Understanding Fly Rod Actions

Fly Rod Action

Understanding Fly Rod Actions:

Fly rods come in many different lengths, weights and actions depending on the fish species and fishing methods being used to pursue those fish. One of the most important details anglers need to understand about their fly rod what is actions are best for the particular type of fly fishing they will be doing. The action or flex of the fly rod has a huge impact on how the rod will cast over a range of distances, how it will perform fighting fish, how it will protect tippet from breaking and what type of flies it will present the best.

Different Types of Action:

In general terms, fly rods come in fast, medium and slow actions. The action of the rod is a direct reflection of how deep the rod flexes into the blank while casting.

Slow Action:

A slow action or full flex rod bends deeply into the blank, almost to the butt of the rod. These fly rods have a very soft feel and can be described as “noodles”. They are ideal in lighter weights and shorter lengths for small stream dry fly fishing for trout. These rods load very easily and are capable of soft presentations at short ranges. These rods also protect light tippets from breaking very well since the full flex action acts as a very effective shock absorber. Slow action rods require patience, feel and finesse on the part of the angler to cast well. These are not long distance casting tools or designed for casting big heavy streamer patterns. A good example of a quality slow action rod is Scott’s F2 series of fiberglass fly rods.

Medium action:

Also called mid-flex fly rods are a good choice for beginner anglers buying their first fly rod or experienced anglers looking for an all-purpose freshwater fly rod for everything from trout to larger fish like steelhead or northern pike. Medium action rods flex into the middle of the rod and load easily but have the lower blank strength and stiffness to punch out longer casts and fight powerful fish but have enough flexibility in the upper half of the rod to make accurate and quick short range roll casts. Medium action rods are also capable of making good presentations with dry flies, nymphs or streamers. Scott’s G2 Series of Fly Rods are an excellent choice for anglers looking for one of the very best medium action fly rods.

Fast action Rods:

These have become more and more popular over the last decade. Fly rod companies improve materials and technology that make fly rods lighter and more powerful. Rods that are capable of rocketing accurate casts out to bonefish tailing on the horizon or steelhead holding in unwadeable runs all the way across big coastal rivers. Fast action rods are fairly stiff and flex only in the upper third of the rod. They are the favorite of anglers who are often faced with long casts with heavy flies in windy conditions. Fast action/tip-flex fly rods require a longer portion of weight forward fly line to be in the air to load the rod and cast well. For this reason, they aren’t always the best choice for anglers who make a lot of short casts.

Saltwater anglers need to punch out lengthy casts into the teeth of the wind and then fight big, tough fish. They require rod strength and lifting power, a fast action fly rod is the best option. Fast actions are also a good choice for western float fishermen who drift big rivers and enjoy firing big hopper patterns or streamers. They fish inches from the bank where big brown trout are lying in ambush. One of the best new fast-action fly rods on the market is the Sage X Rod.

Final Thoughts:

Keep in mind there are many fly rods with hydrid actions that allow anglers to fine-tune their preferences. A medium-fast action rod, for example has a little more touch and feel than a straight fast action. In contrast, ultra-fast action rods are a very specifically designed long distance casting tools. This may be intimidating for a beginner angler.

For more information or advice on your next fly rod purchase, stop by Vail Valley Anglers in Edwards, Colorado. Give us a call or chat with us online at our website.
Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer