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Fly Rod Action Explained

fly rod ation explained

Fly rod action explained to help you pick the right fly rod for your needs. The action of a fly rod is a term bandied about like mad and used by marketing teams to sell rods, and it is often mistaken or misunderstood! In reality, it is a very simple concept, the action of a fly rod refers to how quickly it reverts to straight having been flexed. Hence, the main three actions are fast, medium and slow and this is why you often see customers and sales advisors doing the ‘fly shop wiggle’ when checking out new rods. As a general rule, the faster the action of a rod, the more experience it requires to get the most out of it. That isn’t to say a complete beginner won’t be able to cast a fast-action rod, but it will be harder to manage at first, so below we have the various fly rod action explained to help you.

Fly Rod Action Explained

Fast Action rods 

  • Powerful rods
  • Very little flexibility; only tip of rod flexes
  • The rod loads and unloads faster
  • Generates fast line speed
  • Requires good timing and technique
  • Difficult at first for beginners
  • Ideal for most predators

So, fast action rods are very powerful and load and unload the line quickly to generate fast line speeds. Loading the rod is simply applying pressure to make the rod bend. As the weight of the fly line is picked up by the fly rod, the rod bends and stores energy. As the rod unloads, that energy is released. Fast line speeds are needed for casting long distances or cast into the wind. A rod that generates fast line speeds requires good timing to cast properly, which means fast action rods are difficult for beginners to use, because everything happens fast.

Moderate Action Rods

  • Less powerful than fast action
  • More flexible than fast action
  • Intermediate Line Speed
  • The rod loads and unloads intermediate
  • More forgiving than a fast-action
  • Good choice for many waters and for beginners

Slow/Classic Action Rods

  • Very little power
  • Very flexible; entire shaft
  • Slow line speed
  • The rod loads and unloads slower
  • Very forgiving, easiest to control line and accuracy
  • Good for short, accurate and gentle casts for small rivers and streams

Slow or Classic action rods are not powerful at all and they load and unload slowly. They are good for delicate casts because they generate slow lines speeds. This makes them very forgiving and are easiest for beginners to use because it is easier to time the cast and to control the line.
There are very proficient fly casters that can do amazing things with just about any fly rod, but for the rest of us mere mortals, choosing the right fly rod action helps with certain tasks. The table below is a generalization of how different fly rod actions perform certain tasks.