Fly Fishing Tips

Fly Rods and Their Actions

The traditional symbol of the sport, the long, slender and graceful fly rod provides the control and feel that make casting, fishing and catching fish on flies so much fun. The fly rod transfers energy from the fly fisher to the line, leader and fly. Rod length, taper and action are specifically designed for this purpose.

The fly rod must be balanced with the correct fly-line weight for optimum performance in fly casting and "presentation" (the landing of the fly in the target area). Most modern fly rods have the correct line-balance information printed on them just forward of the handle and hookkeeper.

There are six parts to the modern fly rod:

Ferrule The ferrule is the connection between sections of a fly rod. Ferrules are installed so a rod can be disassembled and conveniently carried and stored.

Butt The butt section, a major part of the rod, includes the area from the handle to the first ferrule.

Tip The other major part of the rod is the section from the last ferrule to the tip-top, or smallest guide on the end of the rod.

Handle The handle includes the butt cap, the reel-lock seat for attaching and securing the fly reel in place, the cork grip and the handle check cap.

Hookkeeper The hookkeeper is a ring or other simple device that holds the fly's hook safely in place when the outfit is rigged but the angler is not fishing.

Guides The guides hold and control the line on the rod during casting. The guides include the stripper guide, which is the first guide up the rod from the rod handle. The snake guides hold the fly line close to the rod during casting.

Rod Actions

Fly-rod performance, especially during casting but also while fishing the fly and fighting the fish, is termed the action of the rod. Action is influenced by the rod's material, taper design, length and such fittings as ferrules and guides. There are three main categories of fly-rod action:

Fast Action The rod feels stiff when flexed and unflexes rapidly when loaded or flexed by the line in casting.

Medium Action The rod is limber when flexed and unflexes smoothly when loaded.

Slow Action The rod feels very limber and unflexes in a slow, willowy manner after loading.

A medium-action, progressively loading fly rod is the best rod with which to learn the sport. Medium action is the most adaptable to a person's individual timing and reflexes. The beginner's rod should be 8 to 8 1/2 feet long, and it should be designed to cast a 6- or 7-weight line. This combination is light, it provides enough power to cast 20 to 60 feet, and it can control most of the flies used to fish for trout, bass and panfish.

After you begin to master the basic fly-casting strokes, qualified instructors will be able to advise you on which action best suits your own reflexes and coordination level.

* From the L.L.Bean® Fly-Fishing Handbook, written and illustrated by Dave Whitlock.

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