Rod Decisions 101: Fast Action for the Beginner?
by Bill Leuchten

Many beginning fly fishing books don't recommend fast action rods when first starting out. I don't know if they write this because they don't think a good fast action rod is affordable (which was true 6 years ago), or because they believe that a fast action rod is not what a new caster should be using. Medium fast is a great choice, and my choice for that matter, but I have seen many average casters excel with a fast action rod. One reason I've attributed this to is the over "wristyness" of many who have just picked up a fly rod. A caster who uses too much wrist can get the most out of his stroke with a fast action rod because just a flick of the wrist can get a fast rod loaded (flexed). A slow rod needs more of the butt of the rod loaded which requires a smoother more finesse kind of stroke. So given this example, medium action rods are not always the best choice when you are looking for a rod that's easy to cast.

I've referred to "bad fast action" in several articles prior to this. What I mean by this is when a rod is so inflexible it takes 50ft of line out for it to start to load. A rod like this does not have any short game because, like a broomstick, minimal fly line weight will not flex it. What's promising is the amount of good fast action rods hitting the market at more affordable prices.

So when choosing a rod, even if you are riddled with bad habits, you still have a good chance of finding a rod that jibes with your idiosyncrasies.

You can see in picture A that more of the rod's midsection is loaded. This requires a smoother accelerating stroke to get the power out of the rod. In picture B just the tip is all that is required to do the work. This caster can afford to be more "wristy".

[pictures courtesy of Orvis]