We consider the stability of a thin flexible cylinder considered as a beam, when subjected to axial flow and fixed at the upstream end only. A linear stability analysis of transverse motion aims at determining the risk of flutter as a function of the governing control parameters such as the flow velocity or the length of the cylinder. Stability is analysed applying a finite-difference scheme in space to the equation of motion expressed in the frequency domain. It is found that, contrary to previous predictions based on simplified theories, flutter may exist for very long cylinders, provided that the free downstream end of the cylinder is well-streamlined. More generally, a limit regime is found where the length of the cylinder does not affect the characteristics of the instability, and the deformation is confined to a finite region close to the downstream end. These results are found complementary to solutions derived for shorter cylinders and are confirmed by linear and nonlinear computations using a Galerkin method. A link is established to similar results on long hanging cantilevered systems with internal or external flow. The limit case of vanishing bending stiffness, where the cylinder is modelled as a string, is analysed and related to previous results. Comparison is also made to existing experimental data, and a simple model for the behaviour of long cylinders is proposed.