Parts of a Fly Rod – Guide With Pictures

Jeff
| Last Updated April 14, 2021

The main components that you will need to take up fly fishing successfully are: the rod, reel, backing line, fly line, leader, tippet, and fly—with a hook attached.

You can purchase these seven items from tackle shops or online.

This article will provide you with a brief overview of this enjoyable and very relaxing activity. 

Photo credit: troutster.com

Parts of a Fly Rod Explained

The table below will summarize each part, then a more detailed explanation of each will follow.

Topic Type

Best For

Rod

Casting to a distance using action

Reel

Retrieving and storing fishing line

Ferrule

Connects sections of a rod or blank

Guides

Keeps line away from rod

Fighting Butt

Protects parts of angler’s body

Backing and Arbor Knot

Connects backing to reel spool

Fly Line and Albright Knot

Connects fly line to backing

Leader Line and Nail Knot

Connects leader line to fly line

Tippet and Surgeon’s Knot

Connects tippet to leader line

Rod

Fly rods have evolved in terms of the materials used to manufacture them over the years. First made from wood, they progressed to split bamboo, then steel. They then went on to hollow wooden rods wrapped in fiberglass and, finally, to today's graphite rods. 

Graphite rods have brought faster action rods, which are lightweight and use more of the tip to project the fly line when casting. If cast correctly, the rod does all the work for you, one of the main advantages of the fast-action fly fishing rod.

Reel

The reel's primary purpose is that it holds your fishing line, which is retrieved by rotating the handle fitted thereon. The reel seat is where the fly reel is connected to the rod. 

Most reels also feature a drag system that controls the release speed of the line from the reel.

A high-quality reel that is resistant to corrosion should last you a lifetime. If not, you can purchase reels at any tackle shop.

It is imperative to ensure that this connection is secure because many fish have gotten away due to the rod and reel separating during a battle.

Ferrule

A ferrule is a hollow metal tube that connects the sections of a rod or blank. A fly rod blank is the extended flexible pole component. Essentially, it’s a fishing pole before the handles, grips, guides, and reel seats are attached. It is the foundation of your fishing rod and can be split into pieces for traveling purposes.

Photo credit: quora.com

Guides

The backing line is threaded from the reel through the guides, which are smooth metal rings (also known as “eyes”) attached to the rod's underside. These guides usually start with an “eye” measuring a specific diameter just above the rod handle, then placed at intervals—in reducing diameter—up to the tip of the rod.

Guides serve two purposes: keeping the line away from the rod, thus avoiding friction through their smooth design. Secondly, they contribute to a rod's casting distance and sensitivity. You can find different makes and sizes at tackle shops.

Fighting Butt

The fighting butt is a short extension to the reel seat's back, generally made from something soft like foam or cork. Its purpose is to keep the reel away from your stomach while fighting a fish.

Backing and Arbor Knot

As mentioned in our introduction, this is one of the seven components needed. The backing is the first—skinny but strong—line attached to the fly line on one end and the spool of the reel on the other.

The knot used for the spool attachment is known as an arbor knot. It’s one of the most basic knots, consisting of two overhand knots. Its purpose is to ensure that the line remains attached to the spool.

Fly Line and Albright Knot

The fly line, weighted and much thicker than the backing line, is buoyant, typically 80' to 90' long. The weight and thickness allow the angler to cast out for a reasonable distance.

The Albright knot connects the backing line to the much thicker fly line, making a secure connection between them. The fly line typically comes in fluorescent colors.

Photo credit: giphy.com

Leader Line and Nail Knot

Leader lines in fly fishing usually range between 6 feet and 12 feet in length. The right one to choose will depend on prevailing conditions, but the experts recommend starting with a 9-foot tapered leader. 

The leader's thick end is tied to the fly line using a Nail knot. Some fly lines and leader lines come with a loop-to-loop system, which allows for easy attachment of one to the other.

Tippet and Surgeon's Knot

The tippet is a very thin line attached to the narrow end of the leader line that submerges quickly once a wet fly is attached to the other end. The knot used to connect the tippet to the leader is called a Surgeon's knot. 

The final attachment to a fly fishing setup is the actual fly—with a disguised hook. This fly is tied to the loose end of the tippet using a clinch knot.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Fly Rod

Before choosing the fly rod best for you, there are some significant aspects to be considered. These are:

Fish Species Sought

The best guideline here is the heavier the fish you are after, the heavier your equipment should be. You may be targeting anything from tiny trout in streams to heavier trout, carp, and pike in larger lakes and reservoirs. You can encounter fish like salmon, snook, steelhead trout, and redfish going to the surf.

Your Fishing Location

The question of where you will be fishing also highlights several things to consider: the differences between a small creek, stream, river, dam, lake, or reservoir to medium and larger ones. Even the surf, for that matter. Will you be buying or renting rods?

Also, think about the variations in the body of waters' movement and clarity, its inhabitants, the wind, and the distances you will need to cast. Considering all of these variables, we would recommend that you choose something that's versatile—or even several rods. The latter would, of course, depend on your preferences and circumstances.

Fly Rod Action

The way that fly fishing rods are made to flex is also known as rod action. Action describes where the rod will bend when pressure or weight is applied to it. It’s one of the most important aspects to consider for a beginner with action ranging from slow to fast-flexed. A rod rated somewhere in the medium range would be the best for starting purposes.

A fast-action rod will bend in its top, medium more in the middle, and slow in the bottom third down towards the handle to clarify further. Most rods on the market nowadays are either fast or medium-action, with very few slow-action models.

In fly fishing, the rod needs to have a comfortable feel to its user. Apart from making a fishing experience more memorable, this feeling brings more confidence to the angler.

Fly Rod Weight

Fly rod weight does not refer to the rod itself's weight but to the weight of the line that is best suited to use with the rod. Make sure that rod and line are matched correctly from the outset.

An example of a mismatch would be where you attempt to cast a line rated lower than your rod's actual line rating. The effect of this will be that the rod won’t bend sufficiently to allow a successful cast. Similarly, a heavier line on a lighter-rated rod would cause too much bend during a cast. An average fly rod weight would receive a number five or six rating.

Conclusion

We have described the parts of a fly rod in as much detail as possible. Readers need to bear in mind that there are only seven equipment items required to help you become a good fly fisherman.

What should stand out is that fly rods and their setups are very different from the conventional rod and reel fishing setups. Fly fishing is more accessible in that one can do it in all bodies of water that contain fish.

There are several different knots to learn for fly fishing, and there are many videos freely available online covering this subject. So, if you enjoy the outdoors, why not give the rewarding activity of fly fishing a try.

People Also Ask

There are many questions regarding fly fishing, so we have provided answers to those most commonly asked. We trust that the topics of—and replies to—many others that may have come up are covered in this article.

How Long Should the Leader Be on a Fly Rod?

Leaders for fly fishing generally range from 6 feet to 12 feet in length. The correct one to choose will depend on the conditions, but a good starting point would be a 9-foot leader.

This length will enable you to easily change your tippets when it comes to spooky fish or water that's too clear. It can also be cut down by a meter or two for more effortless casting in the wind.

What is an 8-Weight Fly Rod Good For?

Probably the most versatile of all fly rods, an eight-weight fly rod will allow you to fish for some of the larger species like salmon, steelhead, snook, and redfish. You will also be able to cast with heavier flies than when using a lighter-weight rod. An eight-weight additionally makes fishing in windy conditions somewhat easier.

Jeff

My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at admin@biggamelogic.com. Read more about Big Game Logic.