Can You Fly Fish with a Normal Rod

Can You Fly Fish With A Normal Rod?

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. more info

Fly fishing is generally done with a fly fishing rod, fly line, and a fly. Fly rods are a lot different from your normal type of fishing for good reason, as they are specially made to cater to the fishing or casting style required for effective and comfortable fly fishing. 

But what if you have a normal rod? Can you fly fish with a normal rod? The answer is yes, you can use a normal rod for fly fishing, as long as you use a fly and fly weights. While it’s not going to be easy or ideal, it is certainly possible.

Let’s explore this topic in greater detail right now.

fly fisherman

Do You Need A Special Rod for Fly Fishing?

Realistically, yes, you do want to use a special fly fishing rod for fly fishing, not a normal fishing rod.

Let’s keep in mind that fly fishing gets its name because of the bait being used, a so-called fly, which is designed to look hyper realistic, to as closely as possible mimic the insects that fish would normally eat, thus acting as a very realistic lure.

Fly fishing involves a very special casting technique where the angler uses a series of back-and-forth motions to build up a lot of momentum, to eventually get the fly out to the fish you are looking to catch.

Due to flies being quite small, fairly thick and heavy line is used, as well as some weights, to ensure that the fly can be cast a good distance.

Moreover, to allow you to get that fly out a good distance, fly rods tend to be very long and limber, with a lot of flexibility and elasticity for that back-and-forth casting technique.

As you can probably guess, a fly rod is the best thing to use for fly fishing, because it’s the only kind of rod that is limber enough to propel lightweight flies long distances.

Therefore, for the longest and most accurate casts when using a fly, you do really want that long and limber fly fishing rod, as it will produce the best results and functionality.

However, no, if you are dead set on fly fishing, and you don’t have a fly fishing rod, and you don’t want to buy one, then it is technically possible to fly fish with a normal rod, although definitely not ideal.

Are All Fly Fishing Rods the Same?

Just like with spinning rods, baitcasting rods, surf rods, and other rod types, not all fly fishing rods are built the same.

Although most are quite similar, there are some variations and different features to keep in mind.

So, to help you find the best rod for you, let’s do a quick fly fishing rod buying guide, just to list the main differences and the features that you should keep an eye out for.


Not all fly fishing rods are made out of the same materials.

Your old school fly fishing rods were usually all made of fiberglass, and yes, you can still find some fiberglass fly fishing rods out there, although they have become dated.

The more popular and common fly rod material nowadays is graphite.

You also have bamboo, which was used in the past and is still widely used today. Fiberglass is not your best bet, with graphite being the most popular.

Bamboo rods are usually light, well crafted, and feature a slower and more classic casting style.

What material you go for really depends on your needs and casting style. Before making a choice, we recommend doing some research on fiberglass, graphite, and bamboo fly fishing rods.


Another major difference between fly fishing rods is their length.

Fly rods, generally speaking, can be as short as 6 or 7 feet, and as long as 12 or 13 feet, with the preferred length across the board being between 8 and 9 feet.

If you are going for short distance casting and you want a lot of casting accuracy, 8 feet or slightly less is called for.

If you want to be able to cast heavy flies long distances, 9 feet or slightly longer is called for. If you want a good mix of casting distance and accuracy around 8.5 feet is best.

Number of Pieces

Some fly rods can come in full-length one-piece designs, most come in two or three-piece designs, and some may come with four pieces or more.

Generally speaking, the fewer pieces your rod has, the more durable it is going to be. Remember, each of those joints or connection points are weak points where something can break.

However, if you are going for portability, then a three or four-piece fly fishing rod is probably best. 

Rod Action

One of the most important differences between fly fishing rods is what the rod action is like.

Rod action with fly rods refers to how flexible or limber they are, with each action rating being ideal for a different purpose.

Let’s take a look at the three main fly fishing rod action ratings to consider.

  • Fast Action – Fast action fly rods are not very flexible and only bend at the tip, down to the front third of the rod. These rods are ideal for long distance casting due to their stiffness, they aren’t very physically demanding, and they work well for fly fishing on windy days. However, they are difficult for beginners to use and they don’t work well for accurate short distance casting.
  • Slow Action – On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have your slow action fly fishing rods, which bend more or less the whole way down. Now, these are easy for beginners to use, and they work well on calm days, particularly for accurate short distance casting, but they don’t work well on windy days and they aren’t good for long distance casting.
  • Medium Action – You also have your middle of the line medium action fly fishing rods that feature all around good performance, and this is what most people tend to go for.

Rod Weight

The other thing to consider is how heavy the rod is, and this should coincide with your line weight.

For instance, weights one through four are good for small streams and small fish, weights five and six are good for medium streams and fish, and anything higher than that is ideal for big fish in fast moving waters.

The type of fish you are looking to catch should be a big consideration when deciding on fly rod weight.

Fly Fishing Rod vs Normal Rod: Differences

fly fishing rod vs normal

There are some pretty big differences between normal fishing rods like baitcasters and spinning rods, and fly rods. So, let’s find out what makes the two different.

Length & Weight

The first major difference is that fly rods tend to be a bit longer and more flexible when compared to normal fishing rods.

Fly fishing rods also tend to be a bit lighter than normal fishing rods. Yes, this does relate to action, which we will discuss a bit more further below, but the point here is that fly fishing rods are longer, lighter, and more limber and flexible than regular fishing rods.

Handle Type

Fly fishing involves having one hand on the fishing line most of the time, which is why fly fishing rods have handles that are designed for one-handed use.

Now, it does depend on the regular fishing rod in question, but for the most part, normal rods are designed for two-handed use, although they do also allow for one-handed use.

As we will touch on below, a lot of this has to do with the fact that normal rods can be used for much larger fish, and fighting a big fish is going to require both of your hands.

Reel Type

The next big difference between fly rods and regular rods has to do with the type of reel they use.

Now, regular rods will use either baitcasting or spinning reels, and they tend to be fairly complex, complete with bails, drag adjustments, and much more.

On the other hand, fly fishing rods have much simpler reels that more or less just look like basic spools.

These are in-line reels with constant drag. Keep in mind that fly reels are harder to use than both spinning and baitcasting reels.

Casting Method

With normal fishing rods and reels, you pull back, you swing forward, and you let the line loose.  It’s very simple, easy, and fast.

However, with a fly rod and reel, you have to use this complicated and hard to master back-and-forth casting motion, which is known as false casting, where you keep swinging the rod back and forth, letting out a little more line each time, building up momentum with each movement, until you finally release the line.


The next notable difference has to do with cost. With fly rods and fly gear in general, entry level stuff tends to be moderately priced, with the fancy gear costing money that we would like to admit.

On the other hand, with normal rods, you can find dirt-cheap entry level models, but the higher end stuff can still be very pricey, just as expensive as high-end fly fishing gear.

The Type of Fish

Fly fishing is generally designed to catch smaller fish in rivers and streams, whereas regular fishing gear can catch fish of all size, from miniature fish to monster specimens.

Tackle Used

Fly fishing mainly has its name due to the type of tackle used, which is a fly, a small lure/hook that is designed to accurately resemble a fly or small insect.

With regular fishing rods, you can use all sorts of hooks, live baits, and artificial lures too.


Fly fishing rods, although there are ones with fast action ratings, in general, tend to feature slower action ratings than most regular fishing rods.

What Fish Can You Catch With A Fly Rod?

Seeing as fly fishing rods are mainly designed for smaller fish, the type of fish you can catch with them is a bit limited.

Below is a list of ideal fish to angle for when using a fly rod.

  • Trout
  • Grayling
  • Salmon
  • Pike
  • Bass
  • Panfish
  • Carp
  • Redfish
  • Bonefish
  • Snook
  • Tarpon
  • Striped bass

Can I Use A Fly On A Spinning Rod?

As we have covered to some degree already, yes, you can use a fly on a spinning rod.

However, you cannot just use a fly in combination with your normal fishing line.

If you plan on using a fly on a spinning rod, there are a few pieces of equipment that you will need to make it work, so let’s take a look at how you can use a fly on a spinning rod.

Keep in mind that it still won’t work as well as if you were to use a real fly rod, but it is doable.

Heavier Line

First off, to cast that fly long distances with your normal rod, you will need some fairly heavy fishing line, something that comes close to or is even heavier than normal fly fishing line.

You absolutely need heavy fishing line if you plan on doing this.

Casting Bubbles

Something else you want to use for fly fishing with a normal rod is a casting bubble. These are clear plastic bubbles that can be filled with water for added weight.

This will allow long distance casting of the fly without ruining the presentation of the fly.

Simply put, casting bubbles are clear weights that fish cannot see, and what’s nice is that they come in many sizes.

More Weight

You may also want to attach some weights about 1.5 feet above the fly, which will also aid in long distance casting.



There you have it folks, everything you need to know about the differences between fly rods and normal rods.

While it is possible to fly fish with a normal rod, given that you have the right gear, for the highest functionality and the best chances of success, a decent fly fishing rod is called for.