We recently kicked off a Beginners Guide Blog series all about choosing the right gear for you! Included in this series is choosing a fly rod set up. It’s a great read, but a bit more general than what we have here in our Guide to Choosing a Fly Rod for Colorado. Read on for our expert opinions on what makes a great Colorado fly rod.
How to Choose a Fly Rod for Colorado
Walk into our shop (or any shop for that matter) and the first thing you may notice is the fly rod display that takes up a large chunk of wall real estate. If you are new to fly fishing, this wall may seem overwhelming. You may just think a rod is a rod is a rod, right? Not exactly. Every rod make, model, and company is completely different. Even an experienced fly fisherman may get lost in all the techno-babble dominating manufacturers websites when describing their latest and greatest space age wonder rod.
Well have no fear; Duranglers is here! There are a few questions you can ask yourself to get to the meat and potatoes of fly rod makes, models, and what you should be looking for when making a purchase. We may even throw in some techno-babble, but don’t worry…we will explain what we mean.
What fish are you planning on fishing for with this rod?
Where are you going to be fishing the majority of the time with this rod?
What type of flies are you going to be mainly casting with this rod?
Fly rod actions? Slow, medium, fast?
This should be the first question of course. A rod you are planning on fishing for small stream brookies should not be the same rod you cast to sharks with. As you may or may not already know, rods come in “weights” notated wt. These weight measurement correlates to a fly line of the same size. Fly rods range from weights 000 all the way up to 16. The larger the wt, the larger the size of fish you can reasonably catch and size of flies you will be able to cast. So ask yourself, what do you plan on fishing for the majority of the time. Trout? Bass? Bluegills? Pike? Bonefish? Sharks? Tarpon? Salmon? Steelhead? Catfish? Whales? Leviathan?
Where are you mainly going to fish?
Since we are a Colorado shop, let’s just stick with Colorado waters. Small overgrown creeks, wide-open mountain rivers, lakes, and reservoirs will be the main types of water fished here. We will explain why this is important to consider in a moment.
What kind of flies?
Will you be throwing light dries on light tippet or heavy, water moving bass poppers. Lighter rods will be better for the lighter stuff, (obviously) heavier rods will be better for the chunky stuff.
The next step after you figure out what you plan on using this rod for is to figure out what would the best rod weight to buy. Here in Colorado, you will constantly hear that the only rod you will ever need is a 8 and ½ foot to 9 foot – 5 weight. Now while an 8 ½ – 9’ 5wt can be considered the great all around rod for CO, it could also be considered the Colorado standard that all other rod weights and lengths are measured from. An 8 ½ – 9’ 5wt is good at a lot of trout applications, but not perfect for specific applications. If you are just getting into fly fishing here in Colorado and just need something to get started, stop here. A 5 wt is perfect for you. No need to worry about anything more until you have some time on the water under your belt. Learn the basics first.
If however, you are still reading this, still wanting to know what other options there are: well there are hundreds. A 5 wt is great for your average Colorado trout fisherman. A 5 wt is good when using all standard trout flies such as dries and nymphs. It will work well when casting small to medium sized streamers and heavier nymphs. A 5 wt can also be used for smaller creek fish as well as some bass, carp, and panfish. Although it wouldn’t be totally ideal for most of these fish, it would still work.
Here are some rod weights with precise (and by precise, we mean mostly our opinion) descriptions:
- 000-1 wt – Sneaky Ninja Rods. Small creeks and streams that contain small trout. A 1 wt can handle a larger than average creek fish, but it may take a while to land the beast. Smaller rods make smaller fish feel larger…and thereby more fun to catch.
- 2 wt – Creek Slayer. Still great for small creeks and even smaller high altitude lakes. A very fun dry fly wt.
- 3 wt – The Fun One. The best all around creek rod that can still be used to cast dries or nymphs to larger fish. Great for panfish
- 4 wt – The Hatchmaser. Great all around rod for nymphs and dries here in Colorado. A 10 foot 4 wt is an amazing nymphing rod. Can also be used to throw buggers and smaller streamers.
- 5 wt – The All Around Champ. Does all your trout related needs well enough that if you have one trout rod, this should be it.
- 6 wt – Meat Hucker. Great rod for larger Trout, streamers, and dries. A 9 ½ 6 wt is a fantastic Stillwater rod to cast sinking lines. Also, a great rod weight for Carp and bass.
- 7 wt – Muscle Arms. Larger rod and larger flies for larger fish. Great for throwing meaty stuff to hungry trout. Also a good bass, pike, or wiper rod.
- 8 wt – Fangmouth. If you use an 8wt in Colorado, you are probably fishing for something awesome like pike. 8 wts are great for casting beastly flies to vicious predators like pike and bass. Don’t forget that the biggest trout are predators too…
- 9wt – What? If you are using a 9 wt in Colorado, you are either fishing 10 inch streamers to pike, or you just have the “devil may care” attitude about everything in your life.
- 10wt – Wrong State…unless musky…
Fly rod actions? Slow, medium, fast?
The action of a fly rod is more of personal preference than anything. A slower casting stroke will be used on a slower rod, and vice versa with a faster action rod. A slower rod will lay down dries with a delicate touch while a faster action rod will be able to get the flies farther out there. A good moderate action rod is a perfect beginner rod for those just starting out in the fly game. The best way to figure out what you prefer is to stop in the shop, take a look at the wall of glory, narrow your selection down to a few rods, and ask to cast them. We can certainly set up a rod for you to demo should the interest arise.
A few considerations to take into account with fly rod action is that a while a faster action fly rod will not be nearly as quiet and delicate as a slower action rod; it will make it easier to cast larger flies. It will also be able to pick up line quickly and make another cast when your first was inevitably “off target”. This is very important when fishing from a boat and you only have a split second to make a cast to the perfect lie.
While a slower action fly rod may not smash the banks with lightning speed; many find slower action rods more pleasant and even more fun to cast. A fly rod should not only be an extension of your arm, but of your personality…ok maybe not but putting the rod in your hand should relax you, not stress you.
What does length have to do with it? Well a lot really. Shorter rods are great for tight overgrown stream casting with lots of brush involved. A short rod is a great tool to have in the arsenal when accuracy matters more than distance.
Now it may seem like you could get more distance the longer the rod, and this is true to some degree. However, anything longer than a 9 foot won’t make a huge difference with casting distance (we are only talking one handed rods here). Something longer than a 9 wt will help immensely with line mending and high stick drifts however. Many also stand by longer rods being better for fishing from a drift boat or from a float tube on a stillwater.
As stated, longer rods also make for fantastic nymphing rods. We have seen a lot of folks turn to 9′ 6″, 10′, and above lengths in 3 to 6 weights to really maximize their nymph game.
The venerable 5wt will probably forever remain the faithful Colorado standby. In that, we cannot disagree. However, some may argue that if they could only choose one for Colorado, the 8’6” 4wt would be the rod of choice
There are a few other factors such as brand, look and design of the rod, and price that are also things that must be factored in before the rod purchase can be made. Actually some may say price is THE determining factor. You may ask, “What can a $700 rod do that a $100 rod cannot”. The only way we can answer that question for you would be for you to stop in and cast a $100 rod next to a $700 rod. You may be able to answer it for yourself.
When it gets down to it, rod selection is a largely personal choice; and one that we are more than happy to help with. No matter what, make sure your are happy with your choice. This sport is about having fun after all.
Very good info here for me. Im moving from Ca. to the Albuquerque area next summer and will be fishing northern NM and southern Co. Im looking forward to fishing the Durango area & will stop by.
Hey Mark, good to hear you are moving close! Stop by the shop anytime for info. Thanks
Very helpful info.for co. Trout fishing trip i am taking this sept.
I’ve been in the shop a few times and really enjoy stopping by. I live in Abq and fish the Northern NM and Southern CO area as well. I’m on the fence between a 2wt and 3wt rod for the small Cutthroat/Brown waters we have here in NM. I can’t decide between the two…
Also, length. The rods I’m looking at range from 6ft to 7ft 3in. Any thoughts on lengths?
Personally, I fish a 7′ 6″ 2wt. Either option is going to work really well for you, but the 2 weight is a lot of fun with the smaller creek fish. While not ideal, a 2 weight can also handle a fish up to about 18″. The 2 weight is going to be a little more delicate with a softer casting stroke, while the 3 weight will be better if you are fishing in a lot of wind. As far as the length, if the creeks you are fishing are really overgrown with foliage, then the 6 footer is the better option. However, if you have a little more casting room I would go with the 7’3″ as longer rods help with mending and line management.
No matter what you choose, a smaller rod is a lot of fun on the creeks with smaller native fish. I hope that helps. Thanks again and take care.
I am going fishing in CO for the first time . Will my 8’ 5 wt superfine Orvis rod be OK?
Hey Kate, that rod should be just fine! It will work great. Thank you