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.
Luckily, we’re here to help, so neither your fly rod nor your wallet have to be broken by the end of the day.
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- 1 What Makes the Best Fly Rods
- 2 10 Best Fly Fishing Rod Reviews 2018
- 2.1 1. G Loomis NRX Lite Presentation Fly Fishing Rods
- 2.2 2. Scott Radian Fly Rod
- 2.3 3. Douglas Fly Fishing Rod DXF5904
- 2.4 4. Fenwick AETOS Fly Rods
- 2.5 5. Sage ONE Fly Rod and Sage Approach Fly Rod Outfite
- 2.6 6. Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit and Orvis Helios 2 Fly Rod
- 2.7 7. Hardy Zephrus FWS Fly Rod
- 2.8 8. Redington PATH Fly Rods
- 2.9 9. St. Croix Legend Elite Freshwater Fly Fishing Rods
- 2.10 10. Winston Boron IIIx Fly Rod
- 3 The Bottom Line
- 4 Conclusion
What Makes the Best Fly Rods
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.
A fly rod’s action is the amount of stiffness or flexibility in a rod. It is important to keep your skill level in mind when deciding on a rod’s action. Action is broken down into three categories – slow, medium, and fast.
- Slow action fly rods are the most flexible. They are the perfect rods to learn on, as their flexibility lends itself to better presentations of the fly. However, these are harder to control on the backcast, and beginners may soon grow past this type of rod.
- Medium action fly rods are a happy medium of flexible and stiff. They will provide the angler with the ability to control the cast more than a fast action rod, while allowing the angler to have a harder, longer cast than a slow action rod.
- Fast action (tip-flex) fly rods are the most stiff, with very little bending. This is better for longer casts, as there is more power in the cast. However, this is recommended for more advanced anglers, as it has the tendency to create hard casts, scaring potential fish away at the fly line landing.
2. 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.
3. Fly Line Weight (AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT)
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 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.
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 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.
10 Best Fly Fishing Rod Reviews 2018
The G. Loomis NRX LP gave us the best all-around performance in both long and short casting, and has all the features that made us want to give it the first review. Due to its flex tip, it has a medium-action feel, without suffering in higher-end performance.
It’s LP “light performance” label holds true, as we found this rod to give extremely light and smooth casts, while still giving a powerful and sensitive feel to the user.
At a moderate-to-high price range, this is definitely our go-to fly rod.
It’s difficult for any rod to touch the G. Loomis NRX in our opinion, but the Scott Radian takes a very good swing at it. Much like the NRX, it gives an extremely light performance; however, this still gives all the power, control, and variability that a fast-action rod will. While it performs well in saltwater, its ability to catch freshwater trout is its main draw.
This is an all-around great performing rod, and just missed the first-place ranking that the G. Loomis NRX LP holds.
The Douglas DXF performs extremely well for a moderately low price. While this rod comes in a few different sizes and weights for either saltwater or freshwater fishing, we’d select the 9 foot 6wt rod for maximum performance and variability.
Each rod comes with a unique cork handle for best individual performance. While this is a newer company compared to most of the others on our list, we loved the all-around feel and the great price of Douglas’s DXF.
Listen closely – if you’re in the market for a low-budget fly rod, the Fenwick Aetos is absolutely the rod for you. This rod is sold at budget consumer shops like Walmart, but feels like it could fit right at home mounted in higher-end fishing shops as well (or better yet, out on the water).
The Aetos gives a high fast-action performance, and feels almost as powerful as its high-prices competitors. While it might not last quite as long or be quite as durable as the higher-end rods, it will give you a hell of a ride during its lifetime.
We feel that the Sage ONE fly rod is another very good rod on our list. 4-piece, 5wt, and 9 feet long, the Sage One gave us a great performance. This was an extremely fast-action rod, so you want to make sure you’re very experienced before you pick up this rod.
Comparable to the ONE, we’ve also included the Sage Approach Bundle in our list. The Approach is more of a medium-action rod, and already comes with the matching fly line and fly reel for the best performance with this rod.
Best of all, both Sage rods come with a lifetime warranty!
It’s cheating, we know – but we’ve included another two rods, as we love both of these Orvis rods for their intended purposes.
The Helios 2 holds its own with the top performers in our list such as the Scott Radian or G. Loomis NRX LP. It is ultralight (20% less weight from the previous model), but still gives a great fast-action performance.
Unfortunately, this will come with a high sticker price as well. For those looking for a lower price or more of a beginners’ rod, we instead suggest the Clearwater. It is an extremely quality rod while staying at a very low price. The best part is the Clearwater is built from the same design as the Helios 2. For any moderate or amateur angler, the Clearwater will work perfectly, and will still come with Orvis’s great 25-year warranty.
The new upgrade to the award-winning Hardy Zenith, the Hardy Zephrus is a force to be reckoned with. It is a fast-action graphite rod, and performs extremely accurately at both short and long distances.
Depending on your style of fishing, we recommend getting a 4wt 8’6 rod or a 5wt 9′ rod for maximum versatility.
Overall, this rod gives amazing control and performance, and would be a great contender if it were not for the G. Loomis or Scott rods, in our opinion.
Redington’s PATH fly rod comes with a lifetime warranty, but that doesn’t mean you’ll ever have to use it.
The PATH is made from very durable material, and is built for both freshwater and saltwater. It is a medium-fast-action rod, comes with alignment dots to set up very easily, and is an all-around great beginners’ rod.
It comes in a bundle for an extremely low price as well, which means it’s good to go straight from unpacking.
The St. Croix Legend Elite is a smooth fly rod with a gorgeous finish, but don’t be fooled – it’s got some power to it as well.
It is a graphite fast-action rod, and comes with both a carrying case and great customer service – a good option should anything go wrong with the rod.
The last fly rod in our list is the Winston Boron IIIX 5wt 9ft. We would recommend going with this length and weight of rod in general, but the Boron IIIX excels at these dimensions specifically.
It is extremely lightweight and fast-action, can be used in both fresh and saltwater, and is made for either long or short casts.
Just to put it, this is a perfect overall rod, similar to the top performers in our list.
The Bottom Line
Here are the best purchases we feel you could make choosing from our list.
Best Overall Buy: G. Loomis NRX LP
This was a very difficult decision for us, but at the end of the day, we had to give it to the G. Loomis NRX LP. While it was a medium-action rod, it gave extremely powerful casting and a very light performance for catching all of the trout our hearts could handle.
Best Buy on a Budget: Fenwick Aetos
The best rod under $200 was by far the Fenwick Aetos. Unless you angle professionally, our guess is this rod would suit you just fine. It gives a performance that rivals its more expensive competitors, and comes in many different sizes and weights.
Best 5wt Fly Rod: Hardy Zephrus
If you’re looking for the most versatility in fly fishing, you’ll need a rod that gives both a light presentation and has a fast-action to appeal to both sides of the spectrum. For this, we suggest going with the Hardy Zephrus. Its 5wt rods come in both 8’6 and 9′ lengths for both shorter and longer casts, and it offers a perfect mix of fishing, from small trout to larger bass.
Best Saltwater Fly Rod: G. Loomis NRX and Orvis Helios 2
As saltwater fishing is based around longer casts and harder sets, both your fly rod and fly line need to be at least a 6wt, and preferably above 8’6 long. For these, we would either recommend the G. Loomis NRX or Orvis Helios 2 rod. They each have the power to cast between 80-100 feet with ease, yet are still extremely lightweight. You can’t go wrong with either of these rods for saltwater fly fishing.
Best Bundle: Orvis Clearwater
This is an easy choice and almost selected for our “Best Buy on a Budget” title, had it not been the clear frontrunner for the “Best Bundle” title. The Orvis Clearwater is by far our favorite bundle, with the fly rod, line, and reel all coming with this set. With a great name like Orvis standing behind the product with a 25-year warranty, as well as a low price and great performance, this is an easy choice for those looking for the complete package.
While most of the rods we gave a nod to on this list are similar, they each have a unique feel that only comes when you put one in your hand and cast out. Whatever you decide on, we suggest going to a shop and getting a feel for a couple rods first (and then coming back to us to purchase, of course). With any skill, these rods are sure to give you a first-class catch you’ll be bragging about for the next few years.