Updated: Nov 11, 2020
As you are starting to get into fly fishing you will find that you might hit a wall when it comes to understanding the in's and out's of different gear. Especially with one of the most important items: The fly rod. So lets dive in and talk about the different specs that you may need to know before you commit to a new rod.
If you are a seasoned spinning rod angler or a beginner fly anger it can be hard to to understand some of the specs. If you have experience with fishing and understand regular rods you might understand more than a new and fresh beginning angler due to some aspects being the same like action and the different advantages to length based on your fishing conditions. The one thing that may be new to some beginners is what is called "weight". We will talk about that first.
Something that might be odd to some beginning anglers is what is called the “weight” of the rod. This is one of the main ways fly rods are rated. This indicates the size of fishing line that matches the rod. The range of weights are from 1-14. 1 being a lighter rod for smaller fish and 14 being a heavier rod for big game fish. Even though you can hook a fish on a lower weight rod you have to take more time usually to play the fish and get it in. Some people may look down on this because the longer the fish is fighting the more worn out it will be and take longer to recover. Also the longer the fish are fighting A good beginner weight is a 5 weight. It is good for trout, and larger streams and rivers. Always do a little research into your area and target quarry and figure out which weight would be best for the different fish that you want to catch.
The length of a fly rod is also important because it plays into your casting as well as the terrain you will be fishing in. The length can effect how well and how far you are able to cast your line. It also can a big help when you “mend the line” or move the line in a manner to allow for a better presentation and help you reduce drag on flies.
Length can also effect how much water you can cover. If you have a longer rod, like nine feet, you can reach farther and mend farther than a shorter rod. This is why fly rods come in all lengths. A good starting length is usually 9 feet. This an all around good length to learn fishing wet and dry flies. After you get into the fly fishing more and get a feel of what you might like when it comes to rod length, you can then feel more comfortable in choosing a rod. It will also pay to research the areas you plan on fishing the most and figure out if there is a lot of brush and how big the average streams are and so on.
This may be familiar to seasoned spinning rod anglers. For the beginners and as a reminder to the seasoned anglers, action is basically how much the rod bends, this is a very basic definition of the word. There can be a lot more to it but that will be understood better as you fish and start to understand how certain rods feel and bend when fishing and casting. A rod's action is rated as slow , medium, medium -fast, fast and to very fast. Fast action rod wont bend as much as a slow action rod. Fast action rods will bend about the first third of the tip of the rod while the slow action will bend all the way down to the handle of the rod. Each can have its advantage. Fast action rods are more powerful than slow action but slow action rods are more flexible.
Moderate action rods, the kind of the middle of the road action, is always a good choice for most beginners. When it comes to fly fishing, action can play into how you cast and how your are able to present a fly with a cast. With more flexible, or "bendy rod", you may not be able to cast as far as you would like where a faster action, stiffer rod, will help you cast farther.
Action, or bend, can also have an effect on playing fish. A faster rod can help play a fish better and tire out the fish enough to reel it in. A slower rod, bends more, will not be as ideal for playing most larger fish. You will have a greater chance of breaking your rod if you get into a rowdy fish that you do not know how to really handle. Now don't get me wrong a large fish can be caught on slower rods, it just takes a little more knowledge and experience to play a fish correctly to your net without snapping your rod or tippet.
There are many different combo sets that outdoor outfitters sell that are loaded with fly line and leaders that are a good length, the right weight, and the best action for a beginner to get their feet wet in the world of fly fishing. I recommend shopping around a little before committing. Most outfitters will let you play around with it or possibly even practice casting with it. I know some fly shops will let you do this. Take advantage of this and find one that you feel not only fits your budget but what you want out of a fly rod.