Which Fly Rod? Part 2 – Rod Length and Line Rating.

I get asked a lot by newcomers to fly fishing when purchasing their first rod “which fly rod should I buy to start with?”

With an array of rods on offer in today’s market this is not such a simple question to answer, there are many specialist rods out there now for specific fly fishing situations. I remember in my early fly fishing days, around 35 years ago, I was bought a rod by my parents and made do with that one rod for many types of fly fishing from small West Country streams through to large reservoir fishing. The rod was around 9’ 6” for a 7 weight line and if I remember rightly and I had to make do with this! This rod was used in all sorts of situations, poking it through the bushes on a small stream and just hanging the fly off of the end of the rod, a method now called “short lining” and using it in tight situations with Roll casts and Spey casts when I didn’t even know what these casts were at the time, I just got on with it and improvised with the rod I had, looking back I now wonder how much more successful I would have been having a more suitable rod for each situation.

Choosing the right rod length and line rating makes things a bit easier.


For a beginner nowadays they need to identify what type of fishing they will be doing and for most this will be cutting their teeth on small commercial fisheries where the banks are maintained and there is no need for a long cast.

For this type of fly fishing in mind I would suggest a rod of around 9’ which casts a line of either a 5 or 6 weight. This rod would also be fairly versatile in respect that it could be used on a medium sized river or in calm conditions on a large open expanse of water such as a reservoir. The 5 weight version would be more suited to river work where lighter lines pay dividends.

Listed below are some recommendations for rod sizes:-

Small streams – 7’ to 8’ rod with a line rating of 2 to 4.

Medium sized rivers – 8’ to 9’ with a line rating of 4 to 6.

Large rivers and small stillwaters – 9’ to 9’6” with a line rating of 5 to 6.

Reservoirs – 9’6” to 10’ with a line rating of 6 to 8, 10’ rod for boat fishing.

Saltwater and Pike fishing – 9’ to 9’6” with a line rating of 8 to 9.

This is a very broad list bearing in mind there are some very specialist rods out there now, one example being a 10’ for a 3 or 4 weight line now used on rivers for a method called “Czech nymphing”where a long rod is used for greater line control.