Part #2 of Three- Gear Series! Rod, Reel & Line Choices for Fly Fishing Central Nevada

[h4]Part Two – Choosing Your Fly Reels.[/h4]

Do you actually need a fly reel to catch a small trout? Not really. You can catch trout up to 15” safely with a cane pole or Japanese-style Tenkara telescopic rod, a “string” the length of your pole and a fly. Fishing with a “pole” can be rewarding and a bunch of fun too. However, a “pole” won’t cover all of our bases here. Most of us will want to use a fly reel, fly line and fly rod combination outfit. Choosing a reel can seem like a daunting task. I’ll try to make it a simple choice for you.

[h4]What is a fly reel?[/h4]

Fly reels are very different from spinning and casting reels. A fly reel, in most cases, is merely a line holding devise. You don’t cast the line from a fly reel like you do from the other types of reels. Rather, the fly reel holds the fly line until you strip-off the length of line that you want to cast. Then you bring the fish to hand using your fingers to draw the fly line and fish back to you. There is some technique involved, but basically you hand-line the fish. When you are done casting and catching fish, you simply store the line by winding it back onto the reel. Therefore, the fly reel is not as important as your fly rod in most cases; especially when you’re after smaller fish like stocked “planter” trout. Any simple, inexpensive fly reel will get that job done; as long as it is sized to hold the line and balances well on your fly rod.

The above chart outlines fly gear pairings for various fish species.

If you are using a bigger fly rod, say a 6 or 7 weight, and are expecting to get into a larger fish, then stepping up to a more sophisticated reel makes sense. These upscale reels have a drag system which allows you to “play” the fish on the reel and use the reel’s drag to wear-down a feisty fish without breaking a light mono leader. We need, therefore, to match the gear to our budget and also to the type of fish we are angling for.

Fly Reel Sizes

For our purposes here in Central Nevada, reels of choice include a 3-4 weight, 5/6 weight and for Pyramid lake a 7/8 or even a 9/10 weight reel. Reel sizes match fly rod sizes. So if you have a 5 Weight fly rod, then get a 5/6 reel etc.

Fly Reel Drag Systems

Traditional fly reels have no drag systems. Instead, you control a running fish by putting pressure on the reel’s revolving spool with a finger or your palm. These are “click paw” reels. I use them on lightweight fly rods; such as 3 and 4 weight outfits for small trout and pan fish. That’s all you need in a fly reel to catch smaller fish.

Disk Drag Reels: Reel technology has progressed over the past few decades. You can now get a sophisticated machined aluminum disk drag reel for a fair price. However; keep in mind that the more you pay for a disk drag reel, the smoother the drag on it will be. A very smooth drag system allows you land fish using lightweight mono tippet (leaders)-such as using 2 LB. test for spooky trout in clear water. I don’t recommend buying cheap, off-brand disk drag reels. You get what you pay for. Invest in a decent disk drag reels for your 5 through 9 weight rods and you are all set. “Buy Once-Cry Once”, as they say. The last thing you’ll want is a malfunctioning, jerky, sticking disk drag on a fly reel when a good sized fish has been hooked. It could mean a broken leader and a lost fish. Good disk drag reels have infinite adjustability to accommodate various tippet strength.

The “Click” Sound

Most fly reels make a clicking noise as they rotate-both forwards and backwards. Some reels make more sound than others. There is nothing like the sound of a hot fish peeling line from a reel with a good clicker! It is a hearty ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ and sure gets your attention. It also lets everyone within hearing range know that you have a “Fish-On”. Both Click Paw and Disk Drag reels can emanate great sounds. It is a personal choice. Many anglers seek out reels with loud clicks. They even have “screaming reel” ring tones for cell phones! The sound does not affect a reel’s function. The click can be thought of as “ear candy”. I enjoy a good clicker.

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Reel Cost

You get what you pay for. Click paw reels go from $25 to $300.00. The difference is materials, brand and longevity. Disk drag reels go from $69.00 to $900.00 and higher. Again; brand, design, extra smooth drag systems, exotic materials, and custom finishes can demand a hefty price tag that some find hard to resist. I contend that there is no reason to spend over $250 MSRP to get a solid, serviceable disk drag reel for our needs. Deals abound on-line and through club group buys. Find a reel in a size and color you like and look for a smooth drag (if choosing a disk drag-type reel) in a top brand so that parts are available as well as customer support. Warranties vary. The best reels have spools that spin true without wobble, and have very small gaps between the reel frame and the spool. Pick up a spare spool and get essentially two reels for less cost. Oftentimes, fly anglers will fish both a floating and sinking fly line depending on conditions. The spare spools make sense in that regard. You simply keep the “other” type line on the spare spool and carry it with you in a vest pocket . You then simply pop off the main spool and swap it with the spare. This change-out only takes a moment. Save the funds you’d spend on a second reel for other essential gear.

Reel Materials

Materials for fly reels vary widely. Fly Reel materials from  the cheapest to the most expensive materials are:

Injected Plastic, Carbon Fiber, or nylon- filled plastics, cast metals, and machined aluminum (bar stock).

Right or Left hand wind?

Reels can be purchased in both left and right hand wind configurations. If you are right handed and cast the rod with your right hand, then usually you’ll want your reel to be left hand wind for convenience. This keeps you from having to switch the rod into your left hand when you need to reel in line. However; in the case of using larger rods and reels, it will make sense to have the reel configured in left-hand-wind. After hooking a large fish, you transfer the rod to you left hand and use your dominant hand to reel-in line tactfully. Some reels come with an internal bearing that is reversible to allow either right or left-hand set-up. Some reels have to be ordered in the configuration you want. Be advised! Which is best for you? I personally like to set up my reels as follows:

1) I cast right handed. For fly outfits 3 weight to 6 weight, I prefer left hand wind.

2) For bigger 7 weight outfits and up to 15 weight, I set them up for dominant hand wind (Right hand in my case). This way when you have to wind super-fast to take up slack-you have your best hand doing the work. During an hour long fight with a big fish, you’ll want to put your best “hand” forward for sure.

Knuckle Busters

Lastly-consider fly reels to be knuckle busters. How’s that again? Almost all fly reels made today do not incorporate an “anti-reverse” design. There is a small handle on the side of the reel’s spool that allows you to crank the reel and wind on the line. If you happen to hook a sizable fish, you must let go of the handle and let the spool spin as line goes out. This prevents the leader (tippet) from breaking. This applies to both click paw and disk drag reels. This means that if you try to grab the handle while it spins, your knuckles and fingers will get impacted by the handle as it spins in a blur. A large hot fish can spin a reel at very high RPMs. Ouch! So there is a little bit of a learning curve in keeping your hands out of a rotating fly reel when a fish makes a long run. Timing is everything here. It’s all a part of our wonderful sport of fly fishing.


Coming Next…

Part Three –“Choosing Your Fly lines, Leaders and Tippets”

Floating, Intermediate Sink & fast sinking lines give us even more choices and abilities……..

Three Part Gear Series! Rod, Reel & Line Choices for Fly Fishing Central Nevada


[h4]Part One – Choosing Your Rods[/h4]

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The Central Nevada region covers vast tracts of high desert lands. The elevations of our fishing spots can range from 3000 feet all the way up to 10,000 feet. Throughout this arena are waters holding a surprising variety of interesting game fish species.

Challenges abound for the dedicated Central Nevada Fly Fisher. Fishing every “fishable” spot in Central Nevada is a worthy challenge indeed! Many, many road miles, lots of casting and Great-Big-Smiles are the order of the day!






Our quarry can include 3 inch long Sunfish at Sportsman’s Pond     –     Or up to 44-inch long Northern Pike at Cumins Lake.

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[/one_half_last]Rainbow Trout

However, Trout are the most commonly sought after fish in our state.






[h5]Question: Will one fly rod, reel and line be fine for most Trout fishing in central Nevada?[/h5]

[h5]Answer: Sure.[/h5] The gold standard American-Style fly rod is a 9 foot long rod in a 5 weight Line Category. A “9-foot Five” will get you going in nearly all our Central Nevada waters. Throw a weight forward #5 floating fly line on an economical reel & you’ll have a blast with a 5-weight rod-even on a budget. A 5-weight rod is a great 1st choice for Ab Initio fly fisher. You can fish all around our state with a 5 weight outfit.

[h4]Going beyond the basics.[/h4]

Once you’ve made the decision to explore more than “Trout” fishing on-the-fly in Central Nevada, the list of available game fish species begs that we make further rod, reel, line, leader, and fly choices.

For example, Redington’s Vapen Red 4-piece Fly Rod models guide, shown at left in the following chart, lists eight different line weight models. This range of rods, which is typical of all fly rod brands, more than covers every aspect of our fly fishing needs here in Central Nevada.

[h5]Four, Six and Eight-The tools you’ll want to have in your Kit.[/h5]

Sorry. There is no “One Rod” or “One Fly’ solution when choosing a fly rod outfit that will be effective on all Central Nevada waters & species. A key to us being successful anglers here in Central Nevada is being as versatile as practical. Fly choice, and then presentation is what fly fishing successes is all about. Heck maybe it’s the other way around; and presentation is first. Either way-here is my take on the rod choices that I feel comfortable with for Central Nevada fly fishers. Some may argue these choices. “It’s just Fishin’-I’ll say”. Then let us then consider line weight, rod lengths, and the waters that we’ll be fishing. Lastly, we’ll take into account the fish species sought after, and also consider, somewhat, our fly lines and fly patterns used in this pursuit. These factors ultimately dictate our rod choices.


[frame style=”modern” image_path=”” link_to_page=”” target=”” description=”” float=”left” lightbox=”” lightbox_group=”” size=”two_col_large”][h4]Rod Line Weights:[/h4] Useful fly line weights for Central Nevada Fly fishers range from 4 weights to 10 Wt. rods. Fly size is matched to the fish size you are after. The ole’ adage is: big fish=big flies. Simple. However, there is the odd exception, interestingly, such as when an angler hunts 20 LB Brown Trout with a size #18 Midge pattern with a 5-weight rod on the Truckee River. This is not the norm. Yet on the other hand, you simply cannot effectively throw a 10-inch long weighted Pike Fly tied on a 2/0 hook using a 4 weight creek-rod. Nor can you properly present a size #20 dry fly using a 14 weight, 7 foot Shark Rod.

Reality is that you can throw a midge & indicator to a feeding trout with any rod up to a 9 weight. Therefore, different fishing situations demand different approaches and gear really. I think that “gear choice” is part of the enjoyment of this sport. In some ways it defines an angler. Sometimes we need to generalize in order to make our rod & reel choices easier.

I’ll go through the different rod weights and their utility. Making a sound choice is not as confusing as it might first appear.



The most popular fly rod sold is the “8’6”-9’, 5- WT”. It is the iconic & quintessential American Fly Rod. You can’t go wrong having this rod in the arsenal. You will get plenty of use out of a good fast-action 5 weight. If you can have only one rod, then this is the rod for you! It won’t cast huge flies to Bass and Pike, rather you’ll be a Trout and panfish.

Waters: Fish a 5 WT. on Streams, ponds, reservoirs, small rivers, & lakes: anywhere that there is a chance of catching a larger fish; such as a 5-LB Brown!

Rod Length: 81/2 feet to 9 feet

Species: All trout (except Mackinaw), Pan Fish, Small Bass



The 6 weight rods are stouter and often have a fighting butt. This rod butt extension can be placed on your hip to increase leverage and allow you to land a larger fish quickly. I think of six-weights as specialty rods for aggressive fish like Large Mouth Bass and when fishing heavy lines in lakes for mid to large-sized Trout. A 6-Wt. insures the ability to shoot heavier lines in high winds, throw larger flies & also helps you deal with swift currents.

Waters: A Six is a great rod to use on windy days on big water; and a great all around “Bass Rod” size rod for larger ponds.

Rod length: 8-10 feet. A 9 ft. long rod is the most common 6 weight. Choose the length based upon your intended use. Choose a longer 6-weight if fishing from a belly boat-for example: in order to get a longer back cast when sitting low on the surface of the water. 10 footers are common for this application.

Species: Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass; Walleye, larger Trout, smaller “schoolie-sized” Stripers & Lake Perch. A 6-weight makes a great Carp rod too!




A seven weight is not really all that practical for fly fishing Central Nevada. Yet a seven weight rod is really fun to cast and fish with! Utilize a high modulus, fast action, 10-foot, seven weight rod with a sinking line for up-sized Lahontan Cutthroats or even Channel Cats. Having a 7-weight in your arsenal is just fun. Trolling flies in lakes is fair game and a beefy 7-weight fits in nicely for that. Consider a longer 11-foot 7 Wt. Switch Rod for even more versatility. However, a 7-weight rod is certainly not “required gear” to fish in our area.

Waters: Lakes, fast rivers, beaches, deep ponds, when fishing weighted flies on sinking lines.

Rod length: 8 ½-11 feet. Choose a shorter 7 weight to dredge deep lakes from boats using metal-core shooting heads. Choose a longer rod for casting from lake shores.

Species: Larger Trout, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Carp, Walleye & Catfish, Stripers, Wipers.


10-12-14 Weights.

Maybe, just maybe you could use a 10 Wt. when pitching huge-12” flies on a fat bellied floating flyline to 40” Pike and 12# LMB. Nice dream! Nothing in Nevada really requires the use of these behemoth rigs! Well….that is, unless you are fishing for Ichthyosaurs near Gabbs!


8 & 9 – Weights

These larger line-weight rods get the call when presenting to large fish! Heavy lines, heavy fly rods and fly reels require more physical strength and finesse to cast too. These heavyweights demand advanced casting skills. Learning the “Double-Haul” cast is essential to mastering a heavy weight fly rod set-up. Proper casting fundamentals along with casting practice will insure enjoyment of these larger outfits. “Chuck & Duck” is hard work; yet nothing beats having the perfect matched big fly rod outfit when a big fish is on the line.

Waters: Fish this range of rods on Tahoe, Pyramid, and Cave lakes. Pull a big rod out when busting trophy-sized LMB at the Ruby Marshes. The 8 weight is called for when targeting Northern Pike at Comins Lake. A 10-foot 8-weight might just be the perfect Pyramid Lake Cutthroat Trout shore rod.

Rod Length: 7.5 foot to 11-foot long fly rods are choices for big fish when throwing large flies in heavy winds is the call. I’ll recommend a 9 footer.

Species: These heavy weight rods are used for busting big Central Nevada LM Bass, Pyramid Lake Cutthroat Trout, battling Northern Pike and Tahoe’s larger Lake, Brown and Rainbow Trout.

[callout1]My Personal Rod recommendations:[/callout1]

My 3 cents:
You’ll need 3-4 fly rods to cover the bases in Central Nevada. Include a 4 weight, 6 weight, 8 weight and maybe a 10 weight rod in your quiver just to be sure. The 10 Weight is only really a consideration if you are gunning for record book Pike.

Multi-Piece Rods are the most practical. If traveling by air, a 4-piece, 9 foot rod packs away nicely in your carry-on luggage; and that consideration alone drives the fly rod market. Three and two piece rods are also available and are a good choice.

That said, one piece rods are the best casting and the lightest rods made. They have become popular with a lot of guides in the past few years. The guides are able to carry them in/on their 4X 4’s for their clients. These cumbersome, one-piece rods are rather impractical to transport at 8-10 feet in length. A 1-Piece is the ultimate fly rod casting experience if you can swing it! It’s not a bad project to consider either-building a 1-piece fly rod.

Brands/Prices: Today’s market is chocked full of fabulous fly gear at amazing values. A larger price tag usually denotes higher quality appointments, such as line guides, line guide wrapping, the real seats, grade of cork (if used) and the way that it is packaged. Some will be in a sack and others in a sack within a protective tube. Fly Rod Combo outfits (Rod/Reel/Line) range from $150.00 to $1500.00 depending on your budget taste and needs.


Fly Rod Warranty: Fly fishing’s big name brands have some of the best warranty polices you’ll find in the sporting goods industry. Many brands still offer free replacement of broken fly rods-no questions asked. Note: I have broken a few myself and had good outcomes. You’ll be required to pay pay a small service fee and ship it back to the factory. You’ll have a new rod headed your way. It’s comforting to have these full coverage warranties after you have paid a handsome price for a nice fly rod.


Coming Next –

Part Two- “Choosing Your Fly Reel”

Once the rod has been chosen, you’ll need a reel for it……….


Part Three –“Choosing Your Fly lines, Leaders and Tippets”

Floating, Intermediate Sink & fast sinking lines give us even more choices and abilities……..