In the world of single-handed fly rods, the 9-footer rules. This length provides the perfect mix of casting distance, line control capabilities, accuracy, and portability when broken down. But, is a 9-foot rod right for you? For most fly anglers, the quick answer is "yes" for the reasons mentioned above. While a rod of this size will work great for most angling situations, an extra foot of rod length can absolutely be a big help at times.
While 10-foot fly rods aren't super common, they are out there and can really shine in some situations—but when?
Float Tubing or Kickboating: When fishing out of a kickboat or float tube, you're sitting in or very close to the water. This means that your casting angle is quite low and your line can easily hit the water's surface during the cast. The extra length of a 10-foot rod helps keep your line a bit higher off the water and makes casting easier.
High Banks/Brush: While wading or bank fishing, sometimes you'll be faced with brush or a high bank behind you. Just like in the float tube and kickboat example, a longer rod makes it easier to elevate the line above these obstacles.
Line Control: More length equals more line control. The added reach allows you to perform bigger mends with ease and direct your line around objects in the water. It can also be a big help for specialized nymphing techniques or when dapping or dropping flies into pocket water.
More Distance: Long rods throw long. For those folks fishing big rivers that don't want to step up to a spey or switch rod, a 10-footer makes a wise choice for adding some distance.
Long Leaders: The extra foot of length makes it easier to keep the leader outside of the guides more often, especially while landing a fish.
Aside from the positives, here are some minor negatives to consider:
More Weight: The 10-foot fly rod will weigh slightly more than a comparable 9-footer. Take the new Sage X fly rod for example. The 9-foot 5-weight with full-wells grip and fighting butt weighs 2 13/16 ounces, while the comparable 10-foot model hits 3 1/16 ounces on the scale.
Not as Accurate: Some anglers may find a longer rod to be a bit more unwieldy and not quite as accurate as shorter models.
Rod Tube: A longer rod means a slightly longer rod tube!
The 9-foot fly rod is top dog for good reason, but that doesn't mean other lengths should be ignored. Depending on where and how you fish, moving up to a 10-foot rod can make your day more enjoyable and productive. A long time ago I fished one for several years—an old school G. Loomis IMX 7-weight—and used it to catch a mess of fish. I know what an asset a stick of this size can be, and it's worth thinking about before buying your next rod!