Learn The Fly Fishing Basics and How to Fly Fish!

Fly Rod Action Advantages and Disadvantages – Fly Fishing Basics

In previous articles about choosing the right fly rod (Part 1, Part 2), I discussed a few of the key points in determining the right fly rod for you in your course of learning the fly fishing basics and how to fly fish.  One of these key points was the fly rod action.  Those actions were fast, medium/progressive, and slow.  Each of these fly rod actions have basic advantages and disadvantages  that allow you to be used more efficiently in certain circumstances and not in others.  I’d like to discuss some of those advantages and disadvantages today.

Fast Action Fly Rods


Choosing the right fly rod

  • Provide more power enabling longer casts.
  • Tighter loops in casting help with longer casts and more power in the cast.
  • Generally stiffer rods allow for more fighting  strength in the rod for larger fish.
  • Provide more power in the cast for windy conditions allowing the line to punch through the wind.
  • Easier to get more line out of the rod tip faster for quicker casting.
  • Great for precise, pin-point casting to targets.


  • Short casts tend to be more difficult with a fast action fly rod.  Close quarters and smaller streams that don’t allow a longer cast tend to not be the best places for a fast action fly rod.
  • Harder to get the hang of for beginner fly casters due to unforgiving nature of the rod and how it plays a part in the casting stroke.
  • The extra power in the rod for those longer casts don’t always have the finesse needed to protect very light tippets and can more easily break off the fly.

Who are they for?

Fast action fly rods are more typically used by seasoned and more advanced fly anglers that are looking for that extra power.  Those anglers that are looking for increased distance in their casts and are hunting the larger varieties of fish species tend to primarily use the faster action fly rods due to the advantages listed.  Most beginning fly anglers tend to have a harder time learning to cast with this type of fly rod.  If you venture into salt water angling, almost all of the saltwater fly rods are of the fast action variety.  However, as you progress and learn more about how to fly fish and become more confident in your casting, it all becomes a personal preference and what feels the best to you and your particular casting style.

Medium/Moderate Action Fly Rods


Fly Fishing Basics - Scott G2 Fly Rod

  • Extremely versatile fly rods.  These can be used for longer distance casts and also shorter casting on smaller streams.
  • Great beginner fly rod.  They have a very forgiving action that isn’t too stiff to make casting harder and isn’t too soft to the point that you don’t have the power needed to make longer casts.
  • Many different fly rods use this action so you can find them everywhere.


  • Not as powerful as the fast action rods.  You will lose a little distance in your casts with this type of fly rod action.
  • To some fly anglers these can feel too soft to where you don’t feel you have as much control.
  • Not as precise in accuracy as fast action rods, but do provide more finesse.  A middle ground fly rod with benefits from both other type of fly rod.

Who are they for?

Excellent fly rod if you are learning how to fly fish and looking to choose your first fly rod.  They have benefits from both fast action and slow action rods with very few downsides.  They are forgiving to the beginning fly fisherman and allow for a much easier time in learning the necessary skills when starting out fly casting.  You also still get plenty of power in the rod if you need to make a longer cast or fight larger fish species.  I highly recommend this fly rod action for your first fly rod.

Slow Action Fly Rods


Choosing the Right Fly Rod

  • Easily protect light tippets used with spooky fish and smaller flies.
  • Great for small streams, close quarters, and short casts.
  • Very forgiving to the beginning fly caster.
  • The very flexible action allows smaller fish to feel like larger fish due to the soft action of the fly rod.


  • Not very good for longer distance casts.
  • Windy conditions can be horrible to cast in with this rod type.
  • Primarily good for a very specific type or style of fly fishing; that being small streams, smaller fish, and/or very spooky fish.  Not much outside of that can be fished effectively with a slow action rod.

Who are they for?

Slow action rods are primarily for those individuals that fish smaller streams and use mostly lighter tippets the majority of the time.  I won’t say that this is the only area in which these can be fished, but they are the most effective in these scenarios.

I recommend heading to your local fly shop and casting a few before purchasing.  Some people simply prefer certain types of fly rods no matter their experience level.

Final Thoughts

Some more great reading material explaining fly rod actions can be found by Orvis.  This will help add to your knowledge of fly rods and which one is the best for you when choosing the right fly rod.  Also, check out this video by Tim Rajeff on Fly Rod Action vs Power.  Tim is an exceptional fly caster and a wealth of knowledge, which is always helpful when learning the fly fishing basics.

And as usual, be sure to sign up for the newsletter and follow me on FacebookTwitter, or Google+.  Also share this with any of your friends that may be interested in learning more about how to fly fish and the fly fishing basics.  If you have any questions or comments, be sure to leave them in the comments below or contact me and I’d be happy to help.

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.