Selecting a River Rod

Selecting a River Rod

Those new to river trouting are often undecided as to what might be a good first outfit. Initially, most fly fishers make the cross over to rivers from stillwaters when early outings are conducted using their reservoir tackle that might be as heavy as a 7-weight rod. Essentially, there’s nothing wrong with this though if you plan to visit rivers and streams on a regular basis then you will benefit from an outfit with a bit more finesse. However, with rods ranging in length from 6ft odd to lofty 11 footers the beginner can be left bewildered when it comes to selecting their first river rod. This isn’t helped either by the vast choice of line ratings either!  Detailed below are some pointers to help when it comes to selecting a new, or your next rod for river fishing.

Words by Paul Procter, Guideline UK Ambassador. 

What line rating?

Not so long ago a 5-weight outfit was considered the norm when ambling along a river bank. However, nowadays there’s been a shift towards lighter lines with a 4-weight considered the benchmark. In particular the Tactical LPX 9’9” #4 has become a firm favourite with both the Guideline team and our customers. Such a rated rod has sufficient backbone to deliver weighted nymphs and of course deal with lively trout. Yet there’s a huge degree of delicacy too, which is unparalleled when it comes to presentation and protecting ultra fine tippets of 0.12mm to 0.13mm (7x & 6X) diameter when small dry flies are the order of the day.

Given extremes of low, clear water, more seasoned anglers occasional revise their outfit to a 3-weight, or even 2-weight rod for an edge in terms of presentation. Not only do these ultra light fly lines land like thistledown to prevent alarming fish their more forgiving action allows for super fine tippets of 0.09mm to 0.10mm diameter. In turn this gives tiny imitations a greater degree of movement to appear more convincing to fish. Whilst the LPX Tactical 9’9” #2 suits my particular style of fishing many of our customers rave about the LPX Tactical 9’9” #3 which possesses a light more oomph.

What rod length?

Rod lengths for river rods remain a contentious issue these days. There are those who swear by wand like 6ft outfits and others who lean more towards a 10ft, or even 11ft rod. Of course there’s every imaginable length to consider in between these two extremes too. Again, it’s often a compromise that gives us the best of both worlds. In a nutshell, longer rods of over 9’6” offer a distinct advantage when it comes to line management, namely line mending and holding fly line clear of grabbing currents. They are also useful when it comes to leaning on fish as in effect, a longer lever now helps steer stubborn trout away from the likes of submerged tree roots, or large, underwater boulders. However, in the confines of an overgrown stream a rangy outfit can be more of a hindrance than a help. Ideally now, much shorted rods come into their own.  Mind you, they do come with certain issues.

For starters, shorter rods generally require more precise timing when casting as they don’t flex quite as readily. That said the Elevation 8’ #4 brook rod is a gem when it comes to small streams and overgrown stretches. It’s through action loads the rod quickly, giving you instant feedback, making it a rod that very much becomes part of you! Some anglers do find a compromise rod in the form of a 9-footer, which to a large degree, gives you the best of both worlds. That said, if you mainly fish a more open river that isn’t heavily tree-lined then longer rods offer massive benefits in terms of line control. 

Should I select a stiff rod?

Time was not so long ago every angler looked to a rod with a stiff action.  The obvious benefits here being straight line path is easily achieved, resulting in pin sharp, tight loops and high line speeds.  As good as these ultra fast rods are for casting their unforgiving nature often causes tippet breakages.  This is especially the case when river fishing which tends to take place at close quarters, obviously with only a short length of fly line outside the rod tip, little, there is little stretch in our fly line. It’s clear then that a more through action rod will yield readily to protect finer monofilaments and aid with casting too. Many recommend a blank that flexes somewhere round the half-way point and towards the butt section. At Guideline, we’re extremely sensitive to this requirement, you’ll find the Elevation series fit this brief perfectly.

Should I consider a 2 piece, 3 piece or 4 piece rod?

In an ideal World, a one piece rod will give us the truest action possible. However, you can imagine the inconvenience of a rod you can’t break down, especially one of 10, or 11 feet in length, which would make transportation a logistical nightmare. Going back say 30 years, 2-piece rods ruled the roost and were the “go to” for most anglers. At that time multi-piece rods (3 and 4 piece rods) made their debut in the fly fishing world. Granted, many anglers were sceptical at first and to be fair they had good reason. Those early models possessed flat spots along their length, especially around the joints, which were reinforced with excessive wraps of carbon, or glass scrim.

However, overtime and with considerable developments in all areas of rod building multi piece rods have just got better.  Using the C.A.P M4.0 technology along with nano resins Guideline are able to achieve the desirable actions and flexes we look for in modern day rods. This makes mutli piece rods the first choice for most anglers these days. With good reason too as they stow away that much easier when in transit.  Furthermore, by removing the butt section of say a 10ft 4-piece rod, suddenly the remaining three sections make a 7’6” rod, allowing you to execute a cast in those tight, overgrown places of a stream. As for fighting fish now, often your quarry will slog it out in a given pool and rarely run far, which makes our reel that’s took away on the butt section obsolete!

Check out our selection of great river rods from our different series

LPX TacticalLPX Tactical

The Guideline LPX Tactical features a brand-new, unique, lively casting, and fishing experience. The C.A.P M4.0 technology enables us to construct ultralight fly rods that possess the connection, power, stability, and smoothness you dream of in a trout rod.

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LPX Tactical

439.99 USD

Elevation Single Hand RodElevation Single Hand Rod

The Elevation series is a super light and smooth medium fast action range of rods. Designed for anglers at all levels. Utilising sustainable production and eco friendly components.

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Elevation Single Hand Rod

279.99 USD

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NT11 Trout SeriesNT11 Trout Series

The NT11 Trout fly rods are designed to be superb all-round fishing rods suitable for fly casters at all levels. Treating yourself to an NT11 technology rod guarantees a high-end experience.

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NT11 Trout Series

599.99 USD

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Elevation NymphElevation Nymph

Elevation Nymph is a series of rods specially designed for all types of modern nymphing techniques like euro nymphing.

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Elevation Nymph

279.99 USD

Shiny, or matte finish?

Understandably, a bit of a bugbear amongst some seasoned anglers is the glossy finish on many rods.  This finish is to make them stand out on the shelf and hopefully attract a potential buyer. Such a shiny finish though causes rod flash and glint, especially on sunny days. In turn this can alert fish of our presence to send them scurrying. Whilst it’s rare to produce evidence supporting this claim, many believe (me included) that the more you can do to stack the odds in your favour the better. Guideline separate themselves from most other companies by marketing a wide range of rods with a matte finish, which includes the NT11, Tactical LPX and Elevation ranges. 

Up or down locking reel seat?

Due to their lightness carbon rods tend to have an up locking reel seat as this helps to balance the rod, making the whole outfit feel comfortable. Depending on the reel’s weight this is usually fine on rods up to 9’6” in length.  However, longer rods of 10 to 11 foot may cause an unbalanced outfit with the bias towards the tip (tip heavy). A down locking reel seat moves the reel further away from the fulcrum to help create a balanced outfit. What’s more, many of the Guideline longer rods boast a discreet butt extension to further assist with off-setting an unbalanced outfit. You’ll see this on the Elevation Nymph range of rods. 

In Conclusion

With several variables occurring when river fishing, some question whether the perfect ideal one-rod exists. That said with regards to line rating, you won’t go far wrong with a 4-weight outfit. If small, overgrown streams are your stomping ground then a rod of some 8-footer will be fit for purpose. If wide open spaces form the bulk of your river fishing then look to rods of 9’9” or longer. As a middle of the road outfit, a 9ft 4-weight outfit is by far the best choice. 

Discover the full line of LPX Tactical rods in this video

LPX Tactical combines cutting-edge technology with a new definition of state-of-the-art rod actions for trout fishing. Tactical features a distinct and precise action that gradually unleashes when you load the rods more and more. The action is best described as fast, ¾ deep, with superb stability, suitable for all levels of fly casters. When casting at shorter distances, the tip and mid-section provide the important sensitivity you need. At mid and longer distances, the lower parts of the rod engage, offering the connection, power, and stability you dream of. These rods are truly exceptional: super smooth yet rigid, mastering all the different types of casts you like to do and protecting the finest tippets while playing your trophy trout. Ultralight in hand and in real weight - a 9ft #5 weighs just 71 grams! 

Since 1993, knowledge and passion have been reflected in each of our products. We are dedicated to meet the high expectations of the modern fly angler with lesser impact on nature, while giving rise to everlasting moments by the water.

Because, at the end of the day, It’s all about the experience.