Who Says Short Rods Are For Small Streams

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10 Foot fly rods may become the next big thing. Photo By: Louis Cahill

My good friend Dave Grossman decided to trade in his 9 foot boat rods for 10 footers this year.

So far, this fishing season he claims the extra foot of graphite has been working wonders for his clients on the water. Dave says, “I find that the ten foot fly rods make it much easier for my clients to mend their fly line, especially when they need to mend a lot of line. That translates into them consistently getting longer drag-free drifts. The longer rods shine when we need to high-stick across multiple currents, and they also allow my novice clients to squeak out a little more distance in their casts.”

After hearing those positive comments from Dave, I decided to give them a shot with my own clients, but I’d take it a step further. Instead of just incorporating them on float trips on the big rivers, I’d experiment using them on small to mid-size streams. The first trip out was a real eye opener and success with the ten foot fly rod on one of my 30′-40′ wide trout streams. To my amazement, the longer rod outperformed my standard 8 1/2-9 foot fly rods in almost all fishing scenarios in my clients hands. The only area the ten foot rod underperformed, were spots where the stream narrowed drastically or when it was really tight and cramped. The surprising thing about that, is it actually happened a lot less than I thought it would, and when it did, I’d just handed over the shorter rod I was carrying to my client. The key was positioning my angler in the correct spot, reminding him he had a longer rod in his hand, and then choosing the appropriate fly cast to present our flies.

I continued the experiment for several more guide trips, and it quickly became apparent, that all the fly fishing literature I’d previously read about matching the length of your rod to the size stream you were fishing, was actually just one way of looking at it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years with fly fishing, it’s that there’s almost always multiple options (types of casts, types of rigs, types of gear, ect.) that are feasible for anglers to use when fishing any given situation. Most of the time we end up going with the status quo, which is the obvious and most popular method for the fly fishing situation at hand. Sometimes, however, if we’re not afraid to think outside of the box, and open to use an unorthodox approach, it has the potential to end up performing even better for us on the water.

benefits That I noticed with my clients when I put a longer fly rod in their hands.

  1. Ten foot fast action rods usually have a slightly softer tip, perfect for setting the hooks and fighting big fish on light tippet and small flies. My clients broke off less and landed more fish.
  2. In many cases, ten foot rods can make it easier for anglers to land big fish solo, because they have more rod to help them bring the fish in closer to net.
  3. You can often be stealthier with a longer rod because you can position yourself farther away from the fish without jeopardizing your presentation and drag-free drift.
  4. If a fish takes off down river or upstream of you, the longer rod can help maintain a sufficient angle on the fish, minimizing the chances of the hook dislodging.

Are there some small streams where fly fishing with a ten foot rod won’t be feasible? Yes, there are lots, but the point of this post was to demonstrate you shouldn’t automatically think just because you’re fishing a small stream that you need to grab your short 6′-8′ fly rod. If you fish with friends like I do most of the time on small streams, it can really be an asset for the team if you pack different length rods. Since it’s typically best to fish one angler at a time so you don’t spook fish, you’ll usually only have one rod fishing at a time, and that will allow you to choose the best rod for the location your targeting.

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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8 thoughts on “Who Says Short Rods Are For Small Streams

  1. I have thought about getting a 10′ 4 wt for nymphing and high sticking. I agree, on all but the smallest flows a 10′ rod would work well as I fished with a guy on the Nanny using a 10 footer. However, I was curious about the ability to land a dry fly delicatly. I feel (and possibly wrong about it) that the weight of a nymph rig helps to load the longer rod especailly when fishing close, I would be worried that you couldnt effectivly fish a dry fly on a smaller stream with that long of a rod. Please tell me what you think or have had experience with. Then again I can always carry my 8′ 3wt for the small dries. Thanks for the great info both of you are a great wealth of knowledge.

    • Snaford,

      Most ten foot rods will work great for dry fly fishing. The extra foot of rod usually turns them into medium action rod with a reasonably soft tip. I don’t think you will have any problems. Thanks for your question and comments.


  2. A long rod is a must have in the fishing bag of tricks. Especially for you big time, big water nymphers. I know many a guide, who like Dave has been using a long rod to layout big casts and drifts on big water floats in N.E. Tennessee.

  3. Howdy folks,
    Figured I had to jump in on this one, as I’ve become a long rod convert over the past couple years, and have started competitive fishing. I’ve been fly-fishing seriously for about 10-15 years, and I have to admit that I’ve learned more in the last 2 years than all the others combined. I’ve got more small rods than I’ll ever need, but still can’t bring myself to sell em. But, since I started the long rods, I haven’t used anything else. Got a T&T 10-4 Helix for my first try…did OK, very powerful, but tip heavy…now have switched to a 10-4 Greys Streamflex XF2 and love it…can do anything I need it to…and excels at dry/dropper…give it a try…

    • James,

      Thanks for sharing your success with long fly rods. I love the Thomas & Thomas Helix series, its a great casting rod, finely crafted in the USA, that I would highly recommend not just in the 10 foot, but also in the other rod lengths and weights. I haven’t fished the Greys but I’ll take your word for it.


  4. My shortest rod is 12 feet in most cases. I get drag free drifts and more hookups due to a soft tip that really protects the tippet.

  5. In Western NC, I don’t consider a 40′ wide stream small. A small stream also usually a a bush canopy. I have always used 9.75 or 10′ rods on 30 to 40′ wide streams that are open.

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