How to choose a fly fishing rod

The three main things to consider when looking for a fly fishing rod are

  1. size (“weight”)
  2. length
  3. stiffness (“action”).

Rod Length:

Fly rods typically have a longer length than your typical saltwater or freshwater rod.  The length of the rod can vary anywhere from 6-10ft with 6-8ft rods being excellent for small creeks that need more finesse casting.  8-10ft rods work well in larger more open bodies of water that require longer casts.

SIZE (Weight)

The size or weight of your fly fishing rod will affect the weight of the fishing line you can effectively use. Simply put, a 5-weight line will work best with a 5-weight rod. When it comes to the sizing chart there is exponential growth. As the rods get heavier the difference between each rod increases. So there is a much bigger jump from 10 to 11 than there would be from 2 to 3.

So what size is best for you? Here is a general outline for what each range of sizes is best for:

Sizes 2-4:

Smaller streams, closer range fishing (less than 30 feet), and smaller fish (trout and some bass depending on where you are).

Sizes 5-7:

These are your more “all-around” sizes. They can be used in streams as well as in larger bodies of water. A lot of fly fisherman start with a 5 or 6 weight rod.

Sizes 8-9:

Bone fishing, going after fish in the 10-pound range, that can reach speeds upwards of 30 miles per hour. Fishing for salmon or larger trout in Alaska.

Sizes 10-12:

Saltwater fishing for tarpon or barracuda.

Size 14:

Sailfish and marlin

Three types of stiffness (“Action”)

Due to the fluidity of fly fishing the “action” of the line has a huge impact on your fly fishing experience. Sometimes this is more of a personal preference for how you like the rod to feel in as your casting. Other times, you want to pick an action based or what and where you’re fishing.

  • Tip-flex – While casting only the first 1/3rd of the rod flexes
  • Mid-flex – The rod flexes to the halfway point while casting.
  • Full-flex – The rod flexes all the way to the grip during casting.


General guidelines to follow:

  • If a rod is better at casting over long distances, it’s going to be more stiff.
  • Rods meant for close range casting will be softer.
  • A softer (slower) rod allows you to feel the loading of the rod more quickly (meaning with less line out).
  • The stiffer the rod the easier it is to hold more line in the air

Carbon Graphite Fiber vs. Bamboo?

The last thing to consider is the material you prefer. In general bamboo rods are lighter, slower, usually custom made, and more expensive. They are also generally a little harder to assemble.

For a first time fly fisherman we’d recommend carbon graphite, but as you improve and are looking for a second rod definitely consider investing in bamboo.



  1. Loomis NRX LP for short and medium distances
  2. Fenwick Aetos if you’re looking for affordability
  3. Sage Fly Rods if you’re interested in competition (they have over 70 world records!). Also, if you’re fishing in saltwater Sage is the brand to go with.
  4. The Orvis Zero Gravity Helios fly rods are always a good choice for beginners and experts alike.
  5. Powell LTT series- light weight, light action, very good for small fly fishing outings just about anywhere.