‘Which fly rod should I buy?’ is probably one of the most common questions I get asked when teaching someone new to fly fishing. Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this but I hope to make a bit clearer when you come to choose your first or next rod.
In simple terms, the ‘action’ of the rod is the way it bends or flexes under the weight of the line as you make a cast. Firstly you should choose a rod with an action that suits your casting style and the type of fishing you intend doing , there are three main actions to chose from :-
THROUGH ACTION – These fly rods are designed for close range fishing with small flies and light tippets and are not designed for distance casting. When casting, the rod will flex through the entire blank from the handle to the tip ring. These rods are not that common these days and are a bit of a speciality tool, they can feel a bit like waving a length of limp spaghetti around in the air and are definitely an acquired taste. The through action rod was common place many years ago when rod manufacturing was in its infancy but there are still a few rod makers out there that produce this blank for the ‘traditionalist’ but to get the best out of this rod you will need a very smooth and slow casting action.
My worst experience with a through action rod came a few years ago whilst guiding a client on a river. He had an old split cane rod which he offered me a cast with. I happily took the rod from him as I’m always interested in casting a rod that is new to me………I soon handed it back after my first forward false cast!! I had made a nice crisp, abrupt stop on the forward stroke and watched in horror as the tip of the rod just carried on going for what seemed an eternity………almost submerging itself under the water…..this rod was not for me!!
MID TO TIP ACTION – The best action for all round fly fishing, this bank will flex or bend from the middle of the rod through to the tip. These rods have the benefit of being able to deal with fairly small flies and light tippets but also have some power in reserve for achieving some distance in the cast. I always recommend this type of action to a beginner or to someone who does not have a very powerful casting stroke. From a beginners point of view they will get a ‘feel of the cast’ with this action and they are ‘forgiving’ so a beginners timing does not have to be spot on. This does not mean that this rod will cast itself; you will still need to have a reasonable casting action to throw a good loop.
TIP ACTION – As it says on the tin, this rod will flex in just the last couple of feet or so. This is a rod designed with distance in mind. Master casting with a tip action rod and you will be hitting the horizon with your fly!! If you are a beginner steer clear of this action as your timing will have to be spot on and you will find it hard to get a feel for the cast with its stiff action. The best bet would be to learn with a mid to tip action then progress to the tip action if you want to achieve greater distance with your cast. These rods are not really suitable for light tippet work as you are likely to ‘snap off’ when you strike into a fish as there is little give in them.
This is of course a basic guide to rod actions, there are rods that fall in between these categories, mainly down to the recovery rate of the blank (the way the rod straightens after being bent), and some recover quickly, others not so fast. This is what makes each rod feel unique when you cast it and why different rods suit different people in different fishing situations. Don’t ever be fooled into thinking all rods are the same, my advice is if you get the chance cast a rod before you buy it, it can be a big outlay so that you want to get it right!!
If you would like to learn to fly fish or improve, I am running a beginners day at Burton Springs Fishery near Bridgewater on 18th June, drop me a line for more details.