From diminutive 5-footers to lengthy spey models, fly rods come in many sizes. With all the available options, the 9-footer remains the undisputed king. The reasoning behind this is pretty straightforward; 9-foot rods offer the perfect blend of casting ease, line control, distance, and portability when broken down. If that's the case, then why even bother making so many rods that are shorter?
Personal definitions may vary, but for this article I'm classifying "short" fly rods as those measuring 8-feet and under. These rods may not be ideal do-all sticks, but they do offer some distinct advantages that may be of interest. You won't see me swapping out all of my 9-footers anytime soon, but I currently do own a 7'6" fly rod and have plans for an 8-footer in the future.
So, why bother going under 9 feet?
Accuracy: I learned this one early on while conventional bass fishing: it's easier to be more accurate with a shorter rod. Now, of course the skill of the caster plays a big role here, but my short to mid range accuracy definitely improves. A shorter rod is simply easier to control and be more pinpoint with. While it robs you of some distance, the accuracy at closer ranges is often worth the trade off.
Fishing in Tight Quarters: Ever fished a tiny brush-choked trout stream? I have, and a 9-foot fly rod can feel somewhat clumsy in these cramped quarters. From making tight roll casts to simply maneuvering through and around all that foliage, the shorter rod can prove to be less of a headache. One downside here is that line control may suffer and you won't have quite the reach to drop flies into tight holding spots.
Easier Portability: Compared to a 9-foot rod, a shorter model that still utilizes 4-piece construction will be smaller overall when broken down. Sure, the difference may seem relatively insignificant, but in a cramped car or overhead bin that tiny difference can be huge!
Snappier/Crisper: Shorter fly rods will often be noticeably crisper when flexed/cast. Rods rated for small line weights or those made from a more "noodly" material like fiberglass can be more whippy when constructed in the standard 9-foot size. Shortening the rod means less material, lighter weight, and a more responsive blank.
Leverage: For battles with deep-water pelagics and other big fish, short fly rods provide more power and leverage for applying serious pressure during the fight. Look at how short some conventional offshore trolling and jigging rods are. Not only might they work better for their given techniques, but they make mean and efficient fish fighting tools, too. They allow the angler to both pull hard and quickly pump the rod to get a fish coming in the right direction.
Here's just a small sampling of some short fly rod models currently available on the market:
JP Ross Beaver Meadow
Sage Bass II
G. Loomis ShortStix
Orvis Superfine Carbon
Powell Sweet P