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In the mind of a purist trout fisher, the action of a bamboo fly rod might be the only one that can approach perfection

By Skip Clement

To some, the near perfect angling experience is the presentation of a dry fly that ends with the capture of a freshwater fish belonging to the genera Oncorhynchus, Salmo and Salvelinus and done so with a bamboo fly rod.

The adoration of bamboo and fly fishing separated richer from poorer, stunted the growth of angling beyond ‘trouts’, and being so limited in lifting power ruled out saltwater angling.



‘Glass’ replaced bamboo and created the fly fishing industry as we now know it. Glass is a favorite of many anglers for its flex, cost, and durability.

Graphite is overwhelmingly the favorite material and optimum and made out of multilayered carbon-fibers and the unique characteristics of bonding adhesives that were NASA originated. These rods are light, very strong, and can be fine-tuned by the manufacturer to produce specific casting features and lift and fight performance advantages.

Rod weights

Rod weights are rare at 1-weight to 2-weight but quickly found in weights from 3- to 12-weight, with higher weights as rare as 1- and 2-weight rods.

Generally, when choosing higher-end fly rods, usually more expensive, there come advantages. One can be lined up or down from its indicated weight and still have impressive performance stats. For example, an 8-weight being perfectly capable of handling smaller flies ‘lined’ with a 7-weight line, or cast well in the wind or big, bushy flies using a 9-weight fly line. That example is often the exact case for winter bonefishing in the Florida Keys or the northern Bahamas because of weather fronts.

For effective casting, presentation, and the ensuing fight, line weight has to match your fly fishing rod. Low numbered rod weights are for small fish and close-in fishing, heavier weights, generally considered 7-weight and up for longer casts and bigger fish.

Bill Oyster, bamboo fly rod master, is almost my next door neighbor.

Rod flexibility – the sticky wicket

One end of a fly rod’s so-called action spectrum is fast, and that ‘usually’ requires superior casting capability and takes longer to learn because these fly rods are prone to having less ‘feel.’ Fast rods only flex near the tip-top, making them powerful and ideal for longer casts and larger fish.

Opposite ‘fast’ is a very soft or so-called ‘slow’ action fly rod, typically used for trout in small streams where fly presentation needs to be delicate. This deep flexing does not require expertise to cast and does not apply to having accuracy – the measure of a good fly fisher. It aids novice anglers to learn ‘how’ to cast a fly rod but creates limits [limited casting distance; not good with large, bushy flies, casting in the wind].

Medium flexing fly rods usually are better in more situations, and they are also easier to learn to cast, making them, overall and as one class of action, a more general-purpose approach. However, within these medium action fly rod designs are manufacturing sophistication, making this type of rod flex the most desirable and often very cost-effective.

A closeup of a male hand holding a fly fishing rod and reel at the water's edge on a beach.

It’s batter up for the new fly rod.

Rod length

There’s no standard length for a fly fishing rod, but eight or nine feet is the most common.

Shorter rods — down to about five and a half feet – allow for fishing in tight quarters, such as narrow streams, under overhangs, etc. Long rods can exceed 12-feet and are suited to significant bodies of open water where casting distance becomes more important. Saltwater fly rods are generally 9-feet or slightly longer [10-feet for switch rods].

Other matters of a rod’s build are also significant

The number of sections – four-piece rods the most common because they’re easy to transport to destinations [hand carry, vehicle, or airline].

Fit and Finish

Make sure reel mounts are as secure. Rod handles [wells type] for casting comfort in freshwater and fighting butts for saltwater. Also, look at the line guides; they should allow the line to run freely without slapping the rod. Ceramic coatings are often used to reduce friction, but stainless steel the most common.

What can you afford?

Offshore made fly rods at Walmart are $30 to $99 for tepid beginners or occasional backyard pond anglers. If you fly fish locally and seriously a few times a month, think in the $200 to $500 range. Top fly rods and specialty fly rods about $600 $1,000 to several thousand dollars for bamboo.

What’s the new trend?

Maximizing the purchase, buying a matched ‘combo’ – ‘just add water.’

Fly rod, reel, backing, and fly line. Only one trip to your local fly shop for flies. Besides convenience and getting a perfectly balanced system, the savings make this new kind of choice a prudent one.,Henry Fly Rods, Long Island on the FlyRIO Products

This kid can fish. Photo courtesy of Capt. Derr,

What’s are the most popular fly rods?

Freshwater is a 5-weight and an 8-weight for saltwater, and 9-foot and four-piece.

What’s the best buy?

The new Henry’s in combo.


Author Skip

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