Ideal size/weight for a shallow-water fly rod?

September 12, 2007 by John - 4 Comments

Each month I field a question from a reader and answer it as best I can, focusing on those inquiries and responses that I believe will be of general benefit or interest. I recently received this email from Todd in Biloxi, MS, who asks: “John, what’s the best size/weight for an all-around (shallow) saltwater fly rod?”

fishon.jpgThere are several schools of thought here, but the common answer is “An 8 weight”, since that size rod seems to split the difference between an outfit that’s strong enough to pitch heavier flies, light enough to cast all day and stiff enough to handle explosive runs by game fish such as snook, redfish, big sea trout and small tarpon. But there’s been a trend the past five years or so toward lighter outfits — 6 and 7-weight rods, to be precise. My latest fly rod is a sweet little 6 weight. It loads beautifully and is noticeably easier to cast than my 8 and 9-weight rods. I haven’t used it much and it hasn’t been tested on a large fish yet, admittedly. But I’m confident it’ll hold up fine, provided I don’t hook an over-sized fish near cover. How do I know? Because I’ve caught scores of snook on a little 4-weight rod — the same stick I use to catch rainbows and brookies on my occasional trips up north. While you don’t want to go under-gunned for a variety of reasons, the argument could be made that an 8 weight is overkill for the average shallow-water game fish. So…if you already have experience casting to, hooking and fighting fish, consider a stiff 7 or even 6-weight rod. A notable caveat: if you’ll be fishing a lot of open, windy water, an 8 or even 9-weight rod makes it easier to push flies into a stiff breeze.

I’d be interested in any feedback related to this topic. What size fly rod do you use in the shallow salt? Be sure to note the species you normally target and the conditions you frequently face.