The Long and the Short of it: A guide’s guide to long vs. short rods
I recall when I broke into the guiding bus. Back in 1996 there wasn’t much more choice in the rods that I guided with other then the flex. Soft or stiff was about the extent of my concern. Soft for dry flies and light tippets or stiff for punching wind and streamers. But in the last ½ decade there has been a huge number of differences in the types of rods that an angler can arm themselves with. Fiberglass has made a big comeback in the slow/soft action program. I remember learning to fly fish back in the early 70’s with a 9 ft. fiberglass rod that I nearly hung myself trying to learn to roll cast. Today’s fiberglass rods are a dream to fish the smaller streams with. But the most significant development in fly rod design besides the crazy composites has been in the length of rods. Whether you are Trout, Steelhead or whatever the prey there are long rods for all of them. Switch rods, Spey rods, Competition rods…are all part of the fly-fishes arsenal nowadays. 91/2ft, 10ft.,11ft. and 12ft. rods are commonplace in today’s practices. As someone who spends a lot of time teaching others who are new to the sport I used to cringe at the idea of a long rod in the hands of a total rookie, but now I have a totally different view of the long rod program. I taught my brother recently to fly-fish with my Orvis Recon 10ft. 4wt. The first thing I noticed was how much easier it was for him to roll cast a double nymph rig with an indicator. Then teaching him to mend with the extra foot was way easier. The light went off finally. I have been using a 10Ft. rod for the last 2 years as a predominately nymphing rod and I can’t see myself using anything shorter again. As a matter of fact, I was recently forced to nymph the Eagle river with my 9ft.5wt. and was thinking to myself the entire time how much this sucks! My streamer/Bonefish/Bass rod for the past 6 years has been a Helios 966-4 hand cannon that I basically can’t live without. I have also recently become a huge fan of the European nymphing program and have started using a new Cortland 10ft. 3 wt. competition rod. We have several guide at our shop who have adopted the switch rod program for nymphing with beginner clients and the catching has greatly improved due to the fact that the guests can make a better cast, mend and drift all equating to getting more strikes! So as my fly-fishing life has progressed I have begun to find myself actually fishing less and less with a 9ft. rod anymore. Funny how things change, sometimes for the better.