If you are looking at a fly rod 8 feet or longer, a graphite fly rod will serve you well. They have been available on the market since the early seventies. Before that time bamboo and fiberglass fly rods were the main players in the fly rod market.
Graphite rods are lighter and can be designed with a wide variety of tapers, which give them different actions. Some fly fishers claim that graphite rods are at their best in lengths over eight feet and that under that length, fiberglass and bamboo remain serious contenders.
Some graphite rods are lighter than others (actual weight of the rod not the line weight). The lighter rods use a stiffer graphite material and have thinner walls. Some people claim that as a result these more expensive rods just can’t take the abuse of a heavier rod and are easier to break. These lighter rods are not the best fly rod for a novice.
For a novice I really don’t think an ounce or two of weight is that big of a deal. Besides, all graphite rods are lighter to start with. I’m not sure the ounce or two is worth the extra cost.
You may hear the word “modulus” when shopping for a graphite rod. This number (IM6 to IM10) refers to the stiffness of the graphite material. A higher modulus number is a stiffer material and therefore will flex less. This gives you a faster action rod.
I always recommend starting in the middle price range. Save up your money and go with something decent. Avoid going with the cheap stuff. Building a graphite fly rod today requires a high level of skilled labor, technical know-how and equipment. Getting what you pay for is very true in the field of fly rods.
Do your homework and you may even be able to find a good used fly rod.