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Choosing a Fly Rod: Fly Rod Action - Steve Burke

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The important thing to note about fly rod action when choosing a rod is that you should not confuse the term with the action of a spinning or bait cast rod. The term used for fly rods as opposed to those rods has a different meaning. Fly rod action refers to the way it bends along the blank. Action for the other types of rods usually refers to the weight of line it can handle. This is an important point to remember because later, will be discussing the weight of a fly rod and what this means.

Fast Action or Tip-Flex

Fast action fly rods are stiffer rods that only bend about one-third of the way down the rod blank when it is cast. In other words, the bend (action) occurs mostly in the tip – the reason for the term Tip-Flex. An experienced fly fisherman can use a fast action rod to cast a fly line farther with less effort because the bottom two-thirds are stiffer, but it takes an experienced fly fisherman to be accurate with them. Mistakes in the casting technique usually translate into less accuracy in the cast.  Fast action rods are good for casting in the wind because they generate the greatest line speed.

Medium Action or Mid-Flex

As the name implies, most of the flex in these rods is spread to about mid-way down the blank when a line is cast. Beginning fly fisherman usually have more success with a medium action rod because it is more forgiving when it comes to mistakes in the casting technique. These rods are best for casting large flies, like many used for salmon and steelhead.

Progressive Action, Full-Flex, or Slow

Progressive action fly rods are also known as slow or parabolic action rods. These rods bend almost all the way down to the butt of the blank when cast and therefore are the most accurate. Another way to think of this is in terms of the way the rod is “loaded”. The rod bends progressively down the blank, from the tip to the butt as the weight of the line and the fly moves beyond the tip of the rod in the air. If you have not done any fly fishing you might be able to visualize this by thinking of a weight attached to a pole by a rubber band. When you swing the pole forward or backward, the ball moves back and forth, stretching the rubber band, increasing the load. A fly road is loaded in a similar fashion, except in this case the stretch (bend) is along the rod blank. A progressive action or full-flex rod bends more and more as the load is increased and more power is applied. It is much more difficult to get distance with these rods, but they are very accurate in the hands of an experienced fly fisherman. Another benefit is that these roods reduce false casting and permit a greater amount of sunken line to be lifted out of the water into the back cast.

Also See:

Choosing a Fly Rod: Fly Rod Materials

Choosing a Fly Rod: Fly Rod Weight

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