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All fly rods are intended to carry a specific kind of weighted line: for example, a five-weight rod is made to cast a five-weight fly line. The correct line weight (and therefore rod) is determined by a vast array of different factors including the type of water you’re fishing in, the weather conditions, the size of your fly and which fish you’re targeting. Then, there are different fly rod styles for different fishing scenarios (think Spey rods for overgrown river banks and saltwater-specific rods for offshore bluewater angling). With so many different elements to consider, the question of which is the best fly rod is entirely subjective — but in this article, we look at our favorites across a few different categories.
Our Top Picks
Best Budget: Fenwick Aetos Fly Rod
There are cheaper fly rods than the Fenwick Aetos, but in the long run, it’s better to spend a little more initially to get a quality rod that you won’t have to replace after a single fishing season. This is an excellent value option with a deep blue graphite blank that promises fast action and breaks down into four pieces for convenient transport and storage. Large diameter stripper guides and double foot snake guides allow for smooth casting and line retrieval; while the comfortable handle is made from AAA-grade cork.
The Aetos series includes regular, Spey and switch models in a variety of different lengths and line weights. The cheapest ones are the six-foot, three-weight regular rod and the seven-foot, three-weight regular rod with prices increasing slightly according to the rod’s length. Even the most expensive two-handed models are the second-most affordable option on this list (after the Orvis Clearwater Outfit). Your purchase also includes a cloth covered rod tube and sock.
Best for Beginners: Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit
If you’re just starting out, you need a good quality fly rod that won’t break the bank. The Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit fits the bill while also including all the accessories you need to get out on the water — saving you the hassle of figuring out which line, reel, backing, and tapered leader is compatible with your rod type. Arriving pre-rigged and ready to fish with a durable aluminum frame, disc drag fly reel, and Clearwater fly line, all you need to do is tie on your favorite fly.
The rod is made of premium graphite and boasts excellent responsiveness. There is a full range of weights and lengths to choose from, from a six-foot, two-weight rod for ultralight fishing to a nine-foot, six-weight rod for bigger trout and bass. All rods have a medium flex, making them super versatile for use in a wide range of fishing scenarios and more forgiving for newbie casters than a fast action rod. You can break the rod down into four pieces for traveling while Orvis’ 25-year guarantee gives you peace of mind.
Best Slow Action: Orvis Superfine Carbon Fly Rod
Made in Manchester, Vermont, the Orvis Superfine Carbon Fly Rod is a great full-flex, slow-action choice for close-quarter situations that require a deliberate cast. Perfect for narrow streams or tight cover, this rod is a finesse fisherman’s best friend, allowing for a delicate presentation and a greater chance of tempting finicky fish to strike when you only have one chance to do so. Slow action rods like this one are also perfect for ultralight fishermen as their added flexibility helps to reduce the likelihood of snapping up on larger fish.
The rod’s modern construction makes it sensitive to small bites yet strong enough to reel in bigger catches. It boasts an unsanded graphite blank with matching graphite wraps and silver snake guides and hardware. The up-locking reel seat is crafted from super-grade cork and polished silver, while the cork handle is supremely comfortable even after several hours of casting. There are five line weights to choose from (1 to 5) and six lengths (from six feet to nine feet). All models break down into three or four pieces for easy storage and transport and come with an aluminum rod tube. Your purchase includes Orvis’ 25-year guarantee.
Best Fast Action: Sage Method Fly Rod
The Sage Method Fly Rod features the brand’s Konnetic Technology, giving it a smooth, ultra-fast action that loads and unloads line at incredible speeds. In fact, it’s one of the fastest rods on the market and our number one choice for punching through the wind or casting long distances with heavy flies. Its aggressive butt-to-tip taper helps to transfer loading energy into your forward cast and eliminates vibration to improve your accuracy considerably. That being said, it’s certainly not a beginner’s rod and is recommended for experienced fly fishermen only.
With its Magma Red shaft, rust-colored primary thread wraps and pewter trim wraps, this low-flex rod looks as good as it feels. It features Fuji ceramic stripping guides and a down-locking reel seat made of polished black anodized aluminum. Choose from a range of lengths and line weights, bearing in mind that the four to six-weight freshwater rods have a snub-nose, half-wells grip while six to 10-weight saltwater rods have a full-wells handle and a fighting butt. All models break down into four pieces and come with a matching red powder-coated rod tube and black rod sock.
Best Spey: G. Loomis Asquith Spey Rod
Double-handed Spey rods are designed to allow longer casts without the need for an overhead back cast, making them ideal for areas with limited space at your back (think sheer cliffs or thick bush). They’re also great for changing the direction of your cast and are commonly used for saltwater surf casting or fishing for large river species like steelhead and salmon. With models starting at $1,200, the G. Loomis Asquith Spey Rod is a serious investment; but it’s also the most technologically advanced two-handed fly rod in the world. Designed by fly casting expert Steve Rajeff, the rod blank features Spiral-X technology that increases its rigidity while keeping weight to an absolute minimum.
It achieves this by combining three layers — a core, a longitudinal middle layer, and a reverse-axis fiberglass outer layer. The near-instant power transmission afforded by the rod’s innovative construction results in exceptional line speeds and flawless precision. Other highlights include titanium guides and a premium cork handle. There are five models to choose from, ranging in length and weight from a six-weight, 12-foot, six-inch rod to a 10-weight, 15-foot rod. All models break down into four easily transportable pieces.
Best Switch: Echo SR Fly Rod
If you’re not sure whether your next fishing expedition will call for conventional casting or Spey techniques but only have space for one rod, opt for the Echo SR Fly Rod. This switch rod gives you the best of both worlds by letting you cast with one or two hands. Although it is shorter in length than traditional Spey rods, it has a fast action that should allow you to cast almost as far. It’s a good-looking rod, with a dark slate gloss blank, hard chrome single foot guides, and a black anodized reel seat.
There are six models to choose from with lengths ranging from 10 feet, six inches to 10 feet, 10 inches. The three, four, and five-weight rods are perfect for targeting trout and smallmouth bass; while the six, seven, and eight-weight rods are intended for salmon and steelhead. The three lighter rods have a slightly different grip style to the heavier rods, but all grips are made to last with a composite insert. All styles are well suited to traveling, breaking down into four easily transportable pieces. Your rod is protected by the brand’s lifetime warranty and comes with a fabric covered rod tube and sock.
Best Saltwater: Sage Salt HD Fly Rod
Saltwater fly rods like the Sage Salt HD Fly Rod are specially designed to withstand the tough conditions and plus-size catches associated with fishing at sea. This fast action rod achieves this with Konnetic HD Technology — an innovative graphite-to-resin ratio that results in a lightweight, amazingly strong, high-density blank. You’ll have unparalleled energy transfer and line control, and all the pulling power you need to bring strong fish in more quickly. The Fuji ceramic stripper guides and hard chrome snake guides are oversized to allow bulky saltwater knots to pass through easily.
The up-locking reel seat is crafted from heavy-duty anodized aluminum and features an integrated, hidden hook keeper. Models range from a nine-foot, six-weight rod for fishing small, light flies in calm conditions to an eight-foot, six-inch, 16-weight rod for targeting big game fish in offshore bluewater. Depending on the model you choose, your rod features a Super Plus full-wells cork handle that comes with or without an extended fighting butt. With a Squid Ink-colored blank, black thread wraps and blue trim wraps, this rod also looks great while helping you land the catch of your life.
Our writers spent 5 hours researching the most popular fly fishing rods on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 15 different fishing rods overall, screened options from 10 different brands and manufacturers and read over 40 user reviews (both positive and negative). All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.