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.
Click to View Post Navigation
- 1 What Makes the Best Fly Rods
- 2 8 Best Fly Fishing Rod Reviews 2019
- 2.1 1. G Loomis Asquith Fly Rod – Best of the Best Fly Rod
- 2.2 2. Sage ‘The X’ Fly Rod – Best Saltwater Fly Rod
- 2.3 3. Orvis Helios 3D – Best Large Water Rod
- 2.4 4. LOOP Cross S1 Switch – Best Small Water Rod
- 2.5 5. Winston Boron III X Fly Rod – Most Versatile Fly Rod
- 2.6 6. Hardy Zephrus FWS Fly Rod – Best Mid-Range Fly Rod
- 2.7 7. G Loomis Whisper Creek GLX Fly Rod – Best Bang for your Buck
- 2.8 8. St. Croix Legend Elite – Best Budget Fly Rod
- 3 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.
8 Best Fly Fishing Rod Reviews 2019
1. G Loomis Asquith Fly Rod – Best of the Best Fly Rod
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.
- Light Weight
- Smooth, Long Casts
- Great Action
- Perfect Proportions
2. Sage ‘The X’ Fly Rod – Best Saltwater Fly Rod
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
3. Orvis Helios 3D – Best Large Water Rod
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
4. LOOP Cross S1 Switch – Best Small Water Rod
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
5. Winston Boron III X Fly Rod – Most Versatile Fly Rod
The Winston rod company is one known for producing great quality rods while pushing the limits of innovation. This has allowed them to make rods that are much more versatile than most other companies. Though they have rods specific to different fishing needs, their shining gem is the all-purpose Boron series.
It’s difficult to make a rod that has fast action, solid power, good casting distance, and great line sensitivity. This could be considered the shining star of the multi-purpose fly rod without question. All weights tend to work very well but it’s the heavier end rods that really shine.
Going with something a 6 or 7 weight is a perfect place to find that balance to fish smaller trout up to larger bass and small pike. You can even get some good salt action on Mahi and speckled trout with a rod like this. It wasn’t designed for a specific fish or type of fishing so it tends to do fairly well with all of them.
A 4 piece construction is perfect for transport and no hindrance at all to a good cast. As a matter of fact, the extra smooth guides on this rod make shooting line exceptionally easy. With a heavier rod and line, getting into the wind on larger bodies of water is well within the realm of possibility.
There are a lot of options at this level of fly rods. It’s actually easier to make a high quality, high-cost rod than to make something this good at this price point. Getting everything right has landed Winston in a great position in the world of modern fly rods.
- Fishes all Water Well
- Great Accuracy
- Good Control
- Easy to Cast
- Somewhat Heavier
- Shorter Casting Distance
6. Hardy Zephrus FWS Fly Rod – Best Mid-Range Fly Rod
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
7. G Loomis Whisper Creek GLX Fly Rod – Best Bang for your Buck
Making a great fly rod that costs a grand or more is easy. Making a great fly rod for much less than that becomes a great challenge. Most of the big names in fly rods cost big money but G Loomis makes some astounding rods that even a budget fisherman can afford.
In the case of the Whisper Creek, you get an amazing rod but one intended for the smaller waters. If you are an eastern fly-fisher, you know the challenge presented by high banks, low canopies, and weed lined banks. This is a rod designed to beat those challenges.
Best fished in lighter weights that can get a good bend at the shorter 7-foot 9-inch length of this rod, the Whisper Creek is great for those high mountain trout or low valley bass. Though it is a fast action rod, the short length makes keeping the pressure on much easier than fighting with a long rod.
You can get some decent distance out of this rod but it takes a little more practice. Where this rod prevails is in line control and fly placement. Those are the criteria needed for getting to those backwoods streams that never see a fisherman. Even if you have another fly rod, this is a worthy investment just to get those hard to find fish.
Even though it runs much less than some of the highest end G Loomis rods, that doesn’t mean it lacks in quality. It has a little more weight than those rods made of premium materials but not enough to make much of a difference. The whole rod comes in under a pound with hardwood grip and soft-cork handle.
- Amazing Value
- Very Agile Casting
- Amazing Accuracy
- Shorter Casting Distance
- Challenging to Learn On
- Heavy for a Fly Rod
8. St. Croix Legend Elite – Best Budget Fly Rod
For those people who demand a high-performance rod but can’t stomach the price of premium rods, St. Croix has become the standard. Much better than any competitor in the mid-range rods, the Legend Elite is an amazing rod at an almost unbelievable price. Perfect as a starter rod but one that will satisfy even experienced anglers.
While having a rod in 5 or 6 weight is often preferred for those new to the sport, the Legend is only available in 7 to 9 weights. This is a little heavy for smaller trout but works great for big browns and all manner of bass. A 7 weight, with proper line, can even be a little easier to learn to cast.
Even with a heavier weight, these rods have a fast action with a smooth, consistent bend. The tip is very springy making casting a breeze. You won’t get a ton of distance but you get enough to access even big water. All these rods fall between 9 and 9 1/2 feet and weigh only a few ounces. They are satisfying to hold and comfortable to use.
With a cork and red-stained wood handle combined with graphite 4 piece rod, the overall appearance is striking. While we all want a good looking rod, it needs to perform to be really worth it. Never fear that this rod can put pressure on a fish without putting pressure on you. When it comes to fighting, you won’t find many fast action rods that can keep up.
Casting seems natural with the weight distributed farther to the rear than some rods. This is a benefit of graphite construction over glass. If you are used to a more bendy rod, this one will make you slow down on your cast and fine tune your motions. If you are new to fly-fishing, this is a perfect rod to learn on.
- Very Affordable
- Great Beginner Rod
- Casts Easy and Far
- Not as Accurate
- Doesn’t Control Fish as Well
- Very ‘Springy’ Rod
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.