Why Your First Lightweight Fly Rod Should be Fiberglass

I have a friend who is still somewhat of a newbie to fly fishing and needed some advice on picking out a new rod. He's been out a couple seasons with his 9-foot 5-weight graphite rod (the size many trout anglers start out with). Now he's thinking about branching off with a lighter model that he can use to chase smaller brookies and cutthroats in small streams. He asked about several high-end, fast-action graphite rods before I stopped him with a question of my own: "You ever think about a fiberglass rod?

He shot back a puzzled look and said he had a little bit, but he thought fiberglass rods were somewhat of a novelty -- the kind of rods you buy down the road once you've built up a full arsenal of graphite.

I begged to differ. In fact, I told him fiberglass is exactly where he should start for what he wanted to do. And if you're thinking about a 3-weight or lighter, you should think hard about fiberglass, right off the bat. Here are three reasons why:

Number one, that classic slow action of a fiberglass rod really helps you feel your casts. You sense the rod loading and unloading the line, which will help you develop a good stroke. And that's exactly what all anglers should work on, especially beginners.

Second, when are you really going to boom out big casts in the small stream environment? Better to have a rod with which you can roll cast, mend, and pop short casts at small target zones, rather than a super-fast action rod that you won't really use to full capacity. Sometimes the super-fast modern graphites are about as functional in light rods as a V-8 engine would be on a riding mower. Sure, I imagine that could be fun. And if you want to fish a lake that has smaller fish, but requires long casts to reach them, a fast graphite rod might be the ticket. But fiberglass gives you feel and all the casting oomph you practically need for most in-close fishing environments.

Lastly, fiberglass can be much more affordable. You don't have to spend several hundred dollars to find a perfectly fun and functional fly rod that will do everything my friend wants to do.

Here are some solid options:

There probably isn't a better budget option out there than the Cabela's CGT rods, which right now are on sale for less than $75. My friend Cameron Mortenson of "The Fiberglass Manifesto" is the guru of all things fiberglass, and he had some nice things to say about this rod. http://thefiberglassmanifesto.blogspot.com/2012/08/first-look-cabelas-cgt-series.html I've also fished this rod quite a bit recently and I will vouch for its value.

The Redington Butter Stick ($250) is one of the darlings of the fiberglass world right now, with good reason. I made it my recommendation in our Sportsman's Wish List before the holidays.

Orvis has jumped into the glass market with a very smooth, classic Superfine series. The rods sell for $400. What you get for that price is some nicer "made in America" components and construction, and very consistent action.

And if you want a high-end fiberglass rod, the Scott F2 series is priced north of $600. These rods still offer a full flex, yet a faster recovery than many others. And they're heirloom quality.

I don't know if I fully convinced my friend. Maybe you can back me up and sway his opinion. Then again, maybe you will talk him out of fiberglass for starters.