One of the most frequent questions on both the
Bulletin Board and in our email is from people
new to fly fishing asking for help in choosing
their first rod. The tendency of many of us is
to recommend our favorite 'brand' instead of
thinking it through and giving suggestions they
really can use - and need to hear.
Then there are the complaints from newbies about
the cost of fly rods, "I can't afford a $500 rod,
the rod companies are ripping us off!"
The answer is: You don't need a $500 rod and you
wouldn't be able to cast it if you bought it!
Let's tell it like it is. The new folks can't cast.
In fact, there are some experts around who will tell
you 80% of all the fly fishers can't cast well enough
to fish a fast rod. At least one company, Sage, did
put a disclaimer on their fastest yet rod, the TCR and
flat said it is a casters rod and it may not be the rod
for you. It's true! Hurrah for them.
But the fly fishing industry has in the recent past gone
to building faster and faster, (stiffer and lighter)
rods. Why? Because there is a market for them.
Here's some help. The 'entry level' rods are usually
medium action, forgiving rods. By forgiving I mean
if you don't 'stop' the rod on a cast, the rod is soft
enough to continue to unload the line on its own.
The line won't go very far, but it will go. These
rods are not made of out the most expensive graphite
material available, and usually aren't much to look
at - they are okay - a low priced rod for the beginner
getting started. It will get the beginner fishing.
Cortland, Scientific Anglers, Redington, Global Dorber,
Temple Forks Outfitters and Pfluger, all have packages
especially designed for the beginner. Priced less than
$150 for rod, reel, line probably tippet and in some
a booklet or video to help get started. This is where
the beginner should start out. In truth, some of
these entry level rods are miles above the rods we
thought were wonderful just twenty years ago.
Medium or medium-fast action 'better rods' are made
from better materials, have nicer reel seats, cork
and cosmetically are 'prettier.' For most beginners,
this is the rod to buy AFTER you've learned to cast,
and made the decision to stay with it. For the average
fly fisherman, this is one of the rods you will probably
fish the rest of your life. Excellent fishing rods,
reasonably forgiving when you forget your casting
because you spotted a great fish! The weight of
the rod in hand will be generally lighter than the
entry level rods. All of the manufacturers make
several rods in this category, so you have a choice
of lengths, weights, colors, grips - everything a
person needs. Prices range from about $250 to $400.
You may have your favorite 'brand' but the truth is
any of these rods will do the job nicely.
That leaves one category. Faster rods.
These rods are speciality rods. The quality and cost
of the materials used (best available graphite, cork,
fittings etc.) is top of the line. Whether these rods
are used for saltwater or fresh, the object is being
able to throw a long line, or a big fly repeatedly
with relative ease. The fast rods are usually
lighter in hand as well. Is this the rod for a
beginner? FORGET IT! They are precision casting
machines and require an operator who knows how to use
them. They are not forgiving, and any mistake results
in disaster. Fewer are produced and the prices are
high, $400 to $750.
So why are they made? Because there is a market and
demand for them - not nearly the market as the medium
or medium/fast rods, but there are fly fishers who
can cast them well and who are willing to pay the
price they demand for a rod that does the job for them.
So if you are new to fly fishing, don't let all the
advertising and hype from the guys who own the pricy
rods get to you. This isn't about owning a status
symbol. Compare it to just getting your first drivers
license and complaining you can't afford a Ferrari or
Maybe it is better to start out with a rod one can
If you don't, you take a chance on becoming so frustrated
you won't enjoy the experience at all. On the other hand,
learning to cast can be wonderful - a joy in succeeding
and finding you can get the job done. Once casting is
conquered, the rest of the adventure begins.
The fly shop who tries to sell the beginner the most expensive
rod in the shop is not doing the beginner - or himself any favors.
Instead of getting an entry level rod into the beginners hands,
and having a customer who will come back when he is ready to
go to the next level, (and perhaps a customer for life) greed
gets in the way and the newbie has a lovely rod he can't
cast - but the fly shop made a big sale. More tacky, slippery,
Regardless of what anyone else tells you, believe this,
casting is the most important part of fly fishing.
Start out right, with an entry level rod which will
help you learn, not frustrate and hinder your progress.
~ The LadyFisher
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