HOW TO CHOOSE A FLY ROD - 101

Choosing a fly rod can be a daunting task with the countless options on the market today. Let us give you our opinion on what to consider and why, whether you’re looking at purchasing your very first fly rod, or possibly a more specialised rod that is species specific, we’ve got you covered.

Tools serve a purpose

In our opinion, a fly rod should have a specific purpose, be it an all-round rod that is capable of catching various species on different locations, or a shorter more powerful taper that is designed to quickly cast chunky poodle looking flies at nasty predators, always consider your purchase with reason, and yes, we’re all guilty of buying yet another rod because its newer and apparently better, but we’ll get to that shortly.

Budget

Like anything in life, you get what you pay for, but you need not remortgage your house to purchase a quiver of top end rods for your upcoming Seychelles trip, here are a few things to consider. Buy once, cry once. Most top end rods nowadays are an investment that will serve you well for years to come. One can get lost in the smoke and mirrors of newer and better technology very easily, but once you strip away the noise you soon realise that it’s difficult to find a bad rod today. The newest technology of the early 2000’s has trickled down to your more entry level rods that you’ll find instore in 2024. However, we’re fully aware that R25 000 for this magical wand we call a fly rod is a lot of money, so let’s look at entry level to midrange fly rods. Most people start off with a kit which includes a very basic rod, line, and reel. If you’re buying a rod for your 12-year-old, this is a great place to start considering you’re going to encounter a breakage somewhere down the line. However, by investing a bit more into a decent local mid-range rod, or international entry-level rod such as the Orvis Clearwater, you’re getting a rod that will last longer, cast better and of course come with a warranty. Looking ten years down the line, you’ll realise that upgrading from a good but entry level Orvis to a top end Orvis will still be cheaper than getting a starter kit, then mid-range local rod, then stepping up to a mid-range international brand, and then finally a top end fly rod. But this then begs the question, if money were less of a consideration, why not start with a mid to top end Orvis for example. Simply put, the right equipment with no skill or experience simply becomes equipment. You cannot appreciate the torque and power of Porche if you don’t know how to drive. Top end fly rods are generally stiffer, or faster as one might say, and this will aid immensely in the hands of a skilled caster. However, this goes both ways, and a fast rod will be more difficult to cast as it’s far less forgiving than a slower (more affordable) rod and thus more forgiving in the cast.

The right rod

Spending R25 000 on a top end rod, regardless of how well you cast, doesn’t make it the right rod. Yes, it’s a great piece of equipment. Yes, it’s a machine of a rod in the right hands. Yes, it will make casting all day easier and more efficient, does that mean it’s right for you – no, not entirely. Everyone has a different style of casting, and with that, different rods and actions will suit different people. Rather test drive before you buy. We always recommend casting three or four different rods to compare the swing weight, feel and action to make sure it’s the rod for you. Often, the rod you have in mind to purchase is not the rod you walk out the shop with. Another thing to consider are the sweet spots, or rods within a range that feel just a bit better than their competitors. We’ve found that American made rods will often feel better in a 4wt, 6wt and 8wt; because these are the main models used in the USA, whereas a rod made in Europe might feel better in the 3wt, 5wt, and 7wt model – which are the models we as South Africans tend to buy more than the even weights. Our point is this, always cast before you buy where possible. An 8wt Scott Sector might be the perfect rod in your hands, but that doesn’t mean the 9wt will be or feel the same.

Its all about the line

Now that we’ve established what to look for in a rod, equally as important is pairing that rod with the correct fly line. Just as you might pair fine wines or whiskey with specific foods which change and enhance certain notes of flavour, pairing a rod with the right line is the same. We’ll do a separate blog of how to choose the correct fly line, but once you’ve acquired the right rod for you, rather seek professional advice as to which line will pair best. Not all 7wt lines are created equal, in fact, 5 brands will differ in grain weight and taper 5 ways, despite all indicating 7wt on the box. Stiffer rods pair better with heavier lines, yes, but a good guide or shop manager will be able to look at your casting style and recommend a line that will once again not just suit the rod but best suit you.

We’ve been teaching people how to cast, what to look for in a rod, and matching the correct line to the correct rod for over 30 years. We recommend doing your homework before you buy your next rod, but nothing beats casting multiple rods side by side with the input of a world class guide or shop assistant from Mavungana Flyfishing making sure you walk away with a tool that is right for you.