Best carp fishing rods
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Getting Set Up To Fish

Let’s talk essential equipment (the best carp fishing rods) and setup. You’re itching to get on the water and fish for carp, and we don’t blame you. However, before you step into the stream, you need to have the right stuff.

Fishing for carp is gear oriented. It costs to get started. In this post we’ll tell you what gear essentials you’ll need to get on the water. We’ll help you wade through the maze so you can make the best decision for your fishing rod (and for your budget).

Best Carp Fishing Rods

A fishing rod will be your single most important fly-casting investment. It will also be the most expensive. Rod selection should be a careful, thoughtful process. Choosing a rod is like getting married. Your rod will be an extension of your hand.

Most important, your rod casts and mends your fly line. But the rod also tells you when carp is picking up your fly, when you’ve bumped the bottom, or when your fly is dragging. And it also acts as a shock absorber when you fight carp.

Rods come in many styles and price ranges—from $20 to $2,000. You have to consider different lengths, weights, construction materials, and fishing orientations. If you’ve inherited an old rod or can borrow one, use it for a while until you’ve learned what you need. In the meantime, shop around for a good deal on carp rods:

A fishing rod will be your single most important fly-casting investment for fishing carp.

Select A Rod For Water Conditions And For Carp

Select a rod that matches your fishing conditions and the fish you want to catch. A 5-, 6-, or 7-weight, 9-foot rod is a good all-around choice (the 5-weight rod is the lighter, the 7-weight heavier).

As a rule, lighter rods are for smaller fish; heavier rods are for bigger fish (or rougher conditions). It’s not much fun to catch 12-inch carp on a heavy 9- weight trout rod. Conversely, a 4-weight rod, ideal for small-stream trout, is hardly built to land a 10-pound carp.

If you’re going to fish small, brushy streams where long casts aren’t required, consider a shorter rod, such as a 4-weight 8-footer. A shorter rod is better when casting around brush. A lighter line weight will allow a more delicate presentation to the easily frightened fish here. If you’re going to float-tube on lakes and ponds, look at a 5- or 6-weight, 10-foot rod.

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You’ll want a tall rod since you’re sitting lower on the water—it’ll help your cast. If you plan to catch larger fish, such as carp, you’ll want a little heavier rod, perhaps a 7- or 8- weight. Delicate presentations usually aren’t an issue; besides, a stronger rod will help you set the hook and turn the fish away from structure.

If you’re looking for the best carp fishing rods, check out our recommendations above.

Decide what your needs are before you rush into a rod purchase. Our favorite all-around rod has always been a 5-weight 9-footer—a good choice for most casters. We’ve caught about every game fish on this rod, but we do enjoy catching big fish with light tackle. (we also lose fish as a result.)

Before you buy, visit several fishing or sporting goods stores and look at your options. See if they have rods that you can cast and compare. Pick up a number of rods and swish them through the air. Does the rod quickly recover (quit shaking)? Or does it feel like a shaking noodle? Does the rod feel good in your hand? Do you like the grip? Ask the salesperson to list the pros and cons of each model. Regardless, see our recommendations below:

Materials Used

The materials most widely used for making fly rods today are cane, fibreglass, carbon fibre and graphite rods. Each has its advantages and disadvantages; good, bad and indifferent rods are available in all three materials.

Cane Rods

Cane rods are built from carefully cut and bonded triangular sections of male Tonkin bamboo. They still have a large following, especially among experienced and traditionally minded river fly fishers. Length for length they are heavier than their fibreglass and carbon-fibre counterparts, but they often have gentle actions and can deliver a fly accurately and delicately. They are expensive, though, and, sentiment apart, offer little real advantage over fibreglass or carbon fibre.

Fibreglass Rods

Fibreglass rods are less expensive than either cane or carbon-fibre ones, but tend to be rather soft-actioned and have now largely been superseded by carbon fibre.

Carbon Fibre Rods

When carbon fibre was introduced for rod making a dozen or so years ago, it was claimed to have almost magical properties, particularly in terms of casting distance. In fact, some of the early carbon-fibre rods were abominable creations (just as some of the early fibreglass ones had been).

However, the metal teething troubles have now largely been resolved and, although still more expensive than fibreglass, carbon fibre has now come down quite dramatically in price. Today, carbon-fibre rods sales constitute by far the greater part of the rod market.

Carbon Fibre Qualities

Carbon fibre has three major qualities. It is light — which makes for effortless casting over long periods. It is strong — rods made from it are therefore slender and cut through the wind efficiently. And the tip of a carbon rod stops dead at the end of a forward cast instead of bouncing up and down, enabling the skillful angler to put out a straighter line than he might otherwise be able to.

Two warnings should be issued in relation to carbon-fibre rods.

  1. First, ‘carbon fibre’ is, in fact, made by marrying fibreglass and carbon fibres. In order to produce cheap rods, the manufacturers of some blanks have reduced the actual carbon content significantly but continued to make very light and slender rods with the debased material. The resultant rods tend to be both limper in action and markedly more fractile than those with a higher carbon content. It is almost always a false economy to buy a very cheap ‘carbon-fibre’ rod.
  2. Second, carbon-fibre rods (of any quality) are relatively fragile. Working them with insufficient line extended can set up stresses leading to instantaneous breakage, usually six or eight inches above the handle, and a nick caused by a fly striking the rod during casting can cause similar weakness, the fracture often occurring without warning weeks or months later.

Graphite Rods

Advances in technology however has made fiberglass a thing of the past – almost. The new material, graphite is the preferred material of choice for its durability and effectiveness and more importantly, it is extraordinarily light.

Regardless of what a rod is made of or the best carp fishing rod, three other factors should influence our choice — line rating, length and action

Line Rating

Nowadays, every good fly rod is marked just above the handle with the weight of line or the range of line weights to which it is best suited, for example #5 or #4—6 (an experienced tackle dealer should be able to advise you if you have an old, unmarked rod).

This rating assumes that ten yards of line will be aerialized. For every two yards more or less aerialized in actual fishing, the line needs to be one size lighter or heavier to load the rod correctly.

If you usually fish a small brook on which you rarely expect to cast further than about eight yards, you should ‘overload’ your rod by one number — for example, by using a #5 line on a #4 rod.

Beware of rods rated for a wide range of line weights. Whatever a manufacturer may claim, every rod must have a line weight to which it is best suited, and to move away from this optimum must inevitably inhibit the rod’s performance. Most wary of any rod marked with anything more than two, adjacent, AFTM numbers — for example, #4—5.


Perhaps slightly surprisingly, the lengths of rods used for stream and river fishing vary more than do those of rods used on still waters. For most purposes, on the chalk streams and on medium-sized spate rivers, an 8 1/2 foot or a 9-foot rod will serve very well. But on small becks and brooks, heavily overhung with trees and bushes, it may be necessary to go down to 7 1/2 or even 7 feet in order to be able to work a line out without constantly catching leaves and branches.

And on large rivers, a 10-foot rod may barely be long enough to cover the water and to keep in touch with one’s flies, especially when fishing a wet fly or a team of wet flies upstream. On the whole, it is sensible to buy a slightly longer rod than you think you need, rather than a shorter one.

Although 7-foot and 7 1-foot wands are very pretty, they can pose quite serious problems when fishing from the bank; they make it difficult to cast and to retrieve line over reeds, rushes and nettles, to control the line on the water, and to play fish, especially in heavily weeded waters. Unless you habitually wade beneath a canopy of foliage, an 9 1/2 foot or even a 10-foot rod should not prove too long for even the smallest stream, and it should be long enough to cope with all but the largest rivers.

In a number of ways of fishing for carp, a fly rod longer than normal is a big advantage because you can reach out over water you can’t wade into and still let the fly hang downstream. Ten-foot rods or even 11-foot switch rods, even in small streams, can be a big advantage because not only can they let the fly hang below you in more places, they also help to keep more line off the water so your fly gets a slower swing and is able to hang in the sweet spot longer.


Any fly rod’s action is described in terms of the part of its length over which it bends most freely and of its overall stiffness or flexibility.

A rod which is stiff throughout most of its length and only starts to flex easily towards its tip is said to be ‘tip-actioned’; one that bends near its butt is said to be ‘butt-actioned’; and one that flexes progressively from butt to tip is said to have an ‘all-through’ action. Regardless of whereabouts a rod flexes along its length, the amount that it will bend under a given load is described in terms of stiffness or softness.

A tip-actioned rod demands a fairly brisk casting action and the loop of the line as it turns over at the ends of the forward and back casts tends to be fairly narrow, which makes for good casting into a wind. The nearer the action gets to the butt, the slower the casting action and the wider the loop.

A slow- or butt-actioned rod will present a fly more delicately than a fastor tip-actioned one, but will be less effective in cutting through a breeze. Most river fly fishers find that a moderately stiff all-through action will meet most of their needs.

A two-piece rod should always be preferred to a three-piece one except where shortness is essential for portability. However well they are made, joints interfere with a rod’s action, so the fewer the better. Modern spigot ferrules have less effect on rod action than do the more traditional metal ones.

Other Rod Considerations

Sure, cost is a factor. We’ve lived on a budget too to say it isn’t. This is understandable specially if we’re looking for the best carp fishing rods.  However, don’t let cost be the only driver in your rod selection. You really do get what you pay for in a fly rod. Performance differences you may not notice right now will show up dramatically before long. I think it’s better, and more cost effective, to buy a decent rod from the start. A cheap rod is a false economy.

There’s a huge performance gap between cheap rods and good entry-level models made by serious fly-rod manufacturers. I’m not suggesting that you break the bank, but again, do start with a good piece of equipment. If you can’t afford the rod you want now, wait until you can.

If you know you love fishing carp, and you want to spend a little more and get a rod that will not only last a lifetime but have a rod you can grow into, Last but not least, don’t walk out of the store without a rod case. Some come with a case; others don’t. A rod without a case is a broken rod!

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