Why the 9 Weight is Such a Good Fly Rod
What can a 9 weight fly rod be used for? For heavier freshwater and light saltwater applications, the 8-weight fly rod is immensely popular. This rod size offers a good dose of power—but not too much—and can handle windy conditions, larger flies, and huskier fish. On the conventional side of angling, I would equate its versatility to a medium-heavy casting or spinning rod. Despite the 8-weight stealing much of the attention, neighboring line weights deserve love, too. In this case, the 9-weight is one that should not be ignored.
I've been a huge 9-weight fan since I began my fly fishing journey as a kid. While lacking some versatility compared to the almighty 8-weight, the 9 is a wonderful rod size that I've found immensely useful. Many readers that fish in both fresh and saltwater may have never considered this rod size before, but there are good reasons to think about adding a 9-weight to the arsenal, or perhaps even choosing one instead of an 8-weight.
Let's run through some reasons why a 9-weight might be a rod for you: Wind: Wind can often mean better fishing, but it also means tougher fly casting. A fast or extra-fast action 9-weight rod and line has the power to deliver flies effectively in windy conditions yet remains plenty enjoyable while battling average specimens of bonefish, snook, redfish, schoolie stripers, largemouth bass, and the like. The 9-weight is right on the edge of where the true "heavy duty" fly rods begin. Fly rods from 10-weight on up start to become a bit too much for smaller quarry and often feature different (larger) fighting butts because they are more geared towards big fish with an emphasis on saltwater fishing.
Big Fish: I just mentioned how the 9-weight still lets you enjoy the fight of typical fish, however there's still ample grunt for tangling with big and powerful ones, too. As an example, the 9-weight has been my longtime "go to" rod for west coast stripers (which are often from 2–8 pounds) but I've also used a 9 plenty of times on big Florida false albacore—one of the hardest pulling fish you can hook into. It's also a great choice when fishing around cover and structure like mangroves, lily pads, or docks when added muscle is needed.
Big Flies: Need to toss a big or heavy fly? One thing I love here is that a good 9-weight will have more guts to punch out a large fly when pitted against a comparable 8-weight, but it's still what I call a "highly castable" rod size. Basically, this just means that as long as you didn't choose a real clunker, the rod shouldn't be much of a chore to cast repeatedly for long periods. While a large fly and heavy line configuration can definitely make for some added casting heft, a nice lightweight 9-weight should help alleviate some of the overall work involved.
With all of this said, if you can only get ONE rod for general heavy freshwater and saltwater fly fishing, an 8-weight should be a solid pick. However, if you fish with larger flies, often face windy conditions, have shots at big fish and/or fish around a lot of structure and cover, the 9 can give you an added edge.
Despite the popularity of the 8-weight, I've typically skipped over this rod size and favored owning both 7 and 9 weights—the 7 for calmer days and lighter duties, the 9 for bigger fish or more demanding conditions. Though the 8 kind of splits the difference, I just find that owning those two rods helps me get a little more specific and boosts my success and enjoyment. Of course, what works for me might not work for you. Overall, the real point here is that if you haven't already, think about trying a 9-weight sometime...I think you'll like it!
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