Over the past decade, I reckon I’ve fished nearly 100 different fly rods, thanks in large part to my job as a fly fishing writer. Gear reviews are always popular, and fly rod companies are constantly bringing new products to the market.
All this time spent reviewing rods has allowed me to figure out what makes a rod truly great, instead of just good or average.
|Redington Classic Trout||Check Today’s Price|
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So, as you look to add another rod to your quiver, this guide should help you figure out which fly rods are the best for your money.
I’ve broken the rods down into categories based on price, because budget is generally the determining factor for which rods you can or can’t buy.
Best budget fly rods under $200
For the most part, fly rods that are cheaper than $200 aren’t all that great. This price range is tricky to get right, because manufacturers have to cut costs somewhere.
So, you’ll usually see these rods come with a lower-quality cork handle, or a less-fancy rod tube than you’d expect to see on other fly rods.
These are small trade-offs to make, though, for grabbing a fly rod that costs less than $200 and still performs admirably.
With that in mind, here are the best rods you can buy for less than $200. These also make one of the best fly fishing gifts you can pick up for the fly fisherman in your life.
For more selection, see our post here on the Best Fly Rod Under $200.
- Line Weight: 2 – 12
- Length: 7ft 6inch – 10ft
Orvis has long been known for building some of the best fly rods on the planet, and they’ve been doing it for as long as anyone else – if not longer.
The Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod is yet another example of why so many anglers decide to fish Orvis. This rod has a fast-action that’s pleasant to fish with for an entire day.
The rod has a surprising amount of power in the butt section, meaning you can really punch out line at distance, even through a stiff wind or with heavy bugs on the end of your leader.
The Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod probably won’t win over a lot of fans in the aesthetics department, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from giving it a try. This rod is capable of quite a lot, and it’s priced amazingly well.
For our full Orvis Clearwater Review see our post here.
- Line Weight: 3 – 8
- Length: 6ft 6inch – 10ft
For years, until Orvis came out with their newly-designed Clearwater, the rod that I told all new anglers to fish was the Fenwick Aetos. I’m still not sure how Fenwick manages to build this rod for less than $200, but they do. It’s surprisingly light for being in this price range, and it has a very light swing weight.
Fenwick doesn’t offer any kind of lifetime warranty with this rod, but very few rods at this price will. Overall, though, the Aetos is a great piece of gear that’s capable of laying out a size 22 dry fly or picking up and fishing a heavy nymph rig. It’ll even toss smaller streamers with aplomb.
If you’re looking for a good beginner rod, I’d say it’s a dead heat between the Clearwater and the Aetos. My recommendation is to head to a local fly shop, give them the good ol’ fly shop wiggle, and see which one you enjoy best
For our full Fenwick Aetos Fly Rod Review see our post here.
Redington Classic Trout
- Line Weight: 2 – 6
- Length: 7ft 6inch – 9ft
I didn’t put the Redington Classic Trout down here at the bottom for any specific reason. It’s a fantastic rod with a very reasonable price. As the name implies, it’s primarily a stick for fishing traditional trout flies – dries and smaller nymphs.
It’ll fish these incredibly well, and the Classic Trout may very well be one of the best fishing rods you’ll find on the rack at a fly shop. There’s a difference between a good fishing rod and a bad one, and the Classic Trout is tons of fun to fish.
It features a medium-fast action that forces you to slow down while casting. The light tip protects smaller tippets well, though it might be a bit under-powered if you run into some truly big fish.
Rounding out this fly rod is a surprisingly nice rosewood reel seat and decent cork. In all, if you need a rod for small streams and spooky fish, but don’t want to spend more than $200, the Classic Trout is worth a serious look.
For our full Redington Classic Trout Review see our post here.
Best Mid-Priced Rods - $200 - $500
This is another tough category, because the lower end of it features rods that are only marginally better than their sub-$200 counterparts.
The upper end of this fly rod price range, though, is full of sticks that are really, truly good rods – but at the cost of $500, isn’t it worth it to just spend $800 and get the best available?
That’s a question you’ll have to answer for yourself. The following rods, though, are among the best you’ll find in this price range.
- Line Weight: 2 – 12
- Length: 8ft 6inch – 11ft 6inch
Douglas is a newer rod company, based out of New York, but they don’t act like it. Their rods are top-of-the-line in every price range, and I’ve yet to find a Douglas that I don’t absolutely love.
The DXF is no exception, and it may very well be the best fly rod under $500.00.
This is a fast-action stick, made to handle anything trout fishing throws your way. The matte green blank is gorgeous, and Douglas selects beautiful wood inserts for the reel seat.
This rod does not come in a rod and reel combo, although I don’t think that should be a make-or-break factor in your decision.
The DXF is easily one of my favorite rods I’ve fished in the past five years.128
You can check our full Douglas DXF Review here.
- Line Weight: 4 – 9
- Length: 9ft – 10ft
The Foundation is one of the best efforts I’ve seen Sage make at building a truly fantastic entry-level rod. If you’re a fan of fast-action rods, the Foundation is for you.
It features a taper and feel eerily similar to the heralded XP, with enough backbone to push flies through wind, but the delicacy to present tiny dries at short distances.
Of course, the tradeoff here is that you get a rod that’s not as aesthetically pleasing, nor is it as light as some other rods. But if you want a Sage and Sage-like performance, but don’t want to pay more than $400, it’s hard to pass up the Foundation.
It’s just a fun fly fishing rod that’s extremely capable and a joy to fish.
The good news is that the Foundation is covered by Sage’s lifetime warranty. If anything happens to this rod, you send it in, and for $75, Sage will either repair or replace this fly rod.
Four our full Sage Foundation Review see our post here.
Thomas And Thomas Zone
- Line Weight: 3 – 10
- Length: 7ft 6inch – 10ft
Thomas & Thomas has a reputation for making some of the best fly rods in recent memory. A vintage Thomas & Thomas fly rod commands respect and reverence from most anglers I know.
But the company sort of fell off the map for a while, before re-entering a few years back with a bang.
The Zone is their cheapest fly rod, but at $499, it’s not being sold for chump change. The Zone is a great trout fishing rod, with a nice moderate-fast action that’s not too slow.
Thomas & Thomas also offers a lifetime warranty on this rod, too. That helps give you some peace-of-mind when you take your fly rod on a long trip and worry about it breaking.
Lastly, the Zone is one of the prettiest rods on this list. Thomas & Thomas doesn’t skimp when it comes to build quality, and the deep midnight-blue of the blank, its unsanded ridges, and amazing cork handle combine to really make this a stunner of a fly rod.3
- Line Weight: 4 – 6
- Length: 8ft 4inch – 9ft 6inch
Echo is another company making and selling great fly rods right now. The Trout rod is a newer addition to their lineup, but it’s more than proven its worth as a solid fishing stick.
Each rod model features a different action, so you can match your fishing style to a rod that has a matching action. For example, the 8’6″ 4wt will fish completely differently from the 9′ 6wt.
These rods have all been built from the ground-up in each length and weight category to deliver a truly great fishing experience.
The Trout doesn’t skimp on looks either, like some of Echo’s other rods. It features a matte-black blank with blue thread wraps, and decent cork.
The cork handle is shaped to accommodate a wide variety of grip styles, too. In all, this is one fly rod that you definitely need to give a serious look.
See also our Echo Fly Rod Reviews for a full breakdown of fly rods by Echo.4
Hardy Sirrus Glass
- Line Weight: 3 – 5
- Length: 6ft 9inch – 8ft 6inch
Word on the street is that the Sirrus Glass will be discontinued soon, but that shouldn’t stop you from picking one up if you can find them for sale.
This is the first fiberglass fly rod on this list, and it’s not that I have anything against glass fly rods. It’s just that there are so many great rods to choose from for a piece like this, that some have to be cut.
The Sirrus Glass fly rod, though, deserves a spot on this list because of the fishing experience it offers. I
t’s an absolute pleasure to cast, with a soft, forgiving action that glass fly rods are known for. It’s an excellent dry fly rod, and it looks great, too.
You can see our post here for the Best Dry Fly Rod for more selection of dry fly rods.
- Line Weight: 3 – 8
- Length: 7ft 6inch – 10ft
Scott is another fly rod company that has a long history of building great fishing tools.
The Scott Flex is a fast-action offering that’s a bit pricey, but good if you’re looking for a fly rod that will do it all without hesitation, the Flex should be at the top of your list.
It can handle just about any fishing situation you throw at it and then ask for more.
For our full Scott Flex Review see our post here.
- Line Weight: 3 – 4
- Length: 6ft 6inch – 8ft 8inch
Douglas gets another entry in the mid-priced fly rod market with their incredible Upstream rod.
This fly rod is built for dry fly fishing on tiny water, and it does that exceptionally well. Available only in weights 2-4, the Upstream fly rod features a blank color that’s reminiscent of bamboo, with spigot ferrules and an incredible, soft slow action.
If your idea of a perfect day of fishing involves small creeks, small fish, and tiny flies, than this is the rod you need in your quiver.
Best Expensive Rods - $500+
Winston Air 2
- Line Weight: 3 – 6
- Length: 8ft 6inch – 9ft
Winston makes some of the best rods on the planet, period. They build according to the philosophy that the best fly rod is one which is the best fly fishing rod – not just a fly rod that can throw an entire fly line.
The Air embodies that philosophy incredibly well, and it’s one of my favorite fly rods I’ve ever fished.
The Air features the classic Winston progressive action, which is quick and lively in close, but slower and more controlled at distance. This fly rod is one that will handle any situation you want to put it in.
Hand-crafted in Twin Bridges, Montana, the Air is probably best known as a dry fly rod, though I wouldn’t hesitate to throw big streamers with it, either. This fly rod has the backbone to get the job done, and it’s one of the finest fly rods Winston has ever built.
See also our Winston Fly Rod Reviews for a full breakdown of fly rods by Winston.
Orvis Helios 3D
- Line Weight: 4 – 12
- Length: 9ft – 10ft
When Orvis released this rod, they billed it as the most accurate rod ever built. After having fished it for a few years now, I have to agree with Orvis – the H3D certainly gives you the tools you need to make pinpoint casts at any distance.
This is a fast-action fly rod that generates a high line speed and does it all with almost no swing weight present. That means you can fish this rod all day long and not end up with tired, sore shoulders. For those of you who go on long fly fishing trips, this is particularly nice because you won’t be exhausted by the end of your time on the water.
I’ve personally used the H3D on a variety of fish, from sockeye salmon in Alaska to tiger trout in Utah. It handles everything well, and whether it’s the rod for you depends entirely on the rod action you’re looking for. If you want a fast, wind-resistant fly rod that just gets the job done, then it’s hard to pass up the H3D.
It’s hard for me to talk up the H3D too much, in all honesty. This fly rod has handled catching 20-plus inch trout on 6x tippet, and then turns around and horses in a seven-pound sockeye salmon. It feels indestructible, and I’d be surprised if I ever break any of the H3 rods I own.
For our full Orvis Helios 3 Review see our post here.4
Douglas Sky G
- Line Weight: 4 – 11
- Length: 8ft 6inch – 9ft
Of all the rods on this list, if I could only have on to fish with for the rest of my days, I’d pick the Sky G. I know I’ve featured Douglas a lot on this list, but it’s for a good reason. They make fantastic fly fishing rods. It’s that simple. I have more fun fly fishing when I’m using my Sky G than almost any other rod.
The Sky G has a fantastic progressive action and a blank stiff enough to pick up 60 feet of line and recast it in one motion. If you spend a lot of time fly fishing big water, the Sky G will be a revelation for your fly fishing game. To see the best fishing games check out our list.
Despite all that speed and power, the Sky G protects lights tippets extremely well, and generates amazing line speed. It’s also the rod with the lowest swing weight ever recorded in George Anderson’s Yellowstone Angler 5-weight Shootout.
For trout fishing, I’d be hard-pressed to name a rod other than the Sky G that’s the best. I’ve fished it in a variety of situations, from small streams to big rivers and lakes. It handles it all with grace, and makes casting feel effortless. It’s so light, yet powerful and responsive, that at times you forget you even have a rod in-hand.
And at the price of $795, it’s hard to justify not buying this rod. And I’m not being hyperbolic here. It’s really that great of a fishing tool.
Now, let’s answer a few of the more popular questions I’m often asked about picking new fly rods.1
What Are The Best Fly Rods By Weight?
This section will look at which rods are the best, according to the rated line weight. Each weight has a specific range of use and the intended application.
- 3 Weight Fly Rod
- 4 Weight Fly Rod
- 5 Weight Fly Rod
- 6 Weight Fly Rod
- 7 Weight Fly Rod
- 8 Weight Fly Rod
Top 3wt Fly Rod
Fly anglers primarily use a 3wt rod on smaller rivers and creeks. This scenario is very often associated with dry fly fishing. However, one of the most versatile rods one can buy today is a 10ft 3wt, more suited for nymph fishing.
Sage Trout LL – Top Dry Fly 3wt Fly Rod
Sage made use of their latest KonneticHD technology to design the ultimate dry fly rod. The 3wt Trout LL is available in two lengths. The 7’9” model is ideal for small intimate streams where shorts casts are required underneath dense overgrowth. Due to its shorter length (compared to the 8’9” model), it loads easier at close distances.
The 8’9” 3wt Trout LL is my rod of choice. This versatile rod provides the angler with a tool that can deliver longer casts, yet it can put down a fly with incredible finesse due to the medium action. The longer length also makes line control easier, especially when fishing in rivers with tricky currents.
The Trout LL has a timeless mahogany blank color, bronze thread wraps with gold accents, and Fuji ceramic stripper guides. The super grade snub nose, half wells cork grip is as good as it gets, offering a comfortable and delicate grip. At the butt-end of the rod, you have a bronze-colored reel seat with a walnut wood insert.
This rod will make any dry fly loving fly angler’s knees weak.
Thomas & Thomas Contact II – Top Nymphing 3wt Fly Rod
The new Thomas & Thomas Contact II is the ultimate nymphing rod. The tip is incredibly sensitive, yet the rod has enough backbone to handle large fish with ease. I would not hesitate to take this 3wt rod into larger rivers and target 6lb trout. Yet, I’ve fished it, with great success, on small rivers throwing size 18 and 20 nymphs.
The Contact II 3wt is available in 3 lengths, including a 10′, 10’9”, and an 11’2”. The longer rods do offer more reach; however, I prefer fishing with the 10-foot model. It provides you enough reach to stay in contact with the flies, yet it is just short enough to fish smaller rivers.
Top 4wt Fly Rod
Of all the 4wt fly rods I’ve fished with this year, the Hardy Zephrus 9ft 4wt is my favorite. The versatile length makes it suitable for both boat and wade fishing. The Zephrus is also available in a 4wt rendition; however, I didn’t have the opportunity to fish with it, so I cannot comment on its performance.
Back to the 9ft model. Hardy used their Sintrix 440 material in the blank. This material doesn’t necessarily make for the lightest rod; however, the feeling and durability is impeccable. The rod is equipped with singlefoot REC black recoil guides and Fuji titanium stripper guides, which help keep weight to a minimum.
The rod has a fast action yet forgiving action. It is nowhere near a G Loomis Asquith or so. The other thing that I love about the Zephrus is that, although it is a premium rod, it comes in at about $200 less than the other big names.
Top 5wt Fly Rod
If I could only choose one freshwater fly rod, it will be a 5 weight. Its versatility allows you to delicately cast to rising trout on smaller rivers and target bass in lakes. One of the top multi-purpose rods on the market is the Sage X. It is a brilliant 5 weight.
There are five models in the 5 weight line size, each with a specific intended purpose. The 9ft 5 weightt would be my first choice. The length is ultra-versatile, giving you the best balance between line control in the water and castability. Sage offers this length of the X either with a fighting butt (591-4) or without (590-4).
If you regularly fish of a drift boat or under overgrowth, the 8’6” model will suit you best. The rod can form tight loops with ease.
For increased reach, especially when nymphing, the 9’6” and 10” model is ideal. The extended reach allows you to control drifts better. The butt section of these two rods is also quite substantial, which means that you can target much larger fish.
For our full Sage X Review see our post here.
Top 6wt Fly Rod
G Loomis IMX Pro
Before we get stuck into what this rod is about, I know that some of you are thinking: “But the IMX Pro hasn’t won any awards as the best 6wt rod?”. Yes, I know that. I chose the IMX Pro is the top 6wt fly rod not because of how it casts but rather how well it fishes in the long run.
I’ve had the privilege to fish with the IMX Pro many times, and every time I think, “This is all I need.”. The rod comes into its own when fighting fish such as bass or large trout. It has immense power.
Probably the thing that I love the rod the most is its durability. G Loomis rods have always, at least in my opinion, been very durable. The IMX Pro is no different.
Depending on your needs, there are two models in the IMX-Pro 6wt range. A 9ft all-purpose rod and a 9’6” option, which is excellent for longer casts and controlling the line in tricky drifts.
Top 7wt Fly Rod
Orvis Helios 3D
There are two 7wt versions of the Orvis Helios 3D. The 9ft version is an ideal multi-application stick that will cover most scenarios. The 10ft rod is perfect for the surf and shore angler that needs to make longs casts.
Starting from the bottom, the Helios 3D has a substantial fighting butt made from a combination of reinforced and natural cork. The black anodized reel seat is saltwater ready and has a black carbon insert to reduce weight. A -high-quality full-wells grip is perfectly shaped to adapt according to power and accuracy needs. The rod is finished with a matte black blank color and black recoil snake guides, and SiC/Titanium strippers guides.
All of that means that the Orvis Helios 3D is a high performance, fast action rod that is saltwater ready. The 7wt is perfect for tackling anything from bass and carp to bonefish and stripers.
For our full Orvis Helios 3 Review see our post here.
Top 8wt Fly Rod
A good 8wt fly rod is the perfect rod for bonefish and sizeable freshwater fish species such as golden dorado and salmon. The Scott Sector, although primarily designed as a saltwater specific rod, performs well in both scenarios.
At the butt end, you’ll find a fighting butt made from EVA foam and cork. The black anodized aluminum reel seat has the Scott logo engraved onto it. A handy line weight rating is also engraved on the locking rings, making it easy to identify the rod.
The line guides are all of the recoil type. A thin clear coat is applied on the rod blank, exposing the coil-like carbon wraps that Scott is known for.
The Sector holds nothing back in terms of performance. It is lightweight, has an impeccable recovery rate, and can handle sizeable fish.
Best Fly Fishing Rods By Species
In this section, we’ll look at the best specific fly rods for catching particular fish. The species we look at include trout, salmon, smallmouth, and largemouth bass.
Sage X – Top Fly Rod for Trout
Trout can vary significantly in size. Take the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), for example. In the streams of Cape Town, where I regularly target them, they are, on average, between 5 and 12 inches long. In Jurassic Lake, Argentina, they attain sizes of well over 20lbs. These are the two extremes. In my opinion, most of the trout fly fishing in the world is suited for a 5 weight.
For this reason, the best all-around fly rod for trout is the Sage X.
Hardy Zephrus DH – Top Fly Rod for Salmon
If you’re looking for a dedicated fly rod for salmon, the best option is a double handed rod. One of my favorite double handers is the Hady Zephrus DH. It is available in 7 models and in lengths ranging from 11’6” to 15’11”.
G Loomis IMX Pro – Top Fly Rod for Smallmouth Bass
Smallmouth bass is incredibly fun to catch. What I love about them is that they can be caught in rivers. They’re powerful fighters and take a fly eagerly. Smallmouth bass is smaller than their larger cousin, the largemouth bass.
The ideal rod to target smallmouth bass is a strong 6wt. Our top 6wt fly rod mentioned above, the G Loomis IMX Pro, is a perfect smallmouth rod.
Scott Sector – Top Fly Rod for Largemouth Bass
Largemouth bass is a different kettle of fish. They are super aggressive and usually, after taking the fly, turn back to their nest. This fighting style, together with the fact that they can get massive, means you need a rod with a lot of power. You’ll also cast giant flies such as frogs, mice, and baitfish imitations.
In my opinion, the best rod weight for largemouth bass is an 8wt. The rod will deal with the large flies with ease and have enough stopping power to put pressure on a large specimen. The Scott Sector will handle bass with ease.
What is Your Experience Level?
Selecting a rod according to your experience level, especially when you’re a beginner, is vitally important. I’ve seen beginner anglers cast high performance, fast action rods, and they couldn’t get the line out. When switched over to a more suitable rod, they found the entire experience much more pleasurable.
Echo Base – For Beginners
I find that beginners perform better with a medium actioned rod. What this means is that the rod bends much deeper into the blank, resulting in more feeling. This characteristic helps the new caster time the cast better, ultimately resulting in a better cast. The medium action also allows them to slow down the casting stroke to gain a better understanding of all the mechanics involved.
One of the best beginner fly rods is the Echo Base 5 weight. The price is unbeatable, and it comes with a rod tube, rod sock, and lifetime warranty. This four-piece rod has a medium-fast action and can tackle most freshwater fishing applications.
Thomas & Thomas Zone – For Intermediate Fly Fishing
Most of us fall into this category. You spend more than 20 days a year on the river and have your cast and double haul dialed in. You’ll benefit greatly from a faster action rod and need a tool that is light in hand, will last you for years to come and is moderately priced.
Many rods suit these requirements; however, one of my favorites is the Thomas & Thomas Zone. The Zone is available in sizes from 7′ 6” 3wt to a 9′ 10wt. It is hand-built in the States, comes with a lifetime warranty, and performs exceptionally well, even compared to rods double its price.
Take Your Pick – For Professional Fly Fishing
If you’re a professional fly angler, you probably have your favorite rod, or you’re on a pro-staff program of sorts. Once again, there is a myriad of exceptional high-performance fly rods on the market. Brands such as Orvis, Sage, Thomas & Thomas, and Scott all make outstanding rods. It all boils down to personal preference and the amount of money you’re willing to spend.
Echo Base Kit – Best Beginner Fly Fishing Starter Kit
As mentioned above, one of my favorite beginner rods is the Echo Base due to its low cost and a perfect medium action. Echo also offers this rod in kit form in the Echo Base Kit. The kit includes the following:
- Echo Base rod
- Echo Base reel
- Weight forward floating fly line
- A hard case that can accommodate the reel attached to the rod
If you are interested, you can check out our Echo Fly Rod Reviews here for all of fly rods by Echo.
Sage Foundation – Best Fly Rod & Reel Combo
While I seldomly recommend a premium fly rod and reel combo, the Sage Foundation Outfit offers excellent money value. All the items included in the combo are of exceptional quality and will serve you well for many years to come. The Sage Foundation Outfit is available in 4wt to 8wt.
The Sage Foundation Outfit includes the following:
- Sage Foundation Rod, which is constructed with Graphite IIIe technology
- Sage Spectrum C reel suited
- Rio Gold fly line, which is one of the best trout fly lines on the market
- A fabric-covered hard case that protects the rod and reel
Thomas & Thomas Classic Series – Best Bamboo Fly Rod
Bamboo has taken the backseat as a rod building material after the introduction of fiberglass and carbon fiber. These two materials have some performance improvements, but the biggest reason they took over is that they can be produced at a higher rate.
A bamboo rod takes expert craftsman weeks to build. This slow production rate and the artisan’s incredible skills result in a high cost. However, for those that can afford it, bamboo rods are unlike anything else. They are smooth to cast and have an incredible feel to them.
One of the best bamboo fly rods on the market is the Thomas & Thomas Classic Series. It is available in weights ranging from 3 to 6, which suits most trout applications.
See our post here for a full breakdown of the Best Fiberglass Fly Rods.
Hardy Zephrus – Best 2 Handed Spey Fly Rod
Although single hand rods are versatile, if you’re fishing for steelhead and salmon regularly, you need a two-handed rod. Once again, there is a heap of exceptional brands and rods on the market. One of my favorite two-handers is the Hardy Zephrus.
The Zephrus is constructed using their Sintrix 440 material, which is ultra-durable. The finishes include REC recoil guides and Fuji stripper guides. The Zephrus double-hander range consists of 7 rods ranging from an 11’6” 6wt to a high powered 15’1” 10wt.
How much does a good fly rod cost?
This all depends on your definition of good. If you want a rod and reel combo, you’ll always pay more. If you prefer a low rod weight, you’ll also have to shell out more money. If you’re after something that’s just an absolute joy to fish, you don’t have to spend as much – but you definitely can.
I guess the best way to tackle this question is to say that a good fly rod costs as much as you’re willing to spend. Thanks to advances in rod building technology, it’s possible to find a great fishing rod at nearly any price point. Yes, there are marked differences between a top-of-the-line rod and a budget bin pick, but those are tradeoffs you’ll have to decide to make on your own.
Who makes the best fly fishing rods?
This is another question I hear often, and the answer is fairly the same as above – it all depends. Right now, however, Orvis , Winston , Sage , and Douglas  are producing some of the best rods on the market, all at various price points. Other manufacturers are doing well too, but these are the rods I personally love to fish the most. Echo and Redington are building good rods right now, too, and you can’t overlook Fenwick, either.
The bottom line is that it’s easier now than ever before to find a good fly rod at any price. The only limiting factor here is your own budget.
Best Top End Fly Rod Brands
Here is a list of some of the best top-end fly rod brands (in no particular order):
- Sage Fly Rods
- Scott Fly Rods
- Thomas and Thomas
- Swift (Epic)
- G Loomis Fly Rods
Mid-Range Fly Rod Brands
Here is a list of some of the best mid-range fly rod brands (in no particular order)
- St. Croix
- Temple Fork Outfitters
Budget Fly Rod Brands
Here is a list of some of the best budget fly rod brands (in no particular order)
Fly Rod Warranties
Fly rod warranties can be quite deceiving. If a rod comes with a lifetime warranty, it does not mean that they will repair it no matter how it breaks. Usually, a lifetime warranty means:
- Rod manufacturers will repair the rod if the rod breaks due to poor craftsmanship or material failure
- This warranty is usually non-transferable. So, it’s only valid for the original owner.
Saltwater vs Freshwater Rods
So, let’s have a look at what the difference is between a freshwater and saltwater rod. Let’s break it down to a component level:
The blank of a fresh or saltwater rod is optimized to perform in the intended scenario. For instance, a lightweight freshwater rod might be designed specifically to cast size 18 dry flies in small creeks. This exact blank will not fare well in the salt environment.
In contrast, a 9wt designed for flats fishing will not perform on the small creek mentioned above. So, the blank needs to be optimized for the intended purpose.
Saltwater rods have a much faster action in my experience, which allows the angler to produce high line speeds. This high line speed deals with wind and large flies better. These fast-actioned designs have started making their way into freshwater rods in the last couple of years.
Freshwater rods under 5-weight seldomly have fighting butts. The exception here is long euro nymphing rods, where the fighting butt is used to anchor the rod against your forearm when high-sticking.
All proper saltwater fly rods have a decent sized fighting butt. This fighting butt helps to anchor the rod when fighting a fish and keeps the reel away from your body as the fish makes a run.
The reel seat on a saltwater rod must be constructed using anti-corrosive materials. Saltwater takes its toll on most fly rod hardware. The most popular reel seat material is anodized aluminum. If you’re interested in the best fly reels to pair with your line check out our article.
Freshwater rods come in a wide variety of grip styles. On light rods, a small half-wells grip allows for delicate and accurate presentations. Heavier rods have beefier full wells grips that will enable more power input during the cast.
Almost all saltwater rods have a version of a full-wells grip.
Here we’re specifically talking about the material used to construct the line guides.
As mentioned earlier, saltwater is incredibly corrosive. Therefore, any decent saltwater fly rod will use titanium, stainless steel, or similar material for the line guides.
Caring For Your Fly Rod
Whether you have a $100 beginner or a $1000 saltwater specific fly rod, it is essential to care for your rod. A well looked after rod will perform at its best, won’t let you down when you need it, and last many years to come.
A rod used in a saltwater environment takes the hardest beating. So, we’ll use a saltwater environment as an example. This procedure may also be applied to your freshwater rods.
Make sure you learn how to set up a fly rod correctly to make sure you don’t do any damage here.
After each day on the water, it is essential to thoroughly rinse the most vulnerable parts of the rod with fresh water. These parts are the line guides and the reel seat locking screws.
What I do is:
- Undo the reel (while keeping it rigged up) and rinse it off
- Turn the reel locking screws back and rinse it off
- Re-insert the reel and tighten the locking screws
After a full week on the water, take the rod apart and thoroughly rinse all the components and ferrules. Then take a clean cloth and dry everything. Once you get home, do the following:
- Polish the blank and ferrules with some furniture polish
- Lightly coat the reel seat and line guides with a thin coat of general-purpose lubricant
If you are looking for a fly rod for practice, you can check out our post here on Should You Get A Practice Fly Rod?
At the end of the day, the fly rod that you’ll love the most is the one that you like the most. The best thing you can do to make sure you find the right rod is to visit fly shops, test cast them, and even see if your fishing buddies have one you can borrow for a trip or two. With the more expensive rods, it’s definitely an investment you want to make carefully. The cheaper rods are still great – but it’s less important to really love a $150 rod than a $900 one.
It’s also important to match the rod to your fishing style and most common fishing situations. I live and work in the Rocky Mountains, so I tend to buy fly rods that are better for small streams and smaller fish. That’s the kind of fishing I do most, and my fly rod collection matches that fairly well. I tend to have more slower, softer-action fly rods than most other anglers I know, because that’s the kind of fly fishing I prefer to do.
Do your homework, look for the fly rods that fit your fishing style, and set a budget. Once you do those three things, you’ll be able to find a fly rod that’s perfect for your fly fishing adventures for years to come.