Fifty Tips Tips/Tactics

Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #12 — Use a versatile and general fly rod

October 15, 2017
Specialized rods are exactly that — special rods for particular circumstances. Such rods make sense when I’m in a boat, where I can easily switch from one rod to another, or if I’m planning a short one-hour trip where I’ll fish only one tactic. However, my day to day fishing happens on foot; I enjoy wading upstream, tackling everything that the river throws at me for long hours at a time. And while wading those extended miles, I want a general fly rod, something that can handle every tactic that I sling around, and every set of flies I tie on.

I want the ability to fish all the styles: dries, tight line nymphing, suspender nymphing, wet flies, small and large streamers. Granted, it’s asking a lot from a fly rod, to do it all and do it well. But plenty of fly rods are built for the task.

I like 4 and 5 weight fly rods from 8.5’ to 10’ in length. I prefer medium-fast action and a rod that doesn’t flex too far into the butt section. There’s a lot of room for personal preference in that range of fly rods, and every rod maker offers a variety of options.

Full flex rods may joyfully cast dries, but they struggle to sling much weight. Likewise, a good stiff 7 weight may be the perfect option for two articulated streamers and a sinking line, but it’s a poor choice for fishing trico spinners or for protecting 7X tippet. Finally, a modern competition-nymphing rod casts nymphs and long leaders with wonderful ease, but adding a thingamabobber or a heavy streamer makes things troublesome.

I do like specialized rods — I own specialized rods. But I reserve them for the times when I plan to fish only one tactic, or when switching rods is easy.

Regretfully, there is no efficient way to carry two strung rods on the river, so making the change is never quick enough. Sure, you can break a rod down into sections and strap it to your pack, but face it — the process of carrying and changing rods while wading is time consuming. It simply takes too long to make the change, defeating the purpose of convenience in the first place.

So I choose the fly rod that’s a good companion for how I plan to fish. And most times I prefer to be a dynamic angler, meeting and matching the trout on whatever terms they dictate. The general rods that I prefer are not perfect at the extremes, but they get the job done. When casting a single #16 tungsten beaded nymph on the Mono Rig with a 5 weight, I might wish for a rod with a little more flex. Similarly, my go-to 4 weight Sage Z-Axis labors a bit under the weight of the largest streamers that I throw, but it does a wonderful job with that single #16 nymph on the Mono Rig. I’ve learned to adapt at the extremes. For example, most of the streamers I prefer are no larger than 4 inches anyway, and I don’t tie them with heavy, waterlogged rabbit strips.

Maybe I’ve adapted my tactics to the general rod, in some ways. If so, I think that’s fine. It’s probably good to have one tool that you’re skilled with rather than a host of tools that you’re unfamiliar with.

READ: Troutbitten | For Tight Line Nymphing and the Mono Rig, What’s a good fly rod?

READ: Save Your Marriage, Buy Fewer Fly Rods

Enjoy the day
Domenick Swentosky


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Domenick Swentosky

Hi. I'm a father of two young boys, a husband, writer, musician and fisherman. I fly 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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