Fly rods differ from spinning and casting rods in a number of ways. First off is length. Since managing your fly line is more involved than just making a cast with a weighted lure, fly rods tend to be quite a bit longer than spinning and casting rods. You will find fly rod lengths ranging from 4 1/2ft long to 14ft long, however most fly rods tend to be around 7 to 9ft. The shorter rods are best for small fish and narrow casting access like a small, tree covered creek. As you get up to larger waters, you tend to get into the mid sizes like 8 to 10ft. Then, say you get into a specialized casting style such as spey casting or pursue large saltwater prey your rod length can get up to 14ft.
Second, the rod's action plays a part in how it casts. a slower action rod is a bit more flexable and allows for a smooth, forgiving cast that isn't as powerful but delivers the fly delicately and acts as a shock absorber to protect a fine tippet. You might like a faster action rod that is a bit stiffer and provides considerable more power to your cast when you're fighting wind or trying to make a long cast.
Third, the weight designation applied to each rod is a way to help match a particular fly line weight to the rod. There is room to play in this designation - some guys like to overload the rod with a heavier fly line than what is recommended to get a desired casting feel, for example.
To keep it simple, I'll give you a run down of my rod outfits - both current ones in service and my future rod building projects. I think my current and future rod outfits will give you a good concept of how the different variables are applied to chose the right rod for the water you fish. I fish in lakes for panfish, bass, northerns, and carp. I also fish small creeks to larger rivers for trout, and medium rivers for salmon and steelhead. So, here's what I got or plan to finish for my well rounded arsonel:
- (current project) 6.5ft, 4 weight rod, medium action for very small creek trout fishing
- (current project) 7.5ft 4 weight rod, medium action for small creek trout fishing
- 7.5ft 3 weight for creek trout fishing
- 7.5ft 5 weight for creek and small river trout fishing
- (current project) 8.3ft 5 weight medium action for small river trout fishing
- 9ft 5 weight medium action for small to medium river trout fishing
- (future project) 9ft 6 weight fast action for medium to large rivers and windy conditions
- 9ft 7 weight medium action for stillwater and steelhead fishing
- (future project) 9ft 8 weight fast action for windy days on stillwater, and some eventual saltwater fishing
- 11ft 6/7 weight short spey length for river steelhead
- 11ft 8 weight short spey length for river salmon
Now, just because I'm trying to keep these posts shorter than my usual to make them easier to read, doesn't mean I'm not open to questions. If you have questions, please feel free to post them in the comments. If I can't answer it well enough in the comments section, I will dedicate a post if needed to get the point across. For all I know, no one is reading or following this blog, so if you do have questions let me know so I can address them.