Fly Fishing Rod - What Should I Check For When Buying A Second Hand Fly Fishing Rod?

"My biggest worry is that my wife (when I'm dead) will sell my fishing gear for what I said I paid for it" - Koos Brandt

People buy used fly fishing rods to save money or due to lack of budget to get a new one.  There are plenty of happy users who have never had problems with the used rods they purchased and continued to use them for years; on the other hand, there are as many unhappy buyers of used fly fishing rods.  One has to be extra careful when getting a used rod and many people are just so excited that they are getting a rod for cheap, that they do not spend enough time checking it out.

To ensure you get value for money, the fly fishing rods need to be thoroughly checked before paying for them.  There are six important areas that should be inspected.

  1. The Grip
  2. Reel seat
  3. The Graphite
  4. The Guides
  5. TipTop
  6. The Ferrules


The Grip
It is very important to check out the cork for chipping or any other damage.  You can easily figure out that the rod has been used a lot by looking at the discoloration of the cork.  The darker it is, the more/longer it has been used.  But then you must also be aware that there are ways of cleaning the cork to look less-used if not completely new; so a clean grip may not always mean the rod hasn’t been used much.

Reel Seat
The most important part of a reel seat is the threads on it.  Look for damaged threads.  Try screwing up the locking nuts and loosening them to make sure you are able to do it easily.  Try to twist the grip and reel seat using moderate pressure to see if they are loose.  You should also take your reel with you when you go to inspect the rod and attach it to the rod, to see if the reel seat fits.  If you do not do this, you may find the reel feet too thick to fit the reel seat.  Hold the grip and make sure the reel seat does not twist once the reel is attached. If the rod has a metal butt cap, you should look for any dents or scratches on it.

The Graphite
Caress the rod all over slowly with your fingers after the initial visual inspection.  There may be some roughness that you cannot see with the naked eye.  You should be looking for scratches, color changes and other blemishes of the graphite.  Since it is a used rod, it is understandable that there will be some minor scratches but deep scratches are a big no. If you see or feel a spot, you will have to be very careful, as this means the rod has been damaged by hitting something when casting or by impact. You should never think of buying such a rod, as this can lead to the rod breaking when fishing.  Any impact damage can easily be felt with the fingers.

The Guides
When checking guides, you should look for broken, bent or loose guides.  The best method of checking a guide is with the use of a cotton ball that has been rolled thin and long between the palms.  You can dampen your palms if needed.  Once that is done, run this cotton ball through the guides.  The secret here is that if there is any damage to the guides, the cotton will stick to the guide.  Next, just hold the guide and exert a little pressure to see if it is loose.  If there are inserts on the stripping guides, check to see if the inserts are broken or if they have any cracks. 

Tip Top
Check the tip top the same way as you do the guides.  Inspect the wraps for any damage.  See if there are any cracks in the finish over the wraps.

The Ferrules
Run your eyes carefully on the ferrules to see if there is any damage.  Usually the glue joints have cracks, so check them out.   Hold the male ferrule and see if it is loose.  Put the male ferrule in the female ferrule and make sure the joint is tight.  Assemble the complete rod and move it around to see if it feels loose.

Ask the owner if there is a rod tube from the manufacturers, and if there is, then you should be getting it with the rod.  Of course, do not get all worked up if it is a TFO rod and you are not given the rod tube, as some TFO rods do not come with a tube and the seller will not want to give away the rod tube he paid for.

One of the best ways to check a fly fishing rod is to cast the rod before paying for it.

When buying used rods, you are most likely to face the problem of “no warranty.”  Many manufacturers clearly state that the warranty is applicable only for the original buyer.  Another good idea that many people seem to be happy with, is buying factory demos as they come with warranty cards, and they are cheaper than buying new fly fishing rods from fly shops.

If you make sure you perform the checks as stated above, you cannot go wrong with your used rod purchase.