Now that I have fished several different rods I am really starting to see what rod flex feels better for me. I just do not seem to like very fast rods. Noticed the same in my spinning rods. I just like a rod that loads up more towards the middel of the rod. So how do I determine what flex that would be. Is there a standard?
Fly Rod actions?
Big open water, bigger fish, long casts with windy conditions - Ultra or Very Fast action
Small stream, smaller fish, short casts, lots of overhead branches - Slow action
If you fish all of the above and/or don't want to buy multiple rods - Medium to Medium/Fast action is best
Fast action rods are less forgiving in technique and tippet breakage, Slow action is most forgiving, rod cushions the strike so tippets don't break as easyily and beginners can learn faster, Medium action is the most "all around" and easy to learn to use.
I haven't cast dozens of different brands and models, but..... I've noticed
that some of the "fast" rods are more stiff than others. From what I've
read (and my own experience), this can confound some casters when comparing/changing rods. When I bought a Z-Axis, I was sort of disappointed
with its performance past 40 feet. Just before returning it, I read that it
was a rod that does best when cast cast with a more compact stroke, off
the tip. I gave it a try, and BINGO! Less effort=greater result. Since discovering how the Z-Axis likes to be cast, I have to be careful or else the
outgoing line will pull line off the spool.
The Z-Axis certainly isn't as stiff as other fast action rods on the market, and
I'd prefer to classify lines by the line speed they are capable of throwing. I
have a bamboo rod that cast beautifully, but the line is moving much more
slowly than any of my graphite rods. My wife does extremely well with the
bamboo, eventhough she tends to rush her cast with graphite.
Medium Action/Mid-flex/Progressive Taper - these terms are somewhat interchangeable. When you see Medium-Fast, that means the sweet spot on the rod has been moved toward the tip a bit, but the butt section is still somewhat flexible and it isn't truly a tip flex rod. A great many fly rods from the major brands fall into this category. But bear in mind that virtually all of them consider their rods "slower" today than they did 15 years ago, and this move to faster actions/tapers continues. These are "general purpose" rods. That is NOT synonymous with "best all-around" as many people seem to think nowadays. It means they cover the middle portion of the intended use spectrum, and will not excel at either end in spite of marketing claims to the contrary: winds, big flies, heavy flies/sinking lines, and so forth...or small stream, light tippet, close-in, roll casting, accuracy, and delicate presentation work. They can be tweaked so that they are skewed toward one end of the spectrum or the other: Med-Fast or Med-Slow. But you can't do it all no matter how badly you want to.
Fast/Tip-Flex - It is a myth that these rods excel at distance casting or generate more line speed. Distance and line speed are functions of casting technique, and can only BARELY be enhanced by equipment. When you hear people call a fly rod a "broomstick," this is what they are talking about. And it doesn't mean it's a bad rod. It usually means they don't know how to cast it, or that it is the wrong tool for what they're doing. These rods actually excel at heavy headed line work: heavy shooting heads, very long heads, sinking lines, express sink tips, heavy flies, large wind-resistant flies, weighted indicator rigs, and are easier to handle in high wind because the ROD doesn't distort during the casting stroke due to wind resistance. But they usually require you to carry more aerialized line unless they have a VERY flexible tip (which is becomes more prevalent with newer technology that reduces breakage and "bounce") to make distance casts instead of shooting more. When you can shoot more line, you reduce exposure to wind and the amount of "work" you're doing. These rods are NOT suitable for light line, small fly, accuracy, close-in, roll casting, etc. Generally, they are considered good choices as saltwater rods, but even that is not a "rule."
Slow/Full-Flex/Parabolic Taper - When you hear this, they all mean the same thing. In spite of what a lot of folks will tell you, there are still some graphite full flex rods on the market today! It's almost conspiratorial within the industry that folks don't want consumers to know about them. But you will find almost all of your full flex/slow action graphite users to be VERY good anglers! And you'll be shocked to find them among every group from trout and panfish anglers to salmon and saltwater record-chasers. These tapers require a longer, slower, smoother, better timed casting stroke with a softer stop than the other 2 types. (some of the fastest action rods are just as picky about timing because they use such a wacky compact casting stroke) With full-flex rods, if you do not learn to dampen the stop, you will get "crazy loops." If you do not time your loops well, you will collapse them. You MUST learn proper casting technique. Thus, they are excellent rods to learn on...not the easiest, but the BEST because they force the caster to develop good technique, reduce risk of injury, and it is easy to "speed up" from here, but very difficult to "slow down" if you start with faster rods. But they out-perform all others at short, light, accurate work and rollcasting. And if cast properly (relying on shooting line vs false casting a lot of aerialized line), they will work fine to cast long distances in the wind. They fall down when it comes to heavy lines and heavy flies. Full flex rods are typically more durable (forgiving). Some examples of full flex graphite rods with which I am familiar and can recommend (in order):
Hexagraph rods, Global Dorber Ultraweave rods, Orvis Clearwater Classic. The Hexagraph is a SOLID graphite rod built like a bamboo rod. They are much lighter than bamboo and are indestructible...unless you're trying. LOL They have a breakage rate (for any reason of 2%). There's a ladies line Global Dorber makes called the GEMrod series that are also good full flex rods. But they'are in very feminine colors and finishes. You should expect to pay more for a good full flex rod, because they don't sell many...thus they don't make many. Most fly shops don't stock them. So they usually have to be special ordered, and most are actually made-to-order. The Orvis CC is an exception. They're about $100, and are often stocked by Orvis fly shops in limited numbers.