Fly Rods 101

Yes, the fly rod did begin as a stick. It was a well chosen stick, flexible with butt strength, but that didn’t stop it from being a stick. What passed for line was tied to the end, and off they went. By the late 1400’s, rods were still being built from sticks, but separate stick sections were spliced together, in order to get the action required. The tip came from the center of a tree, for flexibility. They could be anywhere from 10-15 feet long, and were heavy. The line was still tied to the tip.

Rods continued this way until the arrival of Tonkin cane from China. While Tonkin was initially used in its hollow state, craftsmen soon discovered the culms could be split, and the first rods that could actually cast were born. Split cane forced the development of longer lines, reel seats and reels, more permanent handles, ferrules and guides. It was the first modern fly rod. The cane could be planed or sawn to create specific, reproducible tapers and opened up many new vistas for fly fishing.

Yes, some cane rods re worth $1,000’s of dollars. 99.9% are not. Valuable cane rods were hand planed to within 1/1000” tolerance. The vast majority of cane rods were cut with a saw, with much less accuracy. When AFTMA set the standard for fly line weights (Fly Line), they created a deflection chart to help anglers identify the proper new line weight for their rod. Utilizing a wall mounted reel foot and a known weight, the rod was mounted on the reel foot, and the weight clipped to the tip top. The rod would deflect, and the tip would land within a region on the chart, giving a line weight for the rod. The first diagram shows a deflection chart, the second shows a rod deflecting to a 5 weight line.

Cane was the best and preferred material for rod building until 1945 when technology developed before and during the war effort found its way to fly fishing. While fiberglass was introduced earlier as a solid blank, modern rod building began in ‘45 with the advent of the initial hollow fiberglass fly rod. For the first time, rods were tubular, and manufacturers had to develop brand new criteria for building and controlling action and taper.

There are two variables in rod design, the materials resistance to bending, described in terms of modulus in millions, and the diameter of the hollow tube. Fiberglass is a very low modulus material, meaning it has very little resistance to bending. Fiberglass itself is a very flexible material. Diameter is best understood this way. If you took a 9’ long, 1/16 inch steel pipe and shook it, it would bend quite readily. Take that same piece of steel and hammer it out to a 4” diameter, and it would lose most of its flexibility. Now the design conundrum comes in. How much material is needed, and at what diameter is it needed.

The manufacturing process of hollow fly rods evolved this way. The mandrel- a solid rod varying in diameter along the length- is milled, and used to control the inside diameter of the rod. The fiberglass scrim (sheet of fiberglass) is also cut in a taper as well, and then coated with resin or adhesive. The scrim/adhesive is wrapped around the mandrel, then rolled on a rod rolling machine under a lot of pressure to compress, shape and complete the process.

The diagram above is a simplification of the scrim/mandrel interaction. Notice there is less scrim at the top than the bottom, matching to the thinner tip of the mandrel. Less material over a thinner diameter provides flexibility, needed at the tip. As the diameter expands and more material is added, the rod gets stiffer as it goes to the butt section. How the rod will flex- deeply, or very little- is defined by this combination of diameter and material.

The above diagram is a simplification of flex patterns of fly rods. In the terminology of fly fishing- slow action, medium and fast action. There are variations and combinations of this found in every manufacturer of rods in the past and today. It’s important to know about action, so you can decide which action is best for you and your casting. YOUR CASTING. It doesn’t make any difference what anyone else thinks is a good action, if you don’t like it it’s not correct for you. This applies to the oldest cane rods and fiberglass as much as the most modern graphite fly rod available.

In 1973, the Orvis Company introduced the first graphite fly rod, and changed the face of fly fishing. Graphite has a much higher modulus than fiberglass, meaning it’s a stiffer material. Since its advent in the 70’s, graphite technology has continued to advance, and modulus has increased. If I remember correctly, the first graphite rods were about a 25 modulus. Now manufacturers are using graphite with modulus of over 80. This has provided such a wide range of actions, rod weights and strength, along with durability, as to be almost unrecognizable from its origins.

Due to the weight of cane and fiberglass, rods were shorter in their initial design. The modern graphite fly rod can vary in length from 6-15 feet in length, with the industry standard being 9’. Shorter rods are often used on smaller waters, while the longer rods are used to enhance mending and distance, as well as specific casting styles like spey casting. The longer rods often require two hands from the angler, and can attain tremendous distance when casting. Rods are designated by line weight, length and number of pieces. The industry standard for trout today is a 9’, 5 wt, 4-piece fly rod.

Graphite has opened up whole new vistas of fly fishing. 10-15 weight rods are now light enough to be castable, opening up the salt in ways not contemplated previously. Graphite ferrules are so smooth that 4-8 piece rods are not only available, but excellent casting tools. This changed the way we travel with fly rods, as well as opening up the back country and making bicycling with a fly rod much safer.

Graphite also revolutionized the action of fly rods. While modulus can be described as resistance to bending, another description is a more rapid return to straight. This has opened up amazing new avenues of action. As modulus increases, we are leaving simple fly rod actions as shown in the flex pattern diagram and getting into more complex actions. With high modulus graphite, manufacturers can create a deep flexing, relatively fast action fly rod. The higher mod graphite returns to straight more rapidly- so even with a traditional “medium” flex action, the graphite itself is faster. The rod returns to straight faster, creating a relatively fast medium flex rod. This type of compound taper was unachievable without graphite.

As tapers expanded with higher modulus, manufacturers continued to refine their tapers in lower modulus rods as well. Lower modulus graphite is less expensive to use, and as mandrels pay for themselves the creation of high quality, less expensive rods has become the norm, not the exception. With such a disparity in price in rods, even from the same manufacturer, what makes a rod more expensive?

As previously stated, the higher the graphite’s modulus, the more expensive it is. Component quality can vary. Some reel seats are Nickel Silver with exotic wood inserts, some are aluminum. Cork handle quality, rod tube and sock style and other costs vary. The time of build comes into play, with guide style and finish coats adding to costs. But the real cost of a fly rod is unseen.

When I toured the Sage Rod factory, I was amazed at how many pieces I saw broken in the short time I spent in the construction room. They had a machine for crushing unsuitable blank pieces. Look at the diagrams below.

While the rods in the first diagram are both 5 weights, they are going to cast significantly differently. It’s consistency that creates the greatest cost in fly rod manufacture. The second diagram shows how most fly rods are deflected by the manufacturer. There are incremental zones the rod must fall into to become a fly rod. The wider those zones, the more pieces can be used. The narrower the increments, the more consistent the action, and the more pieces are unusable. Once rolled, the graphite can’t be reused. It’s a dead loss, and needs to be paid for. It’s the most expensive part of high end fly rods, the pieces that don’t work and end up crushed and useless in a trash can.

To sum things up, if you buy a rod from a known fly rod manufacturer, it’s almost impossible to find a bad one. It might not be magic, but it won’t be awful. After A River Runs Through It, fly rod manufacturing, graphite construction and taper design went through the roof. Increased sales provided more funding for R&D, with fly rod actions improving exponentially. They continue to improve on a yearly basis. In 1985, when I started selling fly rods, I could say if you don’t spend $400 on a fly rod, it really won’t be any good. Now, it’s a bald faced lie to say if you don’t spend $1200 on a fly rod, it really won’t be any good. We sell fly rods for $89 that outperform any rod available in 1985. We are living in the golden age of fly rod design. Rest easy in your rod selection- it’s all good.

Ron Beck Fly Fishing Missoula

10 Reasons To Use A Long Fly Rod

The industry standard length rod is 9’, with a 9’ 5 wt. being the most popular rod in the world. Does it work? Of course it does! When the top rod designers in the world compete for market share in the most sold rod, it’s a guarantee you’re getting their best work! But maybe not the most effective and efficient tool for the job.

The long rod has fought an uphill battle since rods went from solid wood and Greenheart to split bamboo. Dame Juliana’s 15 foot and longer rods allowed early anglers to control line and fly, but as split cane replaced solid wood, rods got shorter to conserve weight and allow single handed use. The long rod has been trying to find its way back since about 1880.

Fiberglass didn’t bring the long rod back- the combination of weight and butt diameter didn’t lend itself to the long rod . When graphite appeared in 1973, rod rolling machines were incapable of consistently creating a straight tip on a 10’, 2-piece rod.

It’s a new millennium, and graphite construction has changed. The two-piece rod has pretty much gone the way of the coelacanth (thought to be extinct but still sighted), and it’s easy to roll pieces for 4-piece 10 foot rods and longer. The technology has caught up with the product, but anglers are lagging behind!

So without further ado, we present the Missoulian Angler’s Top Ten Reason For Using A Longer Fly Rod!

1. Distance

Straight physics says a longer lever is a more powerful lever. With a longer rod, you generate more energy and cast further. While distance might not be critical to a lot of trout fishing, the ability to add power definitely allows you to fight the wind with more authority. More power = more distance = better in the wind. Streamer fishermen need distance at times, as do still water anglers. The roll cast is much more powerful with a longer rod- ask any Spey fisherman. Get a power boost with a longer rod wherever and however you fish.

2. Longer Leaders, Thinner Leaders

With additional power in casting, longer leaders with finer tippet are now more easily handled. When you think of a leader as an energy conduit, (Leaders) then more power from the rod handles a longer, thinner leader. Since Charles Cotton in the 1600’s, fine and far off has been the mantra. The longer rod makes that happen, providing more space between line and leader. With less chance of lining the fish, and better drift on lighter tippet, the long rod enhances your presentation.

3. Faster line pick-up

The longer rod requires a bigger, heavier reel to correctly balance the rod. With a bigger reel comes a larger diameter, which means faster line pick-up. When you hook the fish of the day, getting the trout on the reel is the fastest way to control. Larger diameter means faster to the reel. A 10’ 4 wt. rod might use a reel designed for a 6-8 weight rod, depending on the weight. When you get a longer rod, make sure to get a reel that balances. The longer length creates a heavier swing weight, and balance becomes more critical to comfortable, all day casting.

4. Mending

This is the most important reason for owning a long rod. With the tall stick, your ability to mend expands exponentially. It’s not an extra foot of mending capability, it’s an additional 8-10 feet of mending capability. Since mending is essential to success, and a longer rod accentuates your ability to mend, there is NO REASON to trust the crucial aspect of mending to a short stick. Once again, physics shows you how much more effective a longer rod is. The longer rod also extends your reach casts, adding additional float to your drift. In every aspect of mending, on water and aerial, a longer rod outperforms its shorter counterpart.

5. Line Control

Along with better mending, long rods provide better line control. Line control begins with casting distances that are short enough to maintain contact with the fly. As we’ve said, the longer rod handles more line, allowing a longer cast to be fully under the anglers control. Another aspect of line control is removing drag by keeping the line off the water. Longer rods keep more line off the water, eliminating drag. While this is important for classic angling, it’s critical for…

6. Euro Nymphing

Mending and line control are essential to Euronymphing. Euronymping success is predicated on complete line control. It’s why the best Euronymphers use the longest rod they can comfortably handle. The longer rod creates more separation from angler and fish, adhering to the fine and far off mantra. It allows micro control over the fly line at distance. The people who are the most effective at taking fish, the anglers who must control their fly line, use a long rod for its effectiveness. Maybe you should think about taking advantage of an extra foot or more in your fishing.

7. Dapping

The gentle art of dapping has been somewhat supplanted by the upswing in Tenkara, but it’s still highly effective taking trout out of tight, tight lies. Dapping keeps everything off the water but the fly, and is often used in small streams or places a cast can’t be made. The longer rod keeps you further from the action, which is further from spooking the quarry. Dapping can be utilized on large rivers as well as small streams. Find yourself above an eddy with rising trout, and dapping will get you a drift not found by traditional casting.

8. Use A Lighter Line Weight

After 30 years of using nothing shorter than 10’ rods for trout fishing, I can say from experience that pretty much anything a 9’ 5wt. rod can do, a 10” 4wt. rod can do. The mechanical advantages of the long rod allow a lighter line to do more, making it equivalent to a line size higher in a shorter rod. When dry fly fishing technical water (think Clark Fork River and Bitterroot River after July 15), and you have a tool that allows you to use a lighter line to accomplish the same tasks. The drop rule applies to all long rods. A 10’, 5wt. matches a 9’ 6wt, and a 10’ 3wt. handles the tasks of a 9’, 4wt. With a longer rod, you’ve just gotten a bit finer in the fine and far off game.

9. Versatility

Whether you toss dry flies, throw nymphs, huck streamers or straight Euronymph, a longer rod helps you do it better. Every technique of fly fishing is enhanced with a longer rod. Magnify distance, mending and line control at any situation, and you find you’re a more versatile angler on the water. You get places others can’t get to, or control drag in spots where others can’t. With a long rod, the river just got smaller, and you just opened up new opportunities. That’s versatility.

10. Annoy Your Friends with Your Ability To Catch Fish

When you grab the long rod, your effectiveness on the water rises exponentially, just like your ability to mend, ability to cast farther, ability to handle smaller tippet and ability to control your line. That’s a long list of upgrades, without even practicing! Imagine how much more you’ll want to fish when you’re catching more.

The Missoulian Angler has the largest selection of long rods in town. With 10’ and longer from Douglas, Winston, OPST and Echo, we’ve got you covered from standard trout to Euronymphing right through mini skagit. We cover 2 wt through 6 wt, at many price points, and have the rod you need when you’re ready to heed physics and take the mechanical advantage to the water.

Best Fly Rods For Fishing Missoula

The smartass answer? The most expensive rod we can sell you is the best fly rod for Missoula!! But you already knew that, and were probably hoping for something a little more informative. We can do that too.

Let’s start with some basics. Missoula fly fishing is primarily a trout fishing destination. While our largest trout will go over 10 lbs, there’s a good reason you don’t see many pictures of them- they don’t get caught very often! Just as a pint’s a pound the world around, 20 inches is a BIG trout anywhere you go, especially in freestone rivers, which is what Missoula has for fisheries. All our rivers are fed with a combination of rainwater, snowmelt and springs. Some years the water can be high through July, other years the water can be so low by mid-summer that we have restrictions in place to safeguard the trout. We are like every trout destination in the world (other than New Zealand, and no one knows why!), the average size trout you’re going to catch is about 12 inches long. Average! Some will be bigger, and some will be smaller, but that’s the average trout for the Missoula area and pretty much across Montana. Instagram and all the fly fishing magazines don’t lie, but they don’t show all the fish. There’s a good reason those fish got to pose for a picture!

The Clark Fork River, Rock Creek, the Bitterroot River and the Blackfoot River all have separate and distinct personalities, but they share many of the same hatches, and these hatches are incredibly diverse. The Salmon Fly can be up to 54mm long (2.1 inches), while the Tricos and Baetis (Blue Winged Olives) can be as small as 5mm long. That is a tremendously diverse insect population, demanding a lot from the angler and their tackle. Add fluctuating water flows into the mix, and you could find yourself reaching for many different fly rods in the same day!

Missoula’s fishing season is divided into three distinct categories. Pre-runoff fishing, post runoff fishing and late summer/Fall fishing. Post runoff fishing is the most demanding of your tackle. The biggest flies in Missoula come off from mid June through mid July, just when the water is highest. The 54mm adult Salmon Fly doesn’t come from a ½ inch nymph- it’s as big as the dry! If you’re fishing a dry/dropper in high water, a 6 or even a 7 weight rod is not inappropriate. With all trout fishing, accuracy is paramount, and a heavier rod will help put that big rig exactly where you want it. The larger rod also helps you fight fish as they enter into what can be a massive current- get a 17 inch fish sideways in the river on June 25th and you’ve got a tussle on your hands! A bigger rod can help turn the tide in a positive direction.

Pre-runoff fishing, and late Summer/Fall angling often requires a little different approach. The water is as low and clear as it gets on March 25 or September 25, and the BWO’s can be out in force. Fishing a size 22 on a 6 wt rod can be a challenge. The heavier line definitely makes more of an entrance into the water, with the potential to spook fish as it lands, especially with an errant cast (not something WE do, we’ve just heard of it from others!). For smaller flies in skinny, clear water, you can use a 4 weight, or even go as low as a 3 weight rod to match the conditions. But Pre-runoff fishing has Skwala stoneflies, which can be 30mm long, and later season fishing includes hoppers, so the lightest line may not always be the most perfect throughout the day.

Calculating all the variables- extremes of fly size, high or skinny water, wind and the distances required to fish effectively, we think you’ll find the 5 weight rod for fly fishing Missoula to be the most versatile rod for this area and throughout Montana. It can handle a large fly with a bit of effort, and can be scaled back to take on the smallest flies in the shallowest water. You don’t need 22 fly rods to fish Missoula- the bread and butter 5 weight will do most of the work most of the time!

Missoula, MT fly fishing also offers up some excellent streamer fishing, as well as pike fishing in the Bitterroot River, Clark Fork River and a handfull of lakes. While the pike is an invasive species, they are there, and a 38 inch fish is nothing to sneeze at! If you want to try your hand at pike fishing, or throwing out a few giant flies like the Beast Master to see if you can move the big boys, a 7 or 8 weight rod can be just the ticket. Many of the best Missoula fly fishing guides carry sink tip fly lines for these rods, in order to get the fly right where the bruisers live. If you’re fishing for pike, we highly recommend a wire or 80-100lb bite tippet to keep those razor-sharp teeth from slicing your fly off on the strike.

You’ve read this far and heard us talk about fly rod weights, but you haven’t heard anything about fly rod length for. The standard fly rod in Missoula is 9 feet long, and very few anglers head out to our larger freestone rivers with anything shorter than an 8 ½ foot rod. There are excellent reasons for this. A longer rod is a more powerful lever, more capable of casting longer distances with more accuracy. Wade fishing in Missoula often requires a longer cast to get the job done. Add the large size of some of the flies we throw, and the extra power generated by the longer rod comes in very handy.

Anyone who has fished with a guide has heard this word- MEND. Getting a drag free drift is THE most important skill to master when trout fishing. Line control, or the ability to manipulate the line, leader and fly so it floats with the current, not against it, is the key to successful dry fly and nymph fishing in Missoula, in Montana, and around the world. It is not by chance that Euronymphers use a rod that may be anywhere from 10-11 feet long. Euronymphing relies on pinpoint drift and depth control for success, and the longer the fly rod, the more line you can keep off the water, where it’s not affected by current. Additionally, the longer rod is a better mending tool, allowing for more reach on a reach cast, and more line to be lifted off the water when you water mend. Some of our Missoula fly shop staff have been using 10 foot rods for over 30 years for just that reason. The 10 foot rod also has the power to really step up and make a long cast when needed, because the additional length brings additional power. Not going to lie, casting a 10 foot rod all day is more tiring than casting a 9 footer, but it is worth it to many Missoula fly fisherman.

Time for a bit of a tirade! The long cast always looks impressive, and can make an angler go oooh and aaah like they were watching fireworks on the 4th of July. Your dry fly or nymph rig goes buzzing out 65 feet, and you think I’m really doing something. All we can say is you had better have a perfectly balanced leader, (building leaders) or that cast is going to start dragging pretty much the moment it hits the water. It’s been said that drag is like garlic, there’s no such thing as just a little! The moment you cast beyond your ability to mend, you’ve lost control of your drift and therefore 90% of your chance at catching a trout of any consequence. While the 9 foot rod is the standard across the fly fishing world, it’s worth thinking about a longer fly rod for all the reasons we’ve just listed.

You can come to Missoula with 7 fly rods, ranging from 2-8 weight and know you have the correct tool for any situation on our freestone rivers. Or you can arrive with a single 9 foot, 5 weight and be able to handle 90% of the fishing 90% of the time. Fly fishing in Missoula, like anywhere else, can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. Some anglers collect fly rods like others collect matchbooks, so if you got ‘em, bring ‘em. But if you’re an angler with one fly rod and a box of flies, don’t let that be a deterrent. Fly fishing in Missoula is as diverse as you will find in Montana. If all you have is an 8 foot 3 weight rod, then the Missoulian Angler will direct you to places where that rod will work! You might be 6 miles up a tributary, or waist deep in a glide on the Bitterroot River, but the fly rod you have is going to get the job done!

Buying Your Second Fly Rod

You did it. You bought your first fly rod. You stumbled and suffered through the steep learning curve, and you stuck to it. All the knots that failed, all the flies that mysteriously flew off after someone shot a pistol behind you, those days are past…. mostly. You’ve done some very foolish things, most prominent being borrowing a buddy’s rod. And now you have it. Rod envy. We know, it starts small, but then it begins to build and build. There comes a time when you say to yourself, my best fly fishing in Missoula is only going to be found with a new fly rod. One that I want, and depending on how you roll, is SO much better than your buddy’s!

This is all good. Starter rods have definite limitations, and you’re starting to find them. It means you’re growing as an angler, acquiring new skills to be more effective. You know the old rod works, it simply no longer enhances your experience. The die is cast. You’re on the hunt for a new magic wand. That old 5 wt is being relegated to the back of the closet, or a niece. That’s not clear yet. What is clear is it’s time to make the move.

As you go for rod two, you should be aware that there are so many rod manufacturers out there making high quality rods. They all cast really well. In fact, if you spend over $100, it’s very difficult to find a lousy rod in this day and age- a far cry from 35 years ago when most rods weren’t even decent tent poles! That’s a comforting thought, that you can’t really screw this up too badly.

You’ve done research and know that some rods are fast action (don’t bend as deeply, return to straight more rapidly) and some are slow (flex deeply, takes longer to return to straight). Each rod has it’s advantages and disadvantages. That’s a completely different subject. This is not about why you want fast or slow.. This is about you. Because, truth be told, you don’t actually need a fly rod, you just want one. This is about finding what you want.

Now you’re on safari, searching for the elusive white tiger that will transform your time on the water. Your first move is to set a budget. This very important, and not as much for monetary reasons, though those certainly matter! When buying a car, you don’t go test drive Cadillacs, Mercedes and Ferraris, all while really contemplating buying a Ford or a Subaru. Because when you go to drive the car you’re going to buy, you’re going to think it’s terrible. And we know for a fact its not. But in comparison, its not in the same league, and therefore feels lesser. This applies to fly rods as well.

If you enter a shop and say you want to cast rods, you might end up with a $1200 rod in your hand. And yes, it will be phenomenal. And then every rod you look at after won’t be up to snuff. Set a budget and stick to it. If you have an unlimited budget, our address is 802 S. Higgins!! We’ve been in business for over 30 years and we know some things about tackle. Once you hit a certain point, and for rods its about $300, to get 10% better it costs 50% more. That seems to be a pretty good rule of thumb. Here’s another thought about buying fly rods. The longer it takes to find a fly rod, the more you’re going to spend. The longer you spend looking at fly rods, the more satisfied you’ll be down the road. It’s a trade-off.

We’ve seen this done as well at our Missoula fly shop. A customer is looking for a new fly rod, and has the old standard, a 9’ 5wt. They come into the shop looking to upgrade, but they’re not comfortable about duplicating. They’re thinking about spending $500 or more on a 7 ½” 3wt, or a 9 ½’ 7wt. Both those rods are more specialty sticks when it comes to Montana trout fishing. Why would you spend so much money on an ancillary fly rod, and have your main rod be a less effective tool. Get ready to purchase pretty much the same thing you’ve already got, because it’s your go-to rod. Put your money where you’re going to use it most. It’s why your niece is getting the old one!

When you bought your first rod, you probably had no idea what you were buying. You bought something inexpensive, in case you didn’t like it. You trusted the people who sold it to you, and it worked. You might not have even put it together. This time is different. This time you know what you want. And if you don’t know, you’re going to find out. The only way to find out how a fly rod feels is to cast it. Shaking a fly rod doesn’t get it done. You need to put a line on it and go cast it. That’s the only way to know how its going to perform. If the fly shop doesn’t have a line for you to use, bring your old one.

We’ve seen this happen when traveling or just in other shops. A customer walks in and says they want to buy a fly rod. The salesperson says I know exactly the rod you want, and starts his spiel. Beware! You’re buying this rod because you want to, not because you have to. Sure, the salesperson might be right. But probably not. They haven’t seen you cast, so how can they make a recommendation?  Everyone at the MAngler has their favorite rod, and at some point it’s going to be in your hand. But we’re doing more than handing you rods and saying how good it is. We’re watching you cast, we’re watching your loop, and comparing distance to the other rods you’ve tried. This next bit sounds rude, but it’s not. We don’t care what rod you buy. Our only vested interest is you buy it from us, and you’re happy with your purchase. Many times we sell rods we’re personally not enamored of. Why? Because the customer casts it better than our favorite. We’re not buying the rod, you are! So we watch you cast, and then start matching rods to your preference.

Your Mom always says, don’t fall for the first pretty face that comes by. The same applies to fly rods. Even if the first rod feels like magic in your hands, go cast more. Sure, that rod might be the one, but you’ve got to check. Don’t be swayed by some slick talking salesman or a discount. Do your due diligence. The rod will be there when you go back. And if it’s not, they can order another one! The last thing you want to do is buy the first rod you cast, and then later cast a buddy’s you like much better. That will haunt you every time you use your rod, and the haunting will go up in proportion to how much you spent!

Because you’re doing this to make yourself happy. Its not a chore to go and cast a bunch of rods, it’s a privilege. Go out and enjoy the experience. Have a great time casting each rod. Every time you pick up a new stick, you learn more about your casting. You find out more about likes and dislikes. You hone in on your happy place, and crystalize in your mind exactly what you’re looking for. Because the goal is to find a rod that makes you go “Ooooohhh” every time you fish it. You want a rod that makes you smile when it comes out of the tube, that fills you with confidence every time you take it out to play. Because if it doesn’t, then what’s the point? You have a rod that works- this is about a rod that makes you smile. It will take a little time and a little effort. Trust us, it’s worth it. Having that magic wand, the rod that does it all for you, is such a good feeling on the water. It’s worth the time and effort to make your second rod exactly what you want.

Why You Should Try 10′ Fly Rods

Euronymphing has startled fly fishing with it’s effectiveness and micro control over the drift. I’m going to stress that. Micro control of drift. What’s the biggest deterrent to catching trout? Drag. Why are the best Missoula fly fishing guides first three recommendations when fishing, “mend. Mend! MEND!” It’s fun listening to guides talk. Got this story from a Missoula guide……

“Late June, guy’s in my boat doing jack.  Won’t listen, doesn’t pay attention, the whole 9. Seems like everyone on the rivers doubling up and this guy is about fishless. We get close to another boat, and my guy says, “How’s the fishing?” The reply is, “Real good.” In that confident voice that says we are kicking some serious Adipose fin ass. My guy asks, “What are you using?” Reply, “10 feet of drag free drift.” Cold. Callous. Cruel. Stone Nuts Accurate. Drag is the curse of fly fishing. Want to sum up fly fishing with an insect imitation in 7 words? Make your fly behave like it’s unattached.

Euronymphers learned fast that a longer rod helps control drift. Basic geometry tells us a longer rod can mend exponentially further. (Euclidean geometry. It’s why you paid attention in high school)) So when you’re  highsticking, the higher your stick, the better your drift. I haven’t consistently used a rod shorter than 10’ since about 1995. Oh, I’ve dabbled with my favorite 8’8” 2 wt, I’ve revisited my first 8’ 4 wt, but never for long. I lose too much doing it.

Straight physics tells you that a longer lever is more effective. A 10’ rod is more powerful- you can simply apply more leverage and attain higher tip speeds. As said before, a 10’ rod mends exponentially better than a shorter rod. What does that add up to? You can drop a line weight and still have 95% of what the higher line weight delivers. So my go-to rod is a 10’ 4 wt, not a 9’ 5 wt. Does all the work of the 5 wt, but now I’m throwing one line size lighter. Better for stealth. To quote John Geirach, “Fly tackle has improved considerably since 1676, when Charles Cotton advised anglers to ‘fish fine and far off,’ but no one has ever improved on that statement.” Nuff said.

So why does no one conventionally fish a 10’ rod. I’ve been in the fly fishing industry for 35 years, and I can honestly say I have no idea. I’ve explained it countless times, and people look at me and say that makes complete sense. And then continue to use a 9’ rod. I don’t get it…..

Do have to confess, there is one thing a 10’ rod doesn’t do as well as a 9’ rod, and that’s fight fish. It takes more energy to apply pressure on a longer lever. But we’re fishing for trout, not billfish. I can’t say I’ve ever lost a fish because I couldn’t get enough pressure. Could be I’m not catching big enough trout to know. Ought to ask Bryce. . . . .

Look at those Euronymphers. They know what they’re doing. They’re using a longer rod and having ridiculous success. Might not be coincidence. Just saying. Don’t listen to me! I haven’t  figured out why no 10’rods for 35 years! But try a 10’ fly rod. Do it because its the new, zippy, hot way to fish. Do it because it works. And you’ll come to find out the bonus is all the things I listed above.  It’s a better tool for the job.