Fishing rods come in many sizes, and perhaps this is more important to understand in fly rods than any other type.
The shortest fly rod on the market today is 5’6″, but what is it useful for?
And what is the shortest fly rod you should use?
Shortest Fly Rod Available
As I mentioned above, the shortest fly rod on the market is 5’6″. This is considerably shorter than what most of the top-tier brands offer.
Orvis is a reputable brand, and the shortest fly rod they have is 6’6″.
The same is true for Sage; the shortest of their lineup is 6’6″.
What Are Shorter Fly Rods Good For
In a nutshell, short flyrods are good for working small streams or small pockets of water.
They are especially useful in overgrown areas. When you throw on a pair of wet wading boots and start making your way up mountain streams, you will want to have a short fly rod in hand.
However, short fly rods really fail when the water gets bigger, or the wind gets strong. This is why 9′ 5-weight rods are so popular, and they seem to be the middle ground.
So, although short flyrods can be extremely useful in some scenarios, they are very limited.
This handy pocket guide can go anywhere you fish so you will always be able to tie any knot you need.
Shortest Fly Rod For Different Scenarios
As I mentioned above, short flyrods work well in certain scenarios, but they are very limited. In some situations, a flyrod may be too short to get any real use out of.
You don’t want a 6’6″ flyrod on a big open lake fishing from the shore, for example.
Sometimes it’s worth knowing just how short you can get away with.
Offshore and Near Shore
Offshore flyfishing is not a popular method of fishing, yet it still gets results, and some do it very successfully.
Unfortunately for this, there is not much wiggle room with rod size. Offshore and short just don’t really go well together.
Strong winds, big flies, and big water would not bode well for a short rod, and you need to be looking at big strong rods to get any sort of decent casting done.
Usually, people go offshore fishing for one reason, big fish. This calls for a big rod. Offshore fly rods are typically heavyweight rods for heavyweight lines.
I wouldn’t recommend anything less than a 9-weight rod, and unless going after really big fish with large poppers, you wouldn’t need anything more than an 11-weight rod and line.
The shortest rod I would use for offshore and nearshore fly fishing would be 9ft. This will help to get out large flies and heavy line.
Rod size for lake fishing varies a lot, simply because it depends on the lake.
I’ve fished many lakes with 9’6″ fly 5wt rods and had much success. It’s possible to use shorter fly rods than this, but as I mentioned it really depends a lot on the weather and the lake.
If fishing from a boat, and you can reach sheltered areas you could go as short as a 7ft rod. In small sheltered lakes you could work an 8ft rod very well.
But for shore fishing, I like to stick to a 9’6″ fly rod. This allows me to be adaptable to different scenarios. It’s a little big for fishing small pools, but works, and it’s plenty enough for standing on the shore casting against the wind.
River flyfishing is where rod sizes start to change. For the purpose of this, we would consider an average size river.
What I like about river flyfishing is that you can use long or short rods, depending on your preference.
Still, there are a few things to take into consideration.
If you are fishing from the bank you may want to consider an 8’6 rod, this is particularly true if you are in among bushes and trees.
If you are wading out and fishing upstream them you can start looking at longer rods.
In many rivers, I have used 9’6″ rods with ease, but it does start to get a little tricky when you start adding trees to the mix.
For most rivers, I would choose the 8’8″ rod length.
Streams & Brooks
I love fishing streams, but it’s not for the faint of heart. More flies are lost in trees over streams than any other body of water.
Most people have too long a rod for streams and are overly ambitious.
Let’s rule out euro nymphing for a moment. If you want an article on that here it is.
But for the rest of you and those who prefer dry flies particularly, let’s look at your rod options.
If you want to know the shortest you can go on a stream, I’d say 6’6″. You could get a lot done with that rod and you could certainly reach a lot of places.
However, most streams are lined with overgrowth and trees, so you’re going to want to practice your roll cast a lot, and the 6’6″ rod may not have enough length, weight, or power to execute this cast.
This is why I would rather recommend a 7’6″ rod for streams. It’s still small enough to fit everywhere, strong enough for both wet flies as well as a few bigger flies, and will do roll casts all day long.
Pocket water offers some different options in what size fly rod to use. However, similar to stream fishing the shortest I would go here is 6’6″.
It’s worth considering what kind of pocket water you are fishing. For me, most pocket water is done in small streams, so if that is the case I would probably choose a 6’6″.
But if you are fishing larger streams then the shortest you would want to choose would be a 7′, this would allow you a bit more control.
Most people coming off of a 9′ flyrod may find a short 3-weight rod takes a little getting used to.
Short fly rods certainly have their place. Their convenience is great, but I like them for their delicacy.
I do a lot of small water fishing and the finesse of these rods is superb for landing dry flies gently into pools.
I wouldn’t go as short as a 5’6″ rod, but I could certainly get behind a 6’6″ flyrod for small streams and pocket water, and I think if you are looking for the shortest practical fly rod that is it.