The Starter Fly Rod

Do you want to expand your horizons into fly fishing?  If you aren’t fly fishing already, you should give it a try!  It doesn’t matter where you live or fish… fly fishing is about more than trout.  In fact, almost anything that can be caught on spinning or casting gear can be caught on a fly.   Fly casting can be a lot of fun, and fighting fish on a fly rod and reel is a unique challenge.

But where to begin?  What size rod is best to start with?

Well, that depends on two things: the size of the fish you’re planning to catch, and the size of the angler.   The average length of fly rods is between 8-1/2 feet and 9-feet.  For kids starting out, I recommend a slightly shorter rod (7-1/2 to 8-feet long).

For adults, I think 8-1/2 feet is the perfect starter rod length.  For many, it’s best to learn the basic mechanics of casting on a slightly sized-down, more manageable rod.

The “weight” rating of a fly rod has nothing to do with how much the rod actually weighs, rather the weight of the line it’s designed to cast.  The higher the rod weight, the heavier the line.

I actually like 4-weight rods best for trout and panfish.  A 5-weight is an ideal all-around rod.  Casting larger flies to bass is usually best handled on a 6-weight or 7-weight rod.  And for pike, salmon, steelhead, or most ocean fishing, you’ll want an 8-weight or larger.  If you fish in windy places, you’ll want a 6-weight or greater.

You’ll need two other things to get started: a reel, and a fly line.  I recommend that beginners use weight-forward, floating fly lines.  They’re the easiest to cast and handle.   As for a reel, you don’t have to spend a lot to get a decent reel.  At the beginning stage of the fly game, reels are for holding fly lines, and not much more.

In fact, you don’t need to spend a lot to get a perfectly functional rod, reel, and line that you will use for years.  If you’re starting out, look for a “combo” package…  you should be able to find one for $150 or less – which, I’d say, is a fair price of admission for a whole new outlook on your fishing experience.

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Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter

Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream, and he co-wrote The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing with the late Charlie Meyers.