Salomone: Fly rod lengths to enhance your fishing |

Salomone: Fly rod lengths to enhance your fishing

How to decide between short and flexible and long and stable

Michael Salomone
In trout country, the most common pole length is 9 feet.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Walking into a fly shop and perusing the available rods in the rod rack points towards a tremendous number of rods in the 9 foot-category. We are in trout country so it makes sense that the predominant length on most rods is the ideal 9-foot length. Closer observation reveals lengthy rods sticking out feet farther and short, nimble sticks like whippy willows that line the river. What is it about a fly rod’s length that enhances your fly fishing?

Fly rods are designed to carry a long section of weighted line and throw it through the air efficiently. This is a crude description of a cast, but the 9-foot rod length is the ideal for a large majority of fly fishing. Remember, the rod is casting the weighted line — not a heavy lure or lead weight.

Familiarity with length is a factor for anglers. The casting stroke feels the same for rods of the same length, however, slow, medium or fast action lends itself to flex during that casting stroke and minor adjustments come naturally. A nine-foot, medium-action rod will flex into the middle of the rod and lay down dry flies with a softer touch. The 9-foot, fast-action rod will flex only near the tip. This gives the rod a feeling of strength and stability that can withstand a more forceful casting stroke, especially in windy conditions.

Fast-action rods are the rods of preference when tossing heavily weighted streamers. These rods are nine feet long and possess power for punching tight loops and maintaining line control in the air.

Reaching for one of the lengthy poles in the rack begins to dial in your fly fishing for specific techniques, increased line management and enhanced sensitivity. The Euro-nymphing rods in the 10 to 11-foot category start to shine in all of these aspects. Anglers may find the long rods cumbersome — especially when transporting in vehicles or along streamside paths — but on the water, the extra length becomes an asset to enhance your fly fishing.

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The long rods work wonders for high-sticking, presenting nymphs in pocket water and reaching across small seams without any drag. And these rods maintain sensitivity even with the increased length. Anglers are capable of steering their flies through ideal water with constant contact to ensure every bite is capitalized upon.

Quite a few guides are leaning towards 9 1/2 to 10-foot rods for their float fly fishing. The theory is the longer rods aid in presentation when floating from a boat. Anglers can reach out and direct dry flies and nymphs into perfect pockets.

A little farther down in the rack, anglers will encounter short, flexible rods. These rods are ultra-specific as task performers. Small rods are for tight conditions, little water and smaller caliber of fish. When anglers venture into the high country in search of cutthroats, a lightweight flexible rod is the best choice for increased enjoyment. Cutts in the high country have a short season to grow and usually fall into a smaller fish category like brook trout. Wrenching in brookies and cutts on a nine-foot five-weight rod removes the sporting enjoyment that a 6 1/2-foot fiberglass instills. The little sticks are more accurate, enhance your feel and make every trout feel like a tarpon.

Small rods, like this Echo 6-foot-3-inch, are for tight conditions, little water and smaller caliber of fish.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

Little fly rods are usually mid-flex or full-flex rods which will lay down flies with a gentle touch. The smaller rods protect fragile tippets through flexibility, and that same flexibility keeps dainty hooks embedded rather than pulling them through.

Casting small rods produces sweet curves in your casting stroke. Their slow action makes them easy to load. Short rods in the 6 1/2 to 7 1/2-foot range allow the angler to feel the fly all the way to the target. Most high country streams are smaller in size, giving short rods a more intimate feeling. Small catches deserve equally matched fly gear. We are casting for coffee cup accuracy with a 6 1/2-foot fly rod.  A 9-foot fly rod will absolutely feel out of place, over-gunned and clumsy.

Pick up a rod of different length for a distinct style of fly fishing. Guide your flies through every pocket with an 11-foot nymphing rod. And enjoy the where and why of the high country with a short, accurate casting 6 1/2-foot dry fly wand. Fly rod lengths are designed to enhance your fishing.

Fly rod length differs for each distinct style of fly fishing. Short and flexible rods are great for high country fishing for cutthroats while longer rods can guide flies into every pocket.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

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