How to Choose a Fly Fishing Rod

Tips for choosing a fly rod:

There are three main variables to consider when choosing a fly rod; “Weight, Action, and Length. The following information will break down these components of a fly rod into easy to understand concepts, to help you choose the best rod that will suit your needs.

Rod Weight

The “weight” is an industry standard system for numbering the weight (go figure) of a fly rod. Instead of using of using grams to measure a rod, a number system that ranges from 1-14 is used. Determining the optimal weight when choosing a rod is pretty easy, as it is based on the species and sizes of fish you will be catching.

In general, lower weights are for smaller fish, while larger weights for bigger fish. Secondary factors include the weather conditions of where you fish (lighter rods are harder to cast in the wind), as well as personal preferences (some advanced fly fishers enjoy lighter rods than suggested making the fish they catch “feel” heavier).

See the guide below to find the best rod weight for you:

Wt. 1-3: Smaller Trout… panfish and other small species.

Wt. 4: Panfish and small to sized trout.

Wt. 5-6: Medium trout and smaller bass.

Wt. 7-8: Salmon, Steelhead, large trout, large bass.

Wt. 9-14: Large salmon, Tarpon and other large saltwater species.

Choose a line and reel with the same rod weight you have decided upon.

Conclusion: For most beginners a 3-5 wt rod for folks fishing streams for trout, a 5-6wt for bass fisherman, and a 7-8 weight rod for salmon/saltwater fishing.

Rod Action:

Fast, Medium and Slow are the three main classification used to describe a fly rod’s action.

Fast Action – Most of the rod is stiff except near the tip. Here are some of the properties of a fast action rod:

    • Pros: Good for longer casts, windy conditions, larger fish and casting larger flies.
    • Cons: Harder to use for a beginner, not good for small fish & streams where a light cast is needed.

Slow Action – These rods are very flexible. Here are the pros and cons of a slow action rod:

    • Pros: Good for short casts in streams and other “tight” surroundings. Makes smaller fish feel larger. Useful for accurate short casts using small flies for small fish species.
    • Cons: Hard for longer casts, windy conditions, and larger fish.

Medium Action – Moderately flexible and probably the most versatile kind of action. Properties of a medium action rod:

    • Pros: Works well for most fishing condition and species. Easy for a beginner to pick up a learn.
    • Cons: Not as good as a fast action rod for wind, longer casts, larger fish and flies….or as a slow action rod for smaller fish and short accurate casts.

Conclusion – A medium action rod would be the best choice for most beginners unless specific conditions call for a fast or slow action rod. Such as fishing for large salmon off of a windy beach in saltwater would indicate using a fast action rod, and fishing in a tiny stream or brook for small fish would call for a slow action rod.

Rod Length:

The most common rod lengths are 7, 8 and 9 foot. Shorter rods are better for short casts and where the surrounding environment would make casting a longer rod difficult (like being closely surrounded by trees and brush), while a longer rod allows for a longer cast.

Final thoughts:

For freshwater river and lake fishing for common small to medium fish species, a good beginners rod choice would be an 8-9 foot, 4-6 weight, medium action rod.


Ideal general purpose outfit for trout, panfish, and bass
Concept 1 Model 58 Reel with Click-Drag
9′ Graphite Two-Piece Fly Rod
Scientific Anglers Air Cel WF-5-Floating Fly Line
Knot-tying and tackle-assembly booklet included


Hand-tied by skilled craftsmen, this 10-piece dry fly assortment offers a variety of patterns and sizes. It is easy to choose just the fly you want through the see-through lid of this five compartment, impact resistant dial box.

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