Here's my article from this month's Coastal Angler Magazine. Hope it helps some of you doing a bit of shopping.
For almost every inshore situation, especially along the coast of SW Florida, a 9-foot long, 8-weight rod is just about perfect. They will cast the flies and land most of the fish that cruise our flats without much trouble. This size is also perfect for freshwater bass fishing, too.
You’ll want to match the rod with a large arbor, adjustable drag reel made from bar-stock aluminum. These are more corrosion resistant than the less expensive cast aluminum models and worth the extra money. The large arbor will also allow you to crank the fly line in much faster, which is a great help when fighting a hard running saltwater fish.
And speaking of fly line, you’ll want to spool the reel with a weight-forward, floating fly line for the shallows. Intermediate or sinking fly lines are only useful in deeper waters and are a bit more difficult to cast, especially for beginners.
Now if you’re a complete novice and everything I just wrote sounded like a foreign language, don’t worry. It’s just a very basic outline and any local fly shop (or even Mr. Google) will help fill in the blanks. With dozens of rod and reel makers doing business right now, you’re only limited by your budget. There are some excellent $99 combos that will work just fine or you could easily drop over $1000 on just a rod for someone who Santa thinks has been extra good this Christmas.
If I were personally buying someone their first saltwater rod, I would start them off with an 8-weight BVK from Temple Fork Outfitters. This fast action, 4 piece has been around for several years and is one of the best-selling fly rods on the market. They come with a lifetime warranty and still retail for only $250. That’s an astounding price for a piece of gear with so much quality and capability. You’ll literally have to spend an extra $500 to get something that casts better. Pair it with one of Temple Fork’s Super Large Arbor reels, which also retail for around $250, along with 200 yards of 20# backing and you’re almost ready to hit the water.
The last thing you’ll need is the fly line and I can’t recommend Royal Wulff’s Bermuda Shorts Triangle Taper highly enough. It’s the only fly line I’ve used for the last six years and I have no intention of changing that. If you’re an experienced caster and haven’t tried it, do yourself a favor and give it a shot. This 8-weight line matched with the Temple Fork BVK combo is as close to perfect as you can get, and all for around $600 total.
And in case you’re wondering, I have no financial affiliation with any of these companies. I have both fly and spinning gear from at least half a dozen different manufactures but this is always my first choice when people ask me where they should start. Best of luck and Merry Christmas.