When I started fly fishing I was on a tight budget. I wanted to make the best decision that I could about which fly rod to buy. So I went with the best all purpose, middle ground rod, that I could. I bought a 9 foot 5 weight rod.
The 9ft-5wt is good for overall fishing. Maybe you'll be out on a river fishing for decent sized fish, or on a lake where you'll need the ability to make longer casts. If that is the case, these rod specs will be good. For my first year or so of blue line fly fishing, I just used this rod. Which worked, but wasn't optimal.
Going into my second year of blue line fly fishing I decided to get a different rod. I went with a 7.5 foot 3 weight rod. This opened up so many opportunities on small streams for me!
Understanding fly rods
Before you can really understand why my 7.5ft-3wt fly rod made such a difference, it is important to understand a bit more about what the numbers and words mean.
First 9ft or 7.5ft or any other number. These truly are the length of the fly rod. You need to be mindful of the locations which you wish to fish to know how to pick a good length for your fly rod. Generally speaking a longer rod helps you to make longer casts. If you're fishing on big stretches of water, that longer rod will help.
But this is blue line fly fishing, so we'll be making shorter casts. When you have to make casts with brush behind and over head, a shorter rod helps to work around the cover. I've found when I'm using a shorter rod I'm able to make more precise and accurate casts. This allows me to cast to specific fish and locations.
There is often a bit of mystery around fly rod weight, the weight of the fly rod is in connection with the weight of fly line it is designed for. Because of that, I like to think in general terms when it comes to rod weight.
Think about the type of fish that you hope to catch. The larger the fish you're targeting, the larger weight number you'll need. For two reasons, with a heavier weight rod you'll be able to cast larger flies, and you'll be able to fight and land these larger fish quicker to help keep them stronger and healthier for release.
Here is my rule of thumb. For blue line fly fishing, on the small streams that you find a 0-3 weight rod works well. When you're landing those little guys on a 2 or 3 weight rod you'll feel almost like you're landing a larger fish on a heavier weight rod.
Generally speaking, the length and the weight of your blue line fly rod will have a larger impact on the choice that you make. However, there are a few other things to consider. The material it is made from and its action.
I don't have much experience with fishing different types of materials. Commonly there are are graphite, fiberglass, and a more natural type in bamboo materials used. Each provide their own casting characteristics, some day I hope to be more accustomed to the differences.
Fly rod action is another place of gray area and misunderstanding. And there is room for full discussions on action. Redington has a good discussion on their website about action. Be sure to check that out.
Whats the takeaway?
Since we're focusing on blue line fly fishing, I'd recommend going with a 3weight or less rod, as short as you can find. This will help you be more accurate in your small stream casting. And it will provide a lot of great feedback while you're playing those beautiful wild trout.