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Your Guide To Fly Fishing Rods

The When and the Why of choosing a graphite, fiberglass, or bamboo fly rod - including model recommendations from Trout Haven

Graphite

Spruce Creek PA Fly Fishing Trout Haven

Graphite is the most modern fly rod material readily available in today’s market. It has the advantages of being extremely lightweight, versatile, and strong.  Learn More ›

Fiberglass

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Fiberglass fly rods are seeing a resurgence in popularity in today’s market. These modern lightweight fiberglass rods are not the same as their vintage cousins.  Learn More ›

Bamboo

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Bamboo is the most traditional material used for making fly rods. Bamboo rods are unique in their feel, their flex, their presentation, and the way they play fish.  Learn More ›

Graphite Fly Fishing Rods

Using graphite material is a relatively new development in the construction of fly rods. The first graphite fly rods came to the market in the 1960's, and their popularity exploded with the invention of graphite ferrules in the 1980's. Ferrules are the slide-in joints that connect two pieces of fly rod. Graphite ferrules nearly eliminate any "dead spots" in the bend and feel of the rod.

Why Choose Graphite?

Compared to other rods made in the 1960's and 70's, graphite rods are extremely lightweight. The material itself is lighter than fiberglass and bamboo, and it is stronger. This allows graphite rods to hold more resistance with less material, resulting in thinner and longer rods that weigh less. Before the advent of graphite fly rods, you would not find any 5 weight rod longer than 8 feet.

Graphite has allowed fly rod manufacturers to push the limit of fly rod length, creating nymphing rods that are 10, 11, even 14 feet in length. If you are looking to explore "Czech Nymphing" or "Euro Nymphing," then a graphite rod that is 9 feet or longer will serve you well.

When to Choose Graphite...

Due to their inherrent strength, light weight, and fast action, most graphite rods are ideal for fly fishing in physically demanding conditions. Choose graphite when throwing heavy nymphs, big streamers, during strong winds, hopper-dropper rigs, and when you plan to fish for the entire day.

When the situation demands long distance casting, choose graphite and pair the rod with a weight-forward fly line.

Graphite is the ideal material for longer rods typically used in "Euro Nymphing" situations.

Where to Start:

  • Redington's Vice, 5 Weight, 9'6" - Great for streamers, heavy nymphs, long distances, and exploring tight-line techniques.
  • Hardy Zephrus, 3 Weight, 9'9" - Versatile and extremely lightweight, the extra length gives you great control over your flies.
  • Sage Pulse, 5 Weight, 9' - Capable of throwing streamers, yet still delicate enough for small dries.
  • Redington's Classic Trout Rod, 3 Weight - The entire "classic" series boasts a moderate action at an affordable price - fantastic for small streams.

Boron has recently appeared in the fly rod market. It is a material used in conjunction with graphite to make the butt of fly rod stiffer, giving the rod faster action and more power.

Redington Vice Graphite Fly Fishing Rod Graphite vs Fiberglass vs Bamboo
Redington Vice
Sage Pulse Graphite Fly Fishing Rod Graphite vs Fiberglass vs Bamboo
Sage Pulse
Redington Butter Stick Fiberglass Fly Fishing Rod
Redington Butter Stick
Cabelas Prime Fiberglass 5 weight 7'3" Fly Fishing Rod
Cabelas Prime Fiberglass Rod

Fiberglass Fly Fishing Rods

During the 1940's, fly fishing rod manufacturers began making fly rods out of fiberglass material. Fiberglass offered a cheap and readily available alternative to the traditional bamboo rods. Compared to bamboo, fiberglass rods are much lighter and much more durable.

Why Choose Fiberglass?

If this were the year 1950, we would go on for several paragraphs about the affordability, durability, and lightweight design of fiberglass over the only real alternative, bamboo. But, it's the 21st century and fiberglass must contend with graphite. Graphite fly rods are only slightly lighter than modern fiberglass, but fiberglass fly rods are more durable, more flexible, and less brittle.

If you're accustomed to graphite fly rods and pick up a good fiberglass rod for the first time, you'll immediately notice the flexibility and response of fiberglass. Some anglers describe fiberglass rods as "whippy." Slower action, deep flexing, and delicacy of presentation are hallmarks of a good fiberglass fly rod. A fiberglass rod's flexibility is a supplementary system of drag when playing a strong fish - it can keep that big fish from snapping your 7x tippet!

When to Choose Fiberglass...

Fiberglass is ideal for situations where presentation and feel are of paramount importance. Choose fiberglass when fishing with small or large dry flies, smaller nymphs, small streamers, lighter dry-dropper rigs, and on streams that are small to medium-sized. Distance casting is possible but not ideal with fiberglass rods. The difference in weight is negligible - modern fiberglass rods are about 0.1 ounces heavier than their graphite counterparts. You can fish all day on a good fiberglass rod.

There's nothing quite like using a fiberglass rod to battle a big fish. Anglers who love fiberglass rods usually enjoy the give and the feel of the rod above all else.

Don't forget that fiberglass is cheap. You can buy an excellent fiberglass rod for half of the price of an excellent graphite rod. Look to graphite or bamboo if you want to buy an expensive fly rod.

Where to Start:

  • Redington Butter Stick, 7'6" 4 weight - Excellent for smaller streams and tighter quarters!
  • Cabela's Prime Fly Rod, 7'3" 5 weight - Phenomenal! A dream to cast and an incredible feel when battling fish - the "fighting butt" is an excellent addition. This is my personal favorite of the modern fiberglass fly rods.

 

Bamboo Fly Fishing Rods

This is where it all started... Bamboo fly rods hearken back to the centuries old tradition and art of fly fishing, to the days of Izaak Walton and The Compleat Angler. There are some modern anglers who use bamboo fly rods and nothing else; there are certainly situations in which bamboo fly rods excel over the competition.

Why Choose Bamboo?

Bamboo is an organic fiber and this is perhaps the best way to describe the feel of a good bamboo rod: organic. Bamboo fly rods are ideal for the most subtle and delicate of presentations, and for anglers who enjoy the rod's slow and very flexible action.

Much like fiberglass fly rods, bamboo fly rods deliver a unique feel and experience when battling a fish. The give of the fly rod helps to protect light tippets from breaking.

When to Choose Bamboo...

Bamboo is the heaviest material used to make fly rods, and it is the least versatile. Choose bamboo when you plan on fishing with dry flies, emergers, or unweighted small nymphs - especially when presentation and delicacy are important. Distance casting is difficult for anglers who are accustomed to faster action rods. Bamboo fly rods are ideal for dry flies on small to medium-sized streams.

Bamboo fly rods are noticeably heavier than their modern counterparts. If you plan on fishing all day, you might want to use your graphite rod and switch to your bamboo rod when the trout start rising.

Good bamboo fly rods are expensive. Do not try to pinch pennies when searching for a good bamboo fly rod, otherwise you will be disappointed. The good news is that most high-end bamboo fly rods come with a great warrantee, should they break and need repair.

Where to Start:

Winston Bamboo Fly Rod, 7' 4 weight - Unmatched feel, capable of handling big fish, and the perfect size for smaller streams.

If you are new to fly fishing, start with a graphite rod. If you are curious about slow action fly rods, try fiberglass before committing to bamboo.

Where to Fish:

Looking for the perfect stream to put your new fly rod to the test? Schedule a guided fly fishing trip to Spruce Creek.

At Spruce Creek you'll have the opportunity to catch 24" trout with small dries on your bamboo 4 weight, toss a dry-dropper rig with your fiberglass 5 weight, and throw big streamers with your graphite 6 weight - all in the same day!

Winston Bamboo Fly Fishing Rod
Winston Bamboo Rod