How To Make Your Fly Rod Cast Like A Dream

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Fly Fishing on the South Platte. Photo By: Louis Cahill

What Fly Line Matches Up Best With Your Fly Rod?

It always amazes me that there’s very little talk in the industry about how important it is to match your fly rod with the appropriate fly line. My recent visit to the ITFD Fly Fishing Show in New Orleans, I witnessed on more than one occasion, fly rod company’s matching their fly rods up with what appeared to be the wrong fly lines. If you spool up the wrong fly line on your reel, that $700 fly rod you just purchased will end up feeling awkward, and won’t perform the way the fly rod designer intended it to. Below are some quick tips on how to match your fly rod with the correct fly line so it ends up casting like a dream.

Fast Action Fly Rods

Stiff, fast action fly rods require fly lines with a more aggressive head design for optimum rod loading and casting. Since fly rods are generally meant to load at 25-30′ of fly line out the end of the rod tip, anglers often find it difficult to load fast action fly rods, particularly at short distances, unless they’ve matched their rod with the appropriate fly line. Both Rio and Scientific Anglers manufacture fly lines specifically for fast action rods.

Try Weight Forward (WF) Rio Grande Fly Line or WF GPX Scientific Anglers. These two fly lines in laymen terms, are about 1/2 weight heavier than traditional fly lines by AFTMA standards. Pairing up one of these fly lines with your fast action fly rod will allow you to load your rod with less effort and it will perform much better at all casting distances.

Medium Action Fly Rods

Medium action fly rods call for fly lines with a more conservative and well rounded tapered design. Loading your reel with a fly line that’s too aggressive can overload your fly rod, make it difficult to present your flies delicately, and also decrease your accuracy.

Try WF Rio Gold or WF Scientific Anglers Trout Taper

Slow Action Fly Rods

The slowest and softest fly rods on the market should be paired with a fly line that has a long delicate taper from the body through the front taper. This will allow the energy loaded to the rod, that’s in turn transferred to the fly line, to dissipate evenly and smoothly so you can present your flies delicately when stealthy presentations are a must.

Try WF Rio Trout LT

Disclaimer: This post was intended to provide the basic information needed to aid anglers in matching their fly rod with the appropriate fly line. If you’re looking for a thorough explanation on this subject, you’d probably be better off consulting one of the Federation Fly Fishers master certified casting instructors or becoming a FFF member. They specialize in writing lengthy dissertations on this kind of stuff and you’ll regularly receive emails. One suggestion for you if you decide to go this route. Take your Ritalin before diving into one of these emails. Their engineering and physics based explanations can turn your brain to mush.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline


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21 thoughts on “How To Make Your Fly Rod Cast Like A Dream

  1. Pete use to give me his old lines and tell me to turn them around to use the end that wasn’t cracked. I loved that old man but he really put some stuff on me : ) I think I fished every broken part and bait he had already proved would NOT catch fish….

    • He gave me my first bamboo rod when I was 8. I fished it until I was about 23 when I backed over it with the car. I still have it though. You know he loved you or he would have fished both ends himself. I’m sure he was fishing DT lines.

  2. Tom,

    That would have worked fine if it was a DT (Double-Taper) fly line. Not so much with the popular WF (Weight-Forward Taper) fly lines now days. Pete sounds like a real kick in the pants but a good guy.


  3. If a rod needs to be overlined (or cast with a Grand/GPX line) to perform well, then the rod isn’t very well designed, in my humble opinion. When I pick up a 5-weight rod, I want a 5-weight rod–not a 6-weight or 5.5-weight rod. I get that certain line tapers perform differently, but you shouldn’t need to use a heavier line to cast a properly designed fast-action rod.

    • Of course, I don’t mean to take away from this post. I just find it troubling that manufacturers design fast rods that require a heavier line than they are advertised for.

      • Austin,

        Thank you for your comments, and I don’t feel like you’re taking away from the post at all by your comments. I like your comments and agree with them. I really think it would be helpful particularly to newcomers in the sport, to have recommendations by fly rod companies on what fly lines should be used with their fly rods. Generally this falls in the hands of the retail staff selling the fly rods to inform the buyer, but sometimes the subject isn’t brought up. This especially holds true for people purchasing fly rods online.


      • With some of the new “modern” fast rods the line WEIGHT recommendations are just suggestions. Often it is necessary to contact the manufacturer find out the grain window of your new rod then match the rod to a line that accommodates that grain weight of your rod. My 9′ 6wt is a 160 gr rod +-8 grains. My 11′ 6 at (switch) is about 185 grains, equivalent to a 7 wt rod.

  4. Don’t agree with this article. There are the situations when you want to cast further with better presentation using triangle/delta taper fly line with fast rod… and there are the situations when you want to cast big hopper or some nymphs using nymph fly line thicker at the end and full flex fiberglass fly rods on small streams. I think the key is to match the weight of the fly line to the fly rod for optimum loading the blank, regardless of the shape of the taper.

    • I enjoyed reading your article. I should say that you’re only partially correct. I would suggest being careful not to give the wrong idea to those new to fly fishing. The principal of fly casting, ” elbow-wrist-elbow-wrist” are more important than changing your fly line to keep Rio or Scientific American happy! Its easier to adapt the speed of your cast to the fly rod as opposed to adapting your fly rod to the cast. In short, good skills should not be replaced by equipments, at least not in this sport!!

  5. I agree with the article.It sheds light on the problems of casting fast action fly rods. These rods are a product of some of the great champion casters that have been hired by the fly rod companies over the last ten to fifteen years. The idea that farther is better. Not a bad idea at all with the increase in saltwater fishing. I do think that most people who work in fly shops just sell you whatever they use and no ever asks what the action of your fly rod is. The sport has become to complex with so many rod actions available and I think that the new people to the sport get confused and give up. As for the last post just try to ignore the dimishimg comments and triangle gobly gooplines or whatever Mr Ttechnical was trying to talk about.

  6. Good article, as usual from GG! Just one point:

    Is this not just a means of essentially making all rods cast similarly regardless of action? For example, if you put a rod with an aggressive head on a fast action rod to increase rod flex, doesn’t this at least somewhat negate the purpose of a fast action rod?

    Just a thought – rod action is more of a preference thing as it is, so nothing is written in stone on the topic. No biggie.

    Keep up the excellent work!


  7. Well I love to fly fish but due to some medical limitations the suggestions won’t do. I have severe balance issues and repeated false casts and turning to look over my shoulder to monitor my back cast would put me on the ground. Weebles wobble but I fall down. I have now primarily use shooting heads with medium fast to fast action rods. With the head out the tip one back cast is all I need for a 70+ Foot cast with my 9′ 6 wt. distance I need as I can no longer wade. Point is some rules are meant to be broken or at least modified to accomplish a means to an end.

  8. Some people really get hung up on the rod/line weight thing and I personally feel that life would be so much easier if all fly rod manufacturers just labelled all rods with two (or more) line weights like some did in the past e.g. 5 – 6 wt. There is no right or wrong as it’s all a matter of what feels right to the individual and what works best in a given situation.

  9. Good article Kent.
    To compliment the article would be to instruct the readers on how to take their own “Common Cents Measurement” of their rod, and write a follow up article on how to choose a combined used “line weight” (line/leader/fly) in grams to best relate to their rods “Common Cents Measurement”, for ideal cast ability, as well as ability to fight the fish. The “Common Cents Measurement” relates most to the backbone, rod deflection under weight, of the rod and how it will respond to casting and fighting a fish.
    Best Spey lesson I ever had with Brian Chow was me with a new rod and the recommended line, and Brian watching me cast a few times. He said “we need to take off so many grams of line for your cast with that rod”. We did it, and it greatly improved the performance.

  10. Is there a way to measure a rods flex with a hanging weight and a deflection scale on the wall and be able to convert that to a grain weight range for your line , without contacting the manufacturer? I would especially like to know for my saltwater rods.

    • I’m not an engineer, but I thing that would be challenging. Rod designers use that method to determine rod flex. A static weight will show you where a rod bends, but I’m not sure if the same weight on two 5 weights with different actions would end up in the same place. I think we need a mechanical engineer to weigh in on that. Even if it does work, it will not speak to the complexities of line tapers. I wish I knew a shortcut to finding the right line. It can be frustrating.

      • Yes there is. It is called the Common Cents System. There is a formula for taking the rods length and applying a math formula to give you a tip deflection in inches.
        Mount your rod horizontally, tie a small ziplock snack bag to the tip and start adding penny’s til the rods tip dips to that measure you came up with for your rod. The number of cents (weigh) is the relationship for your rod.
        This measures the “backbone” strength of your rods. Different than action, which relates more to casting. I’d rather know the Common Cents of a rod than the action. If you knew the common sense value of a ride you prefer, and new rods were labeled by their common sense you would know which Rod would match your preference is

      • Hi Louis,
        I believe much too much emphasis is place on the “action” of the rod, which is “more” (not entirely) on the stiffness feel as it relates to casting. This has little to do with how the rod is going to respond with a sizable fish on the line. I think casting is over rated to sell rods, over setting a hook and keeping a fish on the line til you get it in. As you have said many times, most situations don’t require a fisherman to huck a 50′-80′ cast because most fish my be near our feet, or a whole lot closer. We don’t need a line rocket for that, but we all do need a rod that will protect the tippet/leader from breaking, and tire out the fish in a reasonable period of time to bring it to hand.
        A rod that helps protect the tippet from breaking and bringing the fish to hand is more important to me. I’d prefer a rod that would almost bend double with a big fish, acting like a big spring, which also protects the tippet, than a typical fast action stiffer blank that might cast well, but break the tippet or the tip of the rod. One of my Tenkara rods showed me that with a Silver Salmon.
        The Common Cents System shows something different than an industry standard of 4wt, 5wt, or 6wt. It is giving information about the strength of the rod to resist pressure an deflection over its entire length, not “where” it bends. This will also relate to how its casting feels.
        You are right that the Common Cents System static weight value “could” be different with two different 5wt rods. That’s because it has nothing to do with that system of measurement. I measured all eight of my fly rods from single hand to switch, to Spey, to Tenkara. The thing I discovered was when I found two rods with similar Common Cents weights, they both felt the same in hand casting and resisting pressure. That allows me to find a feel and a fighting resistance that I like for me for how I cast and fish. If I were to handle another rod with a similar Common Cents rating I like, I would most likely favor it over something else.

  11. I do a lot of work with Thomas and Thomas flyrods. There are people at the factory who will aid you in what lines best matched the rod when it was designed and why. The company, like most want to form a relationship with you so aiding in ensuring your outfit is properly set up is key in ensuring our anglers feel good about the rod they bought. Similarly, I’ve called line companies, and they too offer their suggestions on matching line to rod. Independently owned shops justify their existence by being able to help you make an informed choice in matching line to rod and reel for that matter. Big box stores and the Ebay/Amazon-osphere offer no help.

    The lines that the article described are for basic use. Some examples that other commenters made are for specialized tactics. The examples above listed – rod manufacturers, line manufacturers, and shop pros can all help you with a basic balanced setup as well as a specialized use configuration.

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