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!

Wading in the Wild

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Whether it is streams, lakes, or the ocean, sometime, or perhaps every time you go out fishing, it involves wading.  It’s either getting your feet wet, or your whole body depending upon the circumstances of where you might be fishing.   Careful wading is essential in whatever type of fishing.

I don’t know how many times in my earlier days of trout fishing that I slipped on a rock trying to get to that special spot only to float on downstream getting all cold and wet.   Many times if the water is cold enough, it surely might ruin the day or even the fishing trip. 

Fishing for shad one time on the Feather River near Gridley I was standing on a loose shifting sand bottom.  The sand gave away and I went under into a deep hole.  Lucky I had a tight belt around the wader tops which gave me enough floatation to get out of that dilemma.  One shad angler that year drowned under the same circumstances.   Felt soles or hobnails would not do you any good in that kind of bottom environment.   Being wary of the type of bottom terrain is one of the major key ingredients for safe wading.

Let’s say you are fishing for bass in a farm pond or lake shallows where cattails, and the usual vegetation is present.  Along with that is more common than not, very sticky mud sediment.  This stuff is very hard wading but you want to get your presentation out on the edge of the tule growth where the bass hang out.  It also could apply to duck hunters who hide in that type of environment.  What can and will happen is your boots or waders get stuck in the slimy mud. It might take you twice the time and effort getting back to solid ground on the return trip.  If you have any cardiac problems, this type of wading is not recommended.

Now if you are wading a small trout stream in the high Sierra, you might get by with no wading at all and if you do, the rocky bottoms most times are not too slick.  At wide open meadow streams you may only need to wade to get to the other side and the bottoms in these locations are quite safe and gentle on your feet.

Wading rivers like the Truckee, for example, requires careful attention to the bottom and the changing terrain.  Big boulders, pockets, and slick rocks are very common.  The shoreline granite rocks and big holes in the canyon can present a challenge.  Swift currents and runs signal hazardous wading.  Many rivers are like the Truckee bottom and they generally present the greatest challenge in wading.

The Provo River in Utah is very much like the Truckee.  So is the Upper Sacramento River.  Most smaller streams pose no threat to wading, with the exception of Hat Creek. Hat is a rather swift, very cold spring creek until it meets the Rising River in the meadows.  Hat Creek can be deceptive.  It is narrow and crystal clear but some of the holes are very deep and wading can be unsafe.  Then on Hat Creek, and other volcanic streams, there are hidden deep narrow channels that cause the main currents to go from horizontal to deep vertical flows similar to Iron Canyon on the Sacramento River above Red Bluff.   These hazards to wading can be identified generally by shallows on each side of a dark narrow channel and is usually caused by ancient volcanic activity.

 Many streams in the West have this characteristic.

On the upper Klamath from Salt Caves near the Oregon border to the upper tributaries various locations of volcanic activity are present and can be tricky wading. 

On the Williamson River where it is joined by the Sprague River, there are narrow shelves and lava rock extensions protruding out into the middle of the river.  Anglers, if they know the exact location of these formations, can wade and fish out in the middle of the river where fishing for large trout is a great challenge providing the angler does not step off either side of these outcroppings.

When it comes to still water wading in lakes, one can generally see where the deeper water begins.   If this is not possible, then don’t wade. Instead, cast from the dry shoreline.  This might apply too where the fish hang around closer to shore.   If the fish are way out beyond casting reach, a float tube or other floating devices might be the answer.  If you are fly fishing, one has to consider back cast room and wading out a little too far might create a wading hazard.   If you are wearing chest high waders it is a good idea to wear a tight belt around the top of the waders in case you lose your footing and go in the water.

Now days there are great developments in wading attire.  Lightweight, tough and flexible are a radically different from the old cumbersome waders of the past.  We finally got there but it took a lot of slipping, sliding and dunking getting there. Wading shoes are filling the bill with hob nails to grip the rocks and felt soles combined to prevent falls in hazardous currents.  In addition simple wading staffs can be used to further stabilize wading in tricky waters.  A simple stripped down ski pole can suffice.  Your bucks are well spent on durable wading shoes if they only save you once from falling in a swift current.      

Why wade at all?  Maybe it is the attachment we have to the water.  I know if I get near a stream, it seems I always get my feet wet.  It never fails.  Perhaps it’s the rush of the water going by on a beautiful river that makes you want to join in with nature and catch a wild trout.  Or hook a large bass near the shoreline.  Wading is fun and most of the time.  And probably the most important thing about wading as to get you in the right casting range to the fish.   Enjoy, live, and wade safe.