If you're new to fly fishing, there's a lot to learn. Techniques, flies, gear, styles... it can all get a little confusing. A great way to get into the sport is to buy your first fly rod and start with the casting basics. The fundamentals of fly fishing revolve around casting and the most basic piece of equipment every fly angler needs is a rod.
Choosing your first fly rod can be tough. If you’re new to the sport, you probably aren’t familiar with brands, features, actions, or rod technology. These things are important, but don’t let the fly fishing terminology intimidate you. There are a few simple things that should influence your first fly rod purchase. Here are a few insights.
This is a big one. If you’re getting into fly fishing for the first time, chances are you don’t want to spend $1000 on a rod, and rightly so. Entry-level fly rods are typically in the $100-$300 price range. Brands that focus on affordability are Redington, Echo, and Mystic, to name a few. Rods in the entry-level price range are easy to cast and incredibly forgiving but aren’t the best for technical applications as angler skills increase.
If you have fly fished before but have never bought a rod, it may be worth considering a mid-priced rod. While entry-level rods are great for new anglers looking to try the sport for the first time, they’re easy to outgrow. Many mid-priced rods, like the Orvis Recon, are caster-friendly and accommodate new anglers and intermediate anglers alike. There’s generally a pretty significant difference in the quality and performance of entry-level rods vs. mid-priced rods although more expensive doesn’t always mean ‘better’.
Choosing a rod model is the next step after you know how much you’re willing to spend. Choosing a rod model is a decision based on purpose: what species are you targeting and what kind of water are you fishing? There are a few widely accepted fly rod generalizations that I’ll insert here. They’re not always right, but they’re widely accepted for a reason.
Trout = 9’ 5wt. A 9’ 5wt fly rod is the most versatile when fishing for trout. A 5wt casts dry flies well, reserves the ability to cast an indicator nymph rig, and is versatile enough to throw small streamers. Most trout fishing, especially in the western US, can be done with a 9’ 5wt.
Bass = 9’ 7wt. Bass are larger and often more aggressive than trout so upgrading to a larger rod makes sense. A heavier rod will allow the angler to cast larger flies more easily, fight bigger fish more efficiently, and cover more water.
Bonefish = 9’ 8wt. Perhaps the most popular saltwater fly rod is the 9’ 8wt. An 8wt works well for Bonefish on the flats, Stripers, and other saltwater species. If you’re new to fly fishing and plan on spending some time targeting smaller saltwater species, an 8wt is the way to go.
The setting is a big deciding factor when purchasing a fly rod. Once you know your budget and your target species, take some time to think about where you’ll be fishing. If you find yourself fishing for trout in Montana on large rivers like the Yellowstone, a fast action rod will increase casting distance, help throw flies into strong winds, and help cast larger nymph rigs.
If you’re more likely to fish for wild brook trout on a small stream in the Northeast, a smaller rod with a slower action will make dry fly presentations easier. Distance casting isn’t necessary on smaller rivers so a fast action 5wt may be overkill.
Many people recommend a medium-fast action 9’ 5wt for beginners regardless of the circumstance because a medium-fast action build is generally forgiving and caster-friendly. This is usually strong advice, especially during the introductory stages of the sport before anglers develop a personal preference.
We highly recommend casting a few different rods if you’ve never fly fished before and aren’t familiar with brands, actions, etc. Check out our Castability Guarantee.