I think this subject will be pretty much dependant on your style of fishing were(river,lake) ,how(wading,shore,boat) and how much room you have to cast(lots of trees, open area).
Fly fishing has changed a lot since I started, now have thousands of fly patterns and different types of flies(streamers, dries, nymphs, chrominids), line has changed a lot, better and stronger, easier to cast, leader materials are thinner and stronger and rods have also got better but still use the same materials. Bamboo has been around since the late 1800s, Fiberglass was first used in the late 1940s, and Graphite hit the market in 1973.
It will also be different for each fisherman as to what they want the rod to do faster cast, more accuracy, better lay of the fly, so I am just going to give some pros and cons of each and hope this helps you to make your buying decision easier. I have used a graphite mostly for the last 40+ years of fishing but after researching this story I think I will be getting a fiberglass rod soon.
- Cost will be less than other materials.
- Strength glass rod are stronger will bend a lot further with big fish
- Load they load easier, because they are more flexible. Easier to make short casts.
- Presentation helps you get a gentler lay of the fly on the water. Great for those spooky browns that we all love to hate.
- Feel able to feel the line better through the cast.
- Line speed don’t work as well in the wind as they are slower
- Weight heavier than other materials
- Power no other material can amplify the hand to line energy like graphite
- Multi modulus design this means that with different mixes of materials they can get different parts of the rod to do different things
- Authority by being stiffer you are able the land fish faster. Better for the fish and you
- Fast because it is stiffer it gives you better casts in the wind and the ability to do longer casts with heavier flies
- Delicate high performance rod are easier to break than glass. I have only broke 2 rods in 40+ years of fishing and they both got closed in a car/truck door so I don’t think I would worry too much about it. Some of the new nano fiber rods coming out are reported to be very strong
- Cost graphite cost more to make and with new technology happening all the time not going to change any time soon.
- Delicate, deliberate casting stroke. It is much more than a cast with a bamboo rod it more fluid and much smoother than other rods.
- Fighting the fish. There is nothing like fighting a fish on a Bamboo rod you can feel every flip and pull the fish makes I have a 50’s or 60’s Bamboo that I use once in a while it is a lot of fun
- Cost tends to be hand made and custom done for you so the cost will be high or you have to find an antique rod takes a lot of time and money to find them if you are lucky enough to find one
lets wrap it up
Graphite is best suited for demanding conditions like wind, long casts, and heavier flies (streamers, heavy nymphs, hopper dropper). Because of the strength of the materiel it is ideal for longer rods used in euro nymph, lake fishing or big rivers. Graphite is also lighter so more suited for a full day of fishing.
Fiberglass is great for small flies, dry flies and fishing small to medium rivers as you have better feel and ability to land the fly very lightly. Catching fish on glass is great as you can feel the fish better and even small fish give a good battle.fiberglass rod are also cheaper than the others.
Bamboo is heaver material than the rest and is the least versatile best for dry flies and small nymphs on small to medium rivers were short casts are all you need and presentation is important. Because they are custom-made most of the time they tend to by the most costly of the 3.
So their you have it cost, water you are fishing and what you want the rod to do are going to be factors in picking the best rod and for some of us 2 or possibly all 3 are going to find their way into our lives. Good luck and great fishing