As we discussed previously, when most anglers dive into the sport of fly fishing, they typically leave their local fly shop with some sort of a 5wt rod. However, as they progress through the sport of fly fishing anglers realize how beneficially it can be to carry two rods with them. When looking at what rod will provide the most benefit look no further than the 4wt. In this edition of Trouts Classics, we are revisiting an old staff favorite 4 reasons you need a 4wt. This story is originally written by former Trouts Marketing and Outfitting Manager, Kyle Wilkinson. This story dates back to 2015 however, all of the insight still rings true today. Without further ado, let us get into this week's Trouts Classic.
It would be interesting to know the number of customers we see come into the shop intent on doing something every one of us has done in the past-- otherwise known as purchase their first fly rod. It would also be interesting to know what percentage of these customers walk out of the shop, cheerfully grinning ear to ear toting a shiny new 5wt. And why wouldn’t this be the case? I’m confident not more standard industry advice exists than the fact that a 5wt is a great all-around rod. I’d also guarantee on any given day more 5wt rods are being fished across the state of Colorado (and any state with trout in it) than any other rod. However, then comes the next step in any budding fly-fisher’s career where a little lightbulb goes off, and it becomes decided that one fly rod alone won’t do. They need another. Once said realization becomes unarguable (it’s funny how easy it is in fly-fishing to convince yourself you need something) comes the question of what to get. Sure the possibility of upgrading to a better 5wt will be where the search ends for some. However, this typically is not the case because even an $800 5wt will feel a little overkill on your high alpine backpacking trips or post-work missions to Clear Creek.
Here are 4 reasons why:
1. Smaller Waters:
This is somewhat of a no-brainer but is still 100% fact. Any area of the country with trout streams is going to offer these in a variety of sizes….and there is always going to be a lot smaller streams than bigger ones. Whether it’s hiking to a high alpine lake or stream, exploring a spring creek where stealth is key, or any other situation where a 5wt seems a little much, a 4wt will offer a better presentation and make considerably more sport out of the size of fish usually found in these smaller waters.
Whether on a guide trip or during my personal fishing, I find myself carrying two rods more and more. In Colorado, particularly, having a nymph rig on your 5wt will produce fish 365 days a year without question. But as will be mentioned below, nymphing is not the only way to catch a trout or two. Particularly during the warmer, buggier months of the year, I always have a 4wt rigged with a dry fly alongside. From Blue Wings to PMD’s, Caddis to Hoppers, Stoneflies to Tricos, there is always a good chance you will encounter a hatch that will turn a trout’s eyes skyward. Having a rod ready to take advantage of these opportunities will make you a much more efficient angler. You will also save time by not having to cut off your nymph rig, or possibly rebuilt your leader out, and tie on a dry fly. Simply put, from the time runoff ends clear up to Fall, having a second rod rigged with a dry will without a doubt put a few more fish in the net for you. Moreover, most 4wts can also throw a nymph rig quite capably. This will ensure your bases are covered in the event the dry/nymph setups need to turn into a nymph/streamer combo- as most 5weights can handle even a moderately sized streamer. Having two rigs ready to go at all times will allow you to show more flies to more fish, in a greater variety of ways. In my opinion, a 4wt/5wt combo is the perfect approach to this scenario.
3. Dry Flies:
I'll say with certainty, fishing a few nymphs below a thingamabobber is not the only way to catch a trout. Making it a point to step up your dry fly game is going to make you a better caster, better in-tuned with the behavior of trout, and in general, make you a better, more well-rounded angler. I can promise that a good day of dry fly fishing is going to provide you with some on-water memories that watching a plastic bubble dart under the surface won’t hold a candle to. A 4wt rod will still be able to toss most hoppers around, but will make fishing the smaller stuff such as small parachutes, caddis, ants, and stimulators much more fun….and that’s why we’re all out there in the first place, isn’t it?
4. And finally.
The 4th reason you need a 4wt is a simple one. If you get a 4wt rod, you will find a way to put it to use….and who knows where that adventure is going to take you.
Final thoughts on rod length:
If you’ve got a 9’ 5wt and are particularly looking to battle that feeling of having ‘too much rod’ for the rivers you are fishing, get an 8 or 8.5 footer for your 4wt. You will be amazed how much going down one line weight along with shaving off 6” or 12” can impact your day on the water. Also, let's not forget that shorter rods are more accurate than longer rods. This decrease in rod length can pay dividends when you are trying to hit a basketball-sized slick behind a rock among a brush choked blue line at 9000 feet. I’ve got a couple of 4 weights but, the one I find myself fishing the most is an 8’6” Winston BIII-LS (Note: This rod is no longer available.). This rod is extremely versatile and has excelled in countless situations from throwing lightweight nymph rigs on the Fraser to technical midge and baetis dries on the Bighorn, to tossing small Chubby Chernobyls on the Dream Stream.
So now that you have decided you do need a 4 weight, here are 6 of my personal favorites 4’s, spread across three price points. All of these rods are offered in lengths less than 9' as well.