The Best Specialty Fly Rods
Fly fishing rods all share one trait: They are designed to throw a weighted line carrying a lightweight artificial fly out to where fish feed. The way the rod accomplishes that, though, varies greatly. And the target end-use of the rod plays a huge role in that variety of design. Still, we find that most rods fall into two general categories, and it is these categories we consider when we evaluate fly fishing rods: Fly Rods for Trout Fishing and Specialty Fly Rods.
Specialty fishing rods cover a broad category that encompasses everything from two-handed spey rods, to delicate dry fly wands. The category also includes things like dedicated saltwater rods and simplistic tenkara rods.
Two-handed spey and switch rods represent one of the fastest growing segments of the fly fishing market – and cover a large part of the specialty fly rods category . The two-handed casting stroke allows anglers to throw long casts with little to no back-casting clearance. Switch rods typically range in length from 10 feet to 12 feet, while spey rods can be 11 to 15 feet in length. Both rod types require two hands to cast, and a specialty line designed specifically for the unique casting strokes needed for these long, powerful rods.
Another set of specialty fly rods, saltwater rods tend to be designed 6-weight to 12-weight lines and built to handle the stress of the corrosive environments of briny waters. Salt rods usually feature rust-resistant line guides and reel seats, and stiff butts and mid-sections to help fight powerful ocean-based fish.
On the other end of the special spectrum, slow-action dry fly rods toss lightweight lines — 3- and 4-weights being most common, though some featherweight rods will go down to 1-weight lines. Those rods deliver those line lights gently so anglers can present delicate dry flies to easily spooked fish. In specialty dry fly rods, distance performance takes a firm back seat to accuracy and feel in our ratings.
For the ultimate in specialty fly rods, we look at Tenkara fishing. These unique rod designs date back thousands of years, prior to the advent of reels. For tenkara rods, the focus is on strength and flexibility. In tenkara fishing, the fixed-length line is tied directly to the tip of the long (up to 14 feet) rod. The rods must have the strength to cast that fixed line, as well as the sensitivity to feel the ‘take’ when a fish hits the fly.
Despite the impressive breadth of the specialty fly rod category, the market for these rods is remarkable shallow — though most rod designs fall into the category, less than half of all rod sales from this pool. As a result, these designs are updated far less frequently than those in the trout rod category, and new designs here typically evolve out of the work done on trout rod designs.