If you take a lesson from a golf pro, your grip is the first thing he or she is going to look at. The grip might not be quite so important when it comes to casting a fly rod, but for many of us, the way we hold the rod is almost an afterthought—and that’s a mistake.
I know for sure that the type of grip on a fly rod is rarely considered by many. But you’d be surprised how much a grip (usually made by pressing and glueing rings of Portuguese cork together, then shaving the grip into form) costs in the first place, and how it can influence the way you cast.
A lot of this has to do with the rod’s action, as well as the angler’s casting stroke. For example, the most common grips these days are probably the half wells, which is flared at the top (with one area of depression—a full wells has two), and the western grip, which has more of a cigar-shaped taper.
I prefer a half wells most of the time, because I cast with my thumb on top of the grip, and I like to choke up on the rod. Also, I really like to feel the rod load right into the grip. which that area of depression accentuates, especially when I’m making distance casts.
On the other hand, if you cast with your index finger on top of the grip (like Lee Wulff did), or even if you just like a lighter feel, the cigar taper might be best for you. Those grips also seem best suited for lighter-weight rods designed to make more delicate presentations with shorter casts.
Another thing I really pay attention to nowadays is the diameter of a grip. I sometimes oversize my golf grips to keep my hands from over-clutching, and I like a slightly larger grip on a fly rod for the same reason. If my hand is a bit more relaxed, I cast straighter and I’m definitely less fatigued at the end of the day—and not only my hand, but also my whole arm and shoulder. That all starts with the grip, in my opinion.
If you find yourself sore after a day of fly fishing, I’d suggest thinking about switching grips. You can tinker around to fix any grip, too, but I do appreciate rod makers that put some thinking into grips, beyond cosmetics.