The Complete Guide to Buying Fly Fishing Rods

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The Complete Guide to Buying Fly Fishing Rods

eBay sells thousands of fly fishing rods, which are used to cast an artificial “fly” or “lure” to catch fish in rivers, lakes and even the sea. The fly is cast using a fly line attached to a fly fishing rod by a fly reel.

A fly rod has three main purposes:

  • To present the fly efficiently to the fish
  • To control the line on or in the water
  • To play and land the fish

Unlike other forms of fishing where a weight is used with a fine nylon line to hurl the bait or spinner as required, in fly fishing it is the weight of the actual line that loads the rod like a spring. This then catapults the fly or lure out over the water.

If you intend to buy a fly fishing rod there are a number of key factors to consider before you can understand what type of fly rod you need and whether it should be new or used. A ‘new’ fly rod should never been used before and a ‘used’ fly rod may have had more than one previous owner. The rod’s condition should be included in the listing by the seller, and should always be checked before purchase.

Budget is also very important, and it is essential to buy a rod of as high a quality as is affordable.

What Type of Fly Fishing Rod?

Fly fishing rods come in a variety of brands, sizes and styles and the use to which the rod will be put is of paramount importance to choosing the most suitable type of rod.

eBay lists a broad variety of rods, and before deciding which to buy, certain questions must first be answered. For example, a short single handed trout rod is ideal for use trout fishing on small streams and brooks, while a large salmon river will require a mightier, double handed salmon rod. So the following questions need to be considered:

  • Type of water (spate rivers, large rivers, small brooks and streams, lakes, lochs, reservoirs, estuaries, the sea)
  • Fresh or salt water
  • Fishing from bank or boat or wading
  • Condition and construction of the banks (overgrown, steep, obstructions behind)
  • Required length of casting
  • Species and size of fish

Once these questions have been considered and answered, identifying the ideal fly rod becomes much simpler. There are five key considerations:

  • Weight of fly line
  • Length of rod
  • Balance
  • Rod action
  • Quality

The optimum fly fishing line weight and length of the fly fishing rod varies according to the type of fishing. If you are buying your first rod, it is worth considering not only the fly fishing trip for which you are initially buying, but also what waters you envisage fishing in future. If you are uncertain, bear in mind that it is quite possible to fish with too small a fly fishing rod on larger waters, but it is awkward and uncomfortable to fish too large a rod on smaller waters.

There may be several hundred 8’6’’ to 9’ single handed fly rods listed on eBay at any one time. This is an excellent size range for novices as they are versatile enough to fish streams, small to medium size rivers and still waters. A large part of the enjoyment of fly fishing is that it is not always possible to predict what may be caught. There is many a tale of a trip with a smallish rod to catch a couple of lovely brown trout for breakfast resulting in a mighty salmon grabbing hold when least of all expected. The desperate battle that ensues can be both exhilarating and desperate – and is very often successful.

Selecting the Fly Line Weight

The choice of fly fishing rod is largely dependent upon the weight of the fly line required to deliver the fly to the fish in the most effective manner. There are plenty of fly lines available, so the first decision to be made is the weight. This depends largely on the size of the fly. For example, a tiny dry fly needs to be cast by a light line or the fly will simply crash into the water and frighten the fish. The same result will be achieved by trying to cast a very heavy fly on a very light line.

There are broad guidelines on the relationship between size of fly and line size, but these are impacted by external variables. For example, the level of expertise of the fly fisher, and whether a single fly or team of flies is being cast. As a rule of thumb, novices will find it easier to cast a heavier weight line, particularly in windy conditions.

The chart below provides some guidance to the relationship between size of fly and weight of line, and demonstrates the considerable overlap of fly and line size.

Type of Fish and Fly

Fly Size

Weight of Fly Line

Trout, tiny flies, small streams


1, 2, 3

Trout, small flies, medium rivers


4, 5, 6

Heavier trout, heavy flies, larger rivers and lakes


5, 6, 7

Pike and bass, heavy flies, rivers

3/0 - 8

7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Salmon flies, rivers and lochs

2/0 - 14

7, 8, 9, 10

Tarpon, Striped bass, bluefish

4/0 - 8

10, 11, 12

Sharks, Barracuda, Tuna, Sailfish, Marlin

6/0 - 2

12, 13, 14

Choosing the Fly Rod Length

Fly fishing rods have a number printed on them that identifies the manufacturer’s view of the best line weight to use in combination with the rod. Because longer rods are trickier to cast, the longer rods tend to be double-handed.

Type of Rod




Single handed

6’ to 10’6

Portable, light and strong, relatively easy to cast, flexible, smaller rods ideal under trees, and the longer rods can manage an unexpected salmon

Brown trout, rainbow trout, grayling, grilse, sea trout / sewin

Double handed

10’ to 16’

Delicate presentation of heavier salmon flies, longer casting, handles windy conditions, greater control when playing larger fish, ability to use specific salmon casting techniques such as Spey casting


Selecting the length of a fly fishing rod is not only a function of the type of fish, conditions, and fly size, but also a decision that should be made based on the angler’s size, experience and ability. For single handed rods, novice children and petite women will find a shorter rod, around the 7’ 6’’ to 8’ 6’’ easier to use and readily available. Conversely, a substantial man would have little difficulty with a longer rod such as 10’ 6’’ even with heavier line weights.

 Rod Length

Length of Cast

Type of Water


6’ - 7’ 6’’


Small streams, brooks and overgrown waters

Small trout, grayling

8’ – 9’ 6’’

Short to medium

Average rivers and small still waters

Medium to large trout

8’ 6’’ – 10’ 6’’

Short to long

Larger rivers, still waters

Grilse, sea trout, Arctic char, bass

11’ – 16’

Medium - long

Large rivers, saltwater


Balancing the Fly Fishing Rod

For a balanced set up, the weight of the fly line needs to match the weight of the fly fishing rod and the weight of the fly reel. The more closely the weights match, the better will be the balance of the rod and its ease of use.

Choosing the Right Action for a Fly Fishing Rod

There are two factors to consider when deciding on which action is most suitable – the experience of the fly fisher, and the casting benefits. There are three main types of fly rod action:

Fly Fishing Rod Action

Characteristics and Benefits


The rod has maximum bend throughout the rod, providing greatest accuracy for short-range casting and delicate presentation of the fly. Best for the more experienced fly fisher as changes in fly size will require ongoing adjustments to casting techniques


Excellent for beginners. The fly rod bends in the middle and at the tip, for efficient short and long-range casting. Flexible, easy to use, and effective in a wide range of fishing conditions


A stiffer action, with bend at the tip of the rod. Particularly effective for long-distance casting and windy conditions. Ideal for the more experienced fly fisher, but tricky for beginners to handle

Buying a Fly Fishing Rod Combo

It is possible to buy a combined fly rod, reel and line (already wound onto the spool). This is an option for beginners that has two benefits:

  1. A guarantee that the set-up is completely balanced
  2. Cost savings

How to Check the Quality of a Fly Fishing Rod

Generally the more you pay, the higher the quality of rod you can buy. There are various things to look for in a rod. Joints are critical and should fit perfectly. A perfect joint will feel smooth all the way round. Ideally, the male portion of the joint will “mate” in its entirety, and all joints should be in perfect alignment to avoid wobbling during the casting process. So it is essential to look at the photographs and seller’s description very carefully before purchasing a rod.

Fly fishing rods come in pieces. Most break down into two or three pieces, but if planning to travel extensively, it may be more convenient to buy a travel fly fishing rod that breaks down into four or more pieces, preferably with accompanying case.

Rod fittings are also important. A fly fishing rod will have a cork handle, a fitting on which to attach the reel, and rod rings which guide the line the length of the rod. The quality of the rod rings is important as, if they become pitted or grooved, they will reduce the angler’s casting distance.

Some fly fishing rod manufacturers such as Sage and Thomas and Thomas come with a replacement or repair guarantee and this should be checked before purchase whether buying new or used.

Accessories to Accompany a Fly Fishing Rod

A fly fishing rod requires a number of fly fishing accessories. The following are particularly important:

  • Fly line (floating, sinking (which fishes under water), sink-tip or intermediate)
  • Fly reel
  • Multi-Purpose line (Leader)
  • Flies
  • Polarised sunglasses (both for safety and fish viewing)
  • A landing net
  • A weighted priest, if you wish to take and eat the fish
  • An inflatable wading jacket for safety

Sometimes additional accessories are bundled and included within the sale price at no extra value.

Any components should be checked to assess whether they are missing or would need to be purchased separately from the same or other eBay sellers. Examples of these may include a line, a reel, flies, leader, fishing bag etc. It is important that, before you make your purchase, you research what else you may need to buy so that you can actually start fishing.

Fly Fishing Rod Budget Considerations

Before setting out to buy a fly fishing rod it is advisable to consider the budget. Generally a more expensive rod may have a better quality, durability and last beyond the average lifetime of a fly fishing rod. Some manufacturers include a lifetime repair or replacement guarantee. Reviewing the budget carefully and buying a fly fishing rod up to the maximum that you can afford could guarantee years of enjoyment.

Buying a Fly Fishing Rod on eBay

eBay offers a wide variety of brands, styles, prices and choices of fly fishing rods including new and used rod for different uses, with the advantage of a wide range of prices from a used fly fishing rod (which may have been outgrown or no longer required) to brand new fly fishing rod options.

To look at the fly fishing rods available to buy, visit the category Sporting Goods, then click on Fishing. The search box provided can be used to type in specific information to refine the fishing rod requirements. Look at the photographs from all angles of the rod or ask questions about any parts of the rod that you cannot see. eBay’s search tips provide more advice.

A good item listing should include full equipment specifications and manufacturer information. To obtain any missing information, email the seller by clicking “Ask the seller a question” under the seller’s profile.

You can also shop in eBay Shops or post your requirements on Want it Now. There is also the option to “Save Search”, in which case eBay will send an email when a match becomes available.

How to Buy on eBay

More information is available on the Buying Basics pages. Once a fly fishing rod has been selected, it’s time to consider how to buy. There are three choices:

  • Place a bid in order to buy at auction by the date that the seller has advised if you are the highest bidder
  • Buy It Now allows immediate purchase of the fishing rod
  • Best Offer means the seller is prepared to accept Best Offers from buyers, possibly at a lower price than the Buy It Now price

Delivery and shipping information is provided by the seller and needs to be considered at point of bid or purchase, along with delivery insurance information.

Bundles are sometimes offered where the listing may include the specific main core product such as the fishing rod with one or two accessories offered to be included and built-in to the purchase price.

It is recommended that you only purchase from sellers who are authorised through eBay. For greater comfort, research the seller’s Feedback rating and buyer comments, the number of completed transactions, and the percentage of positive responses.

It is always good to buy through PayPal who will ensure the transaction proceeds directly between the seller and buyer. eBay users are protected by the Buyer Protection Programme..

Conclusion on Buying a Fly Fishing Rod

When choosing how to buy a fly fishing rod the buyer must consider their individual needs for the use of the rod, the weight of the line and reel, rod length, the action, the image, brand that they prefer. If any repairs are necessary after purchase you need to be fully aware of any costs for used fishing rods. If a new fly fishing rod is to be purchased then any warranties and guarantees should be checked in addition to the methods of delivery and collection of the rod.

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