Beginning a search for your first, or even a new fly fishing rod, can be a confusing experience. First off, fly rods rate by weight category. No other fishing rod makers describe their product this way. Fly rods also come in the standard 1 or 2 pieces, but 3 or 4 piece rods are common to find. Fly rods are long, incredibly lightweight, and have incredible flex for both casting and absorbing the power of strong fish. With hundreds if not thousands on the market, how do you know if you’re choosing the best fly fishing rod? Follow right along and you’ll learn everything you need to make that informed decision.
Buyer’s Guide To The Best Fly Fishing Rod And Reviews
What Makes The Best Fly Fishing Rod?
The best fly fishing rod is one that fits within your budget. There’s no clearer starting point than that. Cheaper rods use less expensive components which usually means a drop in durability. They don’t necessarily lose performance. You’ll also want to select a rod that fits the type of fishing you’ll most often use it for.
How To Pick The Best Fly Fishing Rod
Fly fishermen pick fly rods for use in many different fishing situations. They consider elements like overhead growth in the areas they fish and go with shorter length rods when it hangs low. Though this buyer’s guide focuses primarily on 5 weight fly rods, a whole range of weights exist for different purposes.
What Are Fly Fishing Rod Weights?
Fly fishing rods use weighted line to cast out the fly lures. This is a complete switch from the style of fishing that uses the lure as a weight to carry the line out. Fly fishing rod ratings tell the angler what weight fly line to pair it with. The ratings start with a 1 weight rod and can get as high as 14 for heavy offshore fishing. As mentioned, the reviews here concentrate on 5 weight rods due to their incredible versatility.
Fly Fishing Rod Specifications
Specs for fly rods start with the rod weight and range anywhere from 1 – 14. Other than that, specs cover all the typical parts of any fishing rod. You’ll find information like how many pieces make the rod, length of the rod, and rod action.
Features Of The Best Fly Fishing Rod
The features of a fly fishing rod reveal the aspects that make it stand out from other rods. A rod might feature a special patented blank building material or technique. Other points of interest like quality of line guide, reel seat, and handle often appear in feature descriptions.
Matching Specs And Features To Find The Best Fly Fishing Rod
Some of the finest, most expensive fly fishing rods are bamboo and come in 1 or 2 piece versions. The best fly fishing rods, unlike casting or spinning rods, can be 3 or even 4 piece setups. Their lightweight design and reinforced connection points make them fierce river tools. They also break down and many come with hard protective tubes.
Fly fishing rods come within a range of action just like other fishing rods. Action determines how the rod blank bends, specifically where it begins to stiffen. Fast action rods have a lot of easy bend in the tip before the rod starts to firm up. Medium action provides easy flex from middle to tip of rod and slow action rods bend almost to the handle. Anglers must consider how they want their rod to behave action wise while playing a fish and while casting.
The features of fly fishing rods revolve around the blank material and components like line guides, reel seats, handles, and butt style. Of course the more durable (and expensive) rods will use nothing but the highest quality components, but you’ll find some value in the features of more moderately priced models. Take a look at the rods below, any one of which could be the best fly fishing rod for your needs. There’s a good range of reasonable prices that don’t sacrifice quality with an overview of each rod’s specs and features.
The Best Fly Fishing Rod – Top 5 Picks & Reviews
#1 Sage Approach Fly Fishing Rod
Angler trust in Sage fly fishing rods goes back years. They build a number of different lines in fly fishing rods but it’s the Approach brought to your attention here. This is a rod suitable for any experienced fly angler but works best for the student fly fisherman. It’s a medium fast action rod which offers some forgiveness to the errors of the untrained caster. Sage uses a higher modulus graphite in Approach rods than any earlier entry level models.
Sage offers the Approach in three different lengths starting with a short 7′ model. This rod is only available in a 3 weight version. In the middle they have an 8’6″ rod that offers the choice of either a 3 or 5 weight model. Finally you’ll find the common 9′ rod which is offered in a range of weights from 4 to 9. Sage Approach rods come with a lifetime warranty and are handcrafted in the U.S.A.
Approach rods come with a list of powerful features at price beginners can afford. Sage uses tip tops, hard chrome snake guides, and ceramic stripper guides in the build of Approach rods. The cork handles are reverse half wells on the lighter weight rods and full wells on the heavier models. The full well handles also feature a fighting EVA padded rod butt. Sage pays attention to detail with a sharp oyster rod color and black guide wraps with silver trim.
#2 G Loomis Shorestalker Fly Fishing Rod
The Shorestalker fly fishing rod series by G Loomis is a 4 piece setup that comes with sock and travel case. These are specialty fly fishing rods built with two intentions in mind. Their fast action and shorter lengths make for pinpoint casting to the edges of rocks or covering brush. These tucked in areas where lunkers lie in wait to ambush unwary bait is what Shorestalker rods work best for. The second purpose of their build is to avoid the low hanging underbrush that exists when fishing many of these types of locations.
G Loomis makes Shorestalker fly rods in 5 models that range in length from 8′ to 8’8″. The line ratings start with a 5 weight and go up to 9 weight, one for each model. Rod blanks all stay with the fast action taper but both 8’8″ (8 and 9 weight) models offer stiffer power. Rod handles use the reverse half well style and fine cork material.
The design of Shorestalker fly rods means their best for casting short 20 – 40 foot distances and load easiest in this range. Not good for open water conditions requiring longer casts, but perfect for short zone thicket fishing. They will punch a fly 60 feet when the stray fish rises out of it’s normal range. Shorestalker rods also offer a backbone that allows anglers to keep fish from returning to their nearby cover.
#3 Orvis Clearwater Fly Fishing Rod
Fly fishers of all types can take a look at the Orvis Clearwater rods. From extreme saltwater to mountain river trout, the Clearwater has a model for everyone at an agreeable price. The freshwater series shows through in this review of the best fly fishing rod with 10 models to choose from. Clearwater rods come with weight ratings from 3 to 6 and lengths from 7′ to 10′.
There’s only one 3 weight rod with a length of 7’6″ but anglers choose from 4 different lengths in the 4 and 5 weight models. The heaviest 6 weight rod only comes in one model and is a 9 foot rod. The rod blanks of Clearwater rods use Helios construction which strengthens the graphite by facilitating the transfer of energy along the rod bend.
Orvis Clearwater design offers precision casting with extremely lightweight rods that hold their power. The asking price makes anglers wonder what’s wrong with the rods, but fish after fish there’s never an answer. All Orvis Clearwater rods are 4 piece collapsible units that come with rod socks and hard tube case. Perhaps the best fly fishing rod for value and low price in the list, you can’t go wrong with Clearwater.
#4 Redington Classic Trout Fly Fishing Rod
The Classic Trout Fly Fishing Rod by Redington features a moderate action blank with enough sensitivity for small stream fishing yet power for larger trout rivers. Fly anglers know and trust Redington as another maker of quality fly rods. The Classic Trout rod is a perfect choice for the beginner both in price and it’s forgiving action.
Design of the Redington Classic Trout rod is made for exactly what its name suggests, catching trout in number of freshwater situations. These rods as a series boast a number of features starting with a choice of either a 4 piece or 6 piece unit. The 4 piece rods come in 9 models rating for line weights between 2 and 6 and lengths between 7’6″ and 9′. The 6 piece models come in either 8′ or 9′ lengths (3 or 5 weight) and pack up light for backpacking and camping.
Features of Classic Trout rods include a strong aluminum CNC machined reel seat and titanium oxide stripping guides. Each section of the rod comes with alignment markings, making them quick and easy to set up. Redington uses the fine cork handle with the reverse half well shape and the rod warranty lasts a lifetime. The rods come with carry case and protective sock covers for safe transport or storage. Redington offers up another gem with the Classic Trout Fly Fishing Rod. You’ll agree too when you see the asking price.
#5 St. Croix Imperial Fly Fishing Rod
The Imperial line of fly fishing rods by St. Croix brings forth fast action rods with an enormous amount of choices for anglers. The entire series offers fly rods with weight ratings that range from 2 to 10 and amount to 30 models in total. Looking at the specs you’ll see lengths starting as short as 6′ in the 3 weight model and up to 10′ in the 6, 7, and 8 weight models.
The St. Croix name brings assurance to anglers. They had their struggles in years past and fell behind the emerging technology, but new additions to a family team brought innovation. Today St. Croix stands as one of most popular premium rod makers. The manufacturing of the Imperial Fly Rod line is done at the St, Croix home factory in Park Falls, Wisconsin instead of the Mexico factory, where much of their rod building occurs. Imperial fly rods are handcrafted and come with a limited lifetime warranty.
St. Croix uses only premium components and develop their own rod blank technology. Imperial fly rod blanks use a blend of premium high strength SCii St. Croix patented graphite and high strain SCiv graphite. Line guides are hard chrome snake and black frame stripper guides use aluminum oxide. The handles are all high quality cork but design differs depending on the model. Take a look at the spectacular shape, beauty, and price of St. Croix Imperial fly rods. You’ll add them to your list as the best fly fishing rod.
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Final Thoughts About Choosing The Best Fly Fishing Rod
There’s a lot of similarities between fly fishing rods and other fishing rods. The graphite and fiberglass that makes up the rod blanks are often the same. They all use line guides and seats to lock in the reel. Fly fishing rods like other rods come with ratings for line size, it’s just that fly rods rate line a little different. Don’t let this be confusing.
The best way to see it is that a 5 weight rod sits right in the middle and will cast a variety of fly sizes. The fly sizes that match 5 weight rods and line fulfill most of an anglers needs, especially the beginner. Fishing ultralight conditions for small creek brook trout calls for a lighter weight rod, just like fishing lunker largemouth bass calls for a heavier one. Keep those rods bent and lines tight with any of the fly rods listed above. They all qualify in their own right as the best fly fishing rod, and there’s a huge variety of models to choose from.