How To Choose A Fly Rod For Trout Fishing | Hatch magazine


How do I determine which fly rod I need for trout? I work backwards.

I start with five key questions:

  1. What size fly will I be fishing?
  2. How heavy and/or wind resistant are these flies?
  3. How far or how far will I fish?
  4. How much wind should I expect?
  5. What types of presentations will I need?

These five questions tell me almost everything I need to know to choose…a drum roll, please…no, not a fly rod. A fly line and a leader.

I choose my fly line and leader based on my answers to these five questions. If I’m fishing dry flies size 18 to surface feeder spooky trout at 35′, I’ll need a particular combination of fly line and leader. If I’m sticking a few weighted nymphs through a waist-deep run, I want a different line/leader combo. This is also true if I cast a streamer 60′ from the furthest shore.

To recap: the size and weight of my fly, the distance I cast, the wind (or lack thereof) and the type of presentation determine the appropriate fly line and rig. The fly line and leader inform my decision on the length, weight and action of my fly rod.

Simple, right? Well, sometimes yes and sometimes no.

If I only ask one thing of my rod during my time on the water, my choices are more obvious. Let’s say I want to fish medium sized dry flies to rising fish and I’m sure I’ll cast 30′ to 40′ in relatively calm conditions. It’s easy for me to choose the best line/leader combo for this scenario and then choose a rod designed to handle this particular task.

Let’s say, though, that I’ll only use this setup until the afternoon wind starts blowing hard, at which point those rising trout will disappear and I’ll switch to a size 8 grasshopper – or maybe – even be the ubiquitous hopper/dropper combination.

Now I have to wonder if the line and leader I was using earlier will still work – which it won’t – and if rebuilding my leader will be enough or if I need to change both the leader and the line of fly. The answer to these questions will help me determine whether to use the same rod that I preferred earlier, or whether to choose a new rod to match the new line/leader/fly combination the conditions demand.

Here’s something to think about. We don’t regularly use a 9’5 fly rod because it’s always the best tool for a particular fishing situation. We use a 9’5 weight because it’s a solid choice for such a wide range of potential scenarios.

There are certain decisions that fly anglers will always have to make. When we change flies and techniques, we must also decide to adjust our line and leader combination – and maybe even change our fly rod. For example, an 8′ 6″ 4 weight might be the ideal setup for dry fly fishing on a small spring creek, while a 9′ 6 weight might be the ideal rod for fishing hopper knockoffs on a great western river Do we carry two rods or do we opt for a single rod that handles both situations?

As you can imagine, the answer to this question ultimately depends on the flies we will be using, the distance we plan to cast, the presentations we choose, and how much wind we can expect.

Finally, there is a factor that we did not take into account earlier: the size of the fish. And that’s because the vast majority of the trout we’re going to catch here in the Lower 48 are between 6 and 22 inches. Any weight fly rod from a weight 3 to a weight 6 will effectively play and land these trout as long as our tippet is not too light.

I hesitate to share hard and fast rules, but my advice to anyone fishing for normal sized trout – say, 2ft and under – is to focus on the questions above. We do not match the rod size to the trout we hope to catch. We adapt the line and the leader to the type of fishing we plan.

In the end, it’s not that complicated. If we know the size of the flies we will be fishing, their weight, the presentation we will be using, the distance we will be casting and what the wind is likely to do, we can choose the right line. and leader for work. Once that’s clear, we can choose the rod – or rods – that make the most sense for our time on the water.

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