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Fly Rod Weights Explained – All You Need to Know

fly rod weights explained
Written by Immanuel Baranov
Last Update: June 14, 2022

The most common hot topic in the world of fly fishing is that of fly rod weights. Whether you’re about to begin your first fly fishing adventure, or you’ve been in the game for years, you need to have a solid understanding of what is meant by fly rod weights, and how it factors to your fishing experience. Knowledge of this topic could be the difference between your best fishing experience ever, and your biggest waste of time.

What Do Fly Rod Weights Mean?

Fly rod weights refer to the weight of the line you use on a fly rod. Flies are considerably lighter than tackle used in normal fishing and as such, fly fishing relies on the weight of the line instead of the bait. If the line weight to fly ratio is incorrect you could be in for a frustrating and unproductive day of watching your flies slap the water far from where you intended, losing momentum, and not having the control to put your bait where you want it. On the other hand, if you get this ratio right, you can enjoy superior control, distance, maneuverability, and general ease. So let’s talk about what weight fly rod should have in what situations, and why.

Fly Rod Weights Explained

The weight of a top-notch fly fishing rod can be broken down into a few categories and work on a universal numbering system to make it easier to understand and find what you’re looking for.

  1. Fly Line Weight 1 – 3
    These are the lightest line weights you can find and are specific to tiny fish. Trying to catch big bass with one of these grains of the line would be the equivalent of trying to tow a car with a shoelace. Don’t try it!
  2. Fly Line Weight 4
    This is go-to line grain for smaller fish. It’s not capable of hauling out a healthy sized trout, but it will give you more flexibility and range of fish choice than that of the lower grains.
  3. Fly Line Weight 5
    This is a favorite for the trout lovers out there. It is capable of handling most trout sizes quite well and will give you the edge and control you need when gunning for smaller to medium fish.
  4. Fly Line Weight 6
    This grain is a bit of an in-betweener. It’s not ideal for really small fish or really big fish but does well with most medium fish and opens up your fish size options slightly compared to the 5 grain.
  5. Fly Line Weight 7
    This line grain is simply perfect for bass fishing. Fish of similar size and weight that require similar flies will also be an option when using grain 7, but it’s a must-have when seeking out the bass.
  6. Fly Line Weight 8 and Up
    These line grains are heavy duty and are used for really big hauls that you would more often find in saltwater situations. You can use the saltwater fly rods for the best output. Note that using these grains for small to medium fish is a non-starter. You’re in for a bad day if you try.

Other Considerable Things

In addition to having fly fishing rod weights explained, you may also want to consider some of these other factors that affect the effectiveness of your fly fishing.

1. Fly Rod Length

Fly rod length ranges from 8 to 9 feet. The 8-foot option is for small, light fly fishing in small bodies of water where weather and casting distance are not factors to give attention to. The 8.5 length is for a more balanced approach that allows you to do most of what an eight-footer does but with some extra cast distance and control with heavier fish. The 9-foot rod is for those windy trips, for big fish, and heavier line grain compliments. So if your fly fishing craze is going to take you into saltwater, windy conditions, or seeking large fish, this would be the right length of rod for you.

2. Fly Rod Action

The efficacy of fly rod technology largely depends on the fly rod action. The action of a fly rod refers to how much it bends while casting and pulling. High or full action means the rod body bends all the way down to the reel. Adversely, tip action refers to a rod action where only the tip of the rod is flexible and bends. Action is very preference based. The way you like to fly fish, how you cast, your stroke, what you’re chasing, and what line weight you choose to is are what will determine the best action for you. I suggest you try a few action types before settling with one.

3. How Many Pieces

Many rods are made up of two adjoining pieces that fit together to make the length of the rod. This is convenient for quick assembly but can be a bother if you have limited space when traveling to your fishing destination. There are also many rods manufactured to be broken down into more pieces, making them more compact and easier to carry around wherever you go. How far you plan to travel and by what means will determine which construct is better for you.

4. Fly Rod Construction

As the construction materials of fly reels, the materials used to construct fly rods vary quite considerably nowadays. Each composite or material has its own pros and cons. Graphite is the most broadly used material nowadays. It’s light, strong, flexible, and durable. It makes for a very versatile rod capable of much. Sometimes boron is combined with graphite to make a hybrid rod that performs even better but is considerably more expensive. Carbon fiber is not as common as it used to be, but it still maintains a presence in the world of fly fishing. Bamboo was the first material ever used to make a fly rod. Bamboo rods still exist but are more of a niche invested in for the novelty, than for performance offerings.

Fly Fishing Rod Weight Chart

Here is a fly rod weight guide to help you better understand what we have been discussing. Keep in mind that the easiest way to distill all this information we have discussed into an easy fly rod weight decision is to compare it to the flyweight you plan to use. The table below denotes the best weight of fly line according to fly weight and the types of fish.

Fly Fishing Rod Weight Chart

Now you have all the information you need to make an informed decision about which fly rod weight you should be using and why. Hope it will help you set up a fishing rod with the right weight and enjoy fishing to the fullest. Now all that’s left to do is get out there and apply it. Good luck!


Q. Does fly line weight need to match rod weight?

Ans. The weight of the line should match the reel and rod when you put the line on the fly reel. This means you have to put a 6-weight line on a 6-weight rod or a 4-weight line on a 4-weight rod.

Q. What weight fly rod for dry flies?

Ans. 4-weight rods are ideal for dry fly fishing. They are also perfect for panfish and trout. You can use them as an all-around rod for rivers and streams. They have the strength for 40-50 castings while being a fantastic option for fly presentations.

Q. What weight fly rod for small streams?

Ans. 2 to 4-weight rods are the most common options for small stream angling. They have the strength to land a 12-foot brook trout and can cast decent size dry flies.

About the author

Immanuel Baranov

My life is pretty much defined by my avid outdoor activities. I’m generally obsessed with fishing, skiing and occasional hunting and whitewater paddling. I’ve been active since my early years. I inherited my passion for fishing from my father who made frequent family trips to the banks of Sacramento River. Growing up, I did a lot of fishing in the vicinity. Now that I have two sons, our weekends are full of fishing activities. I would say, you need good spots where you can go out a lot for the thing you love. I had the privilege to grow up near numerous water bodies and I’m proud to say that I made good use of them. It’s also great to do something with kids that helps them learn patience, endurance and preciseness.

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