Selecting the Right Fly Rod

Selecting the Right Fly Rod

Selecting the Right Fly Rod


The fly rod is the focal point of your fly fishing gear, so selecting the right fly rod length, weight and action will make a huge difference to your casting performance in a given situation.

Typical Fly Rod Lengths: 

6′ to 7’6″ tight spots, small streams and typically smaller species of fish.

8’6″ to 9′ for larger water bodies where casting is easier and casting distance is critical, larger species of fish.

10′ and above: Typically spey and switch rods, large bodies of water and large species of fish.

Fly Rod Weight:

0-4: Small streams to spring creeks, targeting small trout, small grayling or panfish.

4-6: Average-sized trout and grayling, small bass, for medium to larger streams 

6-8: Large rivers, targeting large bass, trout, salmon.

8-10: Bass fishing to salmon and bonefish, up to striper and smaller tarpon.

11-12: Yellowfin tuna, large tarpon, king salmon, and dolphin

Action/Stiffness/Speed: Stiff rods require a faster casting speed, soft rods a slower casting speed. This means you need to speed up your casting stroke for a fast rod and slow it down for a slower rod.

X-Fast, Fast, Moderate/Medium, Slow and all permutations between. 

Selecting the Right Fly Rod

Action is usually a matter of personal preference. The best way to find out if you like a fast, moderate or slow action fly rod is to cast as many different fly rods as you can. For light rods, making delicate presentations, slower rods are great. For fishing the flats with larger fly rods making longer casts a fast fly rod is the rule.

Smith Creek Products

Smith Creek Products

Fly Rod ‘N Reel is now carrying a third Smith Creek product, the Trash Fish™ – Spent Line Wrangler.

Shop Smith Creek Products Here: Smith Creek Products

Smith Creek Trash Fish

Smith Creek Trash Fish

This is a great, handy little tool which helps to maintain a clean environment. Check out all of the Smith Creek Products on my website, you’ll love them!  The Net Holster and the Rod Clip are must have for the serious fly fisher!

Smith Creek Net Holster

Smith Creek Net Holster

Smith Creek Rod Clip







Custom Fly Rods by Mike

Custom Fly Rods by Mike

Fly Rods are the biggest single expense for the fly fisherman so I decided years ago to make custom fly rods for myself and now I offer them to the public. Rods range from $50 to $700+. Having fly fished for 25 years I have a collection of rods from a 1 wt for Brookies up to an 11 wt for Tarpon so the costs can add up as you grow into the sport. What is nice about a Custom Fly Rod is that you are able to choose a high end rod blank with your choice of components and pay less for the finished product. Of course component selection will drive the cost, but in the end you can choose nicer components (than the rod manufacturers provide) for your Custom Fly Rod and still pay less than the retail price for a manufactured rod. I offer a 100% no cost warranty (to the original owner) if the rod breaks due to defective components (defective rod blank, cork grip, reel seat), no service fee or shipping charges apply. If the rod is broken due to any other reason than repair costs will apply. These are typically less than $100 if it is a single break on a rod section (multiple breaks may cost more). When you factor in my competitive rod prices, component upgrades and personal service then you are surely ahead.

custom fly rods by mike

I offer Custom Fly Rods made with your choice of blanks: Sage, TFO, Winston, St Croix and others. Choose a blank and then choose components from Struble, PacBay, REC, Snake Brand, American Tackle and Batson to name a few. I can also make custom cork grips like the one shown below.  I will work with you to ensure that you get the right rod blank and components to meet both your budget and casting style. Check out custom fly rod components here:

Custom Fly Rods by mike Grip Sage ONE


Fly Fishing Hats, Lamson and SIMMS

Fly Fishing Hats, Lamson and SIMMS

hats for fly fishing


Lamson LED Hat

Lamson’s LED fishing hat features three hidden LED lights that illuminate your early-morning fly-tying or honey-hole scouting, and can be used in conjunction for maximum lighting. $17.99 at Fly Rod ‘N Reel. Shop Hats

hats for fly fishing

Simms Microfiber Long Bill Cap

Simms Microfiber Long Bill Cap – UPF 50+ $15.99 at Fly Rod ‘N Reel Shop Hats


Mayfly Life Cycle

Mayfly Life Cycle – Overview

The mayfly life cycle is one of the most fascinating and fleeting stories in the natural world.  One of the many characteristics that makes mayflies unique is the two distinct winged adult stages of their life cycle. The nymph emerges from the water as a dull-coloured sub-imago (or dun) that seeks shelter on bankside vegetation. Mayfly Life CycleAfter a period of a couple of hours or more, the dun sheds its skin to transform into the brightly coloured imago (or spinner).  It is not clear why mayflies have retained this unique step in their life cycle, however it is thought that they may not be able to achieve the change from nymph to sexually mature adult in one step. During the adult stage, mayflies do not eat, this is another unique characteristic of the mayfly.

Mayfly Life Cycle – Spinner Mating

Mayfly mating starts with the male spinners forming a swarm above the water and the females joining the swarm in order to mate.  The male grabs a passing female with its elongated front legs and the pair mate in flight. After copulation, the male releases the female, which then descends to the surface of the water where she lays her eggs. Once mated she will fall, spent, onto the water surface and die, with her wings flat on the surface, where fish pick them off at their leisure. Males will eventually die as well either falling in the water or dying nearby.

Mayfly Life Cycle

Mayfly Life Cycle – Nymph

The eggs fall to the bottom of the water where they stick to plants and stones.  They will hatch anywhere between a few days to a few weeks depending on the water conditions and the species.  

Mayfly Life Cycle

The nymphs will then spend ~one year foraging on the bottom before emerging as an adult fly.

Mayfly Life Cycle – Emerger

When it is time to emerge, the nymphs make their way to the surface where they pull themselves free of their nymphal shuck and emerge as a sub-imago or dun. While they rest here to dry their newly exposed wings, they are at their most vulnerable to attack from fish. 

Mayfly Life Cycle

The duns that don’t get eaten by the trout quickly fly up to nearby vegetation and morph into spinners within a few hours and the cycle resumes.

Fly Fishing the Davidson River NC

Fly Fishing the Davidson River NCFly Fishing the Davidson River NC

Jacqui and Chris wanted to learn how to fly fish during our trip to Asheville NC so we visited the Davidson River.  We spent an hour casting on the grass then we hit the river.  It started to pour but these guys soldiered on.  Jac and Chris each caught a Brookie, both pretty nice size!

Fy Fishing the Davidson River NC

Broad River NC near Chimney Rock

Beautiful stream that does hold trout but didn’t get a chance to fish it.

Fly Fishing the Rapidan River with Brett and Jack

Fly Fishing the Rapidan River with Brett and Jack

fly fishing the rapidan river

Brett & Jack

Brett and Jack wanted to do some fly fishing on the Rapidan (WorkShop #2), so we spent Thursday searching for the beautiful Brookies that inhabit the Shenandoah National Park streams and we were very successful!

fly fishing the rapidan riverfly fishing the rapidan river

They took WorkShop #1 last year and at that time I marvelled at Jack’s fly casting prowess for such a young age. He’s quite comfortable throwing 60 ft of flyline with little effort which is quite an accomplishment for a young guy only fly casting a year! See Brett’s testimonial here: Brett’s Testimonial

Fly Fishing on the Rapidan River with Brett and Jack


Fly Fishing Shallow Water With a Gold Ribbed Hares Ear Nymph

Gold Ribbed Hares Ear

Fly Fishing Shallow Water With a Gold Ribbed Hares Ear Nymph          

(Adapted from an email by Craig Moore)

If you are out on the stream and you encounter trout feeding below the surface in shallow water than you have to adapt your fishing technique to match those conditions. If the feeding fish are only a few feet below the surface then you need to use a shallow nymphing technique. A Gold Ribbed Hares Ear (GRHE) nymph is an ideal fly to use if you want to imitate an aquatic mayfly nymph that has lost its grip with the river bed and is drifting in the current. You have to control the depth of your fly by using a small indicator (Glo TMB, small piece of poly yarn) or dry fly that is buoyant enough to support the GRHE nymph dangling below it.

TMB plusI prefer to use a dry fly because there is a chance that the trout will take it. A Parachute Adams is a great generic fly and it floats well.  Tie the dry fly to the end of the leader and then tie a short length of tippet to the bend of the dry fly hook using a clinch knot. The length of tippet is adjusted to match the depth at which the fish are feeding, and the nymph is tied on last. In order to save time on the river it is a good idea to have several dropper rigs ready to go but with varying lengths of tippet for different water conditions.  I use a FR’NR foam rig holder to accomplish this.


If the trout are feeding close to the surface then use an unweighted nymph with a dropper tippet of 18 inches. Cast the rig so that the dry fly is off to one side and the current drifts the nymph into the trout’s feeding lane. Most trout are lazy, they will layup in a place where the current is slower but near faster moving water that will enable them to see the tasty morsels that drift by. If something takes their fancy they just have to move a few inches to grab it.

shallow trout

So as not to spook the feeding trout it is essential to cast upstream from their position and let the flies drift down towards them. This also has the advantage of allowing time for the nymph to sink to the desired depth. As your rig drifts towards you, control the slack by lifting the rod tip up or stripping in excess line. Make sure that you leave a small amount of slack line so that your fly drifts down to your unsuspecting prey, drag free. 

Watch the fish as the fly approaches it, if it rejects the GRHE nymph, try a small sz 20 zebra midge (some days thats all the trout will take). But if he moves towards the nymph and opens his mouth, or the strike indicator hesitates/stops then lift the rod and the fun begins!