Think about starting out with a 6 1/2' Shakespeare Wonderod.  Not the most desirable tool available for the task, is it?  Yet, that's what I had.  And you know what?  It worked!  As time passed I moved to a 7' Fenwick.  No graphite rods back then since they hadn't yet hit the market with any real impact.  And both the Wonderods and the Fenwicks were considered some of the better glass rods in the day. 

Talk began to circulate about the new and greatly improved material called graphite.  I figured it was time to make the switch and I became the proud owner of a Fenwick 8' 5wt. graphite rod.  Wow!  What that rod did for my casting was amazing...or so I thought.  I think there was some play on psychology going on with that one.  

It was about this time I was introduced to more advanced ways to fish nymphs;  however, the emphasis was on more effective ways to detect takes and that was all in the leaders.  Rod length and, along with that, line weights weren't a point of focus.  As I remember most of my trout fishing, regardless of whether I was fishing dry flies, wet flies or nymphs, was with rods of around 8' in length.  Pretty much making do with what we had.

Along comes the 9' rod.  Definitely a rod length that provided me as a fisher of nymphs an advantage.  Much better reach for expanding my zone for effective presentations.  My rod of choice became a 9' 4 wt. and I wanted it in at least a medium-fast action.  My thinking was - and still is - that a faster action rod transmits strike response from rod tip to fly more quickly;  hence, more and better hook-ups - I hope!.

For many years I stayed with my 9' 4 wt. rods.  They handled all that I put them through with no problem.  O.K., O.K., you got me.  I snuck a 9' 3 wt. in there at one point for use in skinny water situations.  Yeah, there were some 10 footers available but, after having casted one now and then, I felt they weren't anything I'd want to consider adding to my rod inventory.  It's important to emphasize that while I used my rods for nymphing I also used them for fishing dries.  I felt that the long rods early on were heavy and...well, flat out clumsy and/or clunky.  Not something I'd derive any pleasure from fishing, for sure.

Then, along came my involvement in the world of competitive fly fishing.  Nope, I didn't compete;  rather, I was brought on as a board member for the U. S. Youth Fly Fishing Team.  I was also invited to be one of the instructors. Now I'm seeing all of these 10' rods in the hands of these young anglers.  And, not surprisingly, they were primarily fishing nymphs.

The long rods used by competitors weren't like the 10 footers of yesteryear.  They were actually not bad.  Still not enough to get me really interested.  I just didn't like the soft tips.  So, what did I do?  You guessed it:  I kept fishing my 9 footers.

I finally convinced myself that consistent reasoning must apply here.  If a 9' rod gave better reach then it should go without saying a 10' rod would give me even more.  Throw in the versatility requirement here.  The rods I use must serve me for more than drifting nymphs subsurface.  I am absolutely not one who would carry multiple rods when I'm on the water.  Nor would I ever want to find myself in a position to wish my vehicle were close by so I could go back and get my other rod to fish dries.  So, here's where I stand in regard to my rod choices.  Forget the drum roll and let's get to the meat of the issue. 

The rods sold today as Euro nymphing rods run from 10 to 11 feet in length and, for the most part, are listed for 2 through 4 wt. lines.  I find this a bit interesting since I believe that most anglers who purchase and fish these rods don't use double tapered or weight forward fly lines to fish nymphs. I believe the angler who actually uses a line weight matched to the rod is far and away the exception. Yes, I'm an exception - and one of a different sort, at that - but we'll get into that in more detail when PART 3 goes up on the blog.  While there appears to be a good number of anglers using an all mono rig most others seem to favor a Euro nymphing line which is level and .022" diameter.  Another interesting point is that some manufacturers tout these lines as for use with rods up to 5 wt.  Anyone familiar with tip diameters of fly lines and the increase in diameter as the taper progresses?  I am and I'm here to tell you these tapered lines are nowhere close to .022".  So, the question begs to be asked:  why the line weights?  Somebody want to pop in here and give me some insights??  Oh, and there's more but that, too, will have to wait until later in the series.

I believe that rods longer than 10' become specialty tools and that means they're single use rods.  At this point in time this eliminates my considering a rod beyond 10' in length.  I can tell you from a fair bit of experience that my 10' rods will present a dry fly at distance  with acceptable accuracy.  The label I'd attach to some 10' rods is...versatile in application.  All of this begs another question:  if these are marketed and sold as nymphing rods how much design thought went into using these rods to actually cast?  Hhhmmmm.  Longer rods?  Meh.

I'm sure that the vast majority of anglers would agree that as we consider the differences in rods as line weight ratings get lighter at minimum the rod tips get what we'd describe as softer.  This has a significant bearing on how broad a range of conditions certain rods may preform acceptably for nmphing.  I fish 12 months of the year when conditions warrant.  That means I encounter stream conditions from heavy, deep flows to low, skinny flows and everything in between.  I've found that it takes a stiffer rod tip to cast heavier weight with acceptable accuracy.  The more weight the more difficult it is to control the path of that weight.  I don't care what form that weight takes.  It's the same whether the weight is in the fly or on the leader.    

Then we have to consider what happens when we react to what we interpret as a trout intercepting our nymph.  Obviously, it's called the hook set.  There's a bit more to setting the hook with weight deep in the water column.  Both the weight and the current flow act to resist my effort to pull hook point into fish flesh.  The heavier and deeper the flow the more weight it takes to get the fly/flies down to the depth at which I want them to drift.  All of these factors combined means that it requires more on the part of the angler and the rod to counter that resistance.  The softer the rod tip the more difficult it is to do so with any authority.   Not only do I want to get that hook into the trout I want to do it as fast as possible with as much force as my tippet will withstand.  That means I hit hard and fast - relatively speaking.  The stiffer the rod tip the better I'm able to counter the resistance and get the action of the hook set to move the weight and the fly/flies.

Here is where the statement "there's no one size fits all" meets reality.  From what I see and based on the statements of many of my peers a 3 wt. rod seems to be the most popular choice among most anglers who fish sighter systems.  However, based on my experience my 10' 3 wt. Douglas DXF will handle up to about 1.2 grams of weight and, in a pinch, if I really have to, 1.6 grams (I said grams not grains as this differentiation will become important later in the series).  Anything more and it becomes more difficult to present and my hook set becomes what I can best describe as sluggish.  My Douglas Sky 10' 4 wt. is my rod of choice when I fish deeper, heavier flows with more weight.  I guess I have to give up a confession here.  My 10' 4 wt. is capable of handling most of the conditions I may encounter right down to skinny water.  It's that versatile.  So, why the 3 wt.?  It's a bit more fun and a bit more sensitive when I only need a little weight to get my flies to drifting at depth.  Still versatile, just not quite as much as the 4 wt.  Another confession.  Sometimes I do lament the fact that these rods are a bit softer than I'd like.  I know, woe is me!             

Some of you may notice I didn't mention anything about a 2 wt.  Sure, there are those anglers who choose a 2 wt.;  however, I feel these rods are specialty rods best used when flows are low normal to really low and little weight is used.  That's not for me.  In fact, based on conversations I've had with some anglers I believe there are those who push these rods well beyond what I consider their acceptable limits.

Since this is my approach to rod choice and, true to the title of this blog as being my opinions, observations and such, I thought it good to run them by...of all people...one who designs fly rods.  Here's where being a member of a pro-staff has it's benefits.  

Fred Contaoi is the chief rod designer for Douglas Outdoors.  Fred knows his stuff since he's designed award winning rods for Douglas over the past years.   First, he confirmed my position that the longer a rod the more difficult it is to cast - note, I said cast accurately.  It's a stability thing.  Rods over 10' long are designed for nymph fishing.  Second, he affirmed my position that the softer the tip the less weight it will cast accurately and the more sluggish the strike response with a lot of weight in deeper, heavier flows. Thank you, Fred!! 

While I could go on - and I just may allude to using a 9' 6 wt. for a specific type of nymphing later in the series ... maybe - I'd be remiss if I didn't address fishing small streams.  There are streams I fish where a 10' rod makes casting and fishing more difficult than I'm willing to tolerate.  Tight conditions call for a shorter rod and that's where my 9' Douglas DXF 3 wt. is my fishing tool of choice.  Believe me, a foot of rod length can make a big difference.  And we all now know my lengthy experience with 9' rods.

I'll end my take on rods with this statement.  I believe that the issue of sensitivity is a bit overrated.  While I can feel a trout take my fly now and then this is, based on my limited experience, primarily a visual game.  Visual first, tactile second.  There's some controversy for ya'!

While I've spent a bunch of time discussing rods I have a much simpler approach to reel choice.  Let's begin with a story related to me by a manager of a fly shop.  An angler enters the shop and wants to check out a rod for Euro nymphing.  He looks the rod over and mentions that the rod is a little heavier than what he was looking for.  Fly shop manager looks at him and asks how much the reel he's using weighs.  This angler had never even thought about his reel.  He had no clue!

When I consider a reel for my nymphing rods the weight is one of the most important factors.  Since I'm only looking at reels in the smaller sizes, usually for 2 to 3 or 4 weight lines, these will be the lightest reels available.  Surprisingly, there can be quite a variation in how much these reels weigh.  To me a difference of an ounce and a half or so is a major difference!

Why is the weight of a reel so important to me?  I'm holding my rod and reel out in front somewhere around chest level for what amounts to be a substantial length of time throughout my fishing day and when fatigue sets in it becomes a chore to do so.  The lighter the weight I'm holding the longer I can fish before fatigue becomes an issue.  And I want to fish as long as I can!

I could say that a good drag is important and ... well, it is.  The drag needs to be adjustable down to a point that will protect very light tippets.  By this you should be past the point of just guessing I like to play fish off the reel and, you would be correct!

Finally, for those of you who thought I forgot something, I pay no mind to balance.  It's just a non-issue with me.   

For me, I'm pretty sure I'll be looking at a new reel or two in 2022 and now everyone who reads this will know a good bit of what will be driving my decision making process.

And there you have it.  Dave Rothrock's perspective on rods and reels for fishing nymphs.  Let's keep foremost in our minds that this is how I approach these topics.  There's a reason equipment sales go way beyond that which I choose.  And yeah, there's a reason God created vanilla and chocolate!

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the series addressing my perspective on lines and leaders.  Here's where things will get way more interesting!     


1 Comentarios

  1. Again a good read, just purchased an orvis blackout 9'6" 5wt. to be more versatile. And can't wait to lean how to pre rig for quick change overs from nymph to dried or vice a verse. Thanks Dave