Choosing the Correct Fly Rod, Friday 19/02/2021

Choosing the Correct Fly Rod, Friday 19/02/2021


Good morning from a wet Foxford, a big improvement on last week though. Certainly a noticeable stretch coming in the evenings and dare I say a hint of spring is creeping in. The extended lockdown has slowed us all down a little this year and we are no different. Stock we normally take delivery of in January is now planned for March delivery and hopefully by the time you visit us in spring we will have loads of new goodies for you to purchase. Our new website is a work in progress and it too will soon magically appear. Yesterday I was having a chat with a local angler about a fly rod he wants to purchase, a complete new Salmon outfit. I explained that we have new stock on the way and it will be a couple of weeks before I can show him the rod I think is correct for him.  I was happy when he said “take my number and call me when you have it, I want to buy it here”. I was happy because that customer has trust in us and that means a lot.

On a daily basis throughout the season we get asked to recommend a fly rod. It’s a difficult thing to do especially when dealing with a novice or inexperienced fly angler, someone who doesn’t know or understand the finer points associated with fly fishing and the different disciplines. As tackle dealers though it is our job and something we are good at. Assisting our customer in making the right choice is a very important to us. Getting it right can be the difference in retaining that customer as a customer or loosing that customer, you will only bluff a person once!.

Of all the rods on the market the fly rod has to be the most difficult to choose. As most anglers who have stood and wiggled a rod in a tackle shop know making the correct choice lies somewhere between an informed decision and Pot luck. There is such an amount of rods to choose from and as trends and fashions changes this selection just gets more confusing. Twenty years ago we didn’t have Switch, Scandi and Nymph rods to name but a few. The secret is to shop wisely, do your homework and know what you want and what you are getting for your money. In today’s angling world good rods don’t have to cost a fortune and as I already said there’s a huge selection to choose from.

So what’s the rod for me?

It’s impossible to choose one fly rod and say this is ideal for everything. The magic wand doesn’t exist, but while there’s not a rod for everything there is a rod for everyone and this is where we as tackle dealers come into the equation. We have to know what rods to stock and this is the difference between a good and a not so good tackle dealer. A good tackle dealer will have gone through all the rods manufacturers have to offer (hundreds) and will have chosen the best rods available in different styles and price brackets. Of course like most things in life, if you want the best you will have to pay the extra. Sometimes it’s worth it and sometimes it’s not, we take a lot of the guess work out before you have to make the final decision.

Here’s a few useful bits of info to help you in the thinking process.


Rod styles and their uses

Single hand: Still by far the most popular fly rods on the market the single hand rod as the name suggests has a single handle (as opposed to two handles, upper and lower found on a double hander) and is fished single handed. While some single hand rods may have a short extension or fighting butt this is not used as an aid to casting. Generally ranging from 2m to 3.3m in length they come in a large variety of weight classes from #2 up to #10. They are used for everything from small stream dry fly fishing to shark fishing but again one single rod cannot adequately cover all situations. You need to think about where you will use the rod and for what species. If you target a single species at similar venues then a specialist rod model may be ideal, if you target different species at different venues and only want one rod you may be happy to compromise and go for something in between. For example someone fishing small trout streams with nymphs would find a 3 or 3.3m #3 rod very useful whereas the angler who fishes a little bit on the trout stream and a little bit on the local lough may be better with a 2.75 or 3m #5 0r #6 as a compromise. I was once told by a large manufacturer that the most popular length of fly rod in the world is 9 foot (2.7m) and they sell more of these than any other rod. The reason for this is that it’s a compromise. Not too long, not to short and most anglers seem willing to make do with it. However I would always recommend that you look closer at what you intend to use the rod for and where you intend to use it before you settle for this compromise.

Double hand: Double hand or Spey rods are a specialist tool designed for Spey style casting. In Ireland and other parts of Europe and the UK they are primarily used for Salmon fishing on the bigger rivers. In the U.S they are used for trout fishing as well. Spey rods which are double handed (an upper and lower handle or butt) are generally longer than single hand rods with 3.6m to 4.5m in weight classes of #8 to #12 been the popular range. A specialist tool they have limited applications and are not for everyone. Again I would recommend a little thought before swiping the credit card. Start with a less expensive model and this is your type of fishing, progress to the top end.

Switch rods: Switch rods are a sort of compromise between the single hand and double hand spey rods, like an in between range. They generally come in the 3.3 to 3.6m #6 to#9 weight classes. They can be used single hand or double hand (Switch) and are a nice tool for a midsized river or summer fishing for Grilse. Although I know some anglers do use them from boats in the lough I would not say they are well suited to this style. I would certainly say that this is the range we have seen the most growth in interest in over the past few years and are something we will be stocking more of.

I suppose the obvious thing that comes from knowing what the different styles of rods are is that we get a better understanding of what they are used for. We can start to look at our own situation and think of what we intend to use the rod for. An angler who uses sinking lines on a large river for spring salmon would be better using a 4.2m #9/10 Double hand rod than a Switch rod where as the angler who does a little spring fishing and more summer Grillse fishing may get more satisfaction from a Switch rod. The angler who fishes on a large Lough will get more use and satisfaction from a 3m #6 or #7 than from a 3.3m #3

Our own experience and physical condition are other important factors. For someone with a shoulder problem a mid sized Switch rod may be a better choice for salmon fishing rather than a large Spey outfit. For the angler starting out is it wise to invest heavily in top end gear ?. I would say no, start with a less expensive outfit and if you enjoy the sport make a gift of your starter outfit to a young person who needs it and then make the big purchase.


This brings me on to price.

 Taking the less expensive to be from 30 to 200 euro, mid priced from 200 to 500 euro and top end from 500 euro up wards. All manufacturers produce a variety of rods that fall somewhere in these brackets. Some are better value than others but again the tackle dealer who knows his or her job has already whittled the range down to offer you the customer value.

What’s the difference?:  Well it’s very easy to see the difference between a 30 euro rod and a 200 euro rod. A 30 euro rod will have inferior components and the material used in the blank will be cheap. It’s impossible to produce a quality product that retails at this price. You will not get anything of any use in a Double hand rod for less than 100 euros. This lower price range (30 to 100 euro) is for someone wishing to investigate the sport. For anyone who is into fly fishing the real starting point is the 100 to 200 euro range. Here you will already notice the difference in quality, slimmer blank with better materials, better components and finish. From 200 euro to 500 euro again there are very noticeable differences. The cosmetics for a start are smarter looking, the materials used in the blank will be better and the rod will perform better. The differences between mid priced rod and the top of the range rod are subtle and at first not so noticeable. Yes the finish will be better as will the components, the guides and quality of cork in the handle, this is visible. The true difference is in performance, this comes from proper design and use of top quality materials in the blank. Unfortunately this performance is something that is not always noticeable to an inexperienced angler and in many cases is wasted. It’s a bit like granny driving a Ferrari. For anyone thinking of investing I would say yes it’s worth it, certainly in the long run. You will get a product that is a joy to use and performs well and if treated correctly will last a long time.

Brands: To some people brand is everything and no matter what the price is they want the brand. For us a brand needs to be backed up with Quality, Performance, service and value for money. This is not something we see in every brand of fishing rod on the market. All I can say with honesty is that we recommend brands that we have found to have something behind them. We continually monitor brands and have over the years dropped many from our range. This will continue and we as tackle dealers are always happy to discuss your requirements and help you with your choice of rod, even if you don’t buy from us we know that by helping you today you might choose us for your next purchase. As someone once said “a poor man can’t afford to buy cheap things, buy right and buy once”

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