The 6-weight is Great!
Updated: Apr 1, 2020
Over the years, I've owned a lot of fly rods. Most of my fly fishing is geared towards pursuing small to medium-sized fish like bass, trout, snook, and stripers, so I typically don't need rods too far on either side of the line-weight spectrum. I do have a 12-weight on my rack "just in case," but I guess that explains why it currently has a pretty good layer of dust on it. While historically my most-used and most-purchased rods ranged from 4–9 weight, one line weight was largely absent from my arsenal up until just recently—the 6-weight. Keep in mind we are talking standard single-handed rods in this article, not spey/switch rods.
Back when I was in middle school, I had a 6-weight Redington for maybe a couple of years. That must have been one of their very first rod lines offered....boy have they come a long way! At the time, that Redington saw only infrequent usage since my fly fishing was somewhat limited. To make matters worse, I just didn't really "connect" with that rod and normally used my trusty 7-weight much more. I'm not absolutely certain, but that may have been the only 6-weight I actually fished with until I started testing gear after the launch of Demystifly in 2016!
With all the gear I'd be testing out, I initially figured it was the perfect time to try out rod styles and sizes I don't typically fish with on my own. Not only does it give our readers a broad range of reviews to scope out, but it's also incredibly fun and eye-opening for me to try out new things. Speaking of which, after now spending some quality fishing time with a handful of 6-weight rods, my opinion of them has completely changed. I previously had a real soft spot for 5 and 7-weight rods which made a 6 seem like a useless in-between size for my fishing. Could I still get by without a 6? Of course, but I now consider this rod weight to play an important role in my personal arsenal.
You'll notice that many saltwater-oriented rods like the Sage Salt HD in addition to saltwater-oriented fly lines often begin at 6-weight.
Not only are 6-weights good for larger trout and the like, but it's also what I call the "crossover weight" because this is typically the line size that starts to become really useful for fresh or salt/heavier applications. This is also why you'll see some manufacturers offer 6-weights from the same series both with and without fighting butts.
For example, Sage sells their 9-foot 6-weight X fly rod both with and without a fighting butt. Any 6-weight can effectively fill the gap in your rod collection, but for my fishing I'm personally fond of ones that come equipped with fighting butts since they make it easier to fight a big fish from the reel. However, those wanting a 6-weight mostly for trout fishing (like heavier nymphing or fishing dries in high wind) may prefer the butt-less model.
Why have I grown so fond of the 6-weight?
Specialized Fly Lines: As eluded to above, this rod size really starts to bridge the gap from lighter freshwater pursuits to casting bigger flies and chasing bigger game in all waters. While there's plenty of "average" fly lines available in a 6-weight size, you'll find increased options for many specialized lines begin here as well. These can include lines specifically-tailored for things like bass, bonefish, redfish, or custom tapers for casting bulky flies.
Capability: Think a 6-weight won't have the authority to deliver a bulky or weighted fly? I spend the cooler months going after largemouth and peacock bass where all I do is throw these types of flies, and I have yet to be let down with reasonably-sized flies in reasonable conditions. Like any fly rod, a big part of making the 6 work at its best has to do with rod action and line choice. A medium-fast rod rigged with a standard trout line will likely be more subtle, but it won't pack quite the punch of a fast-action rod paired to a beefed-up fly line with an aggressive taper. While the 6-weight can offer a slightly softer presentation than a 7-weight if you need it, it can also deliver the goods with authority when set up correctly.
Grip/Fighting Butt Option: Hitting this point again, a fighting butt is a big deal to me. Compared to 5-weights, far more 6-weights are available configured with a full-wells grip and fighting butt. Since a 6-weight can be used for bigger fish beyond just trout, a fighting butt is an asset while engaged in a prolonged battle when cranking a fish from the reel.
Still Fun: If I really want to fish a 5 but wind or fly size makes me hesitate, I'll grab my 6. Despite the added power over a 5, small fish remain a lot of fun and I can still feel comfortable fishing a lighter tippet since the rod still has a good amount of "give" to it. I often like to use the lightest rod I can get away with, so the 6 fits in nicely when I'd rather not step up to my 7-weight.
Species Versatility: With many different fly line options and being good for both fresh and salt water, this line weight has some great versatility for many different species. Off the top of my head, a 6 can be a great tool for heavier trout fishing and lighter-duty angling for species like carp, steelhead, american shad, bass, bonefish, redfish, and snook.
In fly fishing, it's important to keep an open mind. Many of us may get settled into certain tackle or techniques, but trying new things can lead to both better success and increased enjoyment. If you've been on the fence about a 6-weight or think you may not really need one, I urge you to reconsider that. I plan on keeping one on my rack forever from here on out!
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