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At a Glance: Fly Fishing Rods

FishUSA offers fly and spey rods from Douglas, Echo, Fenwick, G. Loomis, Hardy, Orvis, Redington, Sage, St. Croix, Temple Fork Outfitters, and other brands. These fly rods range from trout rods in the six-foot range to spey rod lengths approaching 14 feet. We offer rod models for all species, including trout, bass, carp, muskie, pike, steelhead, salmon, and saltwater fly models. Most blanks are graphite, but we also carry a few fiberglass models. Depending on the rod type, they will feature either a sliding band, uplocking, or down locking reel seat made from aluminum, silver nickel, stainless steel, or composites. Cork or cork/composite handles are standard and come in a few styles. All feature quality guides, and most include a rod tube for protection. When discussing rods, there is a wide range of opinions, some firm, on what is the best rod for a species, water size, or area of the country. Here are general guidelines to take some guesswork out of purchasing a new fly rod.

Materials used in the rod construction determine its action, and rod actions are usually rated medium, medium-fast, and fast. Mediums are a bit softer and bend more during the casting stroke, with the fast action being stiffer and with less deflection during the casting stroke. Again, this is very subjective, and one caster may say the rod is medium, and another medium-fast. Only after casting fly rods for some time can the fly fisher begin to get a feel for rods and develop what they like in action. Until the beginning fly caster hones casting skills, we recommend a medium or medium-fast action, both of which are a bit more forgiving than fast-action rods.

Trout rods mainly come in 2 to 7 weights, with 4, 5, and 6 wts. being the most common. For small stream trout fishing, a 6 to an 8-ft. rod in 3, 4, or 5 wts. is suitable. Most will come with an uplocking reel seat, but some shorter rods may have sliding band seats to save weight. For medium-size streams and small rivers in the east, a 9 ft., 5-wt. rod is about ideal. On larger rivers or in the Rocky Mountains, a 9 to 10-ft. rod in 5, 6, and 7 wts. would be the go-to. The heavier 6 and 7 fly line weighted rods are favorable for larger flies, chucking indicators or streamers, and for the wind that is ever constant out west. Uplocking seats are the norm, and most 7 wts. have a small fighting butt, too.

Steelhead and salmon single-handed rods usually run from 9 to 10 ft. in 7 through 10 wts., depending on the species, stream, river, and time of year. Great Lakes steelheaders like the 7 and 8 wt. sticks. Atlantic salmon anglers usually fish with 8 and 9 wt. rods and those chasing king salmon in Alaska and the Great Lakes typically depend on 9 or 10 wts. Most of these rods will have uplocking reel seats and fighting butts.

Two-handed spey and switch rods have enjoyed increased popularity since 2010, and more anglers are fishing with them for trout, steelhead, and salmon. There's nothing quite like the tug of a fish taking a swung wet fly. Be aware that most switch and spey rod manufacturers now print the grain weight and the line weight designation on the rod blank. For rods with a grain weight marked on the rod blank, you need to match the line with the grain weight recommended by the manufacturer. Switch rods tend to run from 9 to 11 1/2 ft., in 4 to 9 wts. Spey rods usually run in length from 12 to 13 1/2 ft. and in 7 to 9 wts. Both rods will have an uplocking or down locking reel seat, an extended front grip, and an extended bottom grip below the reel seat.

Warm water and saltwater rods differ little from freshwater fly rods. Many single-handed rods used for heavy trout, salmon, and steelhead will work fine for bass, carp, pike, muskie, striped bass, and saltwater fish. Generally, any good quality rods from 7 to 10 wt. would work for all, except 100 pound+ tarpon and off-shore fish. For these fish, use 11 wts. and higher. Many saltwater-specific fly rods feature heavy-duty anodizing on the hardware, including the reel seats and guides, to prevent corrosion of the components. Always rinse off rods fished in saltwater with freshwater at the end of the day, focusing on the guides and reel seat.