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How Many Fly Rods Do You Need? – (Building A Fly Rod Quiver)

As fly fishers, we use different fly rods for different scenarios. Depending on which fish species you target, you’ll need the correct fly rods to fish for them. Fly rods come in weights from a 0 to a 16. This leaves lots of options for us.

Trout anglers use lighter rods than saltwater anglers. Trout are much smaller than saltwater species, so a 5 or 6 weight is usually fine. Big game anglers and saltwater anglers will want heavier rods.

We have found that 3 fly rods is a great number to aim for. A light rod (3-4 wt), a medium rod (5-6 wt), and a heavier rod (7 wt +) will keep you covered for different scenarios.

Of course, over time, we always want more gear. Many fly anglers end up with a lot more than 3 rod setups. I have settled at around 8 rods, but I still want more. If you’re a gear addict like me, it really never stops. But, most fly anglers can get a lot done with 3 different rod outfits.

#1 – Lighter Weight Fly Rod (3 wt. Or 4 wt.)

This will be your small stream trout rod, panfish rod, and dry fly rod. For fishing smaller creeks and ponds, it is nice to have a 3 or 4 weight that has some flex to it. With these rods, we like to throw dry flies, poppers and small streamers.

If you like fishing small bodies of water or high alpine zones, then a 3 or 4 weight is a great setup. Hooking a fish on these rods is a ton of fun, since they flex more. You will feel every move of the fish, which can be exciting.

However, if you don’t fish small streams and only target larger species, you can probably skip this rod category. Hooking a large fish on a 3 weight can be a tough fight. It is hard to land the fish quickly, and can even damage the rod.

#2 – Mid Weight Fly Rod (5 wt. Or 6 wt.)

This will be your main trout rod. A 5 or 6 weight can cover basically all trout scenarios. Whether you’re nymphing, using a dry-dropper, or fishing smaller streamers, these rods can get the job done.

If you fish for regular sized trout (14″-16″) on medium rivers, i’d go with a 5 weight. If you’re fishing larger rivers with big trout, I would opt for the 6 weight. 6 weights have more power, and can handle heavy nymph rigs and heavy fish.

Most trout anglers can get away with just having a 5 or a 6 weight. These rods are very versatile, and are the go-to setup for trout anglers.

#3 – Heavier Weight Fly Rod (7 wt Or Higher)

This category of rods has many uses. A 7 weight can be an awesome streamer rod for trout, especially when throwing larger articulated patterns. You can also use a 7 weight for bonefishing in the saltwater.

If you really like to target big game species, you should be thinking about even heavier rods. Permit and Tarpon can require rods in the 10-12 weight range. For saltwater anglers, these are often the best choice.

Heavier rods are also good for Pike and Musky fishing on lakes and rivers. For these species, 9-12 weight rods are commonly used. Since Pike and Musky grow to huge sizes, you’ll need at least a 9 weight to fight and land them properly.

What Species Do You Fly Fish For?

This is a good thing to think about before you head out to purchase your first fly rod. If you live in trout country, you’ll probably want to start with a 5 weight. If you live near the ocean or take a lot of saltwater trips, you’ll want to start with a 7, 8, 9 weight or even heavier. Tarpon anglers regularly use 12 weight rods for their outings.

Since I live in the mountains of Colorado, most of my rods are geared towards trout. 95% of the time I am fishing for trout, so my rod outfits are selected accordingly. However, I know guys that do lots of saltwater trips every year. Their rod quivers are more focused on those larger species – Bonefish, Permit, Snook and Tarpon.

What Is Your Fly Rod Budget?

This is another big factor. Some folks can only afford one rod outfit, and that is totally fine. I know many anglers that have only one rod – it is usually a 9 foot 5 weight rod for trout fishing. They use it every time they go fishing, and it gets the job done.

As you progress more with your skill level, you can start to think about other rod outfits. My second rod turned out to be a 7 weight streamer rod. I really wanted to learn how to fish streamers for trout, so I invested in a 7 weight with a sink tip line. My third rod was a 4 weight, because I wanted to get into dry fly fishing on small creeks. As you can see, the list goes on and on. It is all based on personal preference.

Fly rods also vary a lot in price. You can get a cheap rod for around $100, but premium rods can cost over $1000. This huge price range also means there is a huge quality range. Head to your local fly shop and cast several rods. It is always best to cast them before you make a decision.

Conclusion

So all in all, I think most fly anglers should shoot for having 3 fly rod outfits. However, these outfits will vary based on your fishing style and where you like to fish.

You may also find that having just one rod works for you. I know many anglers that use one rod, and they catch plenty of fish. There is something to be said for the minimalistic approach.