Understanding the Fly Rod

The fly rod is a different beast than a typical fishing rod, and there’s a lot of arcane-sounding terminology used when describing them. A normal fishing rod (spinning and casting rods) uses a heavy lure to pull a light line to its target location. A fly rod does the exact opposite as a heavy line pulls the lightweight fly to its desired target. Let’s break down the components of the fly rod for easier understanding.

Fly Rod

The fly rod itself is comprised of several components: the blank, grip, and reel seat. The blank is the basic shaft itself upon which all of the other fly rod components are built upon. Blanks can vary in length and weight depending upon the fishing conditions they’re going to be used in. The grip is where the fisherman is connected to the rod, and there are different styles of grips for different fishing situations. The reel seat is a threaded metal cylinder and is the part of the rod that connects the fly reel to the rod itself. Many fly rods can be broken down into two, or more, parts for easy storage and transport.

Fly Reel

The fly reel holds the line that will be used for fishing. The reel must match the weight of the rod, and some reels are made to accommodate a number of different fly rod weights. The fly reel is connected to the rod via the reel seat. The fisherman uses his dominant hand to hold the rod whilst the non-dominant hand is used manipulate the reel’s handle. The reel also features a dial that sets the drag, which is how quickly (or slowly) you wish the line to be released from the reel.

Backing and Arbor Knot

There are multiple lines that contiguously attach to your fly reel. The first line is called backing, and it is a very thin, but strong, line that is attached directly to the spool using an Arbor knot. The purpose of this backing and Arbor knot is to ensure that the line remains attached to the spool even if a fish runs off with the line.

Fly Line and Albright Knot

The next line on the rod is the fly line, and this is a buoyant and weighted line that is attached to the backing via an Albright knot. The fly line allows the fisherman to cast his line a good distance and is often fluorescent green or orange in color.


After the backing and the fly line are spooled onto the reel, the loose end of the fly line will be threaded through the guides, which are the metal holds that run alongside the bottom and at the very end of the rod.

Leader Line and Nail Knot

The leader is a line that is clear, and usually tapered, that helps transfer the power of the fisherman’s cast down the length of the entire line. The thick end of the leader is attached to the fly line using a Nail knot. Some fly rods have a loop-to-lop system that allows for easy attachment of the fly line and leader, which then negates the necessity of using a Nail knot.

Tippet and Surgeon’s Knot

Tippet is a very thin line that is attached to the thin, loose end of the leader line with a Surgeon’s knot. This line submerges pretty fast due to the weight of a wet fly.

The Fly and Clinch Knot

The fisherman then ties his fly to the loose end of the tippet using a Cinch knot. There are many, many different styles of flies for a fisherman to chose from. Normally, a fisherman will choose a fly that mimics the local food source for the fish he’s attempting to catch.