I recently got the Flyfishing bug, and need advice on a gear purchase.
I live in SF and travel to Mexico, Bahamas, and Belize about once a year.
I would like to only have one rod, one reel (maybe and extra spool) to catch Bonefish, Permit, Snook, and occasionally a smaller Tarpon. I started looking at 8wt. rods, but have been told that will only cover Bonefish. If I want to catch everything, I need a stiff 9wt. or a 10 wt. Is this true? Can I get a 9 wt. rod and still catch Bonefish and everything else (albeit maybe a little outgunned)?
A 9 weight should work out great for you and is a very good all around inshore/flats weight. It'll have some extra ooomph for windy conditions and throwing larger flies for snook, permit crabs, and small tarpon compared to the 8, but it won't be a pool cue, so you'll have a blast with it even on small bones and the medium to large will give you even more excitement. And there's a ton of fish including small sharks, jacks, small-medium sized roosters, and on and on that will be great to throw at with a 9.
And it's a great weight for stripers since you're in the bay area.
You may be undergunned for really big tarpon over a 100 pounds where a 10 would be considered on the light side, and 12's are more commonly used, but up to the 30's you should be fine, and up to 60 if you lead a good life and eat all your vegetables.
It sounds like you'll want a tropical line for fishing those destinations, and a weight forward floater would be the way to go as a main line. For SF area fishing you'd want a cold water line-- tropical lines turn into slinky's in cold water, and the coating on coldwater lines tends to get gummy in high temps.
Again welcome to the forum. Keep us posted on your adventures, and ask away if you have any more questions.
I have caught all of the species you mentioned with a 7wt z-axis rod. I have a Lamson Litespeed Hard Alox reel with about 225 yds of 20 lbs test backing. Lamson has recently made available "plus" spools and I intend to carry an extra spool with 275-300 yds of 20 lbs backing.
I choose the lighter rod because it is a "lighter" rod and it is easier to carry around all day, whether stalking or standing on the bow of a flats boat.
I believe the 8 wt rod is an excellent choice also...the main concern with rods in the 7 and 8 wt class is the larger tarpon. When I began fly fishing I was advised to get an 8 wt for bones, 10 wt for permit and smaller tarpon, and a 12 wt for larger tarpon. As I got older and more experience, I have learnt to enjoy self guided fishing...I really enjoy wading and stalking especially bones and permits. A single rod is essential to the way I like to fish. It would be difficult to carry more that one rod and to cast a rod while holding onto another...well, I haven't been able to master that talent yet.
All that being said, a single rod that equips you for the species you mentioned and allows you to fish all day, probably an 8 or 9 weight.
With regards to reels...I use the same philosophy...light as can be, however, one other factor has to enter your selection process...backing capacity. Find a reel that will hold no less that 200 yds of 20 lbs backing. Modern reels boast smooth seemless drag systems also a must when battling the scorching runs these species are famous for.
A little more info on the rod... I'd go for a 9' 9 weight in a four piece rod for easy air travel (you can check it in overhead compartments as opposed to a two piece). If i had to pick one all a rounder for inshore/flats SW, including the fishing you plan to do, it would be a 9.
I think the 9 weight would be a great all around choice for all those fish you've listed, plus redfish, striped bass, and pretty much anything you see out there in terms of inshore fish with exception of really large tarpon 60-80lbs and up. It might be a little heavy for FW bass, some steelhead streams, but a good choice for bigger steelhead rivers, salmon and pike/musky.
Usually rods will throw a variety of line weights on the same rod, both heavier and lighter than the indicated line weight. All things being equal, on a 9 weight rod, you'll need more line outside the tip to load the rod with an 8 than you would with a 9 weight line and you'll need less to the load the rod with a 10 weight line. But because of the type of fishing you'll probably be doing-- standing in front of a flats boat with 15' of line out of the tip, slack line at your feet, looking for fish, seeing one and getting the fly out quickly with a minimum of false casting and a long shoot of line, I'd go with a 9 weight line rather than an 8, especially with a lot of today's faster action SW rods. A 9 line (or even overlining with a 10) will also be an advantage in wind and throwing larger flies. I think a 9 weight, weight forward floater would be the best all around choice for the kind of fishing you'd be doing, like an SA Bonefish.
The advice might be a bit different if you were an above average caster, comfortable with carrying a lot of line in the air and going for extreme distances, where underlining (using an 8 line on a 9 rod) might be an advantage since you'd have plenty of line outside the tip to load the rod.
Do you ever hang out at the casting pool in SF? It might be a good place to try out some different rods and lines... from what I hear people are nicer out there than they are around here. I think there are also a couple of SW fishing clubs out your way too.
As Uni said, a decent reel with a backing capacity of 200 yds of 20lb dacron/micron plus a weight forward 9 weight line would be a great match. If you were specifically planning larger tarpon, going to a gel spun backing will give you even more backing yardage, but it's a little less well behaved on the reel than dacron or micron-- being thinner gel has a tendency to get into places it shouldn't, blows around more if you have all your fly line out casting, and can cut wet hands. The reel should be sturdy enough to stand up to the fish you plan to chase as well as the SW elements. There are a lot of choices for gear depending on your budget, but in general I'd be looking for a machined reel, type 3 anodizing, smooth drag with low start up inertia, solid construction, no wiggle between spool and frame, sturdy handle that's easy to grip. In many types of fly fishing the reel's main purpose is holding line. But flats fishing is not one of them, these fish can smoke, so having something reliable is very important-- especially if you're going to a destination type fishery where a breakdown may be a problem in terms of finding parts or a replacement, or cost you a fish of a lifetime.
The fish won't know whether you are throwing 8,9, or 10 on a typical day mostly 10 kts plus of wind...therefore if you want to be a sporting gentleman you can leader your 10 wt with 5 kg tippet or step up 6, 8, or 10 for tarpon to 100 in a boat...as traveling with one rod for bones, to jacks to barris to permit to tarpon...were it me it would be a 10 wt...if two rods it would be 8 and 10 which brand that's personal and your pocketbook; for me I roll my own high end blanks Sage(TCR and TCX) and old XTR three piece Winstons...as for reels samething look for sales or blems on Abel Big Game old round holes or Tibor blems...
Forgot to add:
In those rough and tumble places, I would try and find a good to excellent used old model fiberglass scrim models from Sage or Loomis or Winston...my preference would be Sage RPLX in 8 and 10 in three piece...or real hard to find 8 and 10 Diamondback Stu Apte models three piece.
If it were me, I'd go with a stiffer action well made 8 or 9 wt. A good light weight reel that will hold enough backing(the new thin braided lines will let you load a ton of backing) And a few extra spools loaded with 8, 9 and 10 weight lines.
Or I'd get an 8 weight switch rod of 10 or 11 feet, a switch rod is designed to deal with different weight lines and can work close or really rip a cast out there when needed and has the length and toughness to deal with the occasional over sized fish..
But when it comes down to it their isn't any reason to have just one all around rod. Get 4 piece rods and a good travel case that will hold them all and you can carry them all one the plane with you.. Randy