Becoming an angler without the right equipment is difficult for a number of reasons. That’s why in this article, we’re going to introduce you to the properties of the best fly fishing rods and help you choose an option that is best suited for the angling method you’re using.
Going through the model’s specification list won’t be of much use if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Deciding which type of bait you’re going to use or if you’re going to fish in a river or a sea can help you narrow down your choices.
You should also keep in mind that fly rods aren’t designed for all types of fish since you cannot use the same rod to catch salmon and trout. Go through our Daiwa Saltist Spinning Reel review if you need a reel you can use for saltwater fishing.
What’s a Fly Fishing Rod?
Spinning rods like the Star Stellar Lite or St. Croix Mojo Inshore are heavier than fly rods, and they use different types of lines that are better suited for standard casting techniques. But, most importantly, fly rods are far more flexible as they allow you to perform backhand, roll, or wind casts effortlessly.
The choice of a flying rod often depends on the angler’s casting technique. Hence you’re going to need a two-hand or the so-called spey rod if you’re using the spey casting method or a single fly rod if you want to catch fish using the loop technique.
These rods require reels that are designed specifically for this type of fishing, and you cannot use them with regular spinning reels. Rods and reels are usually sold separately, which enables you to choose the option that best matches your angling style.
Read our fishing rod guide to learn more about the properties of different types of fishing rods.
Types of Fly Fishing Rods
Rod action is one of the terms you’ll encounter as soon as you start exploring different fly rod options. Hence, you need to become familiar with the terminology in order to know which fly rod type you should choose.
The term rod action refers to the rod’s flexibility, and a model can be labeled as fast-medium, or slow action. Terms tip-flex, mid-flex or full-flex are also used to denote how much a rod bends on a backcast. So, let’s take a closer look at what the most common types of fly fishing rods have to offer.
This fly rod type is best suited for experienced anglers that already have a developed casting technique. Only the tip of the fast action rod is flexible while the rest of the rod remains straight during a backcast.
Consequently, tip-flex rods offer a lot of casting power and enable the angler to reach further than they could with other types of fly rods. The lack of flexibility reduces the accuracy of these rods, and you should consider other options if you’re planning to fish in a spring creek.
Novice anglers usually opt for medium action fly rods because of their versatility since these rods perform well in a wide range of conditions. In addition, they provide enough accuracy for short casts and sufficient power for long casts.
The level of flexibility they offer makes them an excellent choice for anglers who like to fish for freshwater trout in small streams. Moreover, these fly rods can be used for offshore saltwater fishing because their flexibility enables an angler to catch large fish.
Slow action fly rods are designed for precision, as they allow you to cast the bait exactly where you want it to be. They’re also a great choice if you’re new to angling because they make mastering different casting techniques easier.
They’re commonly used to catch small freshwater fish, and they lack the versatility that other types of fly rods offer. Check out our Penn Rampage review if you’re searching for a jigging rod.
Fly rod construction
The quality and versatility of a fly rod largely depend on the material they’re made of. You can choose between models made of fiberglass, graphite, and bamboo, depending on your budget and your angling style.
It used to be one of the most common fly rod materials because of its affordability and durability. Models made of modern fiberglass offer a high degree of flexibility and accuracy, which makes them an ideal choice for anglers who often fish at small streams or similar locations.
The vast majority of fly fishing rods are made of graphite, as they’re sturdier and lighter than models made of bamboo or fiberglass. Choosing a fly rod made of this material can be a good decision if you’re searching for a lightweight model that is longer than 10 feet.
This material offers a high degree of flexibility, which is the reason why it is commonly used to manufacture slow-action fly rods. Bamboo is also the heaviest fly rod material, and it is ill-suited for long-casting purposes.
Besides the rod’s material, you should also pay attention to the number of pieces it has.
Most entry-level anglers opt for 2-piece fly rods because they’re easy to assemble, while seasoned anglers who travel long distances in search of perfect fly fishing destinations commonly choose 3-piece or 4-piece models.
Browse through our Penn Prevail review if you’re looking for a surf fishing rod.
Common lengths of fly fishing rods
Figuring out which size of fly fishing rod you need shouldn’t be too difficult if you already know the location where you’ll be angling and which type of fish you want to catch. The length of these rods usually spans from 5 to 14 feet, although they don’t come in standard sizes.
Shorter models are used to catch small freshwater fish, while models longer than 10 feet are a better choice for large saltwater fish. However, you shouldn’t opt for fly rods shorter than 8 feet unless you’re searching for a highly accurate model you can use on fast streams.
A fly rod that is between 9 and 10 feet long should meet the needs of anglers who fish at reservoirs, lakes, or large rivers. Read our Shimano fishing reel reviews to learn more about the brand’s baitcasting models.
Understanding the line weight
The weight of a fly line determines which type of bait you can use. All fly rods are designed for lines with specific weights, so a single model can’t be compatible with an ultra-light and heavy line.
Failing to match the bait to the line’s weight can create a myriad of problems since you won’t be able to maintain control of how a fly and the line land in the water. Mismatching these two components can scare the fish and make it impossible to know where the bait is headed.
The line weight is measured in grains, and the numbering system spans from 1 to 14. Rods that are compatible with lines weigh between 1 and 3 grains are used to catch small fish, while line weights 4 or 5 are commonly used to catch trout or panfish.
The line weights from 6 through 8 are probably the most versatile as you can use them to catch both small and large fish. You should opt for line weights above 8 if you’re fishing for large saltwater species.
Go through our St. Croix Legend Tournament Inshore review if you want to find out more about this saltwater casting rod.
The most important factors to consider while choosing fly fishing rods
Practicing your angling skills takes time, so you must feel comfortable holding your fly fishing rod for hours. Although they feel organic and offer a high level of flexibility, fly rods made of bamboo are heavy, making them a poor choice for novice anglers who are still working on their technique.
Instead, you should opt for a model made of granite if you don’t have a lot of angling experience because they’re flexible, lightweight, and durable. Besides the material, there are several other factors that can help you determine which fly fishing rod is the best option for you.
Here are some of the most important factors you need to take into account while searching for a new fly rod.
The type of fish you want to catch
Selecting the locations where you’ll be angling will enable you to know how large the fish you can catch might be. So, there’s no need to get a fly rod that is compatible with heavy fly lines if you’re planning on fishing in a small stream where the largest fish you can catch is a smallmouth bass or trout.
Angling at lakes or large rivers requires you to have a fly rod that is compatible with lines that are heavier than 6 grains because you might not be able to handle a carp or salmon with a lighter line.
Rod’s flexibility and weight
Medium action fly fishing rods are probably the best option for a novice angler because of their flexibility and versatility. In addition, learning different casting techniques with mid-flex rods is relatively easy as they perform equally well regardless of the weather conditions.
The fly fishing rod you choose should weigh between 4oz and 6oz, but you should keep in mind that models longer than 10 feet can weigh more than 20 ounces. Also, you should factor in how frequently and how long you will be angling while deciding how heavy your fly fishing rod should be.
All pieces of equipment you choose have to be compatible since pairing a rod with a line that is too light or too heavy for it can make it difficult to control the bait. So, if you decide you want to fish for bass, you’re going to need a 6-weight fly line, a 6-weight fly fishing rod, and a 6-weight fly reel.
Pairing a 7-weight fly line with a 6-weight fly rod won’t damage your equipment, but it will affect your angling experience and decrease your accuracy. That’s why you shouldn’t go up or down one weight level unless it’s your only option.
Understanding the fly sizes is crucial during the fly fishing rod selection because using a fly that is too light or too heavy for a fly line can spook the fish. Fly sizes match the size of the hook they’re designed for, so if you have a size ten hook, you’re going to need a fly with the same size rating.
Larger numbers are used to denote smaller flies, so a 15 Adams fly is larger than a 20 Adams dry fly. Besides dry fly flies, you can also use nymph, streamer, or wet fly flies, depending on your casting style and the fish you want to catch.
Price and warranty
Overspending on a fly fishing rod is unnecessary if you’re new to angling since getting the priciest model on the market won’t make mastering casting techniques easier. Getting a model in the $150 to $300 range will enable you to learn the ropes of the fly fishing sport.
As your skill level improves, you can start considering high-end fly rods that can cost anywhere between $500 and $100. Most brands issue lifetime warranties for their fly rods, while companies like Orvis or Cabelas offer 25 warranties for their products.
The advantages of fly fishing rods
Wide selection of models
Anglers can choose from a variety of fly fishing rods that are designed for different fishing locations. Opting for a 12-foot model is a great option if you want to catch saltwater fish, while an 8-foot fly rod best fits the needs of freshwater anglers.
Getting a 4-piece fly fishing rod will enable you to save space while traveling to a remote fishing spot. These rods don’t weigh more than 30oz, and they can be carried as hand luggage whenever you’re traveling by plane.
Made of durable and lightweight materials
Fly fishing rods are made of graphite, fiberglass, or bamboo. None of these materials is prone to physical damage as they can withstand years of frequent usage without showing signs of deterioration.
In addition, models made of graphite and fiberglass are lightweight, so you can hold them in your hand for hours without feeling fatigued.
Excellent performance in all weather conditions
Harsh weather conditions won’t affect the performance of fly fishing rods, as they maintain the same level of accuracy even when facing strong winds or heavy rain. However, tip-flex models perform better in windy conditions than mid-flex or full-flex fly rods.
Long warranty periods
Almost all fly fishing rods manufactured by industry-leading brands have long warranty periods. You’ll either get a 25-year or a lifetime warranty if you opt for a model produced by Scott, Orvis, or St. Croix.
The disadvantages of fly fishing rods
Some models can be very expensive
Fly rods made with advanced technologies can cost more than $1,000, while even mid-range models can cost more than $500. Fly lines, hooks, and fly fishing reels are usually sold separately, and they increase the overall cost of these rods by several hundred dollars.
Learning how to fly fish is difficult
Having excellent equipment won’t make developing fly fishing skills easier. Although learning a casting technique usually takes a month, it might take you much longer to polish your casting skills.
The rapid development of technologies used to produce fly fishing rods makes it difficult to pinpoint the best models on the market. All of the best brands in the industry produce flying rods that offer a high degree of stability and accuracy.
Besides quality, we utilized a wide range of parameters to select fly fishing rods featured in this article. The models we shortlisted are suitable for both novice and experienced anglers, and you can use them in different contexts.
Here are some of the most important parameters that helped us choose the best fly fishing rods for this article.
Fly rod type:
Fast, medium or slow action rods are suitable for anglers with different skill levels. That’s why our selection includes tip-flex, mid-flex and full-flex models so that you can choose the option that best fits your needs.
Entire series rather than a single model:
Models from the same series have identical features, and you can choose how long you want the rod to be or the weight of its fly line. That’s why our selection favors fly rod series over specific models.
Our selection of the best fly fishing rods includes options from all price tiers so that you can choose the rod that best fits your budget.
Top 5 fly fishing rods
Versatility is probably the most important trait you should look for in a fly fishing rod if you don’t have much angling experience. A versatile rod will enable you to fish at a local creek and a large lake with the same level of precision.
You should avoid fast-action fly rods if you’re still practicing your casting technique because they don’t offer a lot of flexibility, and they make directing the bait to a specific area difficult. Getting a mid-flex model is probably the best option if you’re still working on your casting method.
Let’s take a look at some of the best fly fishing rods for novice and experienced anglers.
1. Scott Sector Series
There are more than ten different models in the Scott Sector Series and each of them can be used for saltwater and freshwater fly fishing. Their length spans from 6 to 9 feet, and their line weight compatibility spans from 6 to 15 grains.
Fly rods from this series can have two, three, or four pieces, but their price is the same regardless of how many pieces the particular model has. All Sector Series models were produced with the Carbon Web technology that makes them stable and the ReAct technology that reduces vibrations.
These fast-action fly fishing rods feature multi modules that allow them to recover quickly after a backcast.
2. Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod
An affordable price and a high level of flexibility are some of the reasons why Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod is so popular among anglers.
These mid-flex fly rods are available in a variety of sizes, so you can opt for a 7’6’’ version if you usually fish at relatively small rivers and lakes or a 10-foot version if you prefer offshore seawater fly fishing.
You can choose between ten different line weights, and the lightest available option is a 2-weight fly line, while the heaviest option is a 12-weight fly line. Optionally, you can add a left-hand or right-hand reel to the Clearwater fly rod you choose.
3. Douglas DXF Fly Rod Series
The Douglas DXF Fly Rod Series features nymphing, two-handed, saltwater, and single-handed models. These fast-action fly rods are made of XMatrix carbon materials that make them both sturdy and flexible.
All versions of the DXF fly rods contain four pieces, and you won’t need a lot of space to carry them with you, even if you’re traveling to a remote fishing location. The price of the models from this series depends on their length, fly line weight, and handle type.
The precision of these fly rods doesn’t diminish with distance, making them versatile enough to be used in most contexts.
4. Winston Air 2
Designed specifically for freshwater fly fishing, the Winston Air 2 is one of the best fast-action fly rods on the market. Unfortunately, these fly rods are available at just two lengths as you can only choose between 8’6’’ and 9-feet options.
Also, the maximum flyweight these rods support varies from 3 to 6 grains, which means that you cannot use them to catch large fish spices. Winston Air 2 is made of graphite, and each model contains four pieces, so you won’t need a lot of space to carry it with you.
The price of models from the Winston Air 2 series might seem steep as you can only use them in specific contexts.
5. Sage Foundation
All fly rods from the Sage Foundation series are 9-feet long, with the exception of the 7100-4 Foundation model that is 10-feet long. These medium-action rods are designed to be used in freshwater conditions, and you can utilize them for nymphing, streamers, or dry fly fishing.
They support line weights ranging from 4wt to 9wt, and each model offers a high fly line speed. The manufacturer utilized Graphite IIIE technology to produce fly rods from this series because it ensures a smooth casting motion.
None of the models from this Sage series come with a reel, and you must purchase this accessory separately.
Frequently asked questions about fly fishing rods
Question: Are fly fishing rods prone to corrosion?
Answer: Most models are either made of corrosion-resistant materials or have an anti-corrosion coating that protects them from water exposure.
Question: Do fly fishing rods have high maintenance requirements?
Answer: No, since you have to wipe them clean with a dry cloth after every use and wash them with warm water and soap every three to six months.
Question: What is a fly rod combo?
Answer: Fly rod combos include a fly reel, fly line, and fly rod, which makes them an excellent option for novice anglers.
Question: Do fly fishing rods break often?
Answer: Yes, they do, especially if their ferrules get loose or if the angler uses the second hand for additional support.
Final thoughts: Deciding which fly fishing rod to choose
The terminology can make the process of choosing a fly fishing rod seem intimidating, even though it is relatively simple.
Knowing the context in which you’ll be using a fly rod will provide you with the information you need to choose the right rod for this type of fishing since you cannot use the same fly rod to catch freshwater and saltwater fish.
We recommend a mid-flex model like the Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod or the Sage Foundation if you’re still learning fly fishing techniques. Fly fishing rods from the Scott Sector Series might be the right solution for you if you already have a lot of angling experience.
Was this guide finding the best fly fishing rods useful? Let us know in the comments, or continue reading our Shimano 500 Tranx review to find out what this baitcasting reel has to offer.