Learn The Fly Fishing Basics and How to Fly Fish!

Choosing the Right Fly Rod Part 2 – Fly Fishing Basics

In Part 1 of Choosing the Right Fly Rod, we looked at two of the key points in choosing your first fly rod.  Those two points were fly rod line weight and the fly rod action.  In this second part we will take a look at what to look out for in fly rod length and in the materials that fly rods are built with and how those make a difference.  Finally we’ll summarize what I consider to be the best choice for your first fly rod to help you with learning the fly fishing basics.

1. Fly Rod Length

Fly rod length is another important factor to consider when choosing a fly rod, and one that will primarily be determined by the areas in which you want to fish.  Fly rods will range from 4 feet all the way to 14 plus feet for spey casting fly rods.  As you can see, that increases the options for you when out shopping.

Choosing the right fly rod

The length of the fly rod is important for a couple reasons.  Smaller streams will be more efficiently fished with a smaller rod and larger streams and lakes will be more efficiently fished with longer rods.  Trying to fish a 3-foot wide mountain creek with a 10-foot rod is possible, but trying to combat the surrounding trees with a rod that long will become cumbersome.  Likewise, fishing a larger lake with a 7-foot rod and trying to cast out a larger woolly bugger fly isn’t going to be the easiest of tasks.

My rule of thumb is that the smaller the place you are going to fish, the shorter the fly rod; the larger the lake or river, the longer the fly rod.  This has worked for me countless times.  Rarely these days to I venture out to the high-mountain streams with anything over a 7 1/2-foot rod and rarely do I fly fish a lake with anything under a 10-foot fly rod.

My recommendation for choosing your first fly rod would be to stay in the 8 1/2 to 9 foot range.  These will allow you to fish multiple different areas without problem.  The same as with the fly rod line weight, these lengths are what I would consider an all-around, or multi-purpose, fly rod length and provide you with years of use no matter where you travel to fish.

2. Fly Rod Materials

There are three basic materials that companies use to produce fly rods: Bamboo, fiberglass, and graphite.

Bamboo fly rods were among the first fly rods created and considered by many to be the traditional type of rod.  These are created from strips of bamboo that are glued together to form the fly rod.  Typically you will see these in a hexagonal shape, giving the rod six sides made from six strips of bamboo.  This type of rod is a very slow action rod and are generally much heavier than other types of fly rods.  The expense on these can also be very high.

Fiberglass rods are another type of rod that came about as an alternative to bamboo fly rods.  These are typically very durable, much less expensive, and lighter than their bamboo counterparts.  A fiberglass rod will have much the same action as the bamboo rod, that being very slow.  These fly rods are fun to fish due to the action and feel that the rod gives to even the smallest of fish.

Graphite fly rods are the most common type of rod today.  The technology over the years has improved this type of rod to the point that you get all of the benefits of both fiberglass and bamboo fly rods, yet without the drawbacks.  Graphite fly rods can be built using various different types of graphite material, and now are even including the material boron in some rods, particularly those by R.L. Winston.  This will create differences in how thin and light the actual fly rod is due to the variances.  Many of the entry-level rods will be created with graphite that is thicker, and thus heavier, whereas the high-end rods utilizing the cutting edge materials can be built with new graphite materials that allow the rod to weigh only a few ounces.  That difference will cost you though when looking for your fly rod.  Getting the latest and greatest comes with a price.  These types of rods are going to be what you find when visiting most fly shops and other outdoor retail stores.

Fly Rod Materials - Fly Fishing Basics - Choosing the right fly rod

Image from R.L. Winston Rod Co.

My recommendation here is to go for the graphite fly rod.  With the varieties being produced today, you can find a great entry level graphite fly rod that won’t break the bank, but will still provide you with an enjoyable rod to use for many years down the rod.


My overall recommendation for choosing the right fly rod when starting out fly fishing is to go with a graphite fly rod that is 9 feet long for a 5 weight fly line.  The sections of the fly rod isn’t important.  Just find one that will pack down to the size that is convenient for you.  If you’re traveling a lot, a 4 or more piece rod would be more beneficial.  This will allow you to fish for multiple species of fish as well as fly fish in multiple different areas such as lakes, rivers and small streams.  A rod like this can be used for years after you learn the fly fishing basics.  After you have grasped those basics of how to fly fish, you can upgrade and even pass on this rod to a friend or family member to help them get started fly fishing.  Below I’ve included links to some popular options.

Learning the fly fishing basics involves tools that will help you achieve your ultimate goal.  It’s not necessary to break the bank in acquiring those tools though, and a decent fly rod for under $100 can last you many many years.  Head over to your nearest fly shop or sporting good retailer and ask to try out a few of them to see what feels right to you.  There isn’t one specific rod out there that works for everyone 100% of the time.  If you missed Part 1 of Choosing the Right Fly Rod, check it out to help you get all the information you need before making that first purchase.  And be sure to share this with all your fly fishing friends and like us on Facebook.  Tight Lines everyone!

About Clint Losee

Clint Losee is an avid fly angler of 30+ years, web developer, and Utah Landscape & Nature Photographer. You can connect with him on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Curious about some of the gear he uses? Check out the new Amazon store.