keep the type of fish you will be targeting in mind. If you are fishing for trout and pan fish, a lighter rod would be good, for bigger game fish go for the heavier rod.

Please leave a comment below if you have questions on this topic or if you a suggestion for future topics that you want to see. Thank you for your time and see you in the water.


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