Here, we will try to answer some of the most common questions that we encounter about fly rods and reels.  If you would like a question answered, please send us an email.  Our answers are our opinions.  Not all experienced fly fishers will agree with everything we believe.   Please judge our answers with this in mind. 

Q: What is the ideal weight of a reel for a fly rod?  Is there such a thing as having a reel that is too light?

A.  A properly balanced fly rod should not feel too tip heavy when the reel is attached to the rod.  There is a current tendency to buy a reel simply because it is light.  There is an old saying in fly fishing that you pay more for what you don't receive.  In other words, the lighter the reel, the more it may cost.  However, the choice of the lightest reel is not always the best decision.  Most fly fishers prefer the feel of a balanced rod.

When assuming your normal grip, the first finger should be able to act as a fulcrum and the rod should balance at that point.  It the tip sinks when this is done, a heavier reel would probably feel better.  If the rod tip moves upward when this is done, a lighter reel will probably feel better.  If a reel is too light, the rod tip feels heavy and it feels more difficult to cast.  This is similar to using a golf club with a heavy swing weight.  You want to be able to feel the tip of your rod but most people do not like it when this feeling is too apparent.  We suggest that you try several reels of different weights on your rod before you buy.  If your neighbor is using a 9' ultralight rod in a 5 weight, and you are using a 9'6" standard weight rod, you need to use a heavier reel than the one that balances on your neighbor's rod.

Simply put, a heavier reel decreases the swingweight of a rod and a lighter reel can increase that swingweight.

The length of the rod has a direct affect on balance.  As the length of the lever increases, the required weight of the reel to counter-balance the rod increases.

Q: Are the new ultralight rods better than the more traditionally weighted rods?

A: We do not believe that this is necessarily the case.  We have a saying at Lord of the Streams that if it feels right to you, it is.

Gary Loomis, of G. Loomis fame, once told me that "Weight is the enemy of performance."  That statement is very accurate scientifically. 
Anyone that has ever taken physics understands this.  However, science is not the only factor that one should consider when choosing equipment.    The heavier a rod, the more energy it takes to move it.  This is true whether you are just picking the rod up or when casting it.   If we only consider this fact, then one would think that everyone should fish with the lightest rod possible.  However, every rod decision is a compromise.  Whether you are choosing to fish with a $5,000 rod or a $99 rod, your choice is a compromise.  Whether you choose to fish with a 12' rod or an 8' rod, the choice is a compromise.  When you choose to fish a rod with a specific action, whether it be an ultra fast rod or a slow action rod, this is another compromise.  You always give up one characteristic in a rod to choose another.

This is probably why so many people choose a 9' 5 weight medium-fast action 3 or 4 piece rod as their first trout rod.  It is not the best for all conditions but it allows you to fish almost all trout waters and it is easy to cast and transport.

So what does this have to do with the weight of the rod?  Simply this.  The rod that you choose must perform the duties that you want it to.  If you want a durable rod above all else, the new ultralights are not the way to go. Think Fiberglass.

Speaking of Fiberglass!
 If want the most durable rod, think fiberglass.  The new "fast glass" unidirectional fiberglass Epic blanks from Swift Fly fishing company in New Zealand are an absolute delight to fish.  One of my favorite rods is an EPIC fiberglass 7 1/2' four weight 5 piece that I built a couple of years ago. This rod is not as quick as most graphite rods of this weight and length and it is a bit heavier.  However,  it will take a beating and keep coming back for more. These EPIC rods should last a lifetime.  They feel entirely different than a graphite rod and are truly a joy to fish.

...Here is a bit more info on the "Epic"
unidirectional fiberglass blanks made in New Zealand.  We have created a rod using their blank that is an 8', 4-weight, 3-piece rod, and it only weights 3 ounces, is a delight to fish. The rod has a fast action taper that results in a medium to medium-fast action rod when completed.  We successfully used this rod on Missouri River Brown and Rainbow trout.  We caught them up to 23" and the little 4 weight handled the fish with ease.  The rod is also very accurate.  We even fished double nymph rigs under a strike indicator very successfully with this rod.  We would not recommend this technique for a beginner but any experienced fly fisherman could handle it.  Talk about protecting tippets-incredible!)  We also built an 8'6" 6 weight that we think could handle most any Steelhead around.  I think you could probably drive a truck over it and not hurt it.   I built a 5 piece 7'6" rod that packs into a 21" tube.  I can carry all of my summer fly fishing gear (including this rod) in a motorcycle saddlebag.  When I ride on one of my regular 2700 mile trips through the West, it is easy to stop and fish at inviting waters.  If you are looking for a fiberglass rod, give us a call and discuss your desires...

Conversely, high modulus graphite rods tend to break very easily with the slightest improper use.    The higher the modulus in the material, normally, the lighter the rod will be.  Most of these ultra high modulus blanks will also snap like a piece of spaghetti with very light shear pressure.  If you place one against the side of a drift boat and lean on it slightly, you will see what I mean.  It will break with almost no effort and create a very sickening sound.  The ultra lightweight rods are normally more expensive as well.  If a high modulus blank is priced cheaply, you'd better find out why before you buy it. 

Many of the Montana guides that I routinely talk to still fish with the old Winston WT (IM6) rods.  These were and still are - effective, pleasant, dependable, and very workable rods.  They will catch just as many fish as any of the newer models.  "IM" stands for Intermediate modulus.  We believe it to be more durable than many of the newer high modulus blanks.  Winston still makes these rods and blanks in special orders.   We think that the Montana guides will still be using them as long as they are still around.

For extreme durability, fiberglass is still the choice.