Small Stream Fly Rods for Trout and similar game fish. If there is a disadvantage with the short rod, I think it is more likely to be with the fisherman than the rods. Most well tapered short fly rods are designed to excel at close distances and “short tight casting strokes”. If the fly fisher tries to extend the casts to distances of 50+ feet continuously, they will be disappointed as compared to the longer more powerful rods they may also fish. Also,it is very easy to overpower the cast on most short rods, just less distance for the rod to flex during the cast so the caster has less time to recover from a casting mistake. I am not talking about line speed, or well executed hauling, I am referring to applying power at the wrong time during the casting stroke (most likely at the beginning of the fore cast). A shorter rod (with a fast or even medium fast action) will not be very forgiving of overpowered casts.
They will put a Tailing Loop in the cast and the resulting wind knots in the leader. Also a shorter rod will not mend line as well as a longer rod, but if the small streams you are fishing are truly small brushy types, you will not be doing long uninterrupted drifts where mending is important. At least not on the majority of these streams. When I need to mend line with a short rod I normally try a cast that actually puts the mend into the line while it is the air and add a little slack line to the cast. Tricky, but it works.(well most of the time)
My favorite cast with these type of rods is what I call a “Squeeze Cast”. (see Joe Humphries superb video on Casting in Tight Brush)maybe the best coverage there is on the subject. The cast is initiated with the rod tip only inches from the water. The rod tip stops either at the 1:00 position or just a little behind you on a side arm cast. The casting hand is gradually opened during the back cast, the rod tip only travels a few feet on the forward cast and the rod is controlled with the fore finger and thumb through the first 80% of the forecast. At the end of the very short fore cast, the three lower finger quickly close on the grip with a squeeze ! The thumb is pushed slightly downward against the top of the grip. The rod is then held absolutely at a “STOPPED” position with no forward drift of the casting hand. Hold position until 90% of the cast lays out and you are ready to drop the rod tip down (from the elbow) to present the fly. This short fast “SQUEEZE” at the very end of the fore cast develops very high line speeds and results in nice tight loops with no wind knots. Also be sure to keep the rod tip moving on the same level plane during both fore and back casts.
I think the key to working successfully with a short fly rod is to develop the short casting stroke, learn to develop higher line speed with the shorter casting stroke and for the most part, fish within the rods limits regarding distance. You can get the distance (I have shot out 50′ to 60 ‘ casts on one back cast, from the hip, with small stream fly rods, but if I need that distance the majority of the time I should be fishing with a rod more suitable to the task.
So if you can master the Casting strokes of a small stream fly rod, you can start successfully fishing those brusy tight stream where its said “the big ones head there when its hot”. Good luck, Joe @ Castitagain. FFF Certified Fly Casting instructor.