Buying the Wrong Fly Rod!
©2013 E. Macri
I believe that most fly anglers have the wrong fly rod for the type of fishing they are
doing. This theory is based on fly fishing instruction and guiding for over 40
years. Fly anglers buy the rods based on a description on the web, in a catalog or from the owner of
a fly shop. You would think that if you bought the equipment in the fly shop you would get good advice but
evidently that's not happening. The problems stem from the fact that the market is constantly being flooded
with "new equipment" and there's a declining base for it. Why? Because most fly anglers have what they need
to a point. However, too many fly anglers "chase" technology. This is similar to the camera business.
In this venue the companies have convinced the photographers (even some pros) that the latest greatest newest
digital magic camera will make them a better photographer. I read these photo forums where people who never
made a living as photographers debate in minute detail meaningless data on digital photography. The same is
true for fly anglers. It's not the equipment but the person who is holding it. Fly shop owners aren't making
much money so it's tempting to try and sell a new $600 to $800 fly rod to the angler who thinks this
will make him a better at catching fish.
Buying a newer rod will not usually help you catch more fish especially if it's the wrong action or
size for your stream and type of fishing. I have old Orvis
graphites that are over 25 years old that still are excellent rods especially on spring creeks. I've
stated this before but it doesn't seem to register you don't want an extreme super stiff rod for a stream like
Big Spring or the Letort. These rods work against your success.
You are not really casting on these streams. You are basically pitching the fly. You
have a 9 foot rod with 10 feet of line and 10 feet of leader...that's it in most instances. You may add
slightly more line but if your slinging more line you are probably spooking the trout for 50 meters in both
directions. On many of these streams you are hunting not fishing. You are looking for a trout on the
proper lie (Please note that most of what has been written about trout lies is dead wrong and that it depends
on the stream type, fishing pressure, emergence of insects, time of year and day and individual trout!).
It's very hard to get fly anglers and even guides that want to whip it out and show off their
casting abilities. A couple years ago at the headwaters of Big Spring known as the ditch I watch a so called
guide and his clients actually get into the stream trying to make casts 60 feet or more upstream for a rising
trout. Of course, they spooked every trout in the entire upper area of the stream.
Another problem is that the rod, reel, and line don't balance. Most modern reels appear to be
too light and throw off the casts. The typical person who shows up to fish limestone spring creeks in the
East has 7.6 to 8 foot fly rod that is as stiff as broomstick with a reel too light to balance on the cast.
When I give them one of my rods suddenly their casting and fishing ability gets better. Here are some modern
recommendations for fly rods:
Fly Rod Selection
for Eastern and most Western Spring Creeks: 8.6 to 9 ft; 3,4,5 wt lines medium fast action
for larger streams and Rivers like Penns, Madison etc. 9 ft 5,6 7 wt. fast action
for dry fly fishing if you want to get dainty on some smaller waters 8 to 8.6 ft 2,3, 4 wt medium
You notice I like longer rods and for a good reason: You increase your control of the line,
the leader, the drift and increase your line speed in striking! I'm not saying you can't be successful with
other stuff but these are general recommendations for most fly anglers. You should realize that the type
graphite that you have also makes a difference. Most of the new ones are stiffer.
So if you have an I 5 or I6 graphite its fast action maybe just right because it's really a medium fast
action by today's standards. Why would I recommend a medium action for a dry fly rod on small streams? Well
today's medium action rods have enough "tip" action to dry your fly on such rapid movements but allow lighter
tippets and smaller flies. The extreme stiffness of some newer models will leave you at a disadvantage
because on a smaller stream the fish is right on you and you have less room for error. The faster rod will snap
small flies and the smaller hooks will not penetrate. The best rod for these streams is a bamboo without a
doubt. Because of the flexing action it allows the smaller flies to slide into the trout's mouth without the
snapping action with light tippets. On large rivers like Penns or the Madison you need a stiffer rod especially
with nymphs etc. because you must strike through heavier water. A slower rod here is a disadvantage in my
So the next time you go out take a look at your equipment and decide if you really have the right
stuff for the type of fishing that you are doing!