What type of Fly fishing Rods
Choosing a fly fishing rod for different kinds of fly fishing is fairly simple really. There are two key aspects to choosing a fly rod for different types of fly fishing; the fly rod length and the weight of fly line the rod is weighted.
Let's consider each of these in turn.
The shorter the fly rod, the easier it is to cast and the more control you have over short distance casts. As rods get longer the extra length increases the speed at which the tip moves leading to higher line speeds and longer casting. At some point, typically around the 10' (3m) length, the extra effort needed limits the advantage of the higher tip speed and longer rods become specialist tools for casting from boats (where the extra length is useful for keeping the line high in the air when sitting down) and for Spey casting Salmon rods where the length is needed for distance when spey casting.
The choice of fly line weight, or AFTM fly line rating, is similarly simple. A lightweight line is easy to cast and will land gently on the water. But the fly line must also have enough weight to carry out the flies to where we want them and to cut through any wind there might be in the way. In essence we want to use a fly line that's as light as possible yet is heavy enough for the flies we're using and the conditions we're going to be fishing in.
So let's put it all together with some examples and see how it all works:
What Fly Rod for Fishing small stream fishing:
For small stream fishing we're going to be fishing at short distances, making as little disturbance as possible, typically fishing with small nymphs or dry flies and often aiming for a specific target.
In this kind of case a short fly rod of 7-8' (2.1 - 2.4m) matched to a lightweight fly line of #3 - #4 would be a good choice. This will give good control and accuracy with small flies and the line will make as little disturbance on the water as possible.
On larger rivers something in the 8' - 9' range would make sense, maybe coupled with a #5 or #6 fly line.
What Fly Rod for Fishing Small Stillwaters:
For small stillwater use we want a fly rod with good line control for casting to moving fish, and at the same time we want to be able to cast a reasonable distance to get to those fish that always seem to be feeding just out of range. There also the likelihood that we'll want to use heavier flies such as goldhead patterns or small lures so in this case something like a 9' (2.7m) AFTM #6-7 rod is often recommended.
What Fly Rod for Fishing Large Stillwaters / Reservoirs
Here we're looking for something that will cast long distances and cope with large subsurface lures. Typically this would be a fly rod in the 9'6 - 10' range (2.85 - 3.0m) #7-8.
What Fly Rod for boat fishing
Fly rods for fishing from boats will often be a longer rod (as this helps keep the flies high in the air to stop the flies catching on the water during casting) but with a lighter line weight. The aim here is not too try and cast too far but to cover the water you can reach comfortably and to let the boat drift take you over the fish with time. Typically boat rods will be in the 10'6 - 11.0' range (3.15 - 3.3m) for AFTM #6-7 fly lines.
What Saltwater Fly Fishing Rod (or Pike Fly Rod)
The key thing for saltwater fly rods is that they need to be able to handle a heavy fly line to carry out the large flies and to make sure the fly line can cut the through the sea breeze that's often blowing right in your face. A saltwater rod of 9' - 9'6 (2.7 - 2.85m) for AFTM #8-9 lines is typical. These will comfortable cast the heavy flies in the face of a strong breeze out to where the fish are feeding. These rods will often have a double handed grip for fighting a large strong sea bass and a 'fighting butt' that you can press against your body for extra leverage.
What Salmon Fly Rod
Fly fishing rods for salmon are usually either single-handed (like normal trout rods) or double handed for spey casting. Single handed fly rods are similar to beefed up trout rods to handle heavy lines capable of carrying out the large salmon flies, often in 9' to 9'6 lengths. Double handed spey rods are usually in the range of 11' - 15' (3.3 - 4.5m) and rated for #11 - #13 spey fly lines. The spey cast is a type of roll cast with no overhead movement. The long spey rod and double handle provide the leverage needed to cast the long heavy spey fly line out over the water.
Last Words on the choice of which fly rod to choose
Hopefully you'll see that the choice of fly rod for each different type of fly fishing is really quite simple once you get the hang of it. Also remember that a rod chosen for a particular type of fly fishing will also work for fishing where the suggested rod is close in spec. For example a 9' #6-7 fly rod will be perfectly suited for fishing small stillwaters, but can also be used on rivers, boats, reservoirs and even for a bit of saltwater fly fishing. You don't have to have a different rod for every kind of fishing.