When I first started out fishing way back in the 60s, money was a little bit tight. I had to save up my paper round and milk round money so that I could afford a second-hand bike for getting around on, a split cane rod, reel and a floating line plus some flies.
What a beast of a rod that was, after a day’s casting with it you knew that you had been fishing. Your arm ached but you never complained especially if you had managed to catch a wee wild brown trout or two.
Today’s rod manufacturers produce an excellent variety of rods that are a lot lighter and easier to cast with. whether it is a 7ft or a 10ft 6in rod.
The rods come in various line weights from an AFTM 4/5 right up to an AFTM 14/15 weight for salmon fishing.
The 8ft-10ft 6in rods are ideal for fishing stillwater and reservoir fishing and the smaller rods up to 8ft are ideal for river fishing, unless you’re on larger rivers then the you’ll need the larger rod to easily cover the water.
Rods over the 10ft 6in mark are generally double-handed salmon rods, which require a double handed Spey cast or roll cast to ensure that your fly reaches their destination.
The distance you can cast with a given line weight depends upon your ability to generate maximum line speed within a fairly abbreviated arc of rod movement.
Modern carbon fly rods are very light, so it’s the length not rod weight that determines what the angler can manage.
Children and small women will probably find it easier to learn with fly rods of 7.5 – 8.5 feet and line weight weights of 5-6. Normal built people can usually manage rods up to 9.5 feet with a 7-weight line quite comfortably. Rods over 10 feet (especially with heavier line weights) require more strength and can be tiring to use.
When you do decide to take up the fine art of fly fishing for the first time it can be a daunting experience not knowing what to purchase. Hopefully the following information will be helpful in some way.
When you do take up fly fishing, try to get some lessons from a reputable fully qualified AAPGAI fly fishing instructor, that way you won’t pick up any bad habits that will cause you to cast badly thereby catch less fish. Some casting coaching is good as it helps to iron out any small faults that you may have picked up in the short time that you have started fly fishing.
The fishing instructor will have a good idea of the type of rod, reel and line that will be best suited to your casting technique because not everyone casts the same way due to many varying factors, like body build, (male or female), left or right-handed, the way that you cast and so on.
However, below is a basic idea of the rods, fly reels and fly-lines that might give you an idea of what to expect when purchasing your first fly fishing outfit.
The fly rod is like an extension of your arm. The movement of your hand/arm is transferred into the rod and produces a longer, quicker motion at the tip of the rod. The quicker you can move the rod tip, the quicker it can move the fly-line and the further you can cast. This is also determined by the rod’s action, of which there are three types.
Fast Action: - a fast action rod is not very flexible. In fact, it’s almost entirely stiff throughout most of its length; with the only real flexibility occurring near the tip. When you’re casting, only the end of the rod will bend in any appreciable way. The rest of the rod remains stiff and basically straight as a poker.
Medium Action: - this has a fair amount of flexibility but is still a bit stiff. The fly rod bends much more than a fast action rod but not as nearly as a slow action fly rod. When casting, the rod will bend moderately for about half its length, from the middle upwards to the tip. The lower part of the rod near the fly reel, will remain stiff. This is known as a mid-action rod.
Slow Action: - the rod is very flexible. The difference in flexibility between a slow action rod and one with a fast action is very significant. A slow action rod will bend significantly for most of its length. Slow action rods, as they do not generate high line speeds due to their flexibility are designed for short, very accurate and gentle casts. As such, slow action fly rods are ideal for fly fishing smaller rivers and other areas that require anglers to make short and accurate casts.
The definition of a fly reel has changed in the last 20 years. Reels have evolved into a highly specialised piece of equipment.
A reel does more than just hold line. A poor-quality fly reel is a wonderful way to lose large fish, especially when fishing on light leaders and tippets. Also, selecting the wrong fly reel for a particular fly rod can unbalance the outfit.
When looking for the right reel, a newcomer will get a big surprise. There are as many fly reels in the world as there is spin fishing reels.
There are two types of drag systems on a fly reel that trout and salmon anglers need to be aware of. The drag of a fly reel is what provides tension on the line. In other words, it’s what regulates how easy or difficult it is for a fish to strip liner off the fly reel.
If all you ever catch are tiny brook trout the type of drag on your fly reel is not as important, as it is unlikely the fish will ever pull-out line from the fly reel.
On the other hand, if you hook a good-sized salmon, trout or grayling, then that’s a different kettle of fish. Once a big fish starts pulling out line from your fly reel, the reel suddenly becomes the most important piece of equipment you have.
Why are fly lines important?
Just like fly rods and fly reels, fly lines need to match the types of fly fishing that you do. This match should be made precisely, too. If you have a 5wt rod and a 5wt reel, it is important to have a 5wt line. By not having a properly “balanced” outfit (which is where the fly rod, fly reel and fly line match in weight), the angler is likely to have extreme difficulty in casting. For example, using too light a line for a particular rod will present severe casting challenges.
Remember, in fly fishing, the weight of the fly line – not the fly itself – is what allows the angler to cast. The rod, as it is essential to casting, will not properly cast the wrong weight of fly line.
So, where the rod is “heavier than the line, the rod will never be fully loaded (will not bend properly), since the weight of the line is not enough to properly bend the rod during the cast. Likewise, should the line be heavier than the rod, the rod will bend excessively during the cast, making control difficult.
In an ideal world, follow this formula: fly rod weight = fly reel weight = fly line weight.
To ensure that your fly will be presented at the proper depth, match the fly lines sinking rate to the depth of the submerged weed beds.
Sinking lines are available in the following densities: Intermediate, sink tip, slow glass, fast glass; Di-1, Di-2, Di-3, Di-4, Di-5, Di-6 and Di-7. Each line sinks at a faster rate as the number increases.
Good luck and I hope you enjoy the fine art of fly fishing.