Rod Selection Part II
Last month’s blog we talked about selecting a fly rod based on type of fishing. We also discussed rod length and weight class when choosing a rod. This month we will finish this topic and discuss rod “action” and quality of rods.
Fly rod “actions” are described as fast-action, medium- action, or slow-action. Ultimately these terms are describing the flex action of a rod. A fast-action rod will typically bend only up near the tip top of the rod making for an overall stiffer feel. A slower action rod will generally flex through most of the rod right down to the handle making for a very flexible or slower feeling rod. And, of course, the medium action or mid flex rods will normally feel as they bend or flex mid way through the rod shaft. A fast action rod, feeling much stiffer than others is a tool used for fishing fast and hard especially on windy days. This does not mean by any means that a fast action rod is better than the other two types.
I explain to folks that fly rods are a lot like cars. Slower rods can be found more often in the less expensive style fly rods and tend to be the rod a novice tends to afford in the beginning. Reminds me of my first car – a pre-owned rust bucket, it wasn’t expensive and was a bit sloppy looking, but it got me around. On the other hand a fast action rod many times can be some of the most expensive rods out there. Like a fast sports car, expensive and really nice to look at, and a joy to use in specific situations. Sports cars are wonderful on a beautiful sunny day just as a fast-action fly rod would make a wonderful choice on a drift boat floating a windy river. The problem with a sports car is that you really wouldn’t want to drive it in a blizzard.
Keeping this in mind, fast action rods are really not the work horse of fly fishing and in most cases what we’d like is a “Pick-up truck” - something a bit more functional than a “sports car”. If you want to fly fish at any given time and not only when a hatch is on, then you will most likely be fishing nymphs and streamers –subsurface flies. These types of flies fish a bit better with a rod that provides a little more flex. This allows for the fish to pull a subsurface fly without “popping” it from their mouth. Faster and stiffer rods have a tendency to do this while slower rods offer a bit to the fish like a shock absorber –absorbing the take of the fish. Real stiff or taught lines tend to spring flies from fishes mouths (this is why a proper drift is so important). A stiff rod can do the same.
Some folks talk about this in a slightly different manner. They call this “Tippet protection,” which is the ability of a rod to flex enough so that the tippet will not break immediately upon the strike of a fish. Again, a stiffer rod has less “tippet protection” and because of its stiffness can allow for the breaking of the tippet quickly upon a strike.
Before anyone fillets me for overgeneralization I would like to suggest that there are some wonderful high quality slow action rods and low quality faster action rods out there, so keep that in mind as well.
Most of us graduate with our technical expertise to different types of rods for different techniques. No rod will cast for you nor make you a better caster because of its quality. Fly casting is only one step in fly fishing and a rod is not only designed for casting. Elements include: mending efficiency, line pick-up, and tip sensitivity (as well as others). It is not just a tool to deliver line to the water and the “fishing” aspect of a rod should be considered as well.
White River Fly Shop/Nashville, TN