What is the Best Fly Rod for Trout?
Finding the best fly rod for yourself or someone else can be overwhelming. There are thousands of fly rods on the market today, one for every budget and fishing situation you can think of.Shop Our Essential Fly Boxes
What to Consider When Buying a Fly Rod?
Don't panic, one fly rod will be enough to start with.
Before I share my personal recommendations let's look at some of the things you should take into account before you buy a fly rod.
•What type of water do you plan on fishing?
•Style of rod (a single- or two-handed rod)
•The material the rod is built with
•The line weight the rod was built for
•The action of the rod
•The length of the rod and the number of sections
What Type of Water Will You Fish?
The first thing to decide is whether you prefer fly fishing for trout in a small mountain stream, a medium to large river, or on a lake.
I like small streams and creeks, and I have had a lot of fun with my three-weight. I also fish medium to larger size rivers and lakes with my six-weight. For winter steelhead I use my eight-weight switch rod.
Can't decide? OK, maybe you will need more than one fly rod.
Which is the Best Fly Rod Style?
Again, it depends.
Most fly rods are single-handed. They are designed to be cast with only one hand. This is where a novice should start. Spend time improving your casting skills before moving on to a two-handed rod.
Switch rods on the other hand are exactly what they sound like. You can use these rods with a single hand or, because they have a short four-inch butt section, you can also use them with two hands. These are commonly used on small to medium-sized rivers for steelhead.
Spey rods use two hands and are 12 to 14 feet long. These are used primarily on larger rivers where the fly fisher is targeting steelhead. Not the best fly rod for a novice.
Best Fly Rod Materials
A variety of materials are used in fly rod construction. The most common are fiberglass, graphite and bamboo.
Fiberglass fly rods are more durable and can be lower in cost. Custom fiberglass rods, however can be very expensive. In lengths under 8 feet, fiberglass rods can give the same action and smooth feel as bamboo, making them ideal for spring creeks and small streams.
Graphite fly rods are the most popular because they are lighter and if taken care of could last a lifetime. With the technology available today all companies build good graphite rods. They are however easier to break than fiberglass.
Bamboo fly rods are a work of art and very aesthetically pleasing. They are rich in tradition and craftsmanship. They are more expensive than most graphite fly rods and cast very smoothly. Because they are very fragile, bamboo rods are not the best rod for a novice.
Choosing the Right Fly Rod Weight
This is the weight of the line the rod is designed for, not the weight of the rod itself.
•000 to 3 weight rods are commonly known as ultralight fly rods and are good for small mountain streams. These work well when you need to make a delicate presentation.
•4 and 5 weight fly rods are more common and better for casting for distance on small to medium-size rivers.
•5 and 6 weight rods are good for the most varied conditions and good in windy conditions. They can throw most of the flies used for trout: nymphs, larger dry flies and small streamers.
•7 and 8 weight rods are best suited for larger fish like steelhead trout. These rods can cast heavier flies against the wind. My eight-weight switch rod has proven to be a good match for winter steelhead here in western Oregon.
Choosing the Best Fly Rod Action
Action in a fly rod is how deeply the rod flexes. A slow action rod flexes all the way to the handle and takes longer to load. What it means to “load” a rod will be discussed more in our fly-casting page.
The lighter weight rods have a slower action (for the most part). This is important when delicate presentations are needed in clear trout streams. The extra flex in the rod also helps protect the light tippets often used there.
Larger flies, more distance and a harder set of the hook call for a faster action rod (a less flexing rod).
Most fly rods in the 5/6-weight range will have either a medium or fast action. I would not worry about which is the best fly rod action for you. Spending time improving your casting skills will be more important.
Fly Rod Length and Number of Sections
I saved this for last because the length of rod will be obvious after you address the other points.
First of all I would recommend you go with a three- or four-piece rod. They have improved a lot over the years. The shorter sections of a four-piece rod make them a better travel fly rod.
Shorter rods (6-1/2 to 8 feet) are good for tight places such as brushy areas. These are common lengths used in the lighter weight rods and are used mostly on small streams and spring creeks.
Rods in the 8 to 9-1/2-foot range are used with the middleweight (4-6 weight) single-handed rods. These will give you the best compromise between good presentation and distance.
11-foot rods are common in the heavier rod weights and most switch rods.
Longer fly rod lengths like my 8-weight switch rod come in handy when roll casting and mending my line.
So which is the best fly rod for a novice?
For spring creeks and small streams
I would recommend fiberglass as the best fly rod for creeks and small streams. These rods have an action similar to a bamboo fly rod and are very durable.
These rods recommended below can be overloaded by one line weight ( 4-weight floating line) if you will be fishing tighter streams. The heavier line will be able to generate more speed with less of a backcast.
•Echo Glass Series (Model RG-369) 3-weight, 6'9", 3-piece, fiberglass "s-glass" for $249
The glass series rods are short-line rods with a medium action. The action is distributed throughout the rod so that excessive line speed does not build up, allowing for a delicate presentation of the fly.
The rod loads deep and recovery is smooth so you can feel the cast from the rod tip to your hand, making it perfect for fly fishing for small trout in creeks and small streams while still being able to handle larger trout. The rod has alignment dots on the rod pieces to make for quick and easy assembly.
•Redington Butter Stick (Model 370-3) 3-weight, 7'0, 3-piece, fiberglass rod for $249.95
This rod is a good value for the performance it gives. This slow-action rod allows delicate cases in tight places. It also features the construction necessary to throw larger flies. Built with high modulus fiberglass this rod has a retro look, though is a bit pricey.
For small to medium-size rivers and lakes
Here you need a good general purpose fly rod that will be good against the wind.
A four piece, 9’0, 5-weight, single-handed graphite rod works perfectly here.
You can’t miss with any of these rods:
•Ross Essence FC (Model 590-4) 5-weight, 9’6″, 4 piece, graphite for around $180
A great mid-priced medium-action fly rod. It is well balanced and highly responsive.
This four-piece rod makes travel easy and includes a micro fiber storage sock and tough, Cordura tube.
The cork grip can be a little small if you have larger hands.
•St. Croix Mojo Trout Fly Rod (MT865.4) 5 -weight, 8’6″, 4 piece, graphite fly rod for $199
This rod has moderate-fast action rod allows for good placement of flies at a wide range of distances, though may be a little stiff near the bottom of the rod allowing for casting into the wind and with heavier flies. It comes in 4 pieces which makes it easy to travel with, but does not come with a carry case.
•Temple Forks Outfitter Pro II (TF 05 90 4 P2) 5-weight, 9′, 4 piece, graphite fly rod for $169.95
This graphite fly rod has a medium-fast action, and is perfect for any skill level.
It is able to handle larger flies and streamers that larger rivers and lakes often call for.
Best fly rod for fishing steelhead in small to medium rivers
Switch rods are one of the most versatile fly rods on the market today. They are good for roll casting, they make mending the line easier and are a great rod for nymphing.
•Temple Forks Outfitter Pro II (TF 067 110 4 P2) 6/7-weight, 11’0, 4 piece $299.95
This light weight rod is very durable and allows the caster the option of single- and double-handed. These casting options allow maximum casting distance with less energy, which makes it a very efficient tool.
Other companies like Sage, Orvis, R.L. Winston and G. Loomis make switch fly rods but they are very expensive. You can keep an eye out for a used one but it will be a long time before I pay $850 for a fly rod. See our page on buying a used fly rod. Most people will not be able to tell the difference between these and the one above.
Final Rod Buying Considerations
Many fly rods come with a lifetime warranty. Be sure to research what it covers. You may have to pay shipping and a small fee but it’s definitely worth it.
Also be sure to read the page on Ways to Break Your Best Fly Rod.
Even with the warranty you don’t want to spend the rest of your fishing trip watching others fish.