How Freshwater and Saltwater Fly Rods Equate

This post was born 10 Mar, 2016 No comments

Have you ever wondered how freshwater and saltwater fly rods equate? Then, have you ever performed a Web search for an answer to your question to no avail? Well, you are not the only one who has done so since many fly fishermen would like to pursue both types of fly fishing but, find it difficult to do so because they do not know which fly rod weight to use for a given fish species in, what is to them, a foreign environment.

In fact, most anyone who has spent any time at all looking at a fly rod manufacturer’s catalog is undoubtedly aware that freshwater fly rods are normally available in weights 1 through 6 while saltwater fly rods are normally available in weights 6 through 14. Also, most fly fishermen are aware that the larger the number is, the heavier the fly line is and thus, the larger sized fly it can cast. But, how do you equate freshwater fly line weights to saltwater fly line weights? Well, the answer to that question is the culmination of several months of ferreting out and assembling various tidbits of information. For instance, I read a post on one forum from a fellow who stated that he used a 10 weight for everything “even though it was a bit heavy for some of the smaller species“. Also, I noticed that when looking at fly fishing catalogs, the 9 ft. 9 wt. fly rod always seems to be the best seller among saltwater fly fishermen. So, after a bit of pondering, I realized that these two saltwater line weights were starting to sound an awful lot like a freshwater 6 wt. and a 5 wt. respectively. Then, I was perusing the Batson Enterprises web site one evening when the final piece of evidence clicked into place and I was FINALLY able to confidently equate freshwater fly line sizes to saltwater fly line sizes. Thus, I have listed my conclusions below:


Fresh Water Fly Line Size                                   Saltwater Fly Line Size

          2 wt.                                        =                           6 wt.

          3 wt.                                        =                           7 wt.

          4 wt.                                        =                           8 wt. 

          5 wt.                                        =                           9 wt. 

          6 wt.                                        =                           10 wt.


     Therefore, choosing a 6 wt. fly rod for saltwater use is like choosing a 2 wt. fly rod for freshwater use because both fly line weights (and thus both fly rods) would be considered ultra lights for their respective genres and thus, they would both provide extra delicate presentations. On the other hand, choosing a 10 wt. fly rod for saltwater use is like choosing a 6 wt. fly rod for fresh water use while being aware that by moving to a heavier fly line, you will be sacrificing delicacy of presentation in exchange for casting distance as well as wind and fish fighting power. Last, although this chart was intended for freshwater fly fishermen who are looking for a saltwater equivalent to their freshwater fly rods, the chart also works in reverse for saltwater fly fishermen who are looking for a freshwater equivalent to their saltwater fly rods.


Written by,

Bill Bernhardt

Outdoor Professional

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