Spring is upon us, and that means the season for fly-fishing is upon us! At last, a chance to break out your gear and test out your skills against nature! However, things don’t always go according to plan. Accidents do happen, and sometimes our equipment breaks while in storage.
Fear not, however, as this only means there is an opportunity to upgrade. Your rod should be the first thing you look towards replacing, as they’re at the center of a fly-fishing angler’s arsenal.
Finding one that suits your particular situation, environment, and the type of fish in your favorite spot is paramount. But, since there are so many options available, how are you supposed to find the best fly fishing rod? Keep reading and find out!
What Makes One Fly Fishing Rod Better than Others?
There are many aspects to consider before purchasing a fly-fishing pole. However, the main thing you should focus on is your target fish. Are you looking to capture trout as most fly-fishermen do? Or are you trying to get salmon, panfish, pikes, or bass instead? Is your goal to fish in freshwater? Or are you looking for ocean fish like the bonefish, red snapper, or snook instead?
You’ll need to consider these factors before purchasing one rod as their performance can vary in different environments. Not a single rod will excel in the field of all-purpose as these don’t excel in a specific category. Nor will you find one that’s great for snooks and bass at the same time (considering their average weight difference is about 15 pounds).
Consequently, your first objective is to identify what you’re targeting and its location. Are you going to the sea, river, lake, or stream? How far do you need to cast, and which type of fly will you be using? Finally, are you a seasoned caster or a newbie looking to start fresh?
Once you have an idea of your answer to these questions, keep the following aspects in mind before making your final purchase.
Also known as a rod’s flexibility or stiffness, the action comprises the bend, the amount of flex, and the swift recovery of the load once removed. When you’re fly fishing, it impacts the way a pole loads the fly line’s weight during casting, how it feels, and the way it handles fish.
You’ll find them in a variety of types, and depending on the questions we asked earlier, you’ll want to prioritize certain types over the others.
- Slow: These rods bend evenly throughout their entire body. Working great in smaller bodies of water such as creeks or streams, they’re perfect for small fish. Additionally, their ability to land softly allows the caster to catch fickle fish. However, slow action rods don’t fare well against the wind
- Medium: An even balance of flexibility and stiffness. Medium rods carry the advantages of faster and slower rods but come with their own set of disadvantages. Providing the user with a quicker load and ample control, they are responsive rods that can accurately reach quite a distance when cast. If you’re new to fly-fishing, these are your best bet
- Medium Fast: Featuring flexibility in the upper regions, they’re better at control than faster rods. Yet, their strength lies in their distance and placement. Medium fast rods can go the distance with ample power
- Fast: The stiffest of the bunch. These rods are only flexible are the very top. Yet, their casting distance and power are incredible. The line releases at high velocity, landing with great accuracy wherever you aim it. However, they’re only suitable for seasoned anglers as they require a lot of skill. People looking to catch bigger prey, and fish in larger bodies of water can look forward to using these
You’ll find rods come in different sizes, each of these can affect the casting ability of the pole. But, their dimensions will provide different advantages in various situations.
The average length of a rod nine feet long. This size tends to offer the best balance of control, distance, accuracy, power, and weight. They’re versatile, and these aspects make them the best option for beginners.
Shorter rods, however, are easier to control, making them perfect for smaller bodies of water.
Longer rods, on the other hand, are better at control. They give you extra power when casting longer distances and are suitable for fishing large fish in bigger bodies of water. You’ll find advanced fly-fishing techniques require longer rods.
The texture and feel of a rod depend on its shaft. Fly-fishing rods were made out of split cane originally. Nowadays, you can find them in bamboo, graphite, and fiberglass. However, keep the following in mind before purchasing:
- Bamboo: Expensive and heavy, these require a lot of experience. Most anglers buy these out of a sense of appreciation for the art of fishing
- Graphite: Superior quality, comfortable, and excellent performance make the graphite rods the best choice for modern anglers. You can find this kind in almost any configuration possible
- Fiberglass: These rods are robust, and offer a unique sensation while reeling fish in or casting
Never underestimate the impact your fly line will have on your rod, specifically its weight. All fly-fishing rods require specific weight ratings that ultimately determine the thickness and weight of the line you’ll use.
A weight-rating indicator will tell you the kind of fly line your rod can utilize. But, if looking for an example, consider the following, a 6-weight fly rod uses a 6-weight fly line. These are good for catching bigger trout, carp, and shads. If you don’t adhere to the weight ratings of your rod, your accuracy and casting will suffer.
Additionally, the weight rating affects the fly you can use, and ultimately impacts the size of the fish you can catch.
The following weights are good in the following scenarios:
- 0 through 2: Tiny fish beware as these weights work perfectly in tiny streams.
- 3 through 4: Good for smaller creeks and small fish.
- 5 through 7: Perfect for lakes, rivers, and other common locales. The majority of the time a five will do just well for any situation, but in those cases where you need a bit more power, the six and seven will do just fine.
- 8 through 10: Suitable for saltwater fish found closer to the shore.
- 11 through 12: Good for bigger fish such as barracuda.
- 13+: Thirteen and above are perfect for ocean fish that are larger.
Your grip will help you retain control at all times. Because of that, the handle on your rod is an essential part of the fly-fishing pole. Without a good grip, you won’t be able to cast effectively, nor will you gain enough leverage to fight the fish.
Look for a rod that feels comfortable, and has a nice balance in your hands, as this will reduce fatigue and soreness. Try to find lightweight cork handles, as these let you keep a strong grip, but are also responsive and provide textual feedback.
Furthermore, if you’re using a rod whose weight rating is on the lower end of the spectrum, you’ll find the design of the handle taper to your thumb. Whereas, a heavy rod is thicker in the aforementioned region for extra power and leverage, giving you an additional oomph to your cast.
You can buy fly-fishing rods in multi-piece or one-piece formats. Each with their pros and cons. A one-piece rod is practical for fishing bigger fish as there are less chances of it splitting in half during a particularly rough battle. However, when it comes to moving the pole, it can be impractical in smaller vehicles. Especially, if they’re taller than eight feet.
A multi-piece setup, on the other hand, can move travel easily as you can effortlessly take it apart. You can find multi-piece rods in numerous configurations including eight-pieces that can fit in your backpack.
Another critical part of the fly-fishers arsenal is the reel. You should never overlook the importance of a good one, as they will prevent your line from breaking while reeling a whopper.
Your reel and rod work in tandem, if you don’t choose one that matches the weight category of your pole, you’ll negatively affect your performance. However, if your rates match, you’ll have the right amount of line for your yard capacity.
Alternatively, you could simply choose a pre-made rod and have them already built into the pole.
Specialty or All-Around
All-around rods are useful in a variety of situations. They perform well overall but don’t excel in one specific category. Alternatively, you’ll find specialty rods for more specific situations that require certain advantages over others.
If you’re looking to experience a variety of locales and scenarios, purchasing an all-around is beneficial. However, if you’re the type of angler that only looks to fish in a specific situation such as the ocean you’re better off purchasing a specialty pole.
As time moves on though, you’re likely to gather a collection of rods that are good in specific areas. Having multiple poles will help you as you change environments and adjust to new scenarios.
8. Saltwater or Freshwater
Because ocean fish are larger than your average freshwater fish, you’ll want stronger rods to battle them. Furthermore, the saltwater negatively influences the durability of your gear. Saltwater rods are better equipped to handle the rough environment of the sea and have better durability than freshwater ones.
Freshwater rods, however, offer better performance on lakes, rivers and other bodies of fresh water. They’re smaller, have less casting distance than the saltwater rods, and can land gently in the water to avoid spooking the fish.
If you’re planning on using the same rod for whatever scenario you’re in, just find one that’s corrosion-resistant.
Never forget the value of a good warranty. Rods are tested every time you go out on a fishing excursion. You might be doing everything right, but there is no guarantee the pole won’t snap or break.
Buying a rod with a good warranty period ensures you get the most of your investment.
Top Eight Best Fly-Fishing Rods 2020
Hardy Zephrus FWS
Orvis Clearwater Rod
Best Beginner Rod
Maxcatch Extreme Combo
Best Package Deal
Best Rod and Fly Combo
Dragontail Shadowfire 365
Best Budget Tenkara
Oni Type I
Best High-End Tenkara
Echo Gecko Fly-Rod
Best Children Fishing Rod
Fly-fishing rods come in all shapes and sizes and with so many categories, we couldn’t pick just one. Instead, we chose the best for each of our categories. As such here are the best rods for the different categories you’ll find in the market:
1. Hardy Zephrus FWS – Best All-Around
Without a doubt, the best all-around fly-fishing rod around, the Hardy Zephrus combines elegance, beauty, and functionality. This fast action pole is built to last with a hardwood grip, Triaxial carbon spacers, and a Sintrix 440 construction that reduces friction during use.
The Zephrus FWS helps anglers reel in bigger fish without breaking a sweat and can guide the fish towards you without snapping the line. Additionally, the REC black pearl recoil guide lets you pull the fish into your boat easily.
However, it’s a bit difficult to cast and takes practice to perfect. Thankfully, as an all-around rod, it’s perfect for almost any scenario you’re in.
- Requires practice to use efficiently
2. Orvis Clearwater Rod – Best Beginner Rod
If you’re looking to get into the art of fly-fishing, look no further than the Orvis Clearwater. This rod is perfect for newbies and casual fans of the sport.
Its lightweight aluminum frame gives it impressive durability and strength for its weight. Additionally, it’s easy to store the Orvis Clearwater in a backpack due to its multi-piece setup. You can break it down into four separate pieces for easy carriage.
The Orvis Clearwater is a surprisingly versatile, capable of striking a balance between fast and slow casting speeds. This trait allows new anglers to get a feel for the rod quickly.
Finally, it strikes a nice balance of power and precision that can help you even on windy days.
- Great for rivers and lakes
- Great price
- Rulon inline drag helps catch faster fish
- Slightly slower than other rods in its category
3. Maxcatch Extreme Fly Fishing Combo – Best Package Deal
If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for all your fly-fishing rod needs, look closer at Maxcatch’s Extreme Fly Fishing Combo. A great price and a package that comes with everything you need make this offer nearly irresistible.
For starters, you’ll get a 9-foot rod with a medium-fast action for power. A weight rating of five means you’ll be catching mostly basic fish like trout, or medium-sized bass. Finally, it comes with a fly reel that’s already spooled, plus a fly box, some flies, clippers, a rod case, and a hemostat.
If you’re going fly-fishing on a lake and don’t want to spend time shopping around, you should get this bundle.
- Great for people without any gear
- Great synergy between pieces
- Great Price
- At a five weight rating, you won’t be catching bigger salmons or trouts
4. Orvis Encounter – Best Rod and Fly Combo
Orvis features top of the line equipment when it comes to their fly-fishing gear and the Encounter is no different. Finding the perfect reel for your rod can be a challenging endeavor if you’re in a rush or simply new to fly-fishing.
The Orvis Encounter makes it easy with a package deal that comes a four-piece 9-foot long rod and a reel. Suitable for longer casts, this rod features an 8-weight line rating that gives you plenty of power for catching bigger fish.
Moreover, a medium-fast action allows it to reach farther, and cast longer than other similar rods. Additionally, the bottom of the rod has a cork that allows the user to grip behind the reel whenever they land a fish. This feature gives you more control while reeling fish.
- Preloaded for those times you need to grab and go
- Great for bigger lakes and bigger streams
- Plastic Reel
5. G-Loomis NRX – Best High-End
If money isn’t an issue, and you’re looking for a solid high-end fly-fishing rod, take a look at the G-Loomis NRX.
Featuring light leaders and a delicate casting, this rod excels in control and accuracy. Capable of performing short or long casts without any problem, the NRX is versatile without sacrificing power. Whether it’s 20 ft. or 70 ft., you’re going to be landing some accurate shots into the water.
Also, a medium action gives it ample flexibility and can make your trip to the lake a joy to behold. Finally, if you’re into ocean fishing, there is a saltwater model that can also be used for fishing larger freshwater fish.
- Different models for different weight ratios
- The bottom section has no cap.
6. Dragontail Shadowfire 365 – Best Budget Tenkara
If you’re looking to try your hand at Tenkara fishing, but don’t want to break your bank, try out the Shadowfire 365. This minimalist rod offers no reel, allowing the angler to test their mettle directly with the fish. It’s simplistic and uncomplicated, emulating the ancient Japanese style of mountain fishing. You’ll find it’s lightweight, yet durable frame can handle fish up to medium size.
Standing at 12 ft. long, this rod can easily challenge mid-tier rods that cost much more. But, if you’re worried about the transportation of this beast, fear not as it is collapsible. Additionally, you can find kits that outfit you with everything you need before setting out.
- Perfect for those looking to get into Tenkara fly-fishing
- Great Price
- Easy to transport
- It’s 12 ft. design can make it fragile in some parts
7. Oni Type I – Best High-End Tenkara
If you’re a seasoned angler with money to spare, and a never-ending love of Tenkara, the Oni Type I is your best choice. This fine rod is a top-of-the-line product, which is sure to please!
Standing tall at thirteen feet tall, this rod relies on technique, experience, and patience to use its full potential.
A foam handle makes it easy to cast thanks to its comfortable grip. Interestingly, the center of gravity in the Type I lies directly underneath the placement of your hands. This gives the rod a lightweight sensation that makes it easy to use for extended periods.
Finally, the tip is easy to unload whenever you’re casting, pulling, or loading due to its sensitive nature.
- Strong enough to pull big fish easily
- Weighted nymphs hinder its performance
8. Echo Gecko Fly-Rod – Best Children Fishing Rod
Kids are welcome to try their hands at fly-fishing. But, with their smaller bodies and hands, a specialized rod is preferable, thankfully, Echo Gecko has their back with their Kids Fly-Fishing Rod.
This rod is everything a junior angler needs to get their feet wet (both literally and figuratively speaking).
Decorated with bright colors, and built with durability in mind, it’s perfect for teaching kids the proper casting techniques. They’ll be catching trout in no time with it. They will be catching trout in no time at all!
But, if you’re worried about everything else they need, don’t worry as Echo Gecko sells a starter kit edition that’s perfect for this rod.
- Easy to learn
- It’s for kids, as such, bigger fish tend to be out of the question
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I use my rod in the ocean?
Yes, and no, as mentioned earlier in the article, ocean water is corrosive and can damage your rod. Additionally, fish tend to be stronger in the sea than in the lakes. You’ll need a specialized rod to tackle these challenges or at least a corrosion-resistant pole.
2. Can my kids join me?
Your kids can join your fly-fishing trips. Small rods are available to help your kids learn, and it’s good to teach them the concept of casting early on.
3. How do I cast?
Casting is a multi-step process involving a few basic principles.
First, you’ll want to grab your rod in a firm grasp. Point your rod down towards the water and place the tip near the water. Next, you’ll lift the line away from the water until the line and leader are above the surface of the water.
Typically, your tip should be facing the 1’o clock position. Quickly pull the rod back over your shoulders by flicking your wrist forming a 45-degree angle, but don’t overreach too far back.
At this point, give the rod a few seconds to straighten out. You’ll notice it’s ready once it tugs slightly. Now, cast the flight by moving your forearm towards the front.
You’ll stop before the base of the rod hits your forearm, letting the tip sit at the 12’o clock position. Finally, use your wrist to lower the rod slowly and bring it back to the starting position.
You should repeat this until you’re casting smoothly. Afterward, try practicing your aim, with time and patience you’ll be casting like a pro!
4. Tenkara style, what is it?
The Japanese developed a unique method of fly-fishing. These days we use Tenkara to catch trout in streams. By using bamboo, feather flies, and silk lines, the Japanese started experimenting with fly-fishing. In those days, reels didn’t exist and without them, the Japanese had to pull the fish via the line with their own hands.
5. What is a Spey Rod?
These are specialized rods, meant to catch bigger fish such as large trouts or salmons. They’re dual handed poles, meant to be heavy and long. They’re useful for casting long distances.
One benefit of Spey Rods is they lack a backcast meaning you won’t be hooking your fly into any trees.
Fly-fishing is amazing! Now that you know what to look for, it’s almost time. Your next step is to choose the most appealing rod and head out to your favorite fishing spot. Remember to keep an eye out for those features most beneficial to your habits.
After all, you don’t need some of the perks offered if they’re not going to have a direct impact on your experience. The types of fly, the casting distance, and the rod quality all have some bearing on your overall results.
However, it’s your ability as an angler and a hint of luck that will ultimately determine if you go home with a whopper or a small fry. Just remember that you’re out there to have fun! Because when you have a good time, you’re always a winner!