As fly anglers gain more confidence on the water, the small details of the sport become more important. Things like types of fly line, rod lengths, flies and rod action are quite confusing when you’re first beginning. It takes time to learn how to cast, read water and understand how fish feed. As those skills are improved, anglers need to transition to making sure their gear is up to par with their abilities.

When I first started fly fishing, I struggled to make somewhat of a realistic presentation. I purchased an affordable starter kit and hoped it would be good enough for the type of fishing I was doing.

As I improved my skills and started fishing a variety of water, I realized that I needed a different action rod. I didn’t even know different actions of rods existed until I spoke with a fellow angler I met on the water.

There are all sorts of buzzwords in fly fishing that can cause anglers confusion, and rod action is definitely one of them.

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What Is Fly Rod Action?

The action of a fishing rod is how much a rod bends when you’re putting pressure on the tip and how quickly it returns to straight.

best fly rod action for beginners

The less bend that a rod has, the faster the action. The faster the action, the stiffer the rod is going to be!

What Is Fast Action?

A fast action rod is one of the most powerful types of rods that you’ll find. The less flex allows for more powerful casts in all types of conditions.

On top of the more powerful casts, you also have the ability to fight fish and bring them in more quickly. This can be better for the fish in the long run. Long fights exhaust them and elongate the recovery process.

Even though fast action rods are a great choice, they require a decent amount of skill to use. It requires time to gain an understanding of the timing of the rhythm.

Very experienced anglers often use fast action rods, and they’re great to use once you feel confident in your casting ability.

You’ll find that the top quarter of the rod does most of the bending on a fast action rod. Some anglers complain that these rods can be too rigid and lack in sensitivity. This may be the case with some lower end fast action rods.

What Is Moderate-Fast Action?

A moderate-fast action rod is a bit more sensitive than a fast action rod. Some argue that a moderate-fast action rod is the most versatile rod on the market. You get some of the rigidity of a fast action rod, but the sensitivity of a moderate action rod.

If you know you’re going to be fishing a variety of different methods, then a moderate-fast action may be the best choice for you. You can fish nymphs, dries and streamers with it.

best beginner fly rod setup

You’ll still be able to cast through the wind, but also lay flies down softly so they look natural. No matter your skill level, a moderate-fast action rod should work.

High level anglers and beginners will all be able to manage the casting. You’ll find that about one third of the rod will bend when you put a high amount of pressure on it.

What Is Moderate Action?

A moderate action rod is another versatile option for anglers. You can throw all types of flies, but you won’t get as much power as you would if you fished with a moderate-fast or fast action rod.

It still has a decent amount of stiffness, but you’ll find that about half the rod bends when there’s pressure applied.

fly fishing gear for beginners

Moderate action rods offer some of the most line control out of all options. Since you have a decent amount of bend, you have time to decide where and how you want to present your fly.

Many beginner anglers use a moderate action rod. However, they’re also helpful on smaller streams where you need more of a feel for things. Depending on your skill level and how you’re fishing, a moderate action will meet your needs.

Strongly consider a moderate action rod if you’re new to the sport!

What Is Slow Action?

Slow action rods are what many early fly rods were. These rods are still a great option today. A slow action rod is a great option for smaller rivers and creeks. You can make accurate casts and present flies in a delicate way.

Almost the entire rod will flex, and the line speed is much slower than what you’d find with a medium or fast action rod.

The slower the rod, the more control you have over the line. In tight fishing quarters, control over the line is vital. If you primarily fish dries and nymphs, then a slow action rod is a smart choice.

Also, if you consider yourself to be a fairly weak caster, then a slow action rod could also be a great choice. Small stream anglers will always have an appreciation for slow action rods.

Don’t necessarily try to fish streamers and big water with these rods! You’ll find yourself in a heap of frustration.

What Action Is Right for Me?

A common question that beginner anglers often have is what action is best suited for their abilities. As mentioned earlier, a moderate or moderate-fast action is a smart choice.

These rods are versatile. When you’re looking to get into the world of fly fishing, it’s smart to try a variety of different kinds of fishing to determine if you actually enjoy it.

An angler fishing using a wet fly for trout

Too many anglers fly fish a large Western river once and make the decision then and there that they either hate it or enjoy it. Give yourself a few chances to experience it on rivers, lakes and smaller streams.

Once you decide to start taking it seriously, a moderate or moderate-fast action rod will help you succeed on all types of water. The proper weight is a different story, but go with the moderate or moderate-fast action.

You’ll be able to throw heavy streamers in moving water, high stick nymphs and delicately present dry flies. Many anglers only own one rod throughout their life and it works just fine!

What Action Rod Is Good for Rough Weather?

If you find yourself fishing rough weather, then a fast action rod is your best bet. A fast action rod can cut through the wind and allow you to still hit your spots.

Many anglers will choose to not fish in more difficult weather, but a fast action rod will give you an opportunity to fish in any weather conditions.

It takes some time to learn how to cast in the wind, but once you do, you’ll find that you aren’t impaired as much as you might think. Getting out on the water when it’s not busy gives you a chance to land some impressive fish.

What Action Is Good for Still Water?

If you’re fishing a lake or a pond, a moderate-fast action is a great choice. You have the chance to fish streamers, nymphs and dry flies. You need a versatile rod if you’re fishing a lake.

A fly angler fly fishing on a lake

Longer casts, short casts, delicate presentations and large fish are all possibilities in still water. Do yourself a favor and purchase a rod that’s going to allow you to fish a variety of different ways. You’ll find yourself landing more fish as a result!

Recommended Fast Action Rods

There are a few companies that make spectacular fast action fly rods. Again, if you’re a more experienced angler, be sure to give a few of these some consideration.

Snowbee Prestige G-XS rodSnowbee Prestige G-XS

The Snowbee Prestige G-XS is the definition of a fast action rod. It’s tough, powerful and performs in almost any condition that you need.

These rods are around $600, but well worth the price. You receive a lifetime warranty from Snowbee and can have full confidence that it’ll perform well.

You can’t go wrong with a Snowbee Prestige G-XS rod! They’re a blast to fish.

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Redington Crux

The Redington Crux is another high quality fast action fly rod. This rod is fast and powerful. You’ll find that line shoots through this rod with some serious authority.

The tip is quite a bit stiffer than previous models in order to reduce any sort of tip vibrations. You’ll also receive a lifetime warranty from Redington.

Redington has always made quality rods, and you should expect nothing less from the Crux.

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TFO Mangrove

The TFO Mangrove is a bit of an under-the-radar fast action rod. Temple Fork Outfitters is beloved by their customers, but they aren’t always the most popular.

This is a great and affordable option. For only $280 you’ll receive one of the better fast action fly rods on the market. Fish this on those big rivers in challenging conditions and you’ll find that it’s able to perform.

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Recommended Medium-Fast Action Rods

Versatility is the name of the game with moderate or medium-fast action rods. You’ll be able to fish all different types of flies and situations with these rods.

Moonshine Vesper

Moonshine is a bit of a new company, but they’re quickly finding their way towards the top of the charts. Moonshine is known for their quality, unique shopping experience and vast array of options.

The Moonshine Vesper is extremely smooth. It works for streamers, nymphs and dry flies. Take it to any body of water and you’ll see it step up to all of the things you put in its path.

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Snowbee Diamond Fly Rod

The Snowbee Diamond is a nice affordable option. For only $250 you’ll find that it looks great and performs even better. It’s not easy to find rods of this quality for such an affordable price.

You can purchase Diamond series medium-fast action Euro nymphing rods as well. Take this to a small stream and you’ll appreciate the sensitivity. Fish it on a lake during a windy day and you’ll find that it doesn’t have much trouble getting to where you need it!

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TFO Axiom II

Temple Fork Outfitters did a great job with the Axiom II. The Axiom I received great reviews, and they did even more with the Axiom II. It’s one of those fly rods that every angler should have.

If you’re looking for a fun day on the water, you’ll find that the TFO Axiom is one that will provide the entertainment.

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Recommended Medium Action Rods

Medium action rods aren’t as common, but they can serve a very specific purpose. Many anglers use them on smaller streams to help them present their flies as accurately as possible.

Orvis Clearwater

The Orvis Clearwater needs little in terms of recommendations. This rod has been on the market for years and continues to prove its worth with every new design.

The smaller weights of the Clearwater are medium action and are perfect for those days on the water when you need to slow things down and present those small dry flies.

The smaller models aren’t going to throw streamers in big water, but a medium size river and smaller will be just right for the Clearwater.

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Sage Trout LL

The Sage Trout LL is one of those rods that is a blast to use. Sage is well-known for their quality, and the Trout LL is a pure trout rod.

If you’re targeting fish on small streams in the mountains, throw the Sage Trout LL. It’s smooth, looks great and helps you present those flies on a dime. Dry flies and the Trout LL are a match made in heaven.

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Conclusion

Fly fishing is a confusing sport. Sadly, companies and other fly anglers don’t make it easy to enter. Understanding things like action when you’re first looking into it can save you quite a bit of money and make your experience on the water that much better.