Best 4 Weight Fly Rod

What is most important when buying the best 4 weight fly rod? We cover topics such as after-sales service, intended purpose, budget and more.
4 weight fly rods

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In this article, we’ll have a look at some of the best premium and affordable four weight rods on the market. I’ll also share my thoughts on what is most important when buying a 4 weight, covering topics such as after-sales service, intended purpose, and budget. 

Image Product Details  
flyfisherpro-table__imageBest OverallHardy Zephrus FWS
  • Easy to Cast
  • High Grade Grip
  • Cheaper Than Most Premium Rods
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest Dry Fly RodR L Winston Pure
  • Incredible Recovery Rate
  • Comfortable Grip
  • American Made
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flyfisherpro-table__imageBest LightweightG Loomis NRX+ LP
  • Easy to Control
  • Very Versatile
  • Made in USA
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flyfisherpro-table__imageOrvis Helios 3F
  • Light Casting
  • Well Grip
  • Made in USA
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flyfisherpro-table__imageHardy Zephrus FWS
  • Easy to Cast
  • High Grade Grip
  • Cheaper Than Most Premium Rods
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flyfisherpro-table__imageHardy Shadow
  • Affordable
  • Excellent Dry Fly Rod
  • Beginner Friendly
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flyfisherpro-table__imageOrvis Clearwater
  • Wide range of lengths
  • Suitable for all freshwater fishing scenarios
  • Affordable
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Hardy Zephrus FWS (Fresh Water Specific)

Hardy Zephrus FWS

Available at:

Features:

  • Action: Fast
  • Lengths: 8’6”, 9’, and 10”
  • Weight (9’ model): 2.79oz 
  • Pieces: 4
  • Pros: Cheaper than other premium rods, made in the UK
  • Cons:

The Hardy Zephrus was mentioned in our Best Fly Rods of 2021 article as the best 4-weight. It is slightly cheaper than most of the other premium rods on the list. However, it performs at the same level or, for some, even better. 

Hardy uses their 440 Sintrix material in the FWS’s blank construction. The result is a durable blank, which is a pleasure to cast. Yes, for the weight-conscious anglers out there, the Zephrus might not be the lightest in the paddock. In my opinion, however, weight is not the main criteria on which a rod’s performance should be measured.

The reel seat on the FWS features a burled hardwood insert and a heavy-duty uplocking skeleton. An AAAA grade reverse half wells grip allows you to control the line well. The rod comes fitted with Fuji titanium stripper guides and black pearl REC single foot recoil guides. 

With the performance, components, and technology you get with the Zephrus, you still save almost $200 compared to other rods. Great value, in my opinion.

R L Winston Pure

RL Winston Pure

Available at:

Features:

  • Action: Moderate Action
  • Lengths: 5’9” to 10’
  • Weight: not disclosed
  • Pieces: 4
  • Pros: Available in a wide range of lengths, made in the USA
  • Cons:

If you’ve always been a fan of Winston rods, the 4wt Pure will not disappoint. It is a trout fisherman’s dream rod and one you’ll spend fishing with for many years. 

Winston uses their Boron III technology in the blank. This technology enables the rod designers to create a rod with a moderate or medium action but with an incredible recovery rate. It’s truly a perfect dry fly rod.

The reel seat features a figured maple insert with nickel silver hardware. The premium-grade cork is shaped in a comfortable cigar shape, perfect for delicate work. All-in-all this is a great American made rod designed for trout use. 

Check out our Best Dry Fly Rod here for a full breakdown of the best in the market.

G Loomis NRX+ LP

g loomis nrx lp

Available at:

Features:

  • Action: Fast
  • Lengths: 8’6”
  • Weight: Not disclosed
  • Pieces: 4
  • Pros: Tuned in for dry fly fishing, made in the USA
  • Cons: Not the most versatile rod due to its moderate action

The G Loomis NRX+ range has been around for a while now, after replacing the old and legendary NRX. The NRX+ range is split into three model ranges, namely the NRX+ Saltwater, NRX+ Freshwater, and the NRX+ LP.

The abbreviation LP stands for Light Presentation. G Loomis specifically slowed the rod down and so doing produced a fantastic tool for the dry fly purist. Yes, this rod cannot bomb out an 80ft cast with a super tight loop. But, is that something that you want in a 4wt?

Due to the deeper flex in the rod, the caster is in constant contact with the line, enabling them to control the loop and presentation better.

If you’re looking for a more versatile rod, I recommend the standard G Loomis NRX+ Freshwater rod. 

Orvis Helios 3F

orvis helios 3f

Available at:

Features:

  • Action: Fast
  • Lengths: 8’6”, 9’, and 10’
  • Weight: Not disclosed
  • Pieces: 4
  • Pros: Made in the USA
  • Cons:

The new Orvis Helios 3 range includes the 3D and 3F. The 3D is meant for long-distance casts and punching heavy flies into the wind accurately. The 3F, on the other hand, is more reserved and designed for fishing at closer distances. 

The 4wt Orvis Helios 3F, available in 3 lengths, has a medium-fast action and ideal for dry fly, small nymph, and streamer fishing. The rod is exceptionally well built and casts like a dream. There’s no way to fault the rod in any way out of a performance point of view.

The reel seat has a matte black carbon insert, which complements the rod’s matte finish well, and features black anodized hardware. Your casting hand will feel right at home on the reverse-wells cork grip. Like most other premium rods, the 3F’s line guides are top-notch with SiC and titanium stripper and recoil REC line guides. 

Sage X

Sage X Fly Rod

Available at:

Features:

  • Action: Fast
  • Lengths: 8’6”, 9’, and 10’
  • Weight (9’ model): 2.44oz
  • Pieces: 4
  • Pros: Available in three lengths
  • Cons:

The Sage X needs no introduction. It’s probably one of the most popular rods on the market today, and for a good reason. It is lightweight, very versatile, and sends a fly shooting like a bat out of hell.

Sage makes use of their latest KonneticHD technology in blank construction, which sheds weight and makes for a stiffer material. I cast the four weight X a while back, and the weight, or rather lack thereof, was very noticeable. 

My only gripe with the rod is the action. I do question the suitability of this ultra-fast action on a four weight. However, that’s just personal preference, and I know many anglers who have a serious love affair with this rod. 

The rod is finished off with a black spruce color, vera wood insert, and black anodized hardware. As usual with Sage, the grip’s cork is of outstanding quality. The line guides are a combination of Fuji ceramics and hard-chromed snake guides.

Best Affordable 4 Weight Rods

We all drool over the latest premium rods, but unfortunately, most of us have other financial obligations. Luckily for us mere mortals, there are some superb affordable rods on the market. Yes, these rods aren’t the cheapest around, but they still cost half the price of their premium cousins and perform (almost) just as well.

Hardy Shadow

hardy shadow

Available at:

Features:

  • Action: Medium Fast
  • Lengths: 8’6” and 9’
  • Weight (9’ model): 2.8oz
  • Pieces: 4
  • Pros:
  • Cons:

If the Hardy Zephrus’ price is out of reach, then the Hardy Shadow series is an excellent alternative. The Shadow will cost you less than half the price of the Zephrus, which makes it possible to buy a proper reel and line for your new setup. 

The Shadow is built on the Sintrix 220 platform. Due to the moderate action of the rod, it makes for an excellent dry fly and close distance fishing tool. It’s also a perfect option for the beginner to the moderate angler. 

Orvis Clearwater

orvis clearwater

Available at:

Features:

  • Action: Fast
  • Lengths: 7’6”, 8’6”, 9’, and 10’
  • Weight: Not disclosed
  • Pieces: 4
  • Pros: Wide range of lengths suitable to all freshwater fishing scenarios
  • Cons: 

The 4wt Orvis Clearwater is the bargain of the century. Coming in just under $200, you get a high-performance fast action fly rod and a 25-year warranty. What more could one ask for?

The rod has a gloss black finish, chrome snake and stripper guide (which has a ceramic insert), and black aluminum reel seat. The Clearwater rod is also available as part of a fly fishing combo. This combo includes the Clearwater II fly reel and Clearwater floating fly line. 

Douglas DXF

Douglas DXF

  • Action: Medium Fast
  • Lengths: 8’6”, 9’, 10’, and 11’
  • Weight: 2.9oz
  • Pieces: 4
  • Pros:
  • Cons:

The Douglas DXF falls into the mid-priced bracket. It has won multiple awards since its release, which should reassure you about the rod’s performance. 

The single hand 4wt DXF is available in 4 lengths. The 8’6” is perfect for the dry fly angler, whereas the 9’ model is a good all-rounder. There are also two nymphing rods in the DXF range measuring 10’ and 11’, respectfully. 

The DXF comes with a lifetime warranty and is shipped with a rod sock and hard rod case. 

Check out our full Douglas DXF Review here.

Fenwick Aetos

fenwick aetos

Available at:

Features:

  • Action:
  • Lengths:
  • Pieces:
  • Pros:
  • Cons:

Temple Fork Outfitters Finesse Trout

TFO Finesse Trout

Available at:

Features:

  • Action:
  • Lengths:
  • Pieces:
  • Pros:
  • Cons:

How To Choose the Best 4 Weight Fly Rod

Any of the rods mentioned above will serve you well. However, what if you want to make a choice yourself? Or you have a specific 4wt rod in mind, but not sure if it’s the ideal rod for your needs. In this section, I will show you how to choose the best 4wt fly rod. 

For more selection on fly rod weights see our following reviews:

Price

Your budget plays the most significant role when selecting a fly rod. This will determine which “bracket” the rod will be in, be it either premium, mid-price, or cheap. There are great options within each of these brackets. 

I must mention that the rod you fish does not make you a better or worse angler. I, too often, see anglers being shy about fishing with a $100 rod. Don’t let other’s opinions influence you. What makes you a better angler is the amount of time you spend on the water and your understanding of fish behavior.

Do not overreach your budget on the rod. Remember, if you have to purchase a complete 4wt setup, you still need to buy a reel and line. In my opinion, the best way to spend your money on a 4wt setup is first to purchase the best line you can afford, then the rod. The reel is of less importance in a 4wt setup. 

Intended Application

application

Ask yourself the following questions: “Why am I buying a 4wt rod?” and  “Where will I be using this rod?”

The answer to these questions will undoubtedly direct your purchase in a specific direction. For instance, if you’re buying a 4wt because you’re looking for a general-purpose trout rod and you’re fishing on medium rivers, a 9’ rod will be ideal. Here are a couple of scenarios with the appropriate rods mentioned under it:

Dry Fly Fishing in Medium Rivers

Presenting a dry fly to a feeding trout requires finesse and accuracy. Very often, long casts are not as crucial as delicate and precise presentations. A 4wt rod that is ideal for this application is a moderate or medium actioned rod in the 8’ to 8’6” range.

General Purpose Trout Rod

A 4wt makes for an excellent general purpose trout rod. This rod allows you to target small to medium-sized trout in small and medium rivers. It will enable you to throw small dry flies, streamers, and multi-nymph rigs. 

In this case, I recommend something slightly faster, which allows you to generate more line speed. This line speed will let you turn over these leaders and flies with ease. An excellent all-around length is 9’. It is short enough to fish in tight situations and from boats yet offers enough reach for line control and mends. 

Nymphing Rod

If you’re interested in nymphing or want to broaden your rod arsenal with a dedicated nymphing rod, a 4wt 10ft rod is ideal. Some manufacturers even make longer rods. Remember, a longer rod does offer more reach, but managing that length in tight situations becomes an issue. 

A 4wt 10ft rod usually has a beefy butt section. This allows you to target much larger sized fish on this rod than a standard 4wt. 

After Sales Service

Lastly, and equally as important as all the previous considerations, is how good is the rod manufacturers’ after-sales service. Yes, all the rods come with a lifetime warranty these days. But, how well do the rod building companies honor this warranty, and how good is their support if you break a section by accident?

The best way to find out if the rod you want to buy has good after-sales service is to go down to your local tackle dealer and ask what their experiences are. A company’s after-sales service effectiveness is only as good as the local dealer or rep. 

As an example, I live in South Africa, and if I break one of my Sage rod’s tips, it has to go all the way back to The States for repairs. It takes months to resolve the issue. On the other hand, for an American based angler, it might take less than a week to have his Sage X repaired. 

Conclusion

The fast action rods of late have, in many cases, made the four weight my go-to all-around trout rod. In my opinion, the modern four weights are as versatile as the old five weights. If you’re in the market for a new four weight, I am sure that any of the rods in our list above will serve you well. 

I hope that you found this article helpful. If so, please share it with your fellow anglers. 

Until next time. 

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