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03/15/07 – all around fly rod?

03/15/07 – “I’m looking to start fly-fishing and I want buy a fly rod” – Music to my ears. I just love to have someone come in and say that. Part of the reason is it usually means a sale but a big part of the reason is I like to help people get into this sport. So I bring people over to our rod display and ask what species they will be targeting. There are a lot of possible answers to that question and answers like – just trout and salmon on moving water or I love little trout ponds – those are easy. The single toughest answer to my question about target species is “I fish for a lot of different stuff and I want an all-around fly rod.”

It’s tough because there is no answer for there is no all-around fly rod. The closest I have ever seen was the Orvis 8’3”, 7-weight rod called the “All-Rounder” and they have dropped that rod from the lineup. I still have one and still fish it with streamers. It is a full-flex rod (read soft-tip) with great butt strength and the ability to cast a lot of line or cast short. The rod handles small flies fairly well yet as a 7-weight it can throw small Striper flies and its short length allows use in small streams that have close alder growth.

You might wonder why it isn’t still on the market since it did a little bit of everything and that’s a fair question – the answer is it did all of these things but it didn’t do any of them well. It’s like my father used to say “Jack of all trades. Master of none.” The rod did cast small flies but delicate presentation and 7-weight fly lines don’t mix well. The rod also threw a fairly big striper fly but again, as a 7-weight, it struggled with Clousers, especially in the wind. But for the time that rod was on the market I at least had an answer for the all-around fly rod.

My answer today is to take people over to the book display and to open Tom Rosenbauer’s “Orvis Fly Fishing Guide” and read them this quote:
“Eventually, ever fly fisherman asks: “Can I get one fly rod that will do everything for me?” That depends on what is meant by “everything.” If you will be fishing for, say, trout and nothing else, the answer could be yes. However, if you want to fish for many different kinds of fish on rivers, lakes, ponds and oceans, you will probably need a number of fly rods.

The all-purpose fly rod can be likened to an all-purpose golf club. It’s possible to play 18 holes of golf with a putter, but it’s certainly not efficient (and not much fun). After we read that I generally point them towards a 5-weight or 6-weight rod which give them the ability to fish a variety of waters and throw a good range of fly sizes (leaning strongly towards a 6-weight if they want to fish for Smallies)

Often though when people come in to buy a rod they already have one and are ready for another and usually their second rod is something they want to have because they have identified a need. They have found that the type of water (moving vs. still), exposure to wind, obstructions, wading or fishing from a canoe, fishing big flies (attractors and streamers) or always fishing to rising fish, one or more of these conditions have caused them to wish for something other than what they are fishing with.

Here are two general categories of trout fishing conditions and the rods I think suit them.

Light trout – Small-streams.
I want a Full-Flex (what used to be called a slow rod) for this. Say, 6 ½’ to 8’ and matched up with a 1 to 5-weight line. I want slow action because it is slow. Slow or Full-Flex actions are also forgiving of poor casting strokes caused by limited room and they protect light tippets but I like them because they ARE slow. I can actually see my fly heading towards a low hanging branch or other obstacle and I can pull it back – with fast rods by the time I realize my fly is heading towards a tangle its already there.

Bigger trout – Mid to Large water.
I want a Mid-Flex to Tip-Flex rod for this water. Say, 8’ to 9’ and matched up with a 5 to 8-weight line. I need the extra line weight and line speed of an outfit like this to handle some of the bigger streamers (like a wool-head Sculpin) and I need the rod butt strength to work big fish fast water. Both ends of the line-weights suggested here are going to suffer some. 5-weights struggle with a wool-head and three split-shot and the 8-weight isn’t going to lay out a size 20 dry with much delicacy.

And, of course it just goes on from there. There are rods for Pike and Muskie, other setups for Atlantic Salmon, Steelhead, Stripers, Bonefish, Tarpon and let’s not forget the often neglected Panfish & Crappies. I guess the long and short of this topic is just to say – There is no one rod for fly-fishing and to make the selection process more fun and rewarding when you are planning another rod for whatever you pleasure is be sure and consider things like, water type, wind, fly size and your own casting style.

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