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When it comes to storing a rod or traveling with a rod, size matters. But so does the type of fishing you do.
Traditional fly fishing rods are generally between 8′ and 10′ long. In contrast, fly rods used in small streams might only be 7′ in length. For Euro and Czech nymphing rods, rods can be 10′ to 12′, while saltwater rods are from 9 to 13′, and Spey rods are from 12′ 6″ to 14′.
Here are also some basics on fly rod lengths and why they differ.
Fly fishing rod lengths explained
Traditional trout fishing rod lengths vary depending on the conditions you generally fish.
A 9-foot rod is the most commonly sold. They are excellent for making longer casts and for dealing with windy conditions.
An 8 or 8 1/2 foot rod is also suitable for a wide range of conditions.
While any rod less than 8 feet would be used for catching small trout in small streams where casting distance is not required.
A longer rod length would get in the way when negotiating bushes and trees along the stream edge.
Fun Fact My sense is that most new fly fisher wants to be able to cast a reasonable distance, and purchasing a 9-foot rod will help a novice the most.
But this isn’t always the case. There are other factors at play including:
- the ‘speed’ of the rod (where and how it flexes)
- the weight of the rod and fly line
- the angler’s technical ability at casting
Why do fly rods come in different lengths?
A fly fishing rod has three functions:
The fly rod provides the lever for the fly line, which does the actual work to accurately propel the lure at the fish.
Once the line is on the water, it needs to be managed to get the correct drift of the fly in the water.
Striking and landing the fish
A gentle tug on the rod (the strike) sets the hook in the trout’s mouth, after which the rod’s flexibility is used extensively to play the fish until it is landed – all going well.
Each of these activities determines the length of the rod. However, casting is usually the key factor.
The fly line’s weight is matched to the rod’s weight. This also results in a fly rod length of 9 feet on average for most traditional fly fishing.
Though lighter weight lines used on #2, #3 & #4 weight rods are often matched to shorter rods of 7 1/2, 8 or 8 1/2 feet. This means they are suitable for small streams and catching small fish.
While heavier lines on #9 & #10 weight rods may suit a rod of 10 feet in length, as these are used on large bodies of water.
How to choose the right fly rod length?
Questions to consider might include:
Do you plan to fish on small streams, rivers or lakes?
For small streams, you would likely go for a shorter rod. For large bodies of water, where longer distance casting is required, then a longer rod is more suitable.
What size fish do you expect to catch?
A lighter rod and line, #2, #3 or #4 weight, is used for smaller fish.
Here’s my guide to chosing a fly fishing rod for trout fishing
What are the prevailing wind conditions?
I live in New Zealand, where we get lots of wind. Most anglers purchase #5 or #6 weight rods with a medium-fast or fast action to cope with the typical windy conditions.
Once you have this information, then:
- Talk to the expert at your local fly shop.
- Join a local fly fishing club, where you will find lots of experience and possibly an equal number of opinions about their personal preference.
- Check out the many tutorials on YouTube.
The advantage of a long fly fishing rod
A longer rod will allow you to cast further. The rod will support a greater length of line, which results in a longer cast. The longer rod will also facilitate using longer leaders.
Longer rods allow you to keep more line off the water, allowing longer drag-free drifts when nymphing.
A longer rod will give better control for clearing obstacles when landing fish. Also, if the rod has a longer handle, you can put more pressure on the fish and reduce the landing time.
Here’s an excellent article on The Pros and Cons of a Longer Fly Rod
When a shorter fly rod might suit you best
Shorter lengths are suited to smaller streams where you will only ever cast shorter distances.
Shorter fly rods are great around bushes where getting tangled is often a hazard.
Where precise casts and accuracy really matter, the best fly rod length is a shorter rod.
In windy conditions, a shorter length rod will punch through the air more efficiently.
The best option for your first fly rod
The best fly rod for beginners is one within your budget.
No matter how expensive the rod, it will not improve your casting stroke if you don’t put time and effort into learning and practicing casting techniques.
A new fly rod always takes time to master, and when you are learning, there is so much you don’t know, which means an expensive rod may not help you catch more big fish initially.
The primary purpose of a fly rod is to create a lever that allows you to cast the fly line at the proper distance with accuracy. It is the weight of the fly line that does the work in the air.
Your best choice is a rod with a moderate action or medium to medium-fast action, which will assist your casting.
Once you have mastered the art of castings, line control and landing fish, the next most important consideration is how much you want to spend on your next fly rod.
Don’t ruin your good gear when practicing casting. Here’s how to make a practice leader.
Rod length may become a consideration, but you can achieve almost everything you want when it comes to fly fishing by purchasing a 9-foot rod.
Here’s I explain the #5 weight rod and its uses.
How long are Euro/Czech nymphing, saltwater and Spey casting rods?
Euro and Czech nymphing rods
These can be 10-feet to 12-feet in length. A 10-foot rod is most common.
The technique uses a long rod with a short line. The lures are lobbed onto the water rather than cast. Then the angler stays in touch with the nymphs throughout the drift and responds to any touches.
Saltwater rods are up to 13 feet but average 9 feet.
The choice of a saltwater rod is much more about durability, firstly to withstand the strength of large fish species and secondly, to fight the corrosive nature of saltwater.
Most saltwater rods will be 9-feet in length, but some anglers prefer longer rods.
The most significant aspect is the rod’s action, maximizing longer casts and enabling the successful retrieval of heavier fish.
Spey casting rods
Spey rods can be anywhere from 12 feet to 15 feet (and longer), but single-handed Spey rods rarely exceed 10 feet.
A longer rod will move a long line off the water more effortlessly than a short rod.
Spey rods, like traditional rods, come in differing weights and actions depending on the type of fish and location.
For a beginner, choose a medium-fast and fast action rod for versatility.
Modern fly rods are generally made of carbon fiber. This is a very light, flexible material that allows rods to be manufactured with multiple variables in weight, flexibility and where the rod bends.
Whatever rod you choose, get out there and give it a go! Have fun.