Fly Rod Sizes – And How to Understand Them

How to read fly rod sizes
Buying or renting fly fishing rods can be intimidating if you are inexperienced. Even if you are seasoned, the fly rods get updated every year. Unfortunately, many fly shops can have the holier-than-thou attitude. Buying online can be hard because you just aren’t sure what you need. There are many fly rod sizes to choose from. How do you pick? Here are some basic points about how to read the size of a fly rod to aid in your decision.

Fly Rod Sizes Explained

  • All fly rod sizes are basically the same. Fly rods are sized according to the weight line they will use. A fly rod is matched to a fly line weight. It is important to match the two together. Sometimes you can “line-up” a fly rod with one heavier weight fly line. A very stiff, fast-action fly rod casts well in this situation.
  • Why can’t they all be the same? Not all makers of fly rods use the same system to display the size even though there is really only a few numbers to keep track of. Sage uses the line weight first and then the rod length, i.e. 690 is a 6 weight, 9-foot rod.
  • Yes, not all rods are the same length. Fly rods come in different lengths for different uses. The most common fly rod length in our area is 9 feet. This is a great all-around length for most situations. Some fly rods, like a Spey rod, are sometimes 14 feet and need two hands to cast correctly. Small brooks and streams use shorter fly rods because of the often thick brush along the banks.
  • There is more than one weight for the same rod? The fly rod weight itself is sometimes displayed as well, i.e. 4 1/8 oz. This is only telling you the actual weight of the fly rod itself and has nothing to do with the fly line weight. I like matching a lightweight fly rod with a lightweight fly reel. Lightweight does not mean wimpy.
  • Fly rods are sectioned. Fly rods used to come in mostly 2 sections regardless of length. Trends have changed with airline restrictions and ease of use. The most common number of sections is 4 nowadays. This attribute is shown in different ways again by the manufacturer. Sage, for example, uses a dash at the tail end of the fly rod size i.e. 690-4. The 4 is the number of sections.

A great article on fly rod sizes and choosing a fly rod posted on MidCurrent.

Fly rod sizes can be confusing. If you need help, contact the manufacturer or post a comment below. I’m always happy to assist.