#5 Fly Rod vs #6 Fly Rod: Battle of the Weights

Leonard Schoenberger

Which weight class should you go for?

Fly fishermen often find themselves at the crossroads of choosing between different line weights, each tailored for specific angling scenarios. Among the perennial debates in the fly fishing community is the choice between #5 and #6 fly rods. Let’s delve into the nuances of these two popular line weights and explore when and why you might lean towards one over the other.

Fly Rod Combos on Wooden Dock
No matter whether you go for a #5 or #6 fly rod, they are both great for trout fishing. Photo: Leonard Schoenberger

Understanding the Basics

#5 Fly Rods

Sage R8 Core 5 wt fly rod
The Sage Core R8 is a fantastic trout rod that you can get as a #5 or #6. Photo: Christian Anwander

The #5 fly rod, known for its versatility, strikes a balance between delicacy and power. Widely regarded as an ideal choice for trout fishing, this line weight excels in presenting dry flies with finesse. Its lightweight and nimble nature make it a favorite among anglers who frequent smaller streams and require precision in their casts.

#6 Fly Rods

Douglas Sky G 6wt fly rod
The Douglas Sky G is a fantastic trout rod as well that we put to the test as a #6 fly rod. Photo: Leonard Schoenberger © The Wading List

Stepping up to a #6 fly rod brings a noticeable increase in power. This line weight is favored for scenarios where larger flies or windy conditions demand a more robust casting performance. While still suitable for trout, the #6 rod extends its versatility to handle larger freshwater species like bass and panfish.

Casting Perfomance: #5 Fly Rod vs #6 Fly Rod

Fall Casting East Branch River
Casting a #5 fly rod for trout in upstate New York. Photo: Christian Anwander © The Wading List

#5 Fly Rods

The #5 rod’s finesse shines in situations that demand delicate presentations. It effortlessly delivers accurate casts, making it a top choice for dry fly fishing. Anglers who appreciate the subtleties of presenting small flies to selective trout often lean towards the #5.

#6 Fly Rods

With added backbone, the #6 rod excels in scenarios that require a bit more muscle. Casting larger nymphs, streamers, or dealing with windy conditions becomes more manageable with the extra power of a #6 rod. It’s a go-to option when versatility in handling various fly sizes is crucial. It’s also the ideal weight for sea trout.

sea trout displayed on algae
A 6 weight fly rod with a small fighting butt is ideal for sea trout fishing.

Target Species: #5 Fly Rod vs #6 Fly Rod

VR Trutta Perfetta with Trout
Fishing for brown trout in Iceland with the Nam Original #6. Photo: Leonard Schoenberger

#5 Fly Rods

Primarily associated with trout, the #5 rod is a staple for anglers targeting these elusive freshwater species. Its finesse makes it an excellent choice for technical dry fly presentations in trout-rich waters.

#6 Fly Rods

While still suitable for trout, the #6 rod extends its reach to larger freshwater species. Bass, panfish, and even smaller saltwater species become fair game with the added power and versatility of a #6 rod.

Fly Presentation

#5 fly rod vs #6 fly rod guide: If you like fishing with bigger streamers for trout, the #6 might be the better choice for you. Photo: Leonard Schoenberger
#5 fly rod vs #6 fly rod guide: If you like fishing with bigger streamers for trout, the #6 might be the better choice for you. Photo: Leonard Schoenberger

#5 Fly Rods

Perfect for delicate presentations, the #5 rod excels in scenarios where a subtle touch is essential. Dry flies delicately land on the water, mimicking the insects that trout feed on.

#6 Fly Rods

When the need arises for larger flies or dealing with wind resistance, the #6 rod steps up to the plate. It handles the task of presenting streamers, nymphs, or larger dry flies with ease.

Smallmouth Bass on a 6 weight fly rod
If you want the versatility of targeting bass besides trout, the #6 is ideal. Photo: Leonard Schoenberger

The Verdict

In my opinion, the choice between #5 and #6 fly rods hinges on the specific angling scenarios you frequent. The #5 rod is a finesse tool, ideal for precision casting to trout in smaller waters. On the other hand, the #6 rod brings added power, making it a versatile option for anglers targeting a broader range of species and dealing with varying conditions.

FAQs: #5 Fly Rod vs #6 Fly Rod

Can a #5 rod handle larger species besides trout?

While a #5 rod is primarily designed for trout, it can handle smaller species, but it might lack the power needed for larger fish.

Is a #6 rod suitable for delicate dry fly presentations?

While a #6 rod is more powerful, skilled anglers can still achieve delicate presentations with proper casting techniques.

What are the advantages of a #5 rod in smaller streams?

The lightweight and nimble nature of a #5 rod make it well-suited for smaller streams, where precision casting is crucial.

Can a #6 rod handle saltwater fly fishing?

Yes, a #6 rod can handle light saltwater fly fishing, making it suitable for species like sea trout and sea run cutthroat.

Which rod weight is better for a beginner angler?

Beginners might find the forgiving nature of a #5 rod more suitable for learning the basics of fly casting.

Our expertise: Leonard Schoenberger and his team spend countless days each year on the water, testing and reviewing the best new gear for you. Their goal is to help you learn about fly fishing and explore pros and cons of certain gear in order to make a better purchase decision and ultimately become a better fly fisherman or woman. That’s why we made this chest waders vs hip waders guide.