How to Shop for a Fly Rod
When buying for a new fly rod, remember these cardinal rules.
1) Play the field. Plan to try at least a couple rods out before you make your final selection. That means hitting a fly shop and spending some time with them.
2) Cast before you buy. This is the most important step. Do NOT simply pick up the rods and wiggle them in the shop. A rod without a line is a like a boat without water – pretty, but impossible to judge on performance. After identifying the rods you are interested in, have the shop staff mount a reel with appropriate line and then go cast it.
When doing your trial casts, make sure the rod is mounted just as you would on the river. Make sure:
- You have an appropriate reel on it. If you already have a reel you plan to use with your new rod, bring it along and use it in your test casts instead of the shop reel.
- You have a leader on the fly line.
- You have a hook or simulation hook. Instead of true flies with hooks, you can use bits of yarn to simulate light dry flies. Crimp on a couple bits of split-shot to add weight to simulate heavier streamers or big nymphing rigs.
If the wind is blowing, even lightly, change your casting position during your trial so you are casting with the wind, against the wind and across the wind.
If you are considering multiple rods, make sure you get them all out together if possible so you can experience them all in similar conditions.
3) Ask the pros. Ask advice from the shop staff. Most fly shops are still independent specialty retailers with employees who regularly get out and use the gear they sell. Listen to them.
4) Now, ignore them. No matter what the sales guy tells you, the best rod is the one that feels best to you.
Need some suggestions? Check out the results of our Fly Rod tests here.