Save Your Marriage – Buy Less Fly Rods

by | Mar 10, 2015 | 6 comments

This post is from contributing author, Pat Burke.

Fly fishing can be an expensive sport.  Most fisherman have thousands of dollars tied up in  reels, waders, boots, chest packs, base layers,  wading jackets, leaders, tippet, flies, and the list goes on and on.  However, the greatest cost of all in fly fishing is the fly rod.   A good fly rod can cost upwards of $800.   To make matters worse, most trout fisherman have a specialized rod for every type of fishing they may do in a year.  Any diehard trout fisherman will have at a minimum a…

  1. Short delicate rod for fishing mountain brookie streams
  2. Nine foot four weight for dry fly fishing
  3. Ten foot five weight for indicator fishing
  4. Six weight for streamer fishing a floating line and small flies
  5. Seven weight for throwing the biggest of streamers on a sinking line
  6. Extremely long three weight for euro nymphing

After buying one of each of these styles of rods, you then decide you need a backup of each, in case one of the rods fail at an inopportune time!  It’s madness.  Then to make matters worse, rod manufacturers aggressively advertise the latest and greatest new rods that come out every year that are lighter, stronger, and throw tighter loops.  With their clever marketing, it’s almost impossible not to think you need their newest line of rods.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not innocent in this matter.  I do have quite a few fly rods.  I’ve made a shift though.   I still remember spending an afternoon five years ago talking to a well known and highly regarded fisherman in our local shop.  I always thought someone as talented as him would be fishing specialized rods to match the conditions he was facing. To my surprise, he said something to the effect that he rather fish a rod that is decent for all types of fishing, than one that is best at any one particular style.  I was already starting to move in the direction of one rod for everything and this conversation solidified my thoughts on the matter.

Not only is it an expensive practice to continue maintaining a large arsenal of rods, it is counterproductive. It overcomplicates an already complicated sport. For starters you never get a real comfort level with any of the rods.  Sure you can cast them and present a fly decently, but you never develop that sixth sense you do when all your time is spent with a single rod.

When you set out for a day with a specialized rod, you are committing to one style of fishing and you lose adaptability.  So for instance, maybe you chose to only bring along your seven weight to throw big streamers.  That is great if the fish really end up being on streamers, but what if they’re not?  You’d probably end up continuing to pound water with limited success.  Or maybe you’d walk back to your car to get a nymphing rod which would take up valuable fishing time while you have to rig up another rod.  Lastly, you may even try carrying multiple rods for every condition.  This almost never works out as you envision it though, unless you are in a boat where you have lots of storage.  You end up leaving rods on the bank and having to keep circling back to get them. Overcomplication.

In my opinion, the largest detractor of all with using many specialized fly rods is the curse of having too many choices. Simply put, too many choices leads to uncertainty. I don’t want to be standing there the night before looking at all of my rods and trying to predict which specialized rod to take the next day for the style of fishing I think will work best.  It’s the same thing as having too many variations of flies in your fly box.  At first you feel better equipped to handle any insect on the water.  In reality though, you stare in that box and see all the choices and always second guess the fly you have on because of the endless variations of patterns in your box.  When you have a large arsenal of specialized rods, you’re always left feeling like another rod may be better suited for the changing conditions.

So this is what I’m advocating when choosing a rod.  Pick one that suits the style of fishing you do most, but still works well for other types of fishing.  For my local waters, this is a fast action ten foot five weight.  I spend the majority of my time nymphing, half of which is euro nymphing and the other half is indicator fishing.  On any given day, I also spend a subset of my time throwing streamers and I will occasionally fish dry flies in the spring, or maybe dry dropper in the summer.  The great thing about that rod is it is suitable for all of those styles of fishing.  It’s heavy enough to throw streamers but light enough to nymph and dry fly fish.  This rod is not the best for any one style, but I can do it all, carry one rod, and simplify my approach on the water.

The best part about using one rod for everything is you save lots of money.  You now have enough left over cash to buy something nice for your wife…. Or forget your wife and buy yourself a new drift boat 🙂  Let’s see if my wife catches that one.

Pat Burke

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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  1. She’ll only catch it if she reads through the whole post … let’s see.

  2. I believe I must accept this as an answer, because the description is spot on.

  3. Pat – very nice article. You bring up some excellent points and I too am actively reviewing my quiver of rods with a goal of simplification in mind. I suppose the fact that I pursue coldwater, warmwater and saltwater species makes this harder, however. Here’s my somewhat similar take in a recent post I did on my blog –

    Thanks for some great articles…


  4. For me, I settled on 3 rods – Redington’s 3 & 5 wt 8′ 6 piece Classic Trout series rods (which IMO, are the easiest casting rods I’ve gotten my hands on – and the price is awesome) and a Grey’s 4 piece 12′ 7wt 2 handed Spey rod. Here in the PacNW, that will basically cover everything year around. Anything more is just plain excess IMO. If I had to eliminate one rod, I’d be hard pressed to keep the spey rod since I have so little time to skagit cast for several hours to elusive Silver Unicorns even though they are considered the “Prestige” fish to pursue. The 3 & 5 wt rods are my go to’s – the 3 wt right now is my newest addition and my current rod of choice for summer as it easily can cast out to 60 feet – even in a moderate headwind and the 5 wt is for when conditions call for a little more umph when casting. The Spey rod will probably see some action for the town run steelhead coming through the area – if i have the time and patience.

  5. Now I need to go out and buy a 10′ for 5wt!


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