What Is the Best All Around Fly Rod Weight?


If you’re new to fly fishing, you’re probably overwhelmed with the details. Most people think fishing is an easy mission. You merely carry your rod, your bait, and you hit the water looking for some fish.

When you get closer to the real thing, you understand why that’s a wrong assumption. There are a lot of considerations associated with fly fishing. You need to choose the right fly rod weight, line weight, and bait. That’s aside from the weather conditions that can make or break your water trip.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at fly rod weights. What is the best all around fly rod weight? Stick around to find out!

fly fishing rod on dock

Fly Rod Weights in a Nutshell

If you’re still a beginner to fly fishing, the term ‘fly rod weight’ probably confuses you. Some people think it’s the rod’s weight or how much weight the rod can hold. Although these seem logical, both are incorrect.

The fly rod weight doesn’t have to do with the rod itself; it’s a reference to the fishing line’s size. For instance, if you have a 5-weight fly rod, the number means you should use it with a 5-weight fishing line, or you can increase it or decrease it by one step.

In other words, you can also use a 4-weight or a 6-weight line, but not more or less. The same goes for weights more and less than 5.

What Is the Best All Around Fly Rod Weight?

A lot of fishers and fishing guides agree that the best all around fly rod weight is a 5-weight rod. In terms of versatility, a 9-foot 5-weight rod enables you to fish in creeks, rivers, or lakes. It works in salt water, and it’s suitable for catching trouts, redfish, and bonefish. It’s one of the most versatile rods out there, but can we label it as the best?

As versatile as a 5-weight rod is, it doesn’t work for everything. So, while it may be the best for most fishing applications, it’s not the best all-around. We can’t determine a single weight as the best all-around because of the many variables.

For example, an 8-weight rod is typically better for catching heavy fish and fighting strong winds. A 5-weight rod will be rendered useless in these conditions.

As a rule of thumb, a 5-weight rod is perfect for casting fish around 10–20 inches long. If you go higher or lower than this range, you’ll need different weights.

To choose the best rod for your fishing, you need to determine a couple of factors first. Here’s how to choose it.

How to Choose the Best Fly Rod Weight?

What fish do you intend to catch? And how is the weather in your area? There are many questions you should answer before choosing your fly rod weight. Here’s a roundup of all the essential considerations.

Fish Size

If you mainly fish near small streams and creeks, a 5-weight rod may be heavier than you need. You’ll probably be fishing brook trouts and similar-sized fish, so a 4 or a 3-weight rod will suffice. It’ll give you better control of the fish, and your experience will be more enjoyable because of the light line weight.

On the other hand, if you mostly fish in large rivers, you’ll probably be casting for large, heavy fish. In that case, a 5 or 6-weight rod will be ideal.

Depending on the species you intend to catch, you can go higher or lower. For example, casting salmon will need a heavy line, so a 6-weight may not be a good option. You’ll be better off with higher weights.

Wind

Wind conditions can make or break a fishing trip. Strong wind typically makes your mission more challenging, especially if we’re talking about 30–40 mph or higher speeds. If your fishing area is windy often, you’ll need a heavy fishing line. A 5-weight rod won’t suffice. Instead, opt for a 6 or 7-weight rod, depending on the wind’s speed and the fish’s size. You may even need to upgrade to 8 or 9-weight rods if the wind is too much to handle.

Fishing Type

What are you slinging? Dry flies, streamers, or nymphs? Depending on the answer, you should choose your rod weight.

If you’re only slinging dry flies, a 5-weight rod is an ideal choice. On the other hand, streamers and nymphs are substantially heavier, so a 6-weight rod seems more practical. You can also increase it depending on the other factors.

The Best Fly Rod Weight for Salmon

Catching salmon is fun, especially if the fish is large. It’s challenging, but it’s quite an achievement if you do it right. To choose the best fly rod weight for salmon, you’ll want to consider the type of salmon you intend to cast.

King Salmon

King salmon is the most common species in fly fishing, although it’s heavy and challenging. A single fish can weigh around 80 pounds, putting out a decent fight when you cast. Only swinging streamers manage to catch Kings most of the time.

A heavy fish calls for a solid rod. When fishing King salmons, you’re attempting to catch some of the largest species that can fall for a fly rod. Going at it with a small rod isn’t convenient, and the results won’t be pretty.

In this case, your best bet is a 10-weight rod; it’ll have enough power to lift the fish to the surface.

Chum Salmon

Chum Salmons are smaller and lighter than Kings; they only weigh 20–30 pounds. On top of that, they’re not aggressive, so they won’t give you a hard time. They’re more like a ‘deadweight.’ They don’t move around much, but their size may be a challenge in strong currents.

You’d be okay casting Chums with an 8-weight rod. If you can upgrade to a 9-weight one, it’ll be good news for your arms. It’s the better choice for large rivers, as well.

Silver Salmon

Silver salmon, or Coho salmon, as some people call them, are significantly smaller than Kings, and they’re a bit smaller than Chums. However, they’re quite powerful, and they like to put on a show when they charge for the streamers. They especially love leaping into the air, contrary to Chums, who don’t fight much against a rod.

When fishing for silver salmon, an 8-weight single-handed rod is fine. The fish only weighs around 20 pounds, so a heavier line will be overkill. Just bear in mind that Silvers are mighty, so you’ll need a considerate lifting power.

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye salmon is smaller than all the previously mentioned species. A single fish reaches an average of 9–10 pounds. Compared to the King salmon’s weight, you’d think lifting it is as easy as catching a fly. However, Sockeyes are like Silvers—they like to put on a fight, and they’re incredibly strong.

A 7-weight rod will be a good option, and an 8-weight rod is an even better upgrade. Some people use 6-weight rods, considering the small size of the Sockeyes, but it’ll take you a long time to catch a Sockeye using it.

Pink Salmon

Pink salmon is the smallest species on this list. Its size isn’t too different from a Sockeye, except it’s smaller and lighter. An adult Pink salmon can weigh around 8–9 pounds. A 6-weight rod will be perfect for catching it. You may even manage to do it with a 5-weight rod if the conditions are in your favor.

The Best Fly Rod Weight for Trout

The 5-weight rod is the most popular choice when it comes to catching trouts for a lot of reasons. People consider it the ‘middle ground’ because it can do it all to an extent. However, there are better options depending on the fishing conditions.

For starters, when fishing in small rivers or streams using streamers or dry flies, a 4-weight rod is the best option for you. It’ll provide a more enjoyable experience because of the lighter feel. Additionally, it’s more effective when it comes to presenting the flies. Above all that, it can withstand some breeze, and it’s capable of casting heavy fish.

If you’re using tiny flies, and your tippet is light, a 3-weight rod can make your experience even more enjoyable. However, it’ll only be able to catch small trouts.

If you’re fishing for trouts in bigger water, a 6-weight rod makes more sense, especially if it’s very windy. You’ll want to consider the fish’s size as well. If you’re aiming for big trouts, upgrading to a 7-weight rod seems logical.

The Best Fly Rod Weight for Smallmouth Bass

Many fly fishermen love fishing for Smallmouth Bass—mostly for the challenge associated with it. These fish will attack anything coming their way, and catching them turns into a competition among savvy anglers. Whoever catches the Smallmouth supposedly wins!

When choosing the fly rod weight to catch a fish like this, you’ll want to consider its habitat because the fish’s behavior changes accordingly.

Small Rivers

One of the main advantages of fishing in a small river is the lack of wind, unlike larger rivers and lakes. However, small rivers require more casting accuracy, especially when you’re getting into the Smallmouth’s fishing habitat. The fish is vicious; an innocent mistake can get you hung up.

Small rivers will likely have you casting streamers or medium-sized dry flies. Your best option, in this case, is a 9-foot 7-weight fly rod.

Large Rivers

Large rivers are home to the largest Smallmouth Bass; your mission won’t be as easy as you think. It’ll be similar to fishing for Largemouth Bass.

You’ll probably be casting large flies, so your rod needs to be solid enough to compensate for the loss of aerodynamics. In this case, you’re better off with a 9.5-foot 8-weight rod.

Recommended Fly Rod Weight for Different Fish Species

Salmon, Trout, and Smallmouth Bass aren’t the only species out there. If you’re going out fishing for different fish, you ought to know which weight to pick for each of them. Here’s a brief list:

  • Carp: 6–10
  • Panfish: 0–4
  • Grayling: 3–5
  • Largemouth Bass: 5–9
  • Steelhead: 7–9
  • Redfish: 7–9
  • Bluefin: 12–14
  • Mahi-Mahi: 10–14
  • Tarpon: 10–12
  • Peacock Bass: 8–12
  • Marlin: 14

The Best Uses for Fly Rod Weights

To have an all-inclusive view of the common fly rod weights and how you should use them, here’s a roundup of each weight and its recommended uses.

1–3 Weight Fly Rod

You should only use Low-weight fly rods for fishing in spring creeks and when catching tiny fish, such as panfish. In these cases, they provide the right balance of accuracy, giving you more control of the line.

Low-weight rods are also ideal for fishing for long hours; your arms will thank you the next day. Additionally, they’re perfect if you want to cast dry flies.

4 Weight Fly Rod

4-weight fly rods are the perfect choice for small fish species, including medium-sized trouts and graylings. They’re the right choice for any freshwater fish, and they account for a pleasant fishing experience in small rivers and streams.

All in all, 4-weight rods are pretty versatile; even saltwater anglers can use them with some species.

5 Weight Fly Rod

5-weight fly rods are a favorite of many anglers because of their versatility and wide range of fishing uses. They provide the perfect balance between power and lightweight. They’re powerful enough to handle heavyweight fish but light enough for you to use in small streams.

6 Weight Fly Rod

6-weight rods are the heavier version of 5-weight ones. They provide enough power to make nymph fishing easy, and they handle medium-sized streamers pretty well. Not only that, but they also allow you to make an immediate re-cast, thanks to their ability to pick up the line instantly.

You can use these rods for heavy fishing, such as large trouts, and for lighter applications, such as carp, bass, redfish, and bonefish. They work well in freshwater and saltwater applications—better than the 5-weight rods. Besides, if you want a fighting butt, you’ll find more 6-weight options with it than 5-weight ones.

7 Weight Fly Rod

7-weight rods are fun to cast with; a lot of anglers love them for fighting aggressive species. They catch the same fish as 8-weight rods, but they provide a lighter feeling. Besides, they help you protect lighter tippets and make softer presentations.

7-weight rods can fight modest wind, but they don’t withstand strong currents and windy conditions. They’re ideal for medium-sized streamers and heavy flies, and they’re perfect for targeting saltwater fish, including bonefish and speckled trouts.

8 Weight Fly Rod

The 8-weight is the equivalent of the 5-weight for heavy rods. It’s the most versatile weight in heavy rods because it’s capable of most fishing applications. It’s powerful enough to catch aggressive, large fish, but it’s light enough to keep your experience enjoyable.

You can use an 8-weight rod for all types of flies and lines, and it can withstand all windy conditions, whether mild or strong. Additionally, you can use it with saltwater streamers, bass bugs, and similar large baits.

You can target a lot of fish using an 8-weight rod, including bass, bonefish, big trouts, carp, snook, steelhead, and small salmons.

9 Weight Fly Rod

A 9-weight rod is your weapon of choice for catching large fish and fighting harsh windy days. It doesn’t only withstand wind like it’s nothing, but it’s also no stranger to strong currents, so it’s ideal for bass and saltwater fishing.

You can also use heavy patterns, and baitfish flies on a 9-weight rod without a worry. It’ll present your flies efficiently without a hitch.

The good thing about 9-weight rods is they’re easy to use, despite their heavyweight. You won’t find it challenging to cast them. However, using them for hours may cause arm fatigue.

10 and Higher Weight Fly Rods

Starting from 10-weight rods and higher, we’re talking about rods for heavy freshwater applications. These rods are harder to use because of their weight, and anglers who use them typically target large species and harsh fishing conditions.

Heavy rods can also be used for heavy saltwater applications, including salmon, tarpon, and roosterfish. You can cast heavy and large flies comfortably on these rods, and they can handle extreme wind conditions like they’re nothing.

Extra Considerations for the Fly Rod

The weight isn’t the only feature you should consider when choosing a fly rod. There are three more essential features to consider.

Here’s a brief rundown about each one.

Rod Length

Longer rods are better for nymphing, roll casting, and line mending. They also steer your flies better through long drifts, and they’re excellent shock absorbers. All that said, the extra length typically comes with its share of challenges. It’s harder to cast in windy conditions, and it packs some extra pounds.

When it comes to shorter rods, they cut through the wind easier, and their lightweight accounts for an overall better experience. However, their uses are limited if you want to use nymphing rings or cast long leaders.

It’s worth noting that short rods perform better for catching heavy fish. They help you turn the fish, lift it, and land it like a champion. Long rods lack leverage when it comes to similar applications.

Line Weight

Heavy fishing lines typically offer more power, making them the best option for casting large flies. Not only that, but they’re also more efficient when it comes to catching heavy fish.

On the other hand, short lines are easier to handle because they don’t cause arm fatigue.

Rod Action

Rods with fast action recover fast, and they require fast, agile casting strokes. On the other hand, slow action rods recover slower, and they require a slower casting stroke. They also bend deeper than fast action ones.

If you’re casting in heavy wind, a fast action rod is your go-to choice. It’s also easier to cast for distance, but it needs power from your arm to be able to cast properly. These rods offer a high line speed for throwing tight loops and turning long leaders, but they put the tipper at risk of breaking.

Slow action rods are easy to cast for short distances, and they flex better than fast action ones. They may be overpowered by a fast casting stroke, though, so you’ll want to be careful.

Common Fly Rod Lengths and Their Uses

Fly rod weights are closely related to their lengths. When choosing the right weight, you should also make sure you’re choosing the right length. Here’s a roundup of the standard rod lengths and their most common uses.

8 Feet 6 Inches

8’6” rods load up fast, giving them a privilege over 9” ones. They’re ideal for fishing in tight spaces, and they’re capable of getting under and around trees. You’ll be able to put a fly with impressive accuracy.

9 Feet

9’ rods are among the most commonly used between anglers due to their versatility. It’s an all-around length that can make most applications. You can use these rods in medium and large waters; they’re suitable for both lake and river fishing.

9 Feet 6 Inches

9’6” rods are the best option for lake fishing and drifting boats. They’re heavier than 9’ rods, but they’re more efficient for drifting through lakes. Plus, they’re ideal for fishing multiple flies; the extra length will give you better control of the fish when it comes closer to the boat.

10 Feet

10’ rods are your go-to for short-line nymphing. Bear in mind that they’re heavy, though, so they’ll give you a hard time when you try to false cast. That being said, they’re excellent for fishing with heavy flies, and they’re highly efficient for river fishing.

Final Thoughts

Fly rods are available in various weights, lengths, and actions. As a beginner to the fly fishing world, getting confused is pretty normal. Don’t let it discourage you from taking up a truly amazing hobby. Once you’ve had some awesome experiences fly fishing you will want to get out every spring and fall to relive the awesome experience.

Now, you should be aware of the basics and the best uses for each weight; it’ll help you make the right choice when it’s time to purchase.

We hope you manage to catch the fish you’re looking for!

Outdoor Shane

I've been in love with the great outdoors since I was a toddler. Grew up in many parts of rural America, spent my youth camping and in Scouts, and years adventuring in Alaska. I know, love, breathe, and live the great outdoors.

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