Will An Expensive Fly Rod Catch You More Trout?

by | Nov 16, 2022 | 70 comments

Good anglers catch more trout. So let’s get that out the way. There is no substitute for your desire to work hard and solve the daily river puzzles. Put in your time, put out some great presentations, and trout will eat the fly — the price tag on your rod doesn’t matter.

Wait. That last part isn’t exactly true . . .

I field more questions about rod choice than all other gear. Waders, packs, boot and fly lines all run a close second, but everyone wants to talk about the rod. That’s fair, because it’s the most tangible piece in our inventory, and it’s literally in our hands all day long.

I still argue that the leader is more important than the fly rod. But the rod matters too. It matters a lot, probably more than anything else, and we all know this.

Buying the right style of rod — one that is suited for the work you want to do — is of critical consideration. (Do not buy a fast seven weight for tight line nymphing or for fishing #26 Tricos.) Let’s say you decide on a ten-foot four weight. But, beyond that, how much difference is there in the wide range of rods offered? Will the most expensive fly rod catch you more trout?

Candidly, I’ll tell you that I had this answer wrong for many years. For most of my life, I simply could not afford high end gear. And I believed that the top-of-the-line tools were unnecessary. That part is still true. They are unnecessary, because you will catch plenty of trout with an entry level fly rod.

But I also believed that a flagship rod would not put more fish in the net by the end of the day. I spoke this to friends many times. And I argued the point emphatically, when given the chance.

What was my basis for that argument? In truth, I didn’t own any top shelf fly rods for a long time. Sure, I had cast a few of my friends’ rods, and I told myself I was unimpressed. I also felt that I caught just as many if not more trout than my friends with their fancy rods. Those were my defenses for the argument, but those were also the flaws in my argument. Of course I was unimpressed when I first picked up those high-end fly rods — because I didn’t have enough time with them. And I might have caught a few more trout than my best fishing buddy, but that’s probably because I covered more water and was focused more obsessively on one-seam drifts.

READ: Troutbitten | Category | Fly Rods

My formative years were spent with a $225 fly rod that I fished so hard I wore the cork down. I mean it. With about six years of fishing five days a week, I outlasted the cork. It cracked and crumbled where I had pushed into the power stroke with my thumb a million times. I was proud of that, and it would have been hard for me to believe I could have done any better with another rod.

So here’s the question rephrased: Will a thousand-dollar fly rod catch more trout than a two-hundred dollar rod?

My old answer was no. No way. But my new answer — that I now begrudgingly admit — is yes. And here’s why . . .

There’s a great history to the label on the case of this rod. It was handed down to me from a wonderful friend.

Found It

I’m a grabby guide. There’s an old guide adage that says, “Nothing good happens when you touch the client’s rod.” But people come to me to learn. I’m a teaching guide. And as years pass, I’m more apt to say less and cast more. Give me the rod. Because, very often, you need to see the cast to understand it.

The point is, I get just about every decent fly rod in my hands through a season. And my guests seem to like spending money on the good stuff. They have some great rods.

Guiding was truly my first lesson in the differences among fly rods, and this is much better than wiggling things in a fly shop. On the water casting, stripping and even catching teaches you much more than parking lot casting. And while I’d held many of the flagship models in fly shops, I couldn’t appreciate the differences until I fished them.

Before I started guiding, my main tool was a Sage Z-Axis. It was my first high-end rod; it was a great rod and still is. But now, many years later, I have a corner in my office full of amazing rods that cost way too much, and I could never afford them until recently. Being in the industry has brought a lot of gear my way. And what continues to surprise me is how good the expensive rods are.

I didn’t expect that. I figured the big price tag was mostly cosmetic, but I was wrong. A top end rod is worlds different than an intro rod.

What is the extra cost for? I won’t try to speak to graphite modulus, resins and axial resilience, because I’d embarrass myself. I cast like a fisherman. I feel rods like a fisherman, and I evaluate like a fisherman. And I will tell you that they just fish better.

So yes, I now argue that an expensive rod can catch you a few more fish each day. Here’s how . . .


A great fly rod responds to the angler. The slightest motions and refinements in the cast are transmitted to the rod, and it flexes — it responds in kind. The angler’s thoughts and instincts flow through a great rod, so our accuracy and adjustments become effortless.

We can be in tune with a great rod and perfectly connect with its performance. With some time spent fishing a great fly rod, it becomes an extension of our will. The fly hits the target because we want it to. The leader lands with s-curves in the tippet because that’s what we decided. And the rod makes it happen.

A go-to fly rod is like an old dog or a good friend. We know them, and our connection is natural.

READ: Troutbitten | The Best Fly Rods for the Mono Rig and Euro Nymphing — My Favorite Rods

Technically . . .

A great fly rod recovers quickly and it’s ready to flex again. Recovery rate is underestimated, but this is one of the most noticeable differences between rods of high or low quality. A great fly rod takes a brief moment to recover from the flex and stop shaking. A lousy rod is still quivering a few seconds later.

READ: Troutbitten | Thoughts On Rod Tip Recovery

A great fly rod is also sensitive. And that means two different things. First, a fly rod should allow a nymph angler, for example, to feel the tick of a 3mm tungsten bead at the head of a fly as it touches bedrock three feet below. But sensitivity can also mean that the angler can feel the rod load through the blank during the cast. Casting sensitivity is one of those intangibles — it’s what people mean when they say a rod has great feel. In a way, this kind of sensitivity makes a rod predictable and accurate.

READ: Troutbitten | Fly Rod Sensitivity — Two Very Different Ways

Falling In Love

Technical qualities aside, a great fly rod is one that you can fall in love with. And that surely does not need to be a most expensive rod. The fly rod that I wore the cork from was one that I truly loved, just because I spent so much meaningful time with it.

I see a similarity with great fly rods and the best acoustic guitars. I owned and played intro and mid-level guitars for a decade. And I loved a couple of them. But I truly could not get a few of the sounds that were in my head to play through the tone woods of those guitars. When I finally played a Martin HD28, I understood this intuitively — and I knew that I’d found what I’d been searching for. I played many, selected one, and made one of the best purchases of my life. My connection with that Martin never leaves me wanting for anything else. It matches me. Whatever I wish to hear, I can get it out through that guitar, or the failing is my own technique and not the tool.

Lastly, that HD28 Martin inspires me to play music, simply because it plays with ease and responds to my creative whims. A great fly rod does the same. It will draw you to the river like a beloved companion. And you’ll go fishing, just for the fulfillment.

Fish hard, friends.


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Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky

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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. Hi Dom

    I too thought who needs a expensive rod.

    I then bought a Scott Flex 10ft 4 weight (actually a mid priced rod/ discontinued/ I think because they are so good….)
    I don’t think I’ve made a bad cast with it yet, it has an amazing feel and accuracy.

    Also fishing for Yellowfish on the Vaal (South Africa), I tried a friends Sage X 6weight and in the course of 20min, hooked 4 fish and landed 2 (feel/ pick-up ?).

    I suppose you could argue right spot/ right time, but it has got me thinking there is something to the whole sensitivity/ feel/ connected argument….

    I see money being spent in my future…..



    • Right on. It doesn’t make all the difference. But it makes some difference.

    • Another consideration for non USA based fisherman is the aftersales back-up on high end rods.
      Pretty much only Sage in South Africa has an established agent & track record.
      A lot of the other brands are let down by lack thereof & courier costs are not cheap.

  2. Thanks for the article, Dom. You test a lot more rods in a year than I will in a lifetime, so I was wondering if your rod recommendations are still the same as in the article you link to above?

      • Well,

        As a competitive angler, I can just say that I decided to build my own rods.

        A lot of the stuff you see out there are not worth the price tag for what they do.

        I also don’t care for fancy either but the accuracy, and how it handle fish is everything! Sage ESN are the worse for the price tag.

        The nice thing about building your own is that you pick what you want and also get the ferrule of various section to get the exact action you want.


        • “the accuracy, and how it handle fish is everything!”

          That’s for sure.

          “A lot of the stuff you see out there are not worth the price tag for what they do.”

          That’s for sure, too.

    • I started out with a cheap rod and struggled, I met a guide and he took under his wing and should me the difference between good equipment and poor stuff. I learned to cast and to tie my own flies, bought our own fly shop, started teaching casting and tying became a signature fly designer for Umpqua and can tell you in my experience buy the best equipment you can and it will make you a better caster, fisherman and fly tyer

      • Hi Jim, good to have your thoughts here. Fully agree, too. Buy the best you can. The rod matters.


      • Jim u taught me how to tie a sucker spawn at Buffalo outfitters when I first started tying prolly 25-30 years ago lol. Still have a few things with yur label on them. Most expensive rod I have is the recon. I love it but never used anything really high end. Maybe someday!!

      • Before qualifying as an AAPGAI instructor I too used cheap rods and caught fish. I fished with split cane, then glass, then carbon. I was given a Sage slt 6# to try for a lesson and it changed my fishing life. That rod transformed my casting.
        I now teach people with diverse budgets, if they can afford it I tell them to buy a rod that suits their casting style. Game Fairs are excellent for trying rods out. I would try every rod you can get your hands on to feel what suits. My latest purchase is the Sage Sonic 9’6#. I can cast it with 2 fingers and it dances like a ballerina.

      • The sedge hatch is on , get the rod bent no matter how much it costs .

  3. Hi Dom,

    We fished with you earlier this week; I always learn something.

    I thought I was an above average caster. I gave you my rod and asked you to fish one spot with a streamer. Yikes! Maybe I’m only average.

    Bottom line: I encourage all your customers, especially non experts, to watch you fish a spot.

    Thanks again


    • Bob,

      I also fished 2 days at the beginning of the month with Dom and it was a great experience all the way around, despite the low catch rate. That’s not what I traveled out for… I felt like I needed the “Demo-Do” (old military flight training term where the instructor demonstrates a flight maneuver, and the student, having seen it done correctly, repeats it) to either know that my techniques were right, or to get them corrected. Needless to say, my flight home was filled by “brain-dumping” the experience into notes for myself, and it has paid off on the river already.
      Thanks again Dom!

      • Great stuff, Greg. Thanks for coming. It’s pretty amazing how much room there is for improvement . . . always . . . in all of us.


    • There are many of us who do not fish as often as we would like, decent water being over two hours away, coupled with family commitments means 4 hours in a trip are driving. – bear with me – so part of my fishing life is the thinking part of planning and dreaming. This leads one to catalogues, shops and clubs, where one hears about ‘must haves’ and ‘ could haves’. It’s part of life to want to have good gear, time is short and you want to arrive with anticipation and not too much set up time. At this point an expensive or high end rod helps impart confidence in the angler as they know they have great tools, it feels terrific and we know that we are more likely to get in the groove more quickly and readily. That “extension of your will”feeling comes more quickly and the short hours spent on the water are productive when we know and love the action of a great rod. Some is psychological some physiological, doesn’t matter – I’m more in tune when I know I have great equipment, and that starts and ends with how that line runs and unfolds through actions in my hand and wrist , translated to musical flow with moving arcs of line into straightening points on contact with water.
      Yeah I soend a lot. It’s part of my joy.

      • That’s a good way to put it too, Peter. Having a great rod eliminates any of those excuses, right?

  4. As Clint Eastwood once said “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Skill, even with a $1000 fly rod is not easy to come by for most. IMHO, put your time, effort, and hard earned money into improving your techniques.

    • NO doubt. And that’s why I started off this article with the three sentences that I did. Same thing.

  5. I find conversations about fly rods extremely boring. Maybe it’s because for every one conversation about reading water, about trout lies, about drift philosophies or techniques, there are fifty conversations about fly-rods. Their action. Their feel. Their response, etc., etc. “You’ve fished the 10′ 9″ 3wt and the 11′ 0″ 3wt. But have you tried the 10′ 10.5″ 3wt? You haven’t lived!” Reminds me of conversations between audiophiles. In blind tests, 99% of them can’t tell the difference between FLAC and mp3, even on their own headphones and with their favorite piece of music.

    • I also find those conversations boring. And I know what you mean. Many people, regardless of the hobby/interest, simply repeat talking points. But an angler who is dialed in and understand the basics of casting will certainly understand these things deeply, if he/she approaches with an open mind.


  6. Well I bought a $200 Headwaters Bamboo rod and its 7ft 4wt and casts like a dream and it’s not only me who said it but people who are instructors could not get over how great it was to cast. Lee wolf caught a Salmond once using only his hands to cast the line. I think you are doing a disservice to other rod manufacturers who are making affordable rods the more expensive just keep going up in price and they don’t back the rods like they used to.
    I think you should rethink your presentation to the trout you fish over

    • Robert, I think you should read the whole article again, because you’ve missed and/or mischaracterized my points.

      I’m thankful for rod manufacturers who are making great intro and mid-level rods. That’s all I could afford for decades. That doesn’t mean those rods are better than high end rods, Robert.

      Lastly, do you think Lee Wolf kept catching fish without a rod, or do you think he went back to a fly rod? We both know that answer, right? So I cannot fathom your point here. Lots of ways to catch a trout. A great rod is a wonderful tool. If you’re mad about that, try not to be.

      • I didn’t say I was mad about anything.all I was saying or trying to say is you don’t have to spend a fortune to fly fish.
        I also think high end rods are over priced they are made from the same material using similar processes. And I doubt very much that their made in this country. So if your mad about that then we agree to disagree

        • Robert, your original comment was rude. I should have just deleted it when you ended with, “I think you should rethink your presentation to the trout you fish over.”

          You also complained about builders not backing their rods anymore (which I don’t find to be true), and you told me I’m doing a disservice to other rod makers. (I am not.)

          Now you’re complaining about where the rods are made. But most of the high end rods we fish are made in the US or the UK. — It’s the low and end mid-priced rods that are made elsewhere.

          “. . . all I was saying or trying to say is you don’t have to spend a fortune to fly fish.”

          That’s great. I said the same thing in the article above, and I agree with you.

          • After rereading your article twice more I now understand what you were saying.
            If you took my first comments to be rude that was not my intention

  7. Dom, Once again a great article. Well thought and thought provoking.

    I have one caveat to your conclusion that a high end rod will catch more trout. The caveat is that the rod will help only if you put in your time to become a good caster.

    A novice is not going to be able to take advantage of the capabilities of a great rod. No different than someone buying a $5000 guitar is not going to play like an Eric Clapton.

    So a newbie buying a $1000 rod shouldn’t expect to automatically be able to catch more fish.

    That being said I wholeheartedly agree with you that having a high-end rod helps move you along on that learning curve.

    • Hi George:

      “The caveat is that the rod will help only if you put in your time to become a good caster.”

      That’s what the first three sentences of this article say.

      And . . . one more thing that I purposely did not include above, because it complicates the message — a bad fly rod teaches bad habits to the novice. I’ve seen this countless times.

  8. Thank you for this article. I fish streamers for trout a lot, having used both low priced and high priced rods, and what you stated is true regarding the more expensive, higher quality rods. At the end of the day of chucking big streamers, these rods took less work to place the streamer exactly where I wanted it to go and, due to how light they are, less casting fatigue from all day casting. They also combine perfectly a flexible tip and a strong midsection, which both enables effectively animating the streamer while being retrieved, feel when the trout takes the streamer (especially when casting upstream along a bank), and then fighting/controlling the hooked trout to quickly get it into the net for a quick release.

    One thing I do notice is that a high end rod will not make a poor caster better. Learning and perfecting casting with a lower cost rod will enable a person to appreciate and take advantage of what a higher cost rod can do.

    • Great stuff, Kevin. I love your point about feel, upstream and along the bank.

      “One thing I do notice is that a high end rod will not make a poor caster better.” YES

  9. The tool is only as useful as the hand that holds it. That said, I feel like way too many people buy an expensive rod only because it is expensive. Because it has to be better, right? But better than what?

    I firmly believe in a progression into more advanced rods, and not so much for the cost, but for the skill required to appreciate the rod for what it is, know its strengths and limits, and understand your goals.

    But at the end of it all, casting is casting. And fishing is fishing. No amount of money will change it or the fundamentals…. but it can enhance them.

    • ” I feel like way too many people buy an expensive rod only because it is expensive.”

      I agree that they do. But I do not agree that it’s a bad thing. Having a great tool need not be “earned.” And having a truly bad tool teaches bad habits, which I’ve seen a lot. Why learn on a bad fly rod.

      Note: I am not saying that anything less than top end is bad. Not at ALL. But there are some very bad low and rods out there that really do handicap an angler.

      • Thank you for your article, Dom. Yours and the replies made me pause and recall my own experience.
        I started with my dad’s old Heddon cane rod, casting poppers to bluegill from a seveylor raft. It didn’t take me long to bust both tip sections. My fallback was a homemade, very noodle glass spin/fly abomination.
        At 18, I’d saved enough paper rout money for a 4wt Sage LL gen 1 blem blank from my local fly shop. They kindly provided the build tools/gear and pointers on site.
        I loved that rod, catching fish and casting poorly with it for 20 years until I broke the tip on it and put it away.
        In the meantime, I moved to London and managed to save up for an entry level Airflow rod. It was stiff and unresponsive and I blamed it every time I flubbed a cast. I was on the Winchester public stretch of the Itchen, struggling. A guy had been watching me with casual interest. He came over after I’d slapped down another horrible cast and asked how I was. I moaned about my Airflow. He said “may I”? He proceeded to loop out roll casts to the marks I had been serially missing. “Seems fine to me”, he said, with a sheepish grin, handing it back.
        Since sorting my finances, I’ve broken tips off two Winson Boron III and a 8743 Scott G, I have a (repaired under warranty Scott G) rod on the Kennet at Hungerford and I can say that, on occasion, I cast a bit better than I used to.
        I love to fish. I look forward to it through the gloom of Winter every year, just as a kid waits for Summer through the school year. A life spent fly fishing is a journey through it; with its attendant lessons of: joy, excitement, anticipation, frustration, anger, pride, patience, humility. Sorry for the length. Got carried away!

  10. I relate to the guitar comparison. One time in a guitar shop, I picked up a high-end Collings acoustic. I want to say it was close to $10,000. I was immediately terrified because it felt paper light, but the sound – and the “feel” of that sound – was otherworldly: bright and powerful at the same time.

    I understood immediately that my cheap Washburn with a laminate soundboard was more glue than wood, and that was why its sound was like listening to music through a wall. On the other hand, it was probably the right guitar for me at the time based on my skill level. It still played all the right notes as long as I could convince my fingers to do be in the right place at the right time and to touch string in the right way.

    I built two 10’ 4wt rods which really helped me understand how the blank behaved, and I think it has helped me bring my cast into alignment with what the rod wants to do. They both look awful but they have caught fish and, honestly, I am still at the laminate Washburn level anyway.

  11. Dom, nice aticle. I guess as they say, to each hisn.
    Ihad a 8′ bamboo rod put in my hands 62 years ago. It was what I learned on. Then when I was 14, I was given a Tru Temper Fiberglass rod. Far from expensive, but it did what I asked it to do and I learned how to ask it to do it. At 33, I built an IM6 rod for myself and my dad who put his bamboo away in when he got fiberglass. I still fish those two rods since my dad passed.
    I see too many folks with expensive rods that dont catch near the #of fish I do with my old gear. I have fished far to long to buy your argument. Now at 70, I have that original bamboo which I rebuilt, an Echo glass 3 wt, an Orvis 7 pc pack rod, and my and my dads IM6 rods. I fish them all, and they all do exactly what I ask of them. The Orvis pack rod cost around $250 and is the most expensive of them all.
    My point is, if you learn the game, that $1000 rod isnt going to catch more fish than that 80 year old bamboo or my hand made IM6. But if youlike your $1000 rod so be it. But it wont catch any more fish than you ask it to.

    • Good thoughts. But for the reasons I argued above, I think it actually WILL catch a few more fish.

      I think many readers are too hung up on the fact that you have to fish well, fish often and know how to make a rod work. We’ll, yes! We already acknowledge that.

      And then . . . high end tools are valued in every profession for good reason.


  12. Glenn:

    “I see too many folks with expensive rods that dont catch near the #of fish I do with my old gear. I have fished far to long to buy your argument.”

    Just too many variables there to make a fair comparison or any kind of conclusion, Glenn.

    I understand your skepticism. As I wrote above, I also did not believe the top rods would be all that different. But they are. And this should be no mystery. You can see this in EVERY industry. Top end guitars, golf clubs, baseball bats, kayaks, PCs and televisions really do perform better. Do you need to know how to use them? SURE, and I said that above. Will you have your sentimental favorites that you may fish better for the rest of your life? SURE. But it’s simply undeniable that some tools are better than others, and in the hand of a skilled user, they do a better job.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  13. I know my son (15 y.o.) probably won’t read this article, but I can’t convince him that he needs anything different to his 8’6″ TFO NXT combo (set up with a mono rig). He’s used and caught fish on all my much higher end setups that are (in my opinion) much better suited to tightline nymphing. But he’s always back to his own gear for the next trip, even while noting and acknowledging pros and cons of what he’s used.

    It makes me grateful that there are a lot of different rods with different characteristics out there, some of which will suit me and how I fish and many that won’t. Without being in the ‘industry’ I’ll likely never get to try most of what’s out there, but I do wonder how much nature vs nurture there is in finding a great rod. I have an inkling that we all chase the feel of what we remember (with rose coloured glasses) from the rods of our formative years.

    I think this is behind the resurgence of fibreglass and even bamboo. And possibly why, despite the obvious advantages of a reel, tenkara is such an attractive for some (myself included).

  14. Dom,

    As a relative novice (well, I started fly fishing about 10 years ago, but the really good trout streams in my area of northern California are a minimum of 2 hours away – plus family and work- so I don’t get to fish as much as I would like to in order to call myself anything but a novice), I find myself more confused than anything else by this article. I feel like I’m just coming to the point where I’m ready to make a move away from my 9 ft sage pulse 5 weight to something a little more specialized for tight line nymphing etc and for throwing the mono rig. Of course I’m salivating over the four weight Hardy rod that you recommend in your article about favorite rods for the mono rig, but because of the price point and my relative inexperience I was considering something more like an echo shadow three or four weight 10 ft rod. The last thing I want to do is develop bad habits because the gear I’m using is encouraging them. So I’m curious what your thoughts are about the echo rods (Yes I know they are notoriously fragile at the tip) as compared to the Hardy four weight that you recommend.

    Thanks as always for your dedication to the sport and to educating us all. Discovering your website and your podcasts earlier this year was really life-changing for me where fly fishing is concerned. Can’t thank you enough.

    • I have a shadow X and love that rod so much. Incredible swing weight, tip recovers so fast, and i don’t buy the nonsense about fragile tips….have never had an issue with mine after hundreds and hundreds of fish. Best nymphing rod in that price range along with the diamondback ideal nymph IMO.

      • Thanks, Greg. I appreciate the feedback.

        • sure thing. i also have the diamondback ideal nymph rod and that is a heck of a rod as well, seriously love it….but it’s about 50$ more than the shadow X

  15. I think that most fly fishers looking to upgrade would be more than happy with a high-quality mid-range, ($400 – $600) fly rod in lieu of the $1,000+ top end rods. I have an 9′ 4wt Orvis Recon that I love, and I doubt that the extra $500 for a Helios 3 would have helped me catch me more trout. Instead, I could have two different Recons that would definitely help me catch more trout.

  16. I purchased a big name American made rod last December. Broke it in May. Sent it back and they had it till September. I got it back and broke it again. Now they have it. Again. After the first break I bought a cheap Chinese made rod as a back up. I can’t tell you how many fish it’s caught. Just sayin’.

    • Well you definitely have to have it in your hands to catch fish, so I get your point

  17. Nice article Dom 🙂

    …maybe I’m oversimplifying – get the rod that checks the boxes of contentment and happy? 🙂
    …most especially during these challenging socio-economic times, finding contentment and choosing happy is key to more zen moments in the water…

    • Hi there. Your comment is great. I agree with you. I do think this article really isn’t about how to choose a fly rod, it’s about whether high end rods can actually produce more trout.

  18. Dom, thank you for the articles, I enjoy reading all of them. Just a note to your article: I recently found the importance of a quick, deliberate hook set with a more expensive fly rod and making adjustments to my fishing style with that rod when fishing in Colorado. As the guide stated, “I have never guided someone who was able to hook so many large fish, I also never guided someone who lost so many large fish!” I was using one of his top-of-the-line rods, casting with superior accuracy, and after losing a few fish, we discussed my ability to quickly respond to a strike, but I was not using enough power to embed the hook to fight a large fish. At lunch, he looked at my rod that I brought along from PA, and noted that I was used to a stiffer tip that enabled me to set the hook without a lot of force. His rod was noticeably lighter, provided more backbone and was smoother to cast. I had to make the adjustment to add more force when fishing this rod. Yes, now I have one of those rods in my arsenal of fly rods.
    thanks again for all of your helpful information.

  19. 5y ago I would have disagreed with this article. Why? Because I had never fished a high end rod. Well I fished some and it changed my mind completely, just like you. It woul be interesting to see anyone that is both an accomplished fisherman (eg a master at technique, honed over years) AND who has fished a high end rod disagree with your conclusions. I don’t like the conclusion because it’s ridiculous that a fishing rod should cost almost 1K, but I fully agree with it.

  20. Dom.. your guitar references rang true with me but my passion was golf. For years, as a kid and adult, I played with hand me down clubs, or used clubs I could afford at the time.
    I was a better than average player, but never going to be a pro. I didn’t think the club made the difference. Was I a constistent enough swinger of the club to hit shots I wanted to execute. That is until after playing with my club pro a few times, he suggested I do a club fitting session. I was at a point in life where I could afford new clubs so I took him up on it. In short order, I was taught that having the “right” tool could make a difference. Yes, I upgraded and my game did progress and my scores came down.

    Long story to agree with you about fly rods. As a beginning angler, used less expensive gear and as my skills improved, slowly upgraded the gear. A good casting instructor taught me the value of having the right tool. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive, or the latest new thing. But, having a rod that fits your casting stroke, the type of water you fish, and your budget will pay dividends in your fishing enjoyment and success.

  21. Great and relevant discussion and you are in a privileged position. To use many rods surely helps to identify what works for you. And so, the lesson is, try to buy. Decide if the cost justifies the feeling. I fished my 250 for 10 years. To replace I decided to build. Took me 6 months to select components. Call that R&D. Outcome, sublime. Now a 450 home made fits me like a glove. No doubt luck played a part. But, buy based on companies either USA or UK based and the lessons from decades of evolution help. Yes, NZ have Epic, Europe have others. So whatever you believe , follow your dream

  22. Thanks Dom for all your articles. It is a wonderful fountain of information for me. But for this discussion… When I buy any fly fishing equipment (not just a rod) I stick to a simple rule:
    When I have the money, I want the best! (Of course this is different for everyone)
    And that’s because if I find out that something isn’t working for me, I’m very sure that it’s my fault and not the product’s. And this is an important finding for me to improve and look for the right path.
    With bad products, sometimes one does not get a good result even with the best technique, and the sickle path cannot be found.
    For me, this applies to a rod, a line, a vest, shoes, a cleaver, boxes, but also to seemingly small things such as a hat. I want what works, how it’s supposed to work and not bother with it.
    However, even among the cheaper products there are excellent things and sometimes the best ones are several times overpriced, but better by maybe only 5%. We all have a choice. Everyone has to answer the question whether even 5% is worth it. At the rod, but I’m not a fan of compromise, and when I can, I go for it.

  23. As an employee of Orvis, I tell people consistently that you get what you pay for in a fly rod. Even as a beginner the better fly rod will only enhance the learning curve of casting to some degree. But some high end rods simply don’t cast or even feel better in my opinion. But it drives me up a wall someone getting an H3 and putting cheap fly line on it. I stick to one fly line no matter the rod. Great fly line will help on a cheap rod too. Guess you can say that’s my most important piece of my fly rod.

    • Oh my, I don’t agree with that. For me, the fly line is one of the least important parts of the system. As long as the taper is good and the line is durable, I feel like expensive fly lines are overkill. The leader, I believe, is the most important part of the system. Then, probably, the rod. But always, as you say, the skill of the angler.


  24. Interesting stuff. Another fly fisherman and guitarist here.
    I fished for 30 years with a $50 Browning IM6 6-weight. I gave that rod away recently, and shopped for rods for the first time in decades. I now have a $100 3-weight and a $320 4-weight. Both are light years ahead of what I head–and both compare favorably to spendier rods I have handled and cast. This is kind of a value-based line from your neck of the woods, actually.

    I don’t spend much on guitars either–given that I buy domestically-made instruments. How much of the higher price point for some rods do you think is domestic manufacture? Because my rods are of course imported …

  25. Leader determines presentation it’s that simple it’s that important

  26. Thanks for this article Dom. I agree and experienced this first hand. I did fine with my $200 intro rod, but when I upgraded to a $600 rod the effect was amazing. The swing weight and recovery were exponentially better , allowing me to fish in ways I just couldn’t with the other rod. My first day on the water with the new rod also made me realize how much I had grown as an angler/caster in the 4 years since getting the intro rod. I had moved past it, but didn’t realize how much so until I had the new rod in my hands on the water.

    In addition to better materials, I think another thing you are paying for in a higher end rod (if you shop carefully) is the time and expertise of the people who design them. Diamondback rods are what they are because of Joe Goodspeed, Hardy because of Howard Croston etc.

  27. Is the material the same in rods at both ends of lower, mid priced and high end rods.
    How does the manufacturing process differ from rod to rod. Are any two rods from the same model / manufacturer the
    I’m just curious has anyone addressed this

    • No. The material is not usually the same from the low end to the high end. And there is most often a clear difference in performance when comparing low end to high end within the same company.


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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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