We all know what a rod is used for to catch fish. The rod must have some stiffness but flexible, rugged but delicate. If is was only used to pull fish in than you could just use a stick or a branch. But fly fishing for fish has four jobs or purposes:
Casting the fly to the fish, goal is to reach the fish where they are feeding or hiding and do it so not to spook the fish with a splash on the water. With trout looking up feeding on bug you want a delicate presentation to look like the bug hitting the water. With pike they are all stomach and teeth and just want food. Pike are not leader shy either so no need to be delicate.
Set the hook, not every strike or hit of a fish on the fly can be seen. A slight tug especially with trout just tap the fly and spit it out before you know it. So the rod acts like a sensor to help you pick up any little tap or tough of a fish. And stiff enough to set the hook. I always set and push the rod in the opposite direction from the fish to double check if that hook is indeed set in that trout’s mouth. I have lost too many trout without taking that extra precaution.
Fighting, the rod is a large spring or spine to help you fight those salmon. When a fish runs it creates a tremendous amount of stress on the rod which the flexing helps to act as a shock absorber. The reel drag and flex of the rod are all part to help you fight fish.
Landing the fish, when you have tired the fish out and it is time to net or land the fish. The rod helps you guide and get the head up to receive into the net. Sometimes the fish is not ready to come in and takes off again like a dart. But that rod is still ready to absorb the shock so you can tire that fish out and with the rod guide him to the net.
Sometimes you need to be delicate with a trout, as I still can’t figure how they can spit that hook out after a set. Other times when fighting pike or stripers you need to let the drag and rod where them down for a long fight. There are rods for fly fishing for all shapes and sizes. In time with experience you will find the rod that feels comfortable to you. I grew up on the coast with big tackle spin casting for mackerel and larger fish. So I went with eight weight rod, which I will use for the delicate trout and the large pike, they call them the big guns! I have two eight weight rods, one for dries surface fishing and the other intermediate line for streamers and fishing down stairs.
Is bigger better or not?
Put our personal differences aside for a minute, choosing the right rod comes down to the fish and the size of the water the fish live in. Smaller the fish the lighter the rod and line which uses lighter flies. In a small calm pond you want to make as little of a splash as possible. The bigger the water the bigger the rod, line and flies. My big guns I use in rivers and the ocean to catch the larger fish. Where hitting the water hard does not matter or spook fish. So you can land a big fish with light tackle, but you will have to play the fish longer. Heavier tackle will mean short play and can release sooner. So it is good to keep in the back of your mind what kind of fish you are seeking to determine the rod size and how much water you’re in…
Next piece of the puzzle when it comes to rod is the length. Rod that are considered short are around six to seven in a half feet. These shorter rods are great for fishing small streams or brooks for small trout, if it is a tight spot. A nine foot two piece rod is what I use. Just like the action of the longer rod and I can hold more line off the water in heavy current like in a river. For tarpon a rod length of ten feet is common, but the longer the rod the more work and more tired you will be. You can easily cast hundreds of times on an afternoon fishing trip, so that can be tiring with longer rods.
So controlling the cast some anglers have a tendency to overestimate their casting distance. It is great to cast as far as you can, but do you have control and if you are casting thirty feet out you need that much room behind you. Typically you are not going to be able to control a cast more than sixty or seventy feet of line. Some Scandi rod or Spay rod are designed to cast hundreds of feet with little or no back cast. But that is for the more advance anglers who have been fishing for years with a traditional fly rod. So keep it simple and get advice from a local fly shop. Tight lines…