At a sports show recently, I heard someone ask an exhibitor if he could recommend a suitable length for fly rods for beginners. I didn’t stay to hear the answer as I knew the answer would depend on where you fish, what type you are looking for, what end gear you use, and so on. If you don’t know these things beforehand, it will be difficult to determine the right fly rod length for beginners, in fact the right type of fly fishing outfit (rod-reel-line). To fix this, let’s first check what a fly rod does.
Properties of the fly rod
Fly tackle differs from other types of fishing equipment (spinning, bait throwing, etc.) in that the principle involves throwing a very light object (a type of fly) with a heavy, large diameter line. The rod is constructed in such a way that during a cast it builds up an impulse to drive the fly with this heavy line to the intended target.
The reel holder on a fly rod is located near the piston, the guides are small, and the length varies between 5 and 10 feet in general use, although special circumstances call for 12 to 14 feet or longer rods. Because fly lines are characterized by weight and not by breaking strength, fly rods are designed for casting a specific weight line. Thus, a 5 weight bar is designed for use with a 5 weight line, and an 8 weight bar is designed for use with an 8 weight line. Rod makers design their rods (especially stiffness and resilience) to get the best cast of a line with a given weight.
General fly rod length for beginners
It is most often the case that a lighter rod is shorter than a heavier rod and that weight designation is generally more of a problem than length. Determining the correct length of fishing rod for beginners is closely related to determining the correct weight of fishing rod for your intended applications.
When fishing small streams for trout you don’t have to cast very far or use really large flies, and you will generally catch small fish, so a lighter rod and line, probably a 3 or 4 weight, would do the job. However, if you want to fish largemouth bass where bulky flies are required and the fish may need to be removed from obstacles and cover, an 8 or 9 weight rod is required, especially if you are new to flycasting. The 3 weight for trout would likely be about 7 or 7½ feet long while the 9 weight for bass could be about 9 feet long.
Is there an all-round fishing rod length for beginners?
If you’re just starting out with fly fishing, you might be looking for a versatile outfit that is suitable for all-round use. Honestly, it’s hard to come by. The 9-weight rod mentioned in the previous paragraph would be too long and stiff to cast in small streams and would overwhelm small fish. The 3 weight would not allow you to achieve distance or accuracy with large flies in greater water. However, that does not mean that they can only be used for the situations mentioned.
The 3-weight rod could also be used, for example, for casting small flies in ponds and in the quieter sections of lakes. There you could have a lot of fun with bluegills, mussel crackers, crappie, yellow perch and maybe bullheads. The 9-weight rod is great for species other than bass. It can also be used for pike, chain pickers and freshwater carp, as well as small to medium-sized specimens of coastal species on the coast such as striped bass, spotted sea trout and redfish.
If you are a beginner at fly fishing, think about where you will be fly fishing and what you will be following. Then get your fishing license and go to a fly shop where knowledgeable staff can help you explore the options.