Over the years I have read a vast amount of marketing literature from different rod companies. As someone who has been involved in sports gear marketing I am always interested in reading what the best fishing companies have to say about their product.
The thing that has struck me the most in all the reading I have done is there is very limited information about the benefits of different actions, and the applicability of actions for different anglers.
Soft action rods are exceptionally easy to cast, very forgiving of bad technique and very, very good on the take. I miss very few fish with my soft rod. They do not cast far but are exceptional for accurate short casts. They are ideal for beginners and those who do not fish frequently, as they are so forgiving. They have plenty of give when playing a fish so they lose less fish.The Scott G2 is my favourite soft action rod, although that has been superseded by the new Scott G Series.
Soft Action Benefits: Very accurate at short ranges, very easy to cast, and very good on the take.
Soft Action Disadvantages: Can not cast a long leader, can not cast heavy flies well, can not cast a long distance. Not so good in a wind.
Medium action rods require slightly better timing both casting and on the take, but are still pretty easy to use and relatively forgiving. They cast medium distances and are reasonable at playing fish without having the give a soft rod has or the strength to muscle a fish that a fast rod has. The Scott Radian is my favourite medium action rod, and my favourite rod of all the rods I own. The photo at the top of the page is my Radian 5wt, which is the rod I use for fishing the evening rise.
Medium Action Benefits: Does everything relatively well. Great for fishing the evening rise as they can cast a good distance and are soft enough on the take to be good when fishing an emerger & dry rig.
Medium Action Disadvantages: Not as easy on the take as a soft rod, slightly harder to cast and not as good at very close range, or at long distances or with heavy or bulky flies. Adequate in a wind.
Fast action rods require really good timing on both the take and when casting. They will cast a long way very quickly but do not cast close distances accurately. The Sage TCR (discontinued) is my favourite fast action rod.
Fast Action Benefits: Cast a long way, cast a long way with few false casts and are very good with bulky or heavy flies. Good in a wind.
Fast Action Disadvantages: Timing has to be right on the take. No good at short range. Requires very good technique to cast well.
If you are new to fishing, or not fishing very often do yourself a huge favour and buy a soft rod. Sacrifice distance for ease of casting and more hook ups from takes. They are the easiest of all rods to use, and most fish are caught close to the angler anyway.