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A good fly rod is an amazing piece of gear, and arguably the most important component to any fly anglers’ set up. The rod is our connection to the water. It enables a unique and fulfilling interaction with aquatic environments and translates the energy of the water, wind, and fish to the touch of our hands. Regardless of where we’re fishing and the species we’re chasing, our chosen fly rod is a common denominator. It is an important investment for all anglers that dictates the performance we’re capable of and the feel each experience provides. Whether you are looking to purchase your very first fly rod or adding the latest and greatest technology to a large quiver, there are a few considerations to keep in mind through the selection process. We’ll focus primarily on rods suitable to Central Oregon’s waters to keep things simple, but our staff has extensive knowledge of various destinations around the world and we keep plenty more specialized rods in stock for those with more specific needs!
General Fly Rod Information
|Rod Weight||Typical Length||Water Type||Species||Presentation|
|< 3 wt||6’-8’||Small Streams, Ponds||Small-Medium Trout, Panfish||
-Dry flies and very light nymphing
|4 wt||8’-9’||Small-Large Rivers, Lakes||Small-Large Trout||
-Dry flies and light nymphing
|5 wt||8’6”-10’||Medium-Large Rivers, Lakes||Medium-Large Trout, Small Bass||
-Dry Flies, Nymphs, Leeches/small streamers
|6 wt||9’-10’||Medium-Large Rivers, Lakes||Medium-Large Trout, Small-Medium Bass/Warmwater||
-Big Dry-Droppers, Nymphs,Leeches, Streamers
|7 wt||9’-10’||Large Rivers, Lakes, Saltwater||Big Trout, Bull Trout, Steelhead, Bass, Light Saltwater||
-Nymphs and Streamers
|8 wt||9’||Large Rivers, Lakes, Saltwater||Bull Trout, Steelhead, Bass, Saltwater||
-Nymphs and Streamers
|10 wt||9’||Saltwater||Medium-Large Saltwater Species, Chinook||
Target Species and Fishing Location
We need to ensure that our chosen rod is appropriate for the type of fishing that we will most commonly use it for. The rod needs to be capable of delivering flies effectively in the chosen fishing environment, and appropriate for the size and strength of the target species. Wind, fly size/weight, and the physical size of the water are all factors to consider when selecting the weight and length of a rod.
Rod weight is the most important consideration in regards to wind, fly size, and size of fish. Higher weight rods provide additional power but are less capable of delivering delicate presentations or protecting light tippets. The most appropriate trout rods for Central Oregon fall into the 3-6 weight range. We’ll fish 3s on small creeks, 4s as dry fly rods and for light nymphing, 5s as an all-around rod, and 6s on big rivers and lakes that require heavy flies and long casts. Larger species like Bull Trout, Bass, and Steelhead require a 7 or 8 weight.
Rod length influences the maximum casting distance and control that anglers have over their flies and fly lines. Small water rods in the 1-3wt range typically stay under 8’ so that they can be used in areas of tight brush and maintain accuracy in the short distance casts we most often use on small water. Most rods larger than a 3wt will range from 8’-10’, with 9’ being the standard length. For large rivers and lakes, we have seen an increase in the number of 9’6” and 10’ rods being sold. These longer rods provide for additional casting distance, quick and direct hooksets, and improved control when mending and managing line that is already on the water. Much of the decision on rod length comes down to personal preference, but there is certainly something to be said of the effectiveness of the longer rods that have become more popular in recent years.
The factor that distinguishes each rod manufacturer’s models from others of the same length and weight is the action. Generally referred to as slow, medium, or fast, the action of the rod relates to the stiffness and flex profile that provides the “feel” the angler receives while casting and fighting fish. Fast rods have become increasingly popular, and offer the most performance for punching through wind and delivering heavy flies. Slow and Medium rods allow for more delicate presentations and typically provide a deeper flex that can be felt all the way into the handle. While the performance differences associated with different rod actions are important in effectively fishing the water, much of the choice comes down to personal preference. The only way to gain an understanding of what feels and works best for an individual and their unique casting style is to cast a rod here at the shop, or even better, to get out and fish one.
As a point of clarification, euro rods and two-handed spey/switch rods do not follow the general descriptions that we’ve laid out above. We won’t complicate things by diving into the characteristics of these special application rods in this post, but are more than happy to provide explanations and advice in the shop.
The Echo Carbon XL is tough to beat as an entry-level rod for beginners or those looking to make an inexpensive addition to their quiver. This Medium-Fast action rod provides all-around performance with a feel that hasn’t been matched at the price.
The Vice is our go-to option for those with a tight budget and the need for a fast action, high performance rod. What is lacks in feel, it makes up for with incredible line-speed generation that allows for long casts and powerful mends when fishing heavy nymph rigs on rivers like the Lower Deschutes and Metolius.
The Sage Foundation is the entry level, US manufactured rod. These rods are made right up in Bainbridge Island, and provide a high performance, fast action option at an incredible price. The 4 and 5 weight models are good all around trout rods, while the larger models offer the performance necessary for Bass, Steelhead, and light saltwater use at a reasonable price.
Those looking for a top quality, all around trout rod that doesn’t reach the top end of the price range need look no further than the Winston Nimbus. This medium action rod will perform well in any trout fishing application. The light models offer delicacy and accuracy for fishing dries to spooky trout. The 5-6 models pack plenty of punch for fishing big dries, nymphs, and small streamers in windy conditions without sacrificing the full flex that Winston has built their reputation on.
The Sage X is the industry standard for many die-hard anglers who appreciate its incredible power, accuracy, sensitivity, and feel. This rod incorporates Sage’s latest graphite technology, Konnetic HD, to provide all of the performance of the well-loved Sage One with improved feel and potential for delicate presentations over its predecessor.
The Pure is the ultimate dry fly rod and offers incredible feel and touch that can only be compared to its slightly faster sibling, the Air. This rod is truly effortless to cast, and provides a feel of incredible quality and craftsmanship that will put a smile on any angler’s face every time it comes out of the tube. You’ll feel the rod flexing all the way through the cork on every cast and fish, and feel connected to the river in a way that only a Winston can provide.