The ideal weight fly rod?

Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
This is a subject that we seem to dance around a lot but never really come to terms with. While being one I find generally interesting, it's also one that's important to newbies who are contemplating their first fly rod.

Most of us who've fished for a while know full well that rod and line weights are species-and condition-specific. If fly rods are like golf clubs, there's a reason that pros carry 14 different sticks in their bag. Each is specifically designed and intended for different situations and conditions.

Bob's post in the thread on 6WT line recommendations suggesting that a 6WT rod is a 'true' fly rod and everything else is a specialty rod got me to wondering: Is a 6WT the ideal rod or is it the worst possible compromise between rods for big fish and small ones, sort of like playing a round of golf with a 5 iron?

I guess most people would call me a specialist because I just fish for trout in freshwater. No steelhead, no salmon, no SRCs in the salt. And since most trout are a lot smaller than steelhead or salmon, I have little need for heavier rods. Consequently, my personal arsenal skews toward lighter rods. I have a 2WT, three 3WTs, four 4WTs, a 5WT, two 6WTs, a 7WT and an 8WT. I guess if I was a golfer, you could say I favor the short game.

For me, the ideal rod would probably be either a moderately-fast 3WT for delicate presentions of tiny dries to small fish in streams or alpine lakes or a stiffer 4WT that can pitch a streamer or chironomid rig in a gale on Rocky Ford or Lake Lenice.

How does your own rod closet reflect the type of fishing you prefer?

What would you call the 'ideal ' rod for each type of fishing you do?

If you could fish with just one rod for a year, what would it be?


Idiot Savant
2 3wts
1 4wt
3 5wts
1 5/6wt
1 8wt
numerous blanks...

Yup, fresh water trout is most often my target also. But this summer I'd like to hit bluegill, smallies, and some carp.

My one rod for the year would be the SP 509 hands down.


Good things come to those who wade...
Well, as you've said it depends on the quarry and conditions, but I focus almost exclusively on trout in mid-small size streams, and I started off on my FF adventure with a fast 5wt. at the advice of a friend. Now after almost 6 years I've nearly abandonded that in favor of a mid-action 4 wt, and have been using a fast short 3 wt. on smaller streams, but not necessarily smaller fish. I find as I've become more experienced I like the challenge of larger fish on lighter gear, and I'm able to control the action (thru experience over time with heavier to lighter rods and tippets) to minimize harm to the fish.

On the other hand my 3 wt. is not well suited to flinging weighted buggers, but with practice even that is manageable.

If I had one choice though, a moderate action 9' 4 Wt. has proven to be very suitable and adequate for most conditions, including large, fast water and large fish. That's where experience makes all the difference.

Tight lines.

Old Man

Just an Old Man
Well my idea of one rod would be a 5wt. It's big enough for rivers yet not to big for lakes on windy days. And I also like to fish for trout as they are easier to catch that Steelhead. The only reason I fish in the winter time for Steelhaead is that most places that I fish for trout are closed after October 31st.

And as for rod count I only have 5 rods,a 4wt,5wt,6wt,8wt,and a 14' 9/10 spey rod.

Tried a light weight rod one time and I found out I didn't like it so My main every day rod is my 5wt.


Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here
New River Mike

Interesting question...

Before I "took the plunge" I read every "beginning flyfishing book" I could get my hands on. I didn't have any flyfishing friends and it seemed a good way to get the information I needed to get started.

Most if not all authors demurred on the question of a "best all-around rod" but most seemed to suggest that if you wanted one rod to start with, it should be a nine-foot, six-weight rod. And so I did.

I was a long way from deciding what I would most likely be targetting, though I began with trout and smallmouth bass, and although I had my misgivings, wanted to believe that the one rod would hold me for a long, long time.

Denial is not a river in Egypt, as the saying goes.

Two years later I'm up to four rods, which based on my unscientific observations of this membership, makes me highly under-equipped!

Seriously, I'm still figuring it all out. I've done a little fishing for everything available in the PacNW and I've enjoyed it all, so I'm not yet ready to dial in on a specific area.

My current rods range from a 5 to an 8/9. The original 6 wt is gone. If I had to start over again, I think I would have started with a five, since more of my fishing has been for trout than anythng else. I also might have elected to start with a four-piece rod. I've cast a three-weight a few times and felt I wasn't ready for anything that delicate yet.

I guess if I had to keep just one rod, it would be the five-weight travel rod.

My two coins...


Active Member
In my closet:
1 3/4 wt
2 5wt
1 6wt
1 8wt
1 8/9 wt

Since I moved to SE Wyoming for grad school in August, I use my 6wt almost exclusively. I've caught carp to 10+ lbs and the biggest rainbows and brown trout of my life. Big streamers like clousers and double bunnies are the norm. I tried using a 5wt for a while but the wind blows an average of 15mph all day. Some guys use a 7 or 8 wt just because of the wind. The floating shooting head that I made for summer steelhead works great here for throwing heavy double-nymph rigs and making short casts to carp in the wind.

This summer I plan to use my 3/4 wt in the creeks and beaver ponds. Just haven't explored those opportunities yet.

I think my heavy rods are going to collect dust until I move back to the coast.:bawling



Be the guide...
I couldn't pick just one. The great thing about the wide variety of low cost decent quality\performance rods now days is that instead of dropping $500 for your first setup and hoping it covers all your needs, you can drop $150 (per setup) and get 2, 3 or 4 setups and not really worry about it.

As you indicated, the key is determing the type of fish and fishing you will be doing. There is no such thing as the 'one true fly rod'.

I fish the forks of the snoqualmie and local lakes and alpine lakes quite a bit. Anything bigger than a 4wt seems like overkill in those places, but my Sage DS2 4wt seems like the perfect fit, yet still allows me to fish the Yakima and eastide lakes where bigger fish are common. It also works ok for SRCs in the lower Snoqualmie.

The other rod I use a lot is my 8wt. This works fine for my occasional salt water trips, and all salmon and steelheading I do.

My next purchase will be 6wt to cover the middle ground situations a little better - beach fishing for SRCs, river SRCs, summer steelhead, pink salmon, and dollie fishing.

We each need to figure out what works best for our individual needs. The other benefit of not breaking the bank on your first rod\reel is that if you find your mis-identified your needs, or they start to change over time, you won't feel bad about letting that initial lower cost rod take some shelf time...

Sharp Steelie

Great post, Pretty much have 3/4 wt bamboo up to a
9 wt graphite that have accumulated over the years.
If I had to only choose one wt fly rod period, think
I would go with a 6 wt 9 to 9.5' Just a little on the
heavy side for small trout, a little on the light
side for Salmon and Steelhead, would do okay for bass
and panfish, strong enough to cast into a wind with
a weight forward line. Just trying to apply the law
of averages. For trout prefer a 4-5 wt, for bass a
6 wt, for steelhead a 7 wt, For large salmon a 8/9
wt. Just my .02 cents worth.
Happy Fishing:thumb
I'm with Chad.

Before moving to Washington from the East coast I owned only 4-weight rods. Since moving here steelheading required an 8 weight. I've landed 20" bulls on my 4wt, but the larger rivers out here seem to demand just a bit more... hence my move to a 6wt. A 6wt will cover the larger rivers well allowing me to comfortably fish for humpies, summer steelhead, and even the salt. That being said, I think a 6wt is great for out here, while a 4wt was perfect for back home... but of course an 8wt is great for winter steelheading.

Hey, that's not one rod!! :beathead

Brad Niemeyer

Old School Member
My rods :

5-weight Lamiglass trout ( dry fly setup)
6-weight Sage trout ( nymphs small streamers)
8-weight Lamiglass ( big trout streamers, bass, carp , salmon, steelhead if I could hook one, ...and Bonefish?)

The 8 weight really throws the line with a big fly (80 ft)...It made fishing big water MUCH easier. When sight fishing to carp the 6-weight helps me hook up ( accuracy) but the 8-weight fighting butt sure helps fight those brutes!

I think I will eventually buy a 7.5 foot 3 weight for the sno forks

In my youth, fishing back east (CT and NY) a 4 weight was more than enough rod for every situation

Just had this conversation with a friend of mine who is getting into the sport. He was planning to buy an expensive 5 weight. I convinced him to buy two lesser expensive rods and go for a 4 and an 8. There's not many situations that one of these aren't well suited for. If I was limited to a certain number, here's what I'd go with:

One Rod: 5 weight
Two Rods: 4 & 8
Three Rods: 3, 5, 8

Anything beyond three rods is getting into the realm of specialization and personal preference and is, I think, beyond the scope of fortuna's inquiry.

Thank God this question is only hypothetical and I'm not really limited to one or two rods. I was beginning to feel claustrophobic just thinking about it.;(


Another Flyfisherman
2x 8wt
8/9 spey

My 3wt is my go to everyday rod in a trout only environment. 5wt for Idaho wind, bigger water, sea-run Cutts......and may try rising a steelhead to it this year.

7wt....collects dust

8wts - most washington applications of large fish. I see No use for that 8wt if I ever have to quit steelheading

spey rod........speaks for it self

OK - here is my take on an all-arounder. For steelhead / silvers/ and pinks I am gonna say a 10ft 7wt will serve well, allows for good fights etc.

Chums 8wt or more. I did them on a 7wt and it was NOT ENOUGH. It was my very first experience in washington, with a salmon....and my poor 7wt was HURTIN with a big ol chum on it.

For trout only type applications - 9ft 5wt is a good all-arounder. Once you start experimenting with lighter set-ups.....I dont think you can beat a 3wt for any trout! Alpine on a 3wt. Hogs from Rocky Ford (if you find one that actually fights) - Fun on a 3wt. Wind gets a little tricky on a 3 but where there is a will - there is a way. Thats my pennies on that subject. I am confident I could survive any fishing situation with 3, 5, and 8wts. Someone will probably sharp shoot this - so NO I have no desire to chase kings (at the current point) :thumb
Perfect comparison to golf clubs... I'll tuck that one away for the girlfriend!

Don't you honestly think that owning anything smaller than a 4wt is only
a novelty? I have fished down to a 1wt and a tiny fish on my 7' 4wt one ounce
feels just the same. Owning a 1,2 or 3wt is like owning a two handed putter.


IMO, my 5wt 9' will cover just about any trout situation, and my 8wt 9'6" will cover all Steelhead/small salmon catagory.
I only have 6 rods total and mainly use my 5wt and 8wt 99% of the time. The others are for bring along friends,etc.
If I was given only 1 choice to bring to the grave, it would have to be my GLoomis GLX 7wt 10'. Light enough for trout and all the backbone for Steelhead...

Peter ><>

John 14:6


Active Member
1-4wt fenwick glass 7.5'
1-6wt Sage XP 696 9'9" (built by me)
1-7wt herders (sp?) glass 8'6"
1-8wt Sage RPL 9'6" built by a friend


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