My first trout on a fly rod was on Chalk Creek, just outside of Park City, Utah. I used a hand-me-down fiberglass rod given to me by my great grandfather.
It was a big clunky rod that felt more like a combination of a wet noodle and a broomstick handle. At the time I was not aware of how difficult it was to use because I didn't know the difference – I only had one fly rod. Over the years I've improved my knowledge, casting, and the quality of fly rods that I own. In hindsight, I now understand how confusing the purchase of a first fly rod can be. The good news is that it does not need to be this way!
Finding the Right Rod, Reel, and Line Combination
Purchasing a balanced fly rod, reel, and line combo is far easier than many believe. Rod, reel, and line manufacturers use a numbering system to balance and make pairing lines, reels, and rods simple. The smaller the number, the smaller and lighter the equipment. The most common sizes for the Park City area are the 4- to 6-weight rods, with a 5-weight being the most popular. Knowing this rule makes the rest of the buying and testing process much more straightforward.
Where and How Do You Plan to Fish?
The next step is to ask yourself the following questions to narrow it down even further:
- Where do I plan to fish?
- What size of river and flies do I envision myself fishing?
- Do I forsee casting streamers and nymph rigs, or primarily dry flies?
A 4-weight fly combo is better suited to small streams and rivers, and while it can throw streamers and lighter nymph rigs it really shines as a dry fly rod. The 6-weight fly rod is a little heavier and handles streamers and heavier nymphing rigs with ease. This leaves the 5-weight, which is able to handle both set ups well. This is when the next question usually comes up: what is the price?
Why Is the Price Range of Fly Rods So Broad?
Why are some fly rods $800 and others $350 or even less? The answer has to do with weight, quality of components, brand, technology, and patents. As you become a better caster, you will definitely notice the difference in each of these categories. As I continued to fish with my great grandfather’s hand-me-down fiberglass rod, I wasn’t aware that I had outgrown the rod until I upgraded. This first upgrade allowed me to improve even more, and I quickly learned that I had been limited by my inexpensive fly rod combo. So which rod should you purchase? The best rod that you can afford in the size that matches the type of fishing you want to do.
What Stiffness and Speed Is Right for You?
Next, it is time to discuss the different levels of stiffness and speed in fly rods. Manufacturers make tip-flex rods and full-flex rods, and everything in between. A stiff tip-flex picks up line quickly and can throw bigger flies into the wind. A full-flex rod matches best with a slower cast, and many prefer it for small streams and dry fly fishing. The mid-flex rod is a crossover that can be a good fit for a moderately fast caster. Which brings us to the final step in the process – understanding how you cast and matching the type of fishing you would like to do with the rod combo.
Find Your Casting Style
This step requires you to demo some rods and, more specifically, to cast them and see what you like and what you do not. Jans offers free casting clinics at the Deer Valley ponds in Park City each Monday at 5:00 p.m., from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn how to cast and get some feedback on your casting style and tips from pros. Another option is to come to the Jans fly shop, where you can cast some rods or even rent a demo rod for the day and head out to the river. Once you have determined your casting style and the type of fishing you would like to do, you can confidently pick out a rod at the Jans fly shop that falls in line with your budget. A few great options are listed below in the next section.
Best All-Around Beginner Fly Rod
The Scott Radian fits the bill as an outstanding fly rod that you will be able to grow into and not out of. Excellent casting control and presentation make the Radian a top choice among beginner fly rods.
Best Middle-of-the-Road Fly Rod
The Sage ACCEL series is a medium-fast action fly rod. With the ACCEL fly rods, Sage has reinvented its G5 blank technology that was so well-loved in the now classic Z-Axis series and the VXP series.
In the end, the best fly rod for a beginner is the rod that fits your cast and is in line with the type of fishing you plan to do. The better the rod, the more long-term enjoyment you will get on the river, and you are also less likely to outgrow your rod’s capabilities. Stop by the fly shop at Jans in Park City, throw a few, and let our fly fishing Experts set you up with a rig that fits your style and budget.
Travis Jay Vernon, Fly Fishing Guide, Jans
Free Fly Fishing Casting Clinic