How do you choose your first fly rod

Question: I’m relatively new to fly fishing and want to buy my first “good” fly rod for the upcoming season. There are hundreds of models on the market, so how can I help make sure I get the right one for me?

Fly Rods

Answer: The most important words in that question are the last two: “for me.” A guy who works at one of the country’s busiest fly shops once told me that 99 percent of his rod-buying customers come through the door with their minds already made up. There are many reasons for this—they want the same rod as their favorite celebrity, a buddy told them what to buy, or they did research on the Internet. But this is a terrible way to prepare yourself to drop a good chunk of change, especially since you might not end up with a rod that works for you.

There’s really no such thing as an objectively “best” fly rod because all such judgments are subjective, taking into consideration the talent, experience, and prejudices of the individual caster. So, rule #1 is Don’t take anyone else’s word that a rod is right for you. This is your choice and yours alone. That said, follow these steps to increase the odds that you’ll find a rod to fit your skill level, fishing style, and tastes.

  1. Take a casting lesson. The better caster you are, the better you’ll be able to make different fly rods perform well.
  2. Determine how much you’re willing to spend, and focus on the rods in that range, rather than wasting your time drooling over rods you can’t afford.
  3. Think about the fishing situations in which you’ll be using the rod, and then consider which kinds of rods and actions are best suited for the task.
  4. Go to a specialty fly shop and cast a whole bunch of rods. Bring your own reel, loaded with the line and leader you’ll be fishing with. (Unless you plan on buying those, as well.)
  5. Ask the advice of the experts in the shop, or bring an experienced fly fisherman with you. Their experience can help you determine the right length, line weight, and action.
  6. Cast the rods at your normal fishing distances; don’t just pick the one that you can cast the farthest. For instance, if you are a small-stream brook-trout angler, look for the rod that casts and feels best at 10 to 30 feet. Don’t be wowed by the stick that lets you throw the whole fly line in the parking lot.
  7. Once you’ve narrowed the field down to a few candidates, then you can let your more trivial personal preferences—whether you prefer a certain color, fine components, a rod company, or grip style—run wild.

Let me repeat that the only way to find the right rod for you is to cast a lot of rods.Fly shops are far and away the best places for anglers to learn about rods and get expert advice. But you have to be willing to listen and learn. And the few extra dollars you’ll spend at the fly shop—instead of getting the rod online—will pay off whenever you need advice in the future.


10 Things to Do When you Can’t Go Fishing


1.  Tie Flies.  This one is a no brainer so I’ll get it out of the way early.  For most of us who tie, this will be the first thing we’ll think of.  But I’d like to make a suggestion.  Instead of simply restocking your staple patterns (which can feel like a chore), try something different.  Maybe experiment with a new material, new hooks, different colors, or different styles of flies.  You’ve already had your plans dashed, so why not turn it into an opportunity to take an adventure rather than doing housekeeping?  If you don’t tie, this might be a great opportunity to start.  Head down to your local fly shop and see what you’ll need to get started.  But if tying just isn’t for you, read on…

2.  Make slide shows.  Go through all those pictures of trips from the last year and make a youtube video out of them.  Maybe even put some comments on each picture about that particular trip.  It feels great to reminisce about all the fish you’ve caught and good times you’ve had.  Then, share it with your friends in social media.

3.  Hone your skills.  Downtime is a great time to practice your techniques.  Go to Animated Knots by Grogand practice tying some new knots.  Or, setup a tea cup in the backyard and practice your casting accuracy by trying to deliver your fly into it at various distances.  All of us have skills we could improve upon.  Figure out what your weaknesses are and practice, practice, practice!  The next time you’re out, you’ll be grateful that you were able to practice off the water so you can catch more fish on it!

4.  Tidy up!  Admit it.  That disaster area you call your gear room could use some organization.  But as in #1, this can seem like a chore and it’s easy to procrastinate.  To make it fun, turn it into a kind of treasure hunt.  Every time I organize, I find some fly tying material or piece of tackle I didn’t even know I had.  Make the goal to find these elusive treasures and try to find something interesting to do with them.  By the end, you’ll not only have some “free” new gear, but a tidy space.

5.  Watch videos.  There are tons of excellent fly fishing videos on Youtube that could easily consume your whole day.  And if you can’t be on the stream, the next best thing is watching videos.  Search for some topics that you’re specifically interested in or techniques you want to learn.  Then, go ahead and practice them as in #3.

6.  Fix it!  All of us have some gear somewhere that could use a little attention.  Maybe it’s the worn out laces on your wading boots, the busted buckle on your wading belt, or that wonky zinger that needs to be replaced on your chest pack.  Go through your gear and triage what needs the most TLC.  Most repairs like cleaning your rods or washing your favorite fishing jacket only take a few minutes but can improve their performance.

7.  Waterproof it.  Speaking of fishing jackets, now might also be a good time to rewaterproof some of your fishing clothing.  For most waterproof materials, the simple act of washing and drying can restore their finish.  But it might not hurt to get some waterproof spray and give a good treatment to anything that could benefit from it:  jackets, hats, gloves, etc.  Your trip might have been ruined today, but it won’t the next time you’re out in a driving rain.

8.  Make a fishing kit for your car.  How many times have you been somewhere when an unexpected fishing opportunity presented itself, but you didn’t have any equipment with you?  It’s happened to me so many times that I finally decided to put together a small fishing kit that I now keep in my car at all times.  It’s doesn’t have to be elaborate.  Just a general fishing kit with a range of flies that will cover all the species you’re likely to encounter in your area.  I used “seconds”–gear that I have duplicates of or better versions of so I didn’t diminish my main arsenal.  You’ll feel better knowing that no matter where you go, you’re always ready to fish when serendipity appears.

9.  Experiment.  What’s a fishing-related problem that you’ve always wanted to solve?  List some out and brainstorm ideas for solving them.  Then, do a little DIY experimentation to see if you can figure it out. Just make sure to share it with us if you do!

10.  Get creative.  If you’re a writer or an artist, why not take this opportunity to express yourself?  Write a blog post, paint a picture, carve something.  Or, maybe you’ve always wanted to start a fishing blog, but never had the time.  Well, now you do.  Get started at in minutes at WordPress or Blogger.  It only takes a few minutes to get a blog set up and you might discover a new lifelong hobby!