Should You Get a 7 Weight Fly Rod?
The 7 weight fly rod is often overshadowed by its bigger and more popular sibling, the 8 weight. Why is this?
That's because the 8 is largely regarded as the standard of versatility within the range of "heavier" fly rods. Ask a question like "what is the best all-around fly rod size for saltwater?" or "I already have a 5-weight, what other rod should I get?" and the 8 weight is often the go-to answer. There's absolutely no denying its usefulness, but it kind of bugs me when the 7 weight is so often ignored. Grrrrrrr.
With 6 and 8-weight rods seeing such widespread usage, the 7-weight is seen as somewhat of an "in between" rod size. For me, it has always been much more of a PRIMARY rod size in my arsenal.
My very first fly rod back in the early 90's was a used 7-weight Daiwa paired up with a Scientific Anglers System 1 fly reel. At the time I knew next to nothing regarding the nuances of choosing a rod based on species, conditions, lines, etc, but for some reason that rod weight really stuck with me back then. In fact, I've owned a 7-weight of some type for just about the entire time span since!
Is a 7-weight fly rod right for you? What is a 7-weight fly rod good for? Here are some points to consider...
Casting: I consider the "heavier" fly rod segment to start at the 7-weight and go up from there. This is where you really get away from rods geared more towards trout and lighter freshwater fishing and fully break into the rods meant for saltwater and more demanding freshwater fishing. That's why all good 7-weight rods I've ever seen come equipped with fighting butts, yet not all 6-weights do because they kind of straddle the line between the lighter and heavier categories.
With a 7-weight being on the lowest end of this heavier segment as I view it, this rod size offers a lot of capability but with increased casting enjoyment. When put up against a comparable 8-weight setup, a good 7-weight should offer a little lighter feel. However, this can obviously get thrown off if you start changing reels and line types. A combo that feels lighter, even if the difference isn't drastic, is more enjoyable to use. I've always favored not just physically lightweight setups, but light tackle fishing in general, so I typically gravitate towards a bit lower line weight if it's practical.
On top of all this, a 7 can still handle casting in a modest wind and has no problem with decently-sized streamers and some weighted flies. If you've always fished an 8, you might really like a 7 and find it gets the job done just fine.
Smaller Fish: Catching fish on a fly rod is fun no matter what, but using a lighter line weight setup makes the experience even better. Remember the reference to light tackle fishing a few sentences ago? If your go-to rod for heavier applications is an 8-weight, using a 7 will offer a different experience and amplify the fight of a smaller fish even more. With this said, these rods are no slouches when it comes time to get down to business. A quality 7-weight has a good amount of grunt and if your fish-fighting technique is sound, it's not hard to whip a big fish.
Softer Presentations: Granted, the difference here may not be huge, but dropping down to a WF7F line as opposed to a comparable WF8F gives me a slightly softer presentation which I think helps a lot, especially in shallow water sight-fishing situations when the wind is down. Any advantage can help when the fish are skittish, and a lighter line not only lays down on the water more quietly, but the lighter rod matches better to a lighter tippet if you choose to drop that down a size or two.
A lot of species and scenarios are perfect for a 7 weight. Off the top of my head, here's a rundown of some ideal applications...
Streamer fishing for big trout, freshwater bass from open water to modest cover, steelhead, smaller salmon, carp, snook, redfish, bonefish, baby tarpon, and schoolie stripers.
Keep in mind this is just a generalization and that fly size, fish size, and conditions also must be considered. If you're in Louisiana throwing a crab fly at a 30-pound redfish in a gusty 20-knot wind, you'll want something heavier. Fly fishing for bass in open water with 7-inch-long streamers? You'll also want to step up the rod/line size not necessarily for the fish, but simply to help cast that beefy fly.
If you can only get one rod for a multitude of heavier applications, the 8-weight is a solid recommendation...but the 7 should not be instantly overlooked as a viable option.
However, and I've mentioned this before, if you can do it, I really like the two rod approach. What has always worked well for me for heavy freshwater and general saltwater duty (not talking big game fishing here!) is a 7 and a 9 weight, thus skipping the 8 altogether. Am I saying this is what you need to do? No, but I personally find it ideal.
The 7 is great for a little more fun and finesse on days when the wind isn't too bad or flies aren't huge, while the 9 is great to pick up if the wind increases or if you need to handle big flies, larger fish, or when casting around structure and thick cover. I like the fact that I can dial things in a bit better with those two sticks rather than just going for the blanket approach of an 8-weight. Of course, the more rods you own the more versatile and better prepared you'll be, but the 7 and 9 have served me very well for many years and I've never felt the need to change.
While the 7-weight may not always get the love that it deserves, it's one of the handiest fly rods you can own and just a really enjoyable size. Whether it's your sole rod for heavier applications or it is complimenting a neighboring rod size, the 7 is extremely versatile and truly valuable!
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