Picking a rod that will meet all your needs for fly fishing is a demanding task. On one hand, you don’t want a rod that will break under the pressure, letting your photo-worthy catch get away. On the other hand, you don’t want your search for the perfect rod to end in breaking the bank.
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- Top 5 Best Fly Fishing Rods (Summary)
- What Is a Fly Fishing Rod
- Benefits of Using Fly Fishing Rods
- Pros and Cons of Using a Fly Fishing Rod
- Fast-Action Rods
- Medium-Action Rods
- Slow-Action Rods
- What Makes a Great Fly Fishing Rod
- 14 Best Fly Fishing Rod Reviews 2020
- Leading Fly Fishing Rod Brands
- Quick Fly Fishing Tips for Beginner Anglers
- Do’s and Don’ts of Fly Rods
- Does More Spending Mean More Quality
- FAQ About Fly Fishing Rods
Top 5 Best Fly Fishing Rods (Summary)
|G Loomis Asquith||
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|Sage The X||
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|Orvis Helios 3D||
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|LOOP Cross S1||
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For more detailed and complete product reviews on benefits and features, keep reading.
A good fly rod often makes the difference between success and failure when fly fishing. Even for experienced anglers, a responsive, balanced rod drastically improves his/her ability to catch fish. For the beginner, a quality rod suited for his/her particular needs is absolutely essential.
The beginning stages of fly fishing are perhaps the most important time to have a responsive, balanced rod, as the rod will absorb a lot of the learning curve you’ll likely experience as you learn to cast. Finding a rod that’s balanced, matched to your needs and budget-friendly is important for the newbie fly fisher.
Luckily, we’re here to help, so neither your fly rod nor your wallet has to be broken by the end of the day.
What Is a Fly Fishing Rod
Like every other fishing rod out there, fly rods are designed to cast, control your line and land fish. Where they drastically differ from other casting rods is the casting methodology, which entails casting small flies as bait. They have a rod, line guides, handle and reel.
That’s about all fly rods have in common with the rest of the fishing pole world. A fly rod is very lightweight as compared to other rods. The reel is located at the very end of the handle in order to create balance in the long rod. Unlike spin casting rods, a fly rod doesn’t use the reel to cast but instead relies on stretching line out of the reel prior to casting and using the rod to send the line.
Perhaps the starkest difference between fly rods and spin casters is that fly rods are classified by the weight of the line, not the lure. Unlike a spin caster, the fly rod line is much heavier than the bait (fly) being cast, so the casting factor is determined by the heavy line.
The weight of the line is a crucial difference between a fly rod and a spin caster. You can’t just flick your wrist and send the line on a fly rod as you would with your grandfather’s Zebco. Fly casting requires a few new tricks.
Benefits of Using Fly Fishing Rods
What are the benefits of fly fishing over spin casting? Our -ahem- unbiased opinion is… fly fishing is more fun! Here are the top five benefits of fly fishing:
Longer Casting With Smaller Lures
Because of the thick diameter of the fly line, you’re able to cast a much smaller fly than it would be possible with the standard line. This is an advantage when angling fish that could be intimidated by larger lures (and the associated loud splash in the presentation).
Pickup on Long-Distance
This means you don’t have to real in before casting.
No Need for a Bobber
When a fish strikes your fly line, you’ll know it even if you don’t feel it. The colored heavy line will move along the water, a tell-tale sign that you’re about to land one.
Better for the Fish
As compared with other lures, flies have smaller hooks with no barbs, meaning a lighter footprint on the fish you reel in. Whether you’re in to catch and release or keeping, the less suffering for the fish, the better.
Good for the Soul
Anglers report fly fishing as an amazing treatment for the woes of stressful modern life. Fly fishing requires an enhanced degree of mental and physical mindfulness in cohesive oneness with the environment.
Fly fishing usually conjures an image of an angler gracefully casting away on a small mountain stream. Fly fishing for trout in small streams is the most popular application of fly rods, but it goes beyond trout. Nearly every type of fish can be caught on a fly rod, opening a fresh and exciting new world of fishing.
Nevertheless, before you drop some dough on a new fly rod, it’s paramount to consider what type of fish you’ll be angling for. This is the single most important question to ask yourself when purchasing a new fly rod. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all fly fishing rod. A trout rod won’t work if you’re looking to land largemouth bass and vice versa.
Taking a freshwater rod out for a day of saltwater fishing will probably end in less than savory results. Besides determining what fish you’ll be catching, a few more questions are in order to help you find the best fly fishing rod.
How far will you be casting? Are you fishing in a lake, river or small stream? What type of flies will you be using? Once you answer those questions, you’re ready to dive into the nitty-gritty of choosing the best fly fishing rods.
Pros and Cons of Using a Fly Fishing Rod
- Provide longer casting distance
- Provide more fighting strength when landing large fish
- Help break through the wind for greater casting
- Faster casting
- Allows precise casting at longer distances
- Shorter casts are more difficult and fishing in close quarters presents a challenge
- Difficult to use for beginners
- Don’t provide the finesse needed for landing delicate baits
- The most versatile fly rods out there
- Excellent beginner’s rod with a forgiving action
- Extremely common so matching your gear should be no problem at all
- Don’t offer the power of fast-action rods, so you’ll lose casting distance
- Softness means a little less feel for control
- Not as accurate as fast-action rods, but provide more finesse
- Offer exceptionally finessed landing for light flies
- An excellent choice for small streams and short casts
- An excellent beginner’s rod, extremely forgiving
- The flexible action makes fighting smaller fish a blast
- Poor at long-distance casting
- Heavily affected by wind
- Narrowly effective for fishing in small streams and small fish
What Makes a Great Fly Fishing Rod
When looking at what features make certain fly rods more costly (or better performing), it is important to keep in mind what the purpose of fly rods are.
Before you give us the obvious “to catch fish, duh” response, let us break down the features that can make (or break) your experience with a fly rod.
Fly Rod Length/Material
Fly rods are generally constructed from about 6 feet to about 10 feet in length. The shortest rods are best for very short casts, usually used in small stream settings. The longest rods are better for making longer casts or when you want your line to avoid snags or branches. We suggest a rod length of 8 to 9 feet for the most versatility in your fishing.
Rods are also constructed from a few differing materials, most predominantly bamboo, fiberglass and graphite.
- Bamboo fly rods are great for experienced anglers. They are heavy, naturally slow-action rods that require great care to maintain their usability. However, they are generally considered the most beautiful of the rod choices, as they have an old and natural feel to them.
- Fiberglass fly rods are great for beginners or those who are looking for a cheap and durable rod. Even if they are inexpensive, their popularity is losing way to graphite rods.
- Graphite fly rods are the newest and most popular rods on the market. As graphite is man-made, the rods can range from light to moderately heavy. They are the most popular rods because they are generally lighter than fiberglass and give a further and more accurate cast. They are also considered the most sensitive of the three rods, lending to an easier time hooking and keeping a fish.
Fly Line Weight
Fly rod weight is put on a 1-12 measurement scale. The heavier the weight of the rod, the heavier the fish you will be looking to catch. If you have a rod of 3wt, you can expect to fish for small stream trout and panfish, while a rod of 9wt will be much better for large bass, even ocean or large saltwater fish. A 5-6wt rod is most popular, as it can be used for both small fish, trout and some bass.
The scale measures the thickness and weight of the fly line that the rod is able to handle. For this reason, it is extremely important to match a fly rod’s weight to a fly line’s weight. For example, if you have a light fly rod of 3wt, you would not want to purchase fly line of 8wt, as the rod would structurally not be able to support such a thick line.
Many fly rods are sold with the matching fly line and fly reel in packages called bundles, so as to avoid this problem. If you prefer fishing saltwater over freshwater, you’ll need a rod that can handle the stress of larger saltwater fish.
We suggest going with at least a 6wt, medium-action to a fast-action rod of either 8.5 or 9 feet in length. Likewise, if you prefer freshwater fishing, you’ll want a rod that can cast far, but give a very soft presentation for smaller fish and trout.
It is important while choosing a fly rod to take all these factors into consideration. We have tried to put together a versatile selection of rods, but remember while looking through to select the rod that will best suit your fishing style and needs.
Considering fly rod weight is of the utmost importance when choosing the best fly fishing rods to buy. It’s important to note “weight” isn’t the actual weight of the rod, but the rod’s rating for line weight. You can usually find the rod weight labeled on the blank near the grip. A 4-weight fly rod, for example, is designed to be matched with a 4-weight line.
If a line is too light for your fly rod, it won’t have enough weight to bend the rod for a successful cast. Too heavy, and the rod will bend too much, leading to shoddy casting and possible damage to your rod. Additionally, using mismatched line weights will prevent you from optimal line load in your reel.
Furthermore, you need to match the weight of a fly to your line weight. A tiny fly sent on heavy line will splash hard, sending fish for the hills (and likely sinking the fly). It’s imperative to match your fly rod with the line weight and flies you plan on using. When buying the best fly rods, remember this rule:
fly line weight=fly rod weight=fly reel weight
Matching weights of your rod, line and reel ensures you get the best performance in your new fly rod. So, what weight should you use? Here’s a simple chart to help you choose a weight best for your needs.
- Fly line weight 1-3: Perfect for small fish, like brook trout or panfish.
- Fly line weight 4: A great all-around weight for all small fish species, including panfish and small to medium trout.
- Fly line weight 5: Also a good all-around fly line weight. However, a 5 weight line loses a bit of responsiveness, making it not so much fun for landing small fish. Fly line weight 5 works well for the bass and all kinds of trout.
- Fly line weight 6: Pretty lousy for small fish, but great for trout, bass and small salmon.
- Fly line weight 7: This is the perfect bass fishing line. If you normally catch a fish with a bass fishing rod, mix things up by using a fly rod. If you’re on the hunt for large trout, use 7 weight line to be safe. It’s also great for steelhead and small salmon. Fly line weight 7 and beyond are useless for panfish. Don’t even try.
- Fly line weight 8 and beyond: Use this ridiculously heavy line for monster fish, such as saltwater fishing and large salmon. If you’re going for trout or panfish, you have no business having 8 weight line or higher in your reel.
Another noteworthy point is that line weight has more to do with the weight of your fly, not the fish. If you plan on using small flies, a 3 or 4 weight rod is a perfect choice. Salmon flies need a 4-5 weight rod. Weighted flies and split shot rigs require a 5-7 weight rod and long-distance streamers will need a 6-8 weight rod.
Again, the different fly types will be determined on the type of fish your angling, as well as your conditions and casting distance. To convolute matters further, different manufactures use weights differently. The action also plays a role here (more on this later).
One rod maker’s 5-weight rod may fish quite differently from a similarly rated rod from another manufacturer. Slow and fast action rods will play into how fly rod weight performs, so it’s a good idea to do your research and play around with specific rods before making a decision.
Before getting into some action on the water, it’s important to consider the action of your fly rod. Action refers to the rod’s flexibility during casting. The more a rod bends on the backcast, the slower the action and vice versa.
Action affects how a fly rod sends the fly line while casting, how it casts, handling fish and the feel of the pole in the hand. Think of action like a springboard – a soft board will absorb downward pressure of the feet, resulting in a slower yet more controlled jump. A solid springboard provides a solid surface for a jumper, allowing fast and long-reaching jump without as much control.
- Fast-action or tip-flex rods
A fast-action rod is stiff, except at the tip, generating faster line speeds for longer casting. They may not send like the world’s best baitcasting reel, but a fast-action rod and reel setup is where it’s at if you need that fly to travel. A fast-action rod is ideal for windy days and also demands a little less work to cast then slower rods.
For beginners, a fast-action rod may not be the best choice, as the casting power makes it difficult to get a feel for fly and line. The length of a fast-action rod makes it ill-suited for small streams, an important consideration when choosing the best fly fishing rods.
Furthermore, landing precise casts with a fast-action rod will be extremely difficult for a novice angler, so you may want to consider a medium or slow-action fly rod.
- Medium-action or mid-flex fly rods
Medium-action fly rods are the most versatile rods on the market and an excellent choice for beginners or those who need an all-around workhorse.
On the backcast, medium-action rods bend about halfway down the rod, making them work well in a variety of conditions. Medium-action rods don’t have as steep a learning curve as a fast-action rod. If your budget or preferences call for only one fly rod, definitely go for a medium-action rod.
- Slow-action or full-flex fly rods
Slow-action rods are extremely flexible, bending deeply all the way down to the handle, providing slower line speeds and decreased casting distance. This gives the advantage of more controlled casting and soft presentations to prevent spooking fish. In addition to their finesse, slow-action rods are usually small, making them the perfect choice for fishing small streams.
Slow-action fly rods are the easiest rod to learn on but don’t offer the utility of a medium-action rod. If you’re looking to land small fish like trout and panfish, a slow-action rod is a way to go. Plus, catching small fish on a slow-action rod is an absolute blast!
Rod technology is improving drastically, so it is possible to purchase a fast-action rod without sacrificing the finesse you’d normally expect in a slow-action rod. However, the rule still stands – fast-action for distance, slow-action for finesse and presentation. At the end of the day, fly rod action is best determined by your needs and personal preference.
If you prefer a stiffer-feeling fly rod, it’s perfectly possible to master accurate and soft casting. However, as a general rule, slow-action rods are ideal for small creeks demanding finesse and accuracy when laying down flies.
Open bodies of water with plenty of space require a rod that can send flies that travel well through the wind. Of course, a medium-action rod is able to do a little bit of everything if you need it to.
Fly rods vary in length from 7 ft. to 10 ft. The advantage of a longer rod is improved casting distance, an important factor for hitting hard-to-reach fish. Keep away from long rods if you plan on fishing small creeks, streams, mangroves or marshes.
If you’re packing light or want to fish small tributaries, go for a 7 or 8 ft. rod. An 8.5 ft. rod is a great all-purpose piece for fly fishing in varied conditions. If space isn’t an issue and you need a little extra reach in casting, don’t be afraid to go big with a 9-10 ft. rod.
Longer rods are a great choice for kayak fishing on lakes and rivers. If kayak fishing is something you want to try, check out this kayak for people who love fishing.
Specialty vs All-Around Rods
Serious anglers don’t have a “quiver” of fly rods at their disposal for nothing. They’ve built up their fly rod arsenal to perfectly suit any conditions and prey they may face. Most seasoned fly anglers have one rod for small streams and ponds, another for larger rivers and lakes and another for saltwater fishing.
If an arsenal of fly rods isn’t in the books for you, we’d recommend an all-around 5-weight rod from 8-9 ft. It won’t be perfectly suited for small streams or large open bodies of water, but it will perform adequately well in any conditions with a little bit of practice.
An all-around fly rod will never be perfect and you’ll experience equal pros and cons using one in various conditions. However, it’s a great way to get into the sport on a budget, offering the opportunity to add specialty fly rods to your arsenal later.
If you plan on sticking to a particular type of fishing, say trout in small streams or bass in lakes, then it’s a good idea to buy a fly fishing rod suited for that fish and style.
Freshwater vs Saltwater Rods
Saltwater rods are generally beefier than their freshwater cousins, built to withstand larger fish, dramatic fights and heavy winds. These rods are meant to land big ones like tuna, redfish, bonefish, striped bass, tarpon, marlin and others.
Saltwater rods are strong and fast, so they’re a no-go for most freshwater fishing. Saltwater rods will usually express faster line speeds and lengths. These rods will also be specially adapted to resist corrosion from salt (make sure you have these fishing pliers for all types of water if you’re hitting the high seas).
A saltwater fly rod is an excellent alternative to using premium surf fishing rods and offers a fun challenge for any saltwater angler. That being said, a saltwater fly rod will usually cost more than a freshwater rod, so considering you’ll be using your fly rod where the water knows no salt, we’d recommend sticking to a freshwater rod.
Most modern fly rods are made of graphite. This revolutionary material drastically decreases rod weight while improving strength, producing longer, stronger rods with excellent casting potential.
You’ll still see some fiberglass rods out there, but there’s no comparing the two. Graphite, in almost every case, is superior. Now, for the purist, bamboo rods are an aesthetically pleasing albeit pricey and difficult to cast.
They contain exquisite craftsmanship, but their steep price tag and difficulty of use make them prohibitive for all but the most austere and purist anglers.
- Rod itself
Most modern fly rods contain four separate sections, allowing ease of transport. Where these sections attach, called ferrule, used to decrease power in older fly rods. Modern rods have drastically reduced that problem, allowing for your rod to break down into a portable kit you can take anywhere.
Cork is the industry standard for fly rod handles. Lower-weight rods feature cigar-shaped handles with a taper down toward the rod, allowing finesse and control. Higher-weight rods increase in diameter towards the thumb, giving you more leverage for sending heavier baits.
If you’re sending heavy streamers with an 8-10 ft. rod, it would be unwise to use a light tapered handle and the inverse is true for a lighter, more responsive rod. Of equal importance is the feel in your hand.
You’ll be handling your new rod for hours at a time, so choosing a handle that feels comfortable is just as important as performance.
- Reel seats/mounts
This includes the space and hardware used to mount a reel to your new fly rod. Two configurations exist:
- Unlocking: The locking mechanism screws up the rod securing the reel in place.
- Downlocking: The fastening mechanism screws down the rod towards the front of the reel.
- Unlocking: The locking mechanism screws up the rod securing the reel in place.
Note: if you plan on using your fly rod for saltwater fishing, be sure to purchase a dedicated saltwater rod. These rods have corrosion-resistant hardware you’ll need when fishing in and near saltwater.
A fly rod works at its best when paired with a matching reel. Like rods and line, reels are also rated by weight, so you should match a reel accordingly (i.e. 5-weight rod pairs with a 5-weight reel and line). Matching your rod, reel and a line has many benefits, not the least of which include ensuring ample space in your reel for extra line.
Nevertheless, there’s more to choosing the best reel than matching weight. You’ll also need to select a reel appropriate for the style of fishing you plan on doing. A light rod for dry fly fishing should use a smaller, lightweight reel. A larger reel could make your petite rod feel out of balance and make it more difficult to cast.
If you have a larger rod and really need to send your bait, a larger, heavier reel is the way to go. To make matters more confusing, reels are often marked with mixed rates, such as “3/4” or “7/8.” Ostensibly, these reels can be used with two sizes of line or rod (“3/4” could be used with both a 3 or 4 weight rod and line).
However, mixed rate reels lack the fine-tuning of a single-weight reel and may throw off the balance of your rod, especially lighter ones. It’s always best to buy a quality constructed fly fishing reel that matches the weight of your rod and line.
While not a make-or-break factor, line guides are an important factor in choosing the best fly rod. Line guides are those loops girding your rod that guide the line outwards to your prey. While line guides don’t significantly affect performance, they do affect the cost of your new fly rod, so it’s important to know what you’re getting.
Budget fly rods generally have stainless steel guides, whereas high-end rods sports guides constructed of alloys for reduced weight. Again, not a deal-breaker for most, but knowing whether or not a rod has alloy or stainless steel guides will help you understand the build quality when choosing the best fly rod.
The days of DIY rod cases are over, not just because there’s an excellent array of commercial cases out there, but because those very high-quality commercial cases often come included with your new fly rod. These cases ensure maximum durability while ensuring the utmost protection for your investment.
If you need even more protection for your reel, many aftermarket cases include compartments for your reel and accessories. Regardless of the type, it’s important to protect your investment while traveling or storage.
Long fabric tubes tend to warp over time and any rods stored within it. For long term storage, this is a no-go. Additionally, make sure your fly rod is dry before putting it back in its case. If not, you may find a moldy, stinky mess when you open your case for your next adventure.
Warranties are one of those features you hope you never have to use. However, they’re around for a reason and if your new fly rod comes with a warranty, there may be a time where you’ll have to use it.
Ask any seasoned angler and they’ll have their war stories of rods lost to car doors, tailgates and all manners of rod-killing accidents. If you get into fly fishing, you’ll likely have to use a warranty at some point, so having your rods covered is an awesome piece of mind.
Most warranties cover a broken rod no-questions-asked, offering either replacement or repair. So register that new rod and spend less time worrying and more time fishing.
14 Best Fly Fishing Rod Reviews 2020
Tailwater Outfitters is a nine-foot-long rod that you can break down into four pieces when traveling. It has alignment dots that will help you quickly assemble it.
Smooth movement is an important feature when you’re choosing a fly rod. This model offers this with ceramic stripping guides and chrome snake guides.
The reel seat is made from aluminum. Aluminum isn’t only a durable option but also rust-resistant, which is especially effective for a product you’ll be using near the water.
The handle is made of cork, which is comfortable to hold. In addition, it will help increase the rod’s accuracy.
Breaks down into four pieces for travel
Ceramic and chrome make for easy gliding
Comfortable cork handle prevents fatigue
- Tip can be fragile
Moonshine Rod Company is made to last. It features copper anodized hardware from the tip of the rod all the way down to the reel seat.
The rod also comes apart in four pieces for easy storage and travel. This includes a hard canvas case that helps protect it.
It’s also meant to be easy to cast for any skill level. It’s stiff enough to get your line out there for extra comfort.
One of the most reassuring things about this rod is that it comes with a lifetime warranty. So, if you run into any problems with it, you can take advantage of this offer.
Copper anodized hardware is durable
Breaks down into four pieces for travel and storage
Some beginners find it too stiff
Piscifun Rod comes in a few different forms. The 4wt-8’6” is best for small streams and sunfish. The 5wt/6wt-9’ is great for beginners as well as for medium-skilled fishermen alongside the 7wt-9’. For fast action, the 9wt-9’ is the best choice.
It’s also another travel-friendly option. It breaks down into four pieces and has a PVC rod tube for protection.
This fishing rod is made with IM7 graphite, aluminum and ceramic parts. It’s built for quality and meant to last.
The handle itself is made with cork. This helps to give you a comfortable place to grip for long periods without fatigue.
- Good casting distance
- Hard fighting rod
- Amazing construction quality
- Some customers had problems with the rod splintering
Eagle Claw is suitable for users with different skill sets. It is designed to provide excellent stability and strength when fishing in all bodies of water.
This rod is made of fiberglass material, thereby making it very light in weight. You can use it for a long period of time without feeling much strain.
It comes in two pieces, which are easy to assemble and use. This product is very durable and can stand up to casting lines and reeling without sustaining damage.
It is outfitted with a wooden reel seat that can easily accommodate any type of reel you wish to use. The product has stainless steel guides and a cork handle.
- Made of durable fiberglass
- Very lightweight
- Easy to use
- Cork handle might break during use
M Maximumcatch is a high caliber product that is designed for the fisherman who wants the best. It is made of 5 layers of carbon fiber, with a layer of reinforced muscle fiber for extra strength.
A contoured cork handle allows you to get a firm grip. You can easily cast your line without worrying about losing hold of the rod. It has a reel seat made of aluminum with two rings that lock onto the reel foot firmly.
There’s also a fast action rod blank that aids distance and presentation and works smoothly and strongly, allowing you to cast long distances with ease.
It was specially designed stripping guides and hard chromed snake guides made of stainless steel. It has an oversized tip loop that allows for good and longer casting.
- Made of durable carbon fiber
- Contoured cork handle for good grip
- Can easily cast at long distances
- Tip might not be able to withstand the large weight and is prone to breakage
Fenwick delivers high-quality performance in all types of water. It has a modern look and feels thanks to the durable material it is made of.
It comes in four sections that can be easily assembled and used without damage. Its gunsmoke stripper guides have a large diameter.
The product also has a high-quality cork handle that provides a strong grip at all times.
It features a double up-lock reel seat that is made of aluminum, weighs less than two pounds and comes with a tube and bag for easy transportation.
- Feels really lightweight
- Can be easily assembled
- Very long-lasting
- Might not be suitable for catching large fish
Eagle Claw Featherlight is a durable option that offers powerful performance every time. It features strong accessories that make it a fishing powerhouse.
It comes in two pieces and is made of fiberglass material. It is best suited to freshwater and provides good casting and reeling.
A cork handle gives it a traditional feel and looks while also providing a firm grip. It has freely flowing guides that are made of aluminum oxide.
The reel seat is constructed with aluminum and cherrywood that allow it to withstand high impact. At just 4 ounces, this 8-inch fly rod is a good option for an effortless fishing experience.
- Reel seat is made of durable material
- Cork handle for a firm grip
- Blank is made of high-grade fiberglass
- Might be too flexible which is liable to affect its casting ability
Goture is suitable for beginners and professional fishermen who want a rod that ensures effortless fishing. It comes with a tube made of PVC that allows for easy storage and transport.
The blank is made of high-quality carbon fiber that makes it very strong. With a weight of 11.2 pounds, this material is also very light.
It has stripping guide inserts that have an anti-twisting structure. This feature allows you to have smooth casting at all times.
The reel seat has an insert made of specially crafted burl wood that provides a balanced performance. The cork handle is made to adapt to temperature, thereby making it comfortable to grip.
- Features are optimized for high performance
- Easy to use and long-lasting
- Comfortable and ergonomic grip handle
- Points of connection might not be firm
Shakespeare Fly Rod is designed to give you optimum power to catch and haul in fish, no matter its size. You can always count on the tough features of this rod to be durable and dependable.
The blank is constructed with a specially designed combination of graphite and fiberglass. This combination makes the rod strong but also sensitive for better casting.
The guides are made of stainless steel that prevents pop-outs and also corrosion. It has a special clear tip design that gives it extra strength.
A sturdy cork grip helps with the stability of the rod. It is a two-piece option that is good for all anglers.
- Blank is made of strong materials
- Some of its features provide for extra strength
- Resistant to corrosion and has a comfortable grip
- Might be heavy, thereby making it hard to cast long distances
There are few rods that have ever equaled the overall quality of a G Loomis. For decades, they have been the leading brand of pros and the discerning amateur. You can feel the difference that G Loomis makes the first time you pick one up. There are few rods in its class.
The Asquith is their premium rod and the difference it will make in your cast and presentation is frankly shocking! These are fast action rods with the perfect amount of flex to get the perfect cast every time. No matter which model you go with, it will fish like no other.
You can get these rods in a 9-foot length for single handed rods or up to a 14 footer if you are doing big two-handed casts on big water for big fish. All of the rods are a 4 piece takedown for easy transport and safer storage. Even with the multiple joints, these rods flex in a perfect arc.
You can get line weights on the Asquith from 5 weight all the way to 12 weight with the heavier rods coming with a fighting but for extra torque. All rods have hard wrapped eyelets that are designed for smooth gliding on your cast.
The entire rod is spiral constructed to give it perfect power transfer along the whole curve of the rod. Designed by world casting champion Steve Rajeff, this is the rod you want for the best performance, accuracy, and casting power. It truly has no equal when you need a rod that works hard and looks good.
- Smooth, long casts
- Great action
- Perfect proportions
If you aren’t normally involved in the fly-fishing world, Sage may be a new name to you. If you are well versed in the best fly rods, you will recognize Sage as a company that has never compromised on their quality and construction. When it comes to getting just the cast you want, Sage easily complies.
The X is a new offering from Sage that has made quite the impact on the world of pro-fly-fishing. The action on these rods is a perfect blend of fast with a solid flex along the whole curve of the rod. From the casting tip to the butt, the rod works perfectly for amazing line momentum to get distance and accuracy with every cast.
The line X rods are available from a 3 weight to a 10 weight with gorgeous black spruce blanks, wood handles, and a soft cork handle. If you get a mid-weight 5 weight 10-foot rod, it comes in right at 3 ounces. This lightweight combined with the perfect flex gives you the ultimate level of control when you cast.
As a 4 section rod, you could expect some stiff points but they simply aren’t there. With Sage’s own KonneticHD construction you get a rod capable of tight curls for perfect projection and line momentum. Couple this with chrome plated, corrosion resistant guides, distance is easier than it has ever been before.
There are some companies that tend to go above and beyond, especially companies who keep their production on the smaller side. While this is a mass market rod, it’s not produced on the same level as some of the bigger brands. This smaller scale manufacturing gives Sage the edge in quality control for more consistent, better rods.
- Agile and slick casting
- Great control
- Superbly crafted
- Harder accuracy
12. Orvis Helios 3D
Every avid outdoorsman has heard of Orvis. They produce a long line of outdoor gear for most every pursuit but their founding and passion has always been fly-fishing. Consistently, they have produced some of the best fly rods on the planet. It is a labor of love with Orvis and it shows.
Their Helios series, now on their third iteration, has slowly been making its way to perfection. They may not have nailed it yet but they are so close you couldn’t tell the difference. With a perfect bend along a fast action core, the Helios 3D has proven in the backcountry that it can keep up with the best.
Most Helios rods are a 9 foot with a rare 10-foot offering in a 7 weight. Any of these 4 piece rods will work on most water for most fish but if you need longer casts on bigger water, go for that 10 footer. No matter which you buy, casting power is definitely there if not so much as rods built specifically for distance.
Rather than nailing down power, Orvis has focused on accuracy. In order to do that, they have reduced rod vibration and re-engineered the line guides for a crisp, perfect release every time. Even without the focus, distance is still great on these rods with good power all around.
You can get these rods as blanks or a full kit coupled with Orvis’ Mirage reel. If you opt for the kit, you will get clean line stripping and plenty of fighting power for even the larger fish. Saltwater or fresh, this is a great rod at a great price. All backed by the amazing Orvis warranty.
- Incredibly accurate
- Great warranty
- Powerful, straight casts
- Stiffer action
- Better on big water
- 10 footer is harder to cast
LOOP is another brand almost exclusive to the fly-fishing community and one we are always thankful to have. They have an extensive collection of fly-rods lead by their Cross lineup. These rods are synonymous with the power to bring in big fish.
A constant for those fishing larger bass and walleye as well as some of the smaller salmon species, the Cross is a medium fast rod that gives you amazing leverage when the fight is on. If you are hauling smallmouth out fast water, these are a great rod to have on your side.
Available in a 6 or 7 weight 4 piece rod, the Cross is a perfect blend of accuracy and casting power. You may not get the distance of some better rods but you get more accuracy than a dedicated range caster. This comes from the slightly stiffer carbon fiber and graphite construction mixed with smooth snake guides.
At this level, everything is in the details and LOOP has worked hard to get those details right. This rod is low in vibration with a perfect bend from tip to reel. Overall, the rod is highly elastic thanks to a resin designed to flex as the rod does. If you want good casting curls, this rod gives them every time.
The Switch is all about balance. The balance between accuracy and power and the balance between stiffness with a good bend. This blending of traits leads to a rod that has near perfect control and a ton of fight for larger fish. Great for lakes, rivers, and light salt fishing, LOOP has pulled off an excellent rod with the Switch.
- Great casting control
- Great fighting control
- Slick guides perfect for mending or casting
- Stiffer rods with slower actions
- Shorter casting
- Less accurate
Quality in a rod is something that you feel more than see and while Hardy makes among the most attractive rods on the market, their quality is a perfect match. One of those brands that focus on the quality of every small part to bring together an amazing quality product.
The Zephrus isn’t the most expensive Hardy rod but when it comes to pure performance, there are no other rods like it. With Sintrex glass construction, titanium fittings, carbon fiber spacers, and a hardwood grip, you get the best you can get. Beauty and function all in one rod.
As a 5 weight rod, the Zephrus falls in well under half a pound on a 4 piece, 9-foot rod. These were designed for tight casts on small water. This means that distance isn’t the strongest with this rod but accuracy is spot on. Never fear that while presenting your fly exactly where you want it, this rod is capable of decent reach.
Designed as a freshwater rod, if you chase trout and bass, this is a great rod. It fights well with a good, consistent bend and has the power of a medium-fast action to keep the pressure on. Casting is smooth and slick with titanium stripper guides and mending is effortless through chrome slicked snake guides.
If you prescribe to the ‘buy once, cry once’ mentality but need supreme quality and an all-around great rod, check out the Zephrus. It will perform with most of the best rods for any but the most dedicated anglers. It’s only in that extreme upper end of performance that you will find a difference.
- Good casting distance
- Hard fighting rod
- Amazing construction quality
- Heavier rod
- Slower action
- Slightly harder to cast
Leading Fly Fishing Rod Brands
Sage fly rods emphasize high performance and innovative design. Sage has been producing “specialty rods for specialty anglers” since 1980 and got off to a start leading the industry in graphite rod production. Sage was also the first company to produce fly rods built specially for saltwater fishing.
Sage rods are renowned for spectacular line speeds and long casting distance. Their newest rods feature proprietary graphite designs such as Konnetic HD, Graphite IIIe and Generation 5.
Each Sage rod is designed and built by hand in Bainbridge Island, Washington. Sage rods are built completely in-house, unlike other brands that purchase graphite blanks from overseas. The result is a very high-quality rod and the price reflects it.
Sage rods feature very fast actions made to send line. Designed for advanced anglers, Sage fly rods may not be the best choice for someone just starting out. Price aside, they may prove difficult to cast.
The G. Loomis rod company was founded by IGFA Hall of Fame inductee Gary Loomis. Loomis was an avid sportsmen and revolutionary designer, who’s innovative designs made an indelible impact on all things fishing. His designs set a new standard for fly rod design across the globe.
Loomis is owned by Shimano, but are still renowned for their performance and quality. World-class design teams at Shimano have recently introduced premium models such as the Asquith series, which uses proprietary Spiral X graphite for exceptional strength without sacrificing lightness or finesse.
Despite the Shimano buyout, G. Loomis’s quality hasn’t suffered (G. Loomis rods are still handcrafted in Woodland, Washington). However, longtime customers have reported customer service has taken a hit since the Japanese buyout.
Founded in 1856, Orvis has become a household name in the fly fishing space and beyond. The name is synonymous with quality, tradition and fly fishing in general. Orvis is one of the oldest and most successful manufacturers of fly fishing supplies and no other company has come close to impacting the sport of fly fishing like Orvis has.
Orvis has spread far and wide into markets beyond fly fishing. If you want a custom shotgun, a dog bed or pair of upland hunting boots, Orvis has you covered. The company still shines brightest in their original passion: all things fly fishing.
Orvis is known for high-end, high-price rods and reels, but they also offer a budget-friendly lineup of rods such as the Encounter and Clearwater series.
In the top shelf of the Orvis lineup is the Helios II series, winner of many awards and the strongest fly fishing rod Orvis has ever crafted. The Helios II comes in many iterations targeted for specific fishing, including freshwater, saltwater, large fish and spey.
If you choose to buy Orvis, you can rest easy knowing the company donates five percent of its gross profit to conservation initiatives.
R.L. Winston Rod Co.
The R.L. Winston Rod Co. rocked the fly fishing world with revolutionary bamboo fly rod design and production methods. The company made a name for itself incorporating proprietary hollow fluted bamboo rods, which reduced weight and increased power. In a time when the bamboo rod was king, this was a big deal.
Since its founding in 1929, R.L. Winston Rod Co. has changed ownership several times, but the company’s tradition of innovation hasn’t ceased. R.L. Winston Rod Co. led the pack in fiberglass rods back in the 70s and were early adopters of graphite technology.
Today, their rods are composed of special graphite blended with boron, which incorporates fine tungsten wires providing superior strength and lightness to their rods. The company’s tech-heavy rods are among the best casting in the world.
Despite being tech-heavy, R.L. Winston still makes their beloved bamboo rods, desired by avid anglers for their beauty, craftsmanship and tradition.
Quick Fly Fishing Tips for Beginner Anglers
Fly fishing opens a whole new world of experiences. It can be a simple weekend hobby, a lifelong hobby or for some, a welcome addiction. Fly fishing is an enrapturing sport, and for the beginner, it’s helpful to know a few tips of the trade to get ahead of the learning curve.
- Tip #1: MATCH YOUR GEAR. Fly fishing is about matching. Matching the hatch. Matching the conditions. You also need to match your gear. Before you head out to your favorite fishing hole, be certain your gear ratings match. Check your rod, reel and fly line to ensure their weight numbers are the same.
- Tip #2: PRACTICE IN YOUR BACKYARD. You’ve got your new gear. It’s tempting to head to the stream or lake and try to reel in the big ones. Nevertheless, before you hit the water, it’s a great idea to practice your casting game in your backyard.
- Tip #3: USE LOCAL FLIES. Big-name stores and online retailers carry a multitude of flies. Their prices can be tempting, but nothing beats matching your flies with local know-how. Ask around your local sports shops for what the fish are hitting and buy accordingly.
- Tip #4: BE PATIENT. Different gear works in different scenarios. Learn your environment, be patient with your surroundings and pay attention to what the fish are munching on in your local fishing hole. Pay particular attention to the dynamics of your stream, river or lake. If you’re using a light dry fly when the fish are hitting something heavier, don’t be afraid to ask questions and experiment.
Do’s and Don’ts of Fly Rods
The best of anglers got that way because of a long line of mistakes. When starting out fly fishing, you’re bound to mess up here and there, but we’ve assembled a list of fly rod dos and don’ts to help you smooth the learning curve and start catching more fish:
- Bring waders! They’ll help you bypass briers and brush and get you closer to fish. Choose the best waders for finding fish. A pair of waders can be the best tool for finding fish. If you want to get close to the action without the waders, join the fishermen with bowfishing bows for a different take on the sport.
- Carry a landing net. Losing a monster fish is not fun and a good landing net is a near guarantee this will never happen.
- Make sure your rod, reel, line and bait match. An unmatching kit will lead to unsavory performance.
- Carry spare leaders (the light line that carries your fly). It’s a good idea to carry multiple leaders of various strengths just in case. Making braided fishing line for your leaders will help ensure strength and versatility.
- Carry multiple flies. They’re easy to lose and even easier to pack multiples.
- Assume a larger rod will always mean farther casts. As discussed above, casting distance is more dependent on rod setup, kit weight and how much space you have for casting. For example, an 11 ft. matched fly rod is able to really send a line in open water, but will lose in a small creek every time to a nimble 9 ft. rod.
- Try to cast too far. Pushing the line farther than you should will lead to tangles and shoddy casting. It’s better to keep a short, controlled line and let the fish come to you.
- Put your gear away wet. A damp reel or rod stored away will, at best, smell foul when you retrieve it later. At worst, you’ll have damaged gear. Ensure your gear is clean and dry before storing it.
Does More Spending Mean More Quality
We’re talking to a professional angler, generally, yes. But it’s a blurry line from the novice angler’s need to the seasoned pro. If you’re just starting out, you probably won’t need to dump a month’s paycheck.
Much of the budget-friendly rods will cast just as far as an expensive one and may just as likely catch as many fish. At the end of the day, having fun is what it’s all about, something you don’t have to drop a fortune to get.
The technique almost always trumps pricey gear, so if all you can afford is that value rod, invest more in experience and learning than obsessing over an upgrade. Hint: you’ll know it’s time for a pricier rod when your skill outgrows your old kit.
FAQ About Fly Fishing Rods
How to choose fly rod length?
To choose appropriate fly rod length, consider what you’ll be fishing, how you cast, where you’ll be fishing, the flies you’ll be using and your experience level. If you’re looking for a versatile fly rod length offering a balance of power, control, accuracy and casting distance in a variety of situations, a 9 ft. pole is your best option.
Nine footers are especially good for beginners and trout fishing. In addition to a nine-foot trout fly rod, you’ll need some great waders for finding fish.
Anything over 9 ft. provides better casting power and line control. They’re suited for catching large fish with large flies on large bodies of water.
Small streams more your thing? Grab a fly fishing rod below 9 ft. to take advantage of easier casting and control in tight environments while angling for small fish.
How to cast a fly rod?
You’ve survived the daunting task of choosing the best fly rod. Your next challenge is learning how to cast a fly rod. Casting a fly rod is a whole other animal compared to typical rods. Unlike other rods that use a spincast reel, fly rod casting involves a series of movement that releases line to send a light fly through the air.
Common fly casting techniques include the forward cast, single haul, roll cast, tuck cast, double haul and curve-cast. The most commonly used technique, the forward cast, is described below:
- Gripping your rod like a TV remote, point the rod tip down and as close to the water as possible.
- Slowly lift the line from the water until the point where your line and leader meet is above the surface or the rod tip is in the 1:30 clock position.
- Quickly pull the rod over your shoulder with the flick of your wrist. At this point, your rod should be 45 degrees to your forearm. Once the rod is at the 11 o’clock position, stop to let the line straighten behind you. You’ll feel a slight tug once it’s there.
- Cast the fly rod forward with your forearm, then stop when the rod base meets your forearm and the rod tip is at 12 o’clock in front of you.
- With your wrist, lower the rod end slowly and return to where you started in step on. Repeat this process until your line path is smooth.
With any casting technique, practice makes perfect. It’s a good idea to practice in your yard before taking your new fly rod to the water.
What is a spey rod?
Spey rods are long, fast-action rods designed to be casted with both hands. They are specially designed for spey casting, a method used for casting streamers for catching salmon and large trout in wide rivers. They can achieve serious distance over their shorter cousins and feature a reel with no backcast so anglers don’t worry over trailing line getting caught in the brush or other obstacles.
What is Tenkara?
Tenkara is a traditional Japanese fly fishing method gaining popularity across the globe. Tenkara uses an extremely long telescoping fly rod to present a fly. Tenkara differs fundamentally from mainstream fly fishing in that it loses the reel altogether, the line fixed at the end of the rod.
Because casting is limited, Tenkara is best practiced in small streams. Because Tenkara uses minimal equipment, it forces the angler to focus on the art rather than the technology. Tenkara may seem like an attractive option for the minimalist, but it’s extremely limited in the application: a small stream with small fish and a lot of patience are basically the only way to use it.
If you’re just starting out, we don’t recommend Tenkara. But if you want to get your feet wet with Tenkara, check out Tenkara USA or Tenkara Rod Co. for a number of excellent rods and other resources.
We’ve cast the net wide in this article. Hopefully, you now have a firm grip on what you need in a new fly rod. With plenty of rods starting at $800, getting into the sport can be expensive, but there’s absolutely no reason why you should be daunted by this.
You can still enjoy high-end fly fishing without the high-end price tag. Expensive rods are undoubtedly of superb quality, but for the novice angler, many of their features won’t be realized or even needed.
Besides, if you start out with a budget rod and move on to a higher end model when you’re ready, you’ll appreciate the night and day difference of a high-end rod all the more.
If you’re just starting out, we recommend grabbing a combo of a fishing rod and reel. As a plus, buying a combo takes the work out of matching up your rod, line and reel weight. For $180, you can be out the door fishing with the Echo Base Kit.
For a mid range kit, try the Orvis Clearwater kit for $300. These and other models are great introductions into the sport of fly fishing and you won’t have to skip lunch to afford them. The downside of a combo is often time the reel and line are of inferior quality compared to ones you’d buy separately.
If you want to put in the time and research (and a little extra money) you might consider putting together a kit yourself. No matter which route you go, if you later decide an upgrade is in order, you can always purchase more rods and start building your arsenal.
Photos from: graphicphoto / depositphotos.com, TSpider / depositphotos.com, ecuadorrebel / depositphotos.com, viktoryabov / depositphotos.com, Estradaanton / depositphotos.com, Sandralise / depositphotos.com.