The primary function of a fly rod is to cast a weighted fly line to which a fly is attached using a combination of backward and forward casting motions.
Most fly rods come in two sections. The connecting joint where the two pieces fit together is called the ferrule. The most important consideration when assembling a rod is to make sure all of the metal loops--or "line guides"--are aligned.
Today, most rods are constructed out of graphite fibers held together with hard resin. The flexible graphite fibers provide the rod with the stiff, spring-like action that makes it possible to cast the heavy fly line.
The term "rod action" is used to describe the way a rod flexes during the casting cycle. Stiffer rods are said to have fast action because they require a quick, forceful motion that works best for making long-distance casts.
On the other end of the spectrum are flexible rods that bend easily and demand a slow, delicate casting stroke. These are considered to have a slow action and work well for executing close, precision casts.
A beginner should choose a rod with a moderate action, which tends to be more forgiving of casting errors and works relatively well for both short- and long-distance casts.
Most fly rods are between 7 and 9 feet long. In addition to length, size is measured by the particular line weight a rod is designed to cast. Line weight ranges from 1 through 13, with 1 being ultra-light and 13 being the heaviest. A rod's length, recommended line weight and actual weight in ounces are listed above the rod's cork handle grip. For beginners, a 9-foot rod rigged with 5 or 6 weight line should be appropriate for most fishing situations.
Fly-rods can be extremely expensive. Luckily, a novice does not need to purchase the fanciest model on the market to begin catching fish and learning the fundamentals of sport. A beginner can easily find a functional, good-quality rod with which to pursue everything from rainbow trout and sunfish to largemouth bass for under $100.
The first fly rods were constructed from split bamboo cane. Today, a small contingent of fishermen still use custom-built bamboo rods, despite the fact they are expensive and often difficult for beginners to handle. The majority of rods are now constructed from graphite, though until the 1970s many were still being made from fiberglass. Regardless of what material a rod is made from, it can break easily so take special care when traveling and transporting a rod.