Fly fishing rods come in a variety of materials, with different flexibilities and lengths. Most important is to use the correct AFTM class for the type of fishing you plan to do. In some cases, the rod is marked with two different courses, depending on which line type you are using. There is more information about this on the line page.
Your local fly fishing supply shop can help you select the correct rod for your fishing, but in preparation for that, here are some of the choices you will be presented with.
Fly fishing rods come in several different materials.
Fiberglass is the budget option. They tend to be more sturdy but are also thicker and weigh more. My first rod was made of fiberglass, but I only used it for a short while before I upgraded to graphite. I would recommend going for graphite instead.
Graphite (or carbon fiber)
Graphite (or carbon fiber) rods are the most common today. Graphite is lightweight, but it is not as durable as fiberglass. However, I have had a graphite rod for over 15 years now, and it is still in good condition, so this is not a big problem. Graphite is what I would recommend for most uses.
fly fishing roads
Kevlar is even lighter and more durable than graphite. However, it is also much more expensive. This is the choice for some experts, but not for the ordinary fisherman.
Split cane is the classical way to make fly fishing rods from bamboo, and some experts only use this material. This is how a rod would have been made 100 years ago, but there are still manufacturers today. Nothing for beginners; they tend to be expensive but very beautiful.
Rod flexibility (or speed)
Flexibility or speed means the way the rod flexes during usage.
Slow action rods
Slow action rods bend along the entire length and perfect for smaller fish and shorter ranges where you need much accuracy. They can be challenging to control for beginners but give more feeling for an experienced fly fisherman.
Medium action rods
Medium action rods are the easiest to handle for beginners and bend somewhere along the middle. They can be used for most situations.
Fast action rods
Fast action rods bend along the top and are perfect for long casting distances and big game fish. However, they are less accurate than a medium or slow action rod.
The rod’s length varies; generally, you want a short rod for fishing in tight situations. For most everyday situations, you want to go for a medium (8-9 feet). For cases where you need to last longer or for big game fish, you want to go for a longer rod.
You can choose between a one-handed or two-handed grip. For AFTM classes eight or below, the rods are generally handed, and for higher categories, they are two-handed. In most cases, the grip comes naturally to the class. You can cast longer with a two-handed grip, but you lose some of the feelings.
Conclusions and recommendations
For a beginner expecting to fish for trout, rainbow trout, or similar, I would recommend a medium AFTM class (6-7), medium action graphite rod.
Using a lower class (3-4), slow action rod to fish for small fish in a creek can be a lot of fun and is a favorite of mine, but it requires some experience unless you want to spend most of your time untangling your tackle and climbing for a fly that is stuck in a tree or bush.
Always ask the store for recommendations. There are so many variables, and you should utilize their expertise.