One of the most common questions I am asked is some version of, “What is the best rod on the market?” While there are certain rod companies, and certain rod builders, who build a superior product I often hesitate to answer this question because I think it's too subjective. For some people the best rod on the market is the rod they can afford. For others the best rod on the market might be the latest release from a large company made from the newest aerospace material. Still for other people the best rod on the market is a custom rod they can pass down to future generations.
Personally I believe the best rod on the market is different for each person. This can make choosing the right rod difficult. Since starting Snoqualmie Rod Co. I find when folks are able to answer a few questions it makes their next rod choice a much simpler process.
Here are the questions with a little commentary on each one. I hope you find this helpful! If you have any follow up questions please reach out, i’d love to help you find your next rod.
What species are you targeting?
This might seem silly, but the first question I ask folks is what species they desire to target with a new rod purchase. A 3wt isn’t going to be the ideal rod for steelhead, and an 8wt isn’t going to be fun to use on small mountain streams. Of course when you are trying to decide what rod to purchase next you are going to have a desire to justify the purchase, and there is no better way to justify a purchase then telling yourself the rod will be used in multiple situations. That’s why the first rod most folks purchase is a 5wt, right?
In reality, while having a rod that can be used to chase multiple species is nice, you’re likely only going to use it to pursue one species. And there is nothing wrong with it! So if it is small stream trout you’re after, then a 1-3wt rod is what you should be considering. If it is trout in western streams, then a 4-6wt rod is appropriate. Salmon and steelhead? Then you should probably consider 7-9wt rods. Bass? 6-8 wt rods.
What size of river are you fishing?
An often overlooked aspect to a new rod purchase is the length of rod. If you are in a small mountain stream throwing dry flies a 7’6” rod might be too long. If you’re on a western river like the Yakima a 7’6” is going to be too short. As a rule of thumb for single hand rods here is what I recommend. Small creeks 7’6” and smaller. Western rivers 8’6” - 9’6”. Lakes 10’.
For two handed rods there are a lot of variables to consider, especially when you are thinking about bamboo. Please give me a call to talk specifics, but as a general rule here is what I recommend for two handed steelhead rods. 11’6” - 13’ for most rivers. 13-16’ for larger rivers such as the Snake and the Clearwater. For trout spey 90% of what I recommend is 10’ - 11”6. Again a lot depends on what line you are using, and what type of flies you will be swinging.
What techniques are you hoping to use with this rod?
While you can skagit cast with your 7’6” rod and an OPST head, I would recommend when you purchase a new rod you make sure the rod matches the specific techniques you want to use. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy throwing an OPST head on my 7’6” fiberglass rod. It can be a lot of fun. But for the most part my fiberglass rod is for dry flie in the summer.
So if this new rod is going to be a nymphing rod? Then you will probably want something with a bit of a backbone. A dry fly rod? Then you will want something with a soft tip. Streamer rod? Then you’ll want something capable of tossing big weighted flies.
Are you looking for a small production rod, artisan rod, custom rod or a rod from a larger company?
Everyone has their own desires. Some folks like to purchase rods from larger companies because they feel better if warranty issues come up. Other folks want something unique so they turn to artisan rod builders. Still others want something not on the market, and so they turn to custom rod builders. Knowing where you desire to purchase your rod from will help narrow down your options. The only thing I will add to this is that smaller rod builders live and die based on their reputation. I believe you will find most small batch rod builders willing to go the extra mile for you because they know their reputation is on the line.
Will you travel with this rod?
Finally, the last question to consider is whether you will be traveling with your new rod. Most rods today break down into 4 sections. This makes traveling with a rod today much easier than it was a decade ago. However, if you’re traveling with a bamboo spey rod they might not break down as well as your graphite spey rods. A 3 piece 12’ spey rod with an extra tip is still 40”/section. Keep this in mind when you're making your purchase. I spent a week on the Grand Ronde this year with my 11’9” 6wt bamboo spey rod. It was awesome! But when we got to the narrows, the nasty set of rapids near the snake river, I realized I had forgotten the rod tube! Luckily we were able to secure the rod. But it was also a good reminder to always be aware of how you will transport your rod!
I hope you found this helpful! If you have any questions about your next rod purchase please do not hesitate to reach out.