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Odd Rods: When to Stray from the Standard 9-Foot Fly Rod

Here in trout country, the 9-foot 5-weight fly rod is as ubiquitous as the Parachute Adams. For many anglers, it’s the go-to rod for everything from dry flies to streamers. If you’ve got one rod, it’s a great one to own.

But there’s a big world of fly rods out there. And they’re available in a variety of different lengths. Why purchase an 8’ 6” 5-weight over the nine-footer? When does a 10-foot fly rod make sense? What about a seven-footer?

When you stray from the standard 9-foot fly rod, there are advantages in going either direction. Shorter rods tend to be more accurate and offer better handling in tight quarters. While longer rods tend to offer more power and distance. But it’s not always that simple.

Here’s a quick guide to fly rod length and why it matters to you as an angler:


1. Accuracy and Handling

As a general rule, shorter rods will offer improved accuracy. Our ecommerce manager, Blake Katchur, offered a helpful image:

“Think about casting a very long fly rod,” Blake explained. “The longer the rod, the more difficult it is to to keep the rod traveling on the same plane through your back cast and forward cast. That inconsistency causes issues, like a drop in accuracy, loss of power and tailing loops.

“On the other hand, imagine casting a very short fly rod,” Blake Continued. “The shorter the rod, the easier it becomes to keep your rod on the same plane throughout your cast. That means a straight line and much improved accuracy.”

Just remember, that what a shorter fly rod gains in accuracy, it usually gives up in distance or power. So the next time you’re looking at a new rod, you might ask yourself: do you tend to fish small to mid-size rivers, pocket water, or other locations where accuracy is important? Do you fish locations where tight brush makes a shorter rod advantageous? Then you might pick up the 8’ 6” rod.

Even beyond the standard 5-weight fly rods there are other reasons to seek out a shorter fly rod. Here are two more examples.

2. Big Flies, Big Fish

Accuracy isn’t the only reason to go shorter. In some scenarios, shorter rods are designed for throwing big flies at big fish. Musky, Pike and Bass rods are the perfect example.

Take the Sage Payload for example. We carry this rod in an 8’ 9” 6-weight, as well as weights through 9. This shorter 6-weight for example makes it easy to pick up heavy sinking lines and big flies off the water and deliver them with ease and less false casting. The short length is also an advantage anytime you’re fishing from a boat and landing heavy fish. It’s a great option for trout streamer junkies or those who enjoy pursuing bass on the fly.

3. The High Country Specialist

The other reason to go short, is to take advantage of a highly packable light-line fly rod for backcountry fishing. A short 2, 3 and 4-weight rods can be lots of fun when you’re throwing on a backpack and hiking to your favorite high country waters.

Great examples include the Scott G Series, the Winston Pure and the Sage Dart. The Scott G Series 7’ 7” 2-weight and 3-weight are incredibly fun rods. The Winston Pure, available in 6’ 6” 3-weight, 7’ 3-weight and 7’ 6” 4-weight, are a dry fly angler’s dream. The Sage Dart is exactly what its name suggests, zippy little rods, available in 2, 3 and 4-weights. 


1. Distance and Power

For many anglers, a 9-foot fly rod provides plenty of length. But there are instances when a longer rod provides an advantage. That’s usually because a longer rod makes it easier to make long casts and provides extra backbone to battle windy conditions.

If you frequently find yourself fishing large rivers or big water where you can sacrifice a little bit of accuracy for greater distance, then you might consider a longer fly rod. A great example is the Sage X, or Scott Radian in a 9’ 6” 6-weight options. The extra length of this rod provides that power and reach for big waters.

Here are two more reasons you might consider a longer fly rod…

2. Stillwater Fishing

We love fishing our mountain lakes and reservoirs here in Colorado. These are the perfect scenarios to bring along a 9’ 6” or 10-foot fly rod. The extra length provides several advantages in stillwater situations. Most notably, it’s an advantage when making long casts in windy conditions on mountain reservoirs. Another benefit is greater casting height when sitting low in the water in a belly boat.

It’s also an advantage when fishing indicator rigs on lakes. The longer rod creates a greater working distance between the indicator and the fly, meaning you can fish your indicator rig deeper and still be able to land a fish. Especially with the use of slip indicators. 

3. Nymphing Advantage

Longer fly rods provide a distinct advantage for nymphing. The greater reach is perfect for high-sticking and euro style nymph rigs. The increased length also provides additional reach for easy mending. A longer rod makes it easier to cast a wider, more open loop as well. When casting indicator and nymph rigs that are prone to tangles, that means fewer headaches.

Great examples include the Sage ESN and the Winston Boron III X Super 10. We carry the ESN in a 10’ 6” 3-weight and 10’ 4-weight. The Super 10 is available in a 10’ 3-weight, 4-weight and 5-weight rods.


The 9-foot fly rod will continue to be universally popular for great reasons. It’s extremely versatile. But depending on the waters you frequent and your personal fly fishing style, there may be better options. Stop by the shop and cast a few to compare!

If you have questions or need help, don’t hesitate to visit us at the fly shop in Littleton or call us at 303-794-1104. We’re here to answer your questions and to help you get ready for some memorable fly fishing adventures.