Pro Tip: Rod Action is Really Rod-and-Line Action

A well-matched rod and line will easily throw a tight loop.
Photo courtesy Orvis Fly Fishing School

Fly rods come in a variety of “actions,” from slow to super-fast. As we have written about before, the action of a rod is determined by a variety of factors, such as materials, taper, and hardware. But it’s also important to know that any discussion of rod action must also take into account the role of the fly line. Because line mass affects how a fly rod loads and unloads, a given rod will perform differently when paired with different lines. It helps, then, to look at the rod and the line as an integrated system.

Slow rods (left) bend deep into the blank, and fast-action rods (right) bend more toward the tip.

When you are evaluating rods, string them up with the line you’ll actually be using when you fish. The taper of the line is important because it determines how much mass will be outside the rod tip at a given length, say 35 feet. For instance, a line with a long front taper will not load a rod the same way a bass-bug taper—with more mass concentrated at the tip—will. By using your line and casting at your usual fishing distance, you’ll get a better sense for how a particular rod will feel and perform when you finally get on the water.

Some anglers choose to overline or underline their rods to tweak the action, although it is difficult to underline some very stiff, fast rods. For finer adjustments, there are even lines available in half-weight line sizes.

One thought on “Pro Tip: Rod Action is Really Rod-and-Line Action”

  1. Over the years I’ve built a few rods. The first one was in 1959 so I’ve worked with cane, solid glass, spun glass, fibre glass, S glass and other materials. I’ve built over heads, spin, game, short strokers, fly in all of their weight categories and hardware has a huge impact on how well they work. Weight, size, shape, number and spacing of guides all change the results.

    A good example of this is my latest build on a Sage Bass II Peacock blank. Instead of 8 guides and a tip I’ve gone for 9 guides and a tip. Instead of two small stripping guides I’ve used a 25mm, a 20mm and a 16mm Fiji SiC guide and instead of six snakes I’ve used three 12mm and three 10mm low profile twin foot Fuji SiC guides with a 10mm SiC tip. The results are better line speed and less line slap.

    When a mate had a cast with it he was so impressed he bought a factory Peacock and was disappointed with the results compared to my custom build. Yes my build has a heavier swing weight but it loads quicker, has more line speed, produces tighter loops and produces better distance with the same effort.
    Cheers, BM

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