On fly rods today line guides are made from light weight bent wire. This is to reduce weight & friction on the fly line. The tip top guide is made of a metal tube which has a pear-shaped loop soldered onto the tube top. This tube is placed over the top of the rod tip shaft. On fly rods, more than any other type of fishing rods, it is very important that the line guides not be too heavy. That would greatly affect the action of the rod. Also, the guides must be spaced apart correctly so that the line does not come in to too much contact with the rod shaft while casting. That would cause friction that could dramatically slow the speed of the line down.
The number of line guides used on a rod is very important. There are always exceptions, but a good rule of thumb is that good fly rods have a tip top plus a number of guides equal to the rod length, in feet, plus one. For example, a good 9 ft rod probably has a tip top plus ten line guides. This is one way some production rods are available at a lower price – by not putting enough guides on a rod the cost of manufacturing is less. Also, how the guides are spaced along the rod is extremely important. As you progress from the tip of the rod down to the grip, the distance between guides gets larger. A couple may be spaced the same distance apart, but rarely (if ever) closer. Guides also get larger in diameter closer to the grip with the smallest guides being closest to the tip top. It’s very important to use the correct size guide in the right place on a fly rod. Many cheap rods, in addition to not having enough guides, also use the wrong size of guide, or too big of a guide near the tip of the rod.
There are two types of snake, or bent wire, fly rod line guides. There’s the standard guide that we see on almost all the fly rods today. Then there are British, or English, line guides. British line guides are made from the same wire as standard guides but they are bent in the opposite direction & have a more rounded shape, with the wire bent in a gentler sweep. Some folks claim that the British guides are more suited for slower, or softer, action rods & I tend to agree with this. That’s why I offer them as an option on some rods.
Line guides & tip tops come in different finishes. They are available in black, but after heavy use the black tends to wear away & diminish the guide’s appearance. Bronze guides are available, but suffer from the same problems as black guides. Titanium guides are available as well. They are very dark gray. The color won’t wear on titanium guides, but they are very expensive. Guides also come in hard chrome. These are cheaper in price than titanium & will hold up to heavy use well, continuing to look good after many decades. This is why I prefer chrome guides & use them as my standard guide. On bamboo rods its best if certain traditions are upheld, but on graphite rods which have less ‘history’, more choices are available. For instance, you should never put single footed guides on a bamboo rod, but they’re acceptable on a graphite rod.
The stripping guide is located closest to the rod grip & is the heaviest. It’s made from a complete ring in a soldered base of bent wire forming the two feet of the guide. On bamboo rods stripping guides are made with rings of tungsten-carbide or of a cut & polished agate stone ring in a nickel-silver bezel. Modern graphite rods tend to use stripping guides made from other, more modern materials like ceramic, etc. On graphite fly rods I prefer to use the traditional stripping guides that you’d find on bamboo rods. I think this is a way to bring the traditions & history of the sport into today. Plus, in my opinion, you cannot beat the looks of traditional components.