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Purchasing Your Second Fly Rod

Updated on February 1, 2015
Fly rods available from a local fly fishing/outfitting shop.  This outfitter is Andy Thornal located in Winter Haven, Florida.
Fly rods available from a local fly fishing/outfitting shop. This outfitter is Andy Thornal located in Winter Haven, Florida.
A fly reel with a floating line (light green), spare spool with partially sinking line (orange), and an empty spool.
A fly reel with a floating line (light green), spare spool with partially sinking line (orange), and an empty spool.

Let's assume that you have been fly fishing for awhile, either with a friend's rod or a low end rod that you purchased, and you determine that you really like fly fishing. You want to advance. How do you go about progressing? At this stage, you ought to engage your local fly shop if there is one nearby. A good shop will at least carry the right rods for the local fishing environment. For instance, fishing for brook trout in New England verses tarpon in South Florida requires very different fly rods. Your local shop will match you up. There are a few things, however, you ought to go in knowing that will ultimately save you money because you will get the right equipment the first time. They are:

  1. With the fly rod, purchase a reel that you can also acquire spare spools for. Why? Because there are several different types of fly line. Most float, some partially float, while others sink at different rates. Unless you are consistently only going to fish shallow creeks, you will eventually purchase some type of sinking line in the future. You may even buy a different tapered floating line later on. It is far cheaper to purchase extra spools than separate reels for each line. Also, while you are fishing, you can switch spools with the different types of line much easier than changing reels. Many fly fishers only fish with a floating line. That is too bad. They are missing out on more fish below the surface, especially when the fish are not feeding on the surface or when there are fish species present that do not feed on the surface.
  2. Fly rods vary in flexibility. The flexibility is described as full flex, mid flex, and quarter flex. Another way to describe flexibility is slow-action, moderate-action, and fast-action, respectively. At some point, the sales person is going to ask you what you want. And you will probably respond, "What do you recommend?" You have just asked one of the most debatable questions in the realm of the fly fishing world. Your question is slightly less volatile than a question regarding politics or religion. And while my response is debatable, I believe it is worth considering.
  • A fast-action rod is the least flexible. Its strengths are that it can cast tighter line loops and cast/shoot a fly farther. Hook sets are easier as you are using both the line and a rod with less flexibility. Its weakness is that large fish can break off the line easier if you are relying on the rod to absorb a fish's run.
  • A slow-action rod is the most flexible. Its strength is that is can absorb much more energy, so once a fish is on it is more likely you will land it. Another (supposed) benefit is that you can cast more accurately. Its weakness is that hook sets are more difficult because the rod is more flexible. Also, the flexibility of the rods results in larger line loops when casting, reducing efficiency of the energy you are putting into the line.
  • As you would suspect, a moderate-action rod is somewhere in between.
  • The flexibility of the rod you select can depend somewhat on the species of fish you are pursuing. Going back to that the brook trout in New England, a short, slow-action rod would be the ticket. You do not have to cast far, but accuracy is important. The fish has a soft mouth, so hooks sets are easier. The fish will feel like a lunker with a full flex rod, as opposed to a minnow on a big, fast action "meat stick" type rod. For that tarpon in Florida, you will need a "meat stick" - a large, fast-action rod. You will need the distance and ability to drive the fly in that hard mouth of the fish.

3. Finally, consider how you will transport your fly rod with a respective case. This will determine how many segments your fly rod should be. Physically measure the area in your vehicle that you plan to transport the rod. This will ensure that the rod you purchase will fit in the vehicle to include the additional length of the fly rod case. Most rods are in two segments, but they can be up to six or seven for carry-on for air travel or backpacking.

If you do no have local fly shop, you will have to mail order. Read the reviews as much as you can to include the type of fly line that was used with the fly rod.


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    • Tod Zechiel profile image

      Tod Zechiel 5 years ago from Florida, United States

      I cannot help you much here. It has been years since I've used a spinning reel - and that was on trout. At least with fly fishing for bass with topwater, I use something that creates a lot of surface disturbance. Below surface, I use larger flies that are flashy when fishing clear water, darker flies when fishing stained or cloudy water.

    • profile image

      OhioMVPastva 5 years ago

      Hey I gotta question. I live in Ohio and its fresh water obviously I don't have a fly rod I have an open faced. What's the best way to catch pike, musky, or bass? Thanks!