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

by | Oct 15, 2017 | 2 comments

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
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

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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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2 Comments

  1. Dom: All this has me wondering how far one might be able to push a general mid flex, 5 wt rod using a mono rig with heavier sighter and tippet for Western salmon & steelhead? I.e., for shorter casting lengths, could a mono rig eliminate the need for an 8/9 wt rod/reel? I’ve never fished salmon with a 5 wt rod/reel, cuz it would be nutty with a fly line – but your mono rig and associated techniques have me re-thinking the possibilities.

    Obviously casting length is a limiting issue with a mono rig, so you aren’t going to be casting & stripping streamers all the way across one of my big Washington rivers, regardless of rod size. Landing such fish would also obviously take a lot more time due to the need to baby the smaller rod, with negative consequences on the fish’s health. So I guess, while it feels like it could work OK, probably not a good idea except for one time novelty effort.

    Have you fished for larger Western salmon/steelhead with a mono rig and an 8 wt rod? How specifically would you modify the rig for such an effort? Just strengthen the sighter & tippet? Would you lengthen anything? Add a shooting head to the mix somewhere?

    Your whole blog is blowing my mind right now! Excellent stuff.

    Reply
    • Hi Ivar,

      Good questions.

      So when using the Mono Rig, I don’t choose a rod based on the flies I want to throw as much as how large the fish are.

      I’ve fished for great lakes steelhead with a five weight rod and had no problem. My friends do the same. But you do need a stout rod and good fish fighting skills to bring fish in on time. I don’t know about salmon on a five weight. At some point the fish is just too large and powerful for the rod to get the job done.

      I cast the Mono Rig on a fast 6 weight that I use at night. No problem. I also have used my friend’s 7 weight and cast streamers on it. Again, no problem. I’ve never done it on an 8 weight.

      Sounds like you might enjoy a spey setup. Check into that. There are a lot of similarities with the Mono Rig.

      I’ll say this: when casting the Mono Rig on a stiffer rod, it helps take the wrist out of the cast. Put the index finger on the rod blank and tuck the butt of the rod against the under part of your forearm. Then cast by mostly bending your elbow. Try it. You’ll be amazed.

      Keep in touch, Ivar, and let me know how it goes.

      Cheers.

      Dom

      Reply

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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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