There was a time when most anglers carried a cane rod 8-9 feet long with a reel filled with 6 weight level line. In the 1950′s fiberglass became popular, particularly with anglers on a budget, as these rods could be mass produced. Cane rods were still mostly built one at a time. In the 70′s and early 80′s, graphite (and boron for a time) became the new miracle fiber. Some traditionalist scoffed, but the graphite fly rod was ingrained in the fiber of fly fishing forever.
Today, cane rods are primarily used by traditionalists. Since cane rods are still for the most part produced one at a time, the prices are fairly expensive, with most new rods running $500 and up.
Fiberglass fly rods are still popular with some anglers, particularly those who prefer more moderate action rods. Small streams and very soft presentations are the most popular uses for fiberglass. Diamondback continues to produce their Diamondglass Rods, which is one of their most popular rods.
Graphite, by far, is the most popular rod making material today. Even most of the less expensive rods are better than the best rods of only a decade or two ago. They are available in a wide range of weights, lengths, actions, and price ranges, allowing the fly fisher a nearly endless number of choices. Graphite is also much lighter than a cane or glass rod of the same size.
Trout rods generally fall between a 2 and 7 weight and 6-10 feet in length. Rods under 8 feet are usually used on small streams where casting room is at a minimum. Rods over 9′ are commonly used in highstick nymphing as well as lake fishing.
The 2 and 3 weights are best for smaller streams with relatively small trout. Rods 6 weight and above are most popular when fishing large flies for large trout on large rivers or lakes.
On the typically smaller streams of the East, the average trout rod is an 8-8.5′ 4-5 weight. In the West, where the rivers and fish are larger, the 9′ 5 weight is much more popular. The heavier lines also cast better in the seemingly non-stop wind found in the Rockies. Of course, there are some large rivers that hold large trout in the East and some small creeks in the West where a foot long trout is a whopper, which will change the best rod for the situation.
Rod actions are characterized by the amount and location of flex in the blank.
Fast action rods flex mostly in the tip section during the casting stroke. Fast rods as a rule cast further with a tighter loop than more moderate actions. This is because a faster rod takes less time to straighten after being flexed during the casting stroke. Fast rods provide more power to fight large fish in snag infested waters. Fast action rods do have drawbacks. They tend to be more sensitive to angler error during casting. Fast Rods are more sensitive to angler error when hooking and landing fish also. Because they recover so quickly, fast rods are more likely to break fine tippets or straighten small hooks. Some anglers complain that a fast rod feels stiff, but others feel this is the best rod for an experienced caster. The St. Croix Legend Elite, the Powell Tiboron, the Diamondback Flawless, the Redington Classic and the ever popular G. Loomis GLX series.
Moderate action rods flex nearly to the grip. Moderate action rods tend to cast smooth and present flies delicately particularly at close range. These rods protect fine tippets and small hooks well, and are an excellent choice for large fish on light tackle. These rods flex nicely when fighting a smallish trout, providing more enjoyment from less than lunkers. Popular moderate action rods are the previously mentioned Diamondback Diamondglass and the Lamiglas X-11 Rods.
Moderate-Fast action rods are a compromise between the two. Generally speaking, most rods fall into this category and are best for an “all around” rod. Moderate-Fast rods blend the good points of both fast and moderate rods into one package. A Moderate-Fast is usually the best “first rod” for the novice angler. While there are enough different moderate-fast rods to fill a book, some of the more popular include the St. Croix Avid and Triumph, the Redington RS4 and Vapen Red Fly, the Cortland Brook, the Okuma Guide Select, as well as all of the currently produced rods from Ross World Wide.
See you on the water.