Perhaps winter has you thinking of spring temps and bug hatches. Perhaps you decided that “this is the year” and 2020 is going to be the one you dedicate to learning how to fly fish. Or perhaps, you have been thinking of upgrading your setup.
No matter what your reason or needs, we wanted to put together a Beginner’s Guide series this winter to help hungry anglers understand how to set up the perfect outfit for their needs and budget for wherever they will be fishing. Should you find yourself targeting the waters of this wonderful state of Colorado, we have a more nuanced fly rod selection article for you to check read to help you choose your perfect Colorado fly rod. Read on for our Beginner’s Guide to choosing a fly rod by us here at the Duranglers fly shop.
And after rods, will move on to reels, fly lines, leaders, tippet, and beyond! Stay tuned…
Beginner Guide: Choosing a Fly Rod
When choosing the correct fly rod, a lot of factors can come into play. The first question you need to ask yourself is, “How much do I really enjoy fishing, overall?” Most of the time, if you really enjoy fishing as a whole, you’re going to take to fly fishing pretty well. It’s a very rewarding sport. Choosing the correct rod, especially for a beginner, can feel overwhelming. Let’s start by asking ourselves a few simple questions:
- “How much do I plan on fishing”?
- “What species do I want to target”?
- “How much do I want to spend”?
These are simple questions that make choosing the correct fly rod a bit easier. If you plan on fishing only a few days per year, then maybe a less expensive (but still effective) option is for you. If you plan on fishing maybe 50-100 days per year, then it makes more sense to spend your hard-earned money on something that can handle that many days on the water. If fly fishing is your passion and you plan on spending more than 100 days fly fishing, then dropping a bit more money on a top-shelf setup could end up saving you money down the road. It’s common to progress quickly when learning and if you plan on spending a great deal of days of on the water, you may find the need to upgrade sooner as your abilities increase.
Spending $200 on a rod now to learn, then another $800 down the road on a much better setup to accompany your increasing abilities can add up. This is why trying to get a handle on how much you’re going to fish is a great first question to ask and then trying to balance that with what you can reasonably afford. Many fish can be caught with a willow stick and a string, but it is nice to have a fly rod that won’t wear your arm out after a full day of fishing.
What species do you want to target? You will notice rods come in a variation of “weights”. Fly rods and hence fly lines traditionally come in “weights” from 1 weight to 16 weight; “1 weight” being the smallest/lightest weight, “16 weight” the biggest/heaviest. When a fly rod is said to be, or is rated as, a “5 weight rod”, this means that it is made to be used with a “5 weight fly line.” A “10 wt.” rod takes a “10 wt.” line; a “2 wt. rod, a “2 wt. line, and so forth. A 3wt. rod can be longer than an 8 wt. rod. (e.g., the 3 wt. might be 9′ in length, and the 8 wt. just 8′ long.) But the 8 wt. is “bigger” because it takes a heavier line and together the combination can handle casting on “bigger” water, using “bigger” flies, fishing for “bigger” fish, etc. A pretty common ratio for choosing the right rod for species of fish can be found below:
- 1-4: sunfish and small trout: creeks and smaller rivers.
- 4-6: general trout and smaller bass: larger streams, rivers, and lakes.
- 6-8: bass, carp, light pike, steelhead, salmon, and saltwater.
- 8-10: saltwater, pike, musky, jungle species, winter steelhead, and salmon.
- 10-15: adult tarpon, GTs, big game and bluewater.
The next question gets easier after you ask yourself the first question. There are a great number of fly rods on the market. Even the most inexpensive rods are suitable for the casual fly fisherman these days. The most common rods being for freshwater tend to be cheaper, as opposed to rods designed for saltwater. We will break down some rods below to help you understand the different price levels and what you will get.
The Redington Path Fly Rod rod is a smooth-casting, medium-fast action graphite fly rod, offering classic performance for all levels of anglers. The Path has been one of the consistent “guide rods” that are found in our guide boats the past few years. The Path casts well, has some power, and has worked hard for us in tough conditions for many years. With the price does come the downside of having a heavier swing weight…meaning that this rod feels heavier in the tip when you cast it. For the money though, we are very complaint free with the Path. This is one rod that many of our local anglers have used for years.
Built with Sage’s Graphite IIIe technology which ensures power and durability, providing fast action performance and a connected feel. This has been the staple of our guide rod fleet for many years because it is durable and reliable rod capable of casting size 26 dry flies or size 2 streamers. A medium fast action rod, the Pulse is capable in almost every situation, which makes it our top recomennded rod for most beginners.
Flex rods generate line speed and tight loops effortlessly, helping you cast accurately and control your presentations. And, their powerful butt sections help with quick, positive hook sets and fish control. The Flex is a bit faster than the Sage Pulse, which makes for a good longer distance fishing tool.
Orvis Recon II $498 (New for 2020 – Freshwater/Saltwater)
The Orvis Recon II was designed through the technology and innovation learned from building the Orvis H3. We had the chance to test this rod out this past year, and it is an incredible rod for the money. Light in hand, easy to cast, and fun; we will see the Recon show up in the Duranglers shop March 2020. This is a medium-fast action all around rod that will work great for dry and nymph fishing.
GLoomis IMX Pro $525 (Freshwater)
The Gloomis IMX Pro was built to the unrelenting specifications of professional fishing guides, the IMX-PRO series is comprised of a rod design made to meet the performance demands of modern freshwater fishing. In the grand scheme of things, $525 falls in the mid-priced category; though for many fishing bums, 5 bills still feels like a lot to shell out. However, we believe this rod is one of the best out there for the money.
Sage Trout LL $800 (Freshwater)
With a delicate touch and medium action, the TROUT LL family has been designed with the trout angler and dry flies in mind. Through and through, this is a trout rod first and foremost. The 4 weights in this family might be the best 4 weights being produced by any manufacturer currently.
Boasting an all-new fast action taper built with KonneticHD Technology that delivers greater blank recovery and a crisper tip stop – the X creates tighter, more efficient loops throughout all ranges of casting styles. The Sage X fly rod is one that beginners and veteran fly casters alike will fall in love with. This is one of our favorite all-water rods that we have used from small trout creeks to saltwater applications for permit and bonefish. You can read our X review here, or our Sage X review of the larger rod models.
There isn’t a finer production rod in existence. Features like titanium framed SiC stripping guides, custom reel seats with burled box elder spacers, the very top grade Portuguese cork, and the new patented Universal snake guides from American maker Snake Brand round out the most fully loaded rods to ever grace a rod rack. This is a rod that you have to cast to believe. The Radian is one of our favorite trout rods in 4, 5, and 6 weights, check out our review.
If the Radian is the jack of all trades fly rod, then the Scott G series is the softer spoken cousin. Built to be a presentiation rod, if you find yourself making casts with smaller nymph rigs and dry flies to technical or spooky fish, this is the rod of choice for you. We grab this rod most often for the San Juan River technical midge fishing.
Orvis H3 $898-$949 (Freshwater/Saltwater)
The marketing machine of the Orvis H3 has been very strong the past year or so. That white label has been the talk of the fly fishing world since it was unveiled and subsequently seen in every other fly fishing film and photograph (you can identify it from a mile away, which is why the did it). Astetics aside, this rod is an amazing rod to cast. We had the good fortune to fish a few models through the height of our Rio Grande dry fly season last summer, and we can say that this rod puts flies where you want them to go. Available in fast and moderate actions, you have the option of line speed or presentation.
The one interesting thing about the H3 is that it tracks amazing in a straight line to make great casts, but the side to side motion is limited (probably to make this rod super accurate). It seems they made this rod to work really well in one direction, straight on. This is fine, but we have noticed that making an up or downstream mend or a reach cast can feel a little funky when you are trying to get it to load side to side. That being said, from lazer dry fly casts or exact saltwater presentations to picky fish, this rod lives up to the cringy markeing slogan of “Accurate from Anywh3re” in spades. “It knows your thoughs before you do and puts your fly there before you know you want it there. May be possessed.” -unnamed guide.
Gloomis – NRX+ Freshwater $825 and NRX+ LP $795,
Like the Orvis H3, the NRX+ has been an instant crowd pleaser with fast action and a moderate action (LP=Light Presentation) models. We loved them both, and honsetly more than the Asquith. Here is what Gloomis says about each:
- NRX+ Rolled with our most advanced compound taper construction to date, NRX+ provides the power, line speed, and loop stability expected from modern fast-action rods, without compromising “feel” and finesse in the short game. This means, regardless of casting distance or difficulty, NRX+ empowers anglers with confidence-boosting control in less-than-ideal situations.
- NRX+ LP Perfect, delicate drifts require slinging unconventional slack yielding casts, and drag inducing micro-currents, obstacles, and other naturally occurring variables can limit tactical opportunity. NRX+ LP is the ultimate tool for accurate and effective dry fly presentation. Tailored for supreme versatility over a wide range of casting techniques, actions are sweet, smooth, and stable, with plenty of “spank” when conditions call for an additional pinch of power.
Hopefully, you didn’t find this too overwhelming. Choosing the fly rod that’s best for you is no easy task, but can certainly be done. If you’re having any issues or rough decision making, I cannot stress enough, to get to your local fly shop. The guys in the shop have a vast knowledge on all things fly fishing and are MORE than ready to help you with your fly fishing needs. Don’t be shy. We love new anglers. See ya on the water…