Today's fly rod is a technological marvel. Years of research and development result in finely tuned casting tools. Rod prices start below $100 and can quickly rise to well above $1,000. Anglers are presented a mind-boggling array of choices when choosing a fly rod. What price range? Two-piece or multi-piece? What species are you going to target? What rod action best fits your casting stroke and angling needs?
A fly rod’s price is determined by many factors. High-end rods include superior components, unique tapers, advanced actions, and extensive research and development. Many entry-level rods benefit from the research used to create the high priced rods; however, the materials are standard quality compared to high-end rods.
Before graphite, multi-piece rods were a necessary evil for those traveling or backpacking. The performance suffered significantly. The introduction of graphite and advanced production leveled the playing field. Multi-piece rods now perform as well as two-piece rods. Today, the primary differences are price and weight. Multi-piece rods cost more and weigh slightly more. So, before you purchase a rod, consider the fishing environment you will primarily fish. Will you travel with the rod? Backpack to a high mountain lake or secluded stream? If so, a four-piece rod may be the best option.
Unfortunately, no one rod will cover every imaginable fishing environment. Specific species and sizes require unique rods. Consider playing 18 holes of golf with only one club. Your score would be less than desirable. Similar to golf, the more fisheries you choose to fish the more rods you will need in your arsenal. A 9-foot 5-weight or 6-weight rod is the traditional size fly rods used for targeting trout in Colorado.
Any angler who performs sufficient research before buying a rod will certainly learn that different rods feature different actions. The action of the rod describes which section of the rod flexes and loads the rod. Again, consider a golf example. Professional golfers prefer stiff flex shafts in their clubs to maximize their equipment’s performance. High handicap golfers usually have lower swing speeds and need more forgiving equipment. The weekend golfer is usually outfitted with a softer flex club shaft. A similar example can be used for skiers. Hourglass tapers and softer flex skis are designed to increase the enjoyment level for novice skiers; while extreme skiers need stiffer skis to maximize turns and speed.
The same is true for fly rods. High-end rods feature fast actions with sensitive tips for maximum distance casts that are gentle enough to protect micro tippets. Fast action rods can power through the wind or subtly present a dry fly. These rods are the most versatile, but also carry the highest price tags. Slower action rods are more forgiving for anglers with weaker casting strokes. These rods require more time to properly load the rod and are recommended for novice anglers.
Many fly shops offer rental equipment and demos to allow you to test drive new rods in real-world circumstances. At a minimum, you should cast a rod in an open field before purchasing. Keep in mind, even a high-end rod will not mask a weak casting stroke, so you should work on improving your mechanics before upgrading to a superior rod.
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