5 Best 3 Weight Fly Rods: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

by John Laconsay

5 Best 3 Weight Fly Rods: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

by John Laconsay

by John Laconsay

Fly fishing in smaller streams and pools is the best way to use a 3 weight fly rod. These rods are meant for use with lighter lines, so they’re perfect for nymphing.

Anglers trying to find the best 3 weight fly rod can read through this guide to find the best option that lines up with their budget.

Preview

Product

Rod Length

Action

Pieces

Check Price

Sage Fly Fishing Pulse Rod

PULSE Sage

3100-4

10’0”

Fast

One

Moonshine Rod Co. The Drifter Series Fly...

Moonshine Rod Drifter Series

7’6”

Medium

Four

Redington Fly Fishing Rod 386-4 Vice Rod...

Redington VICE

5-5021T-386-4

8’6”

Fast

Four

Orvis Clearwater 3-Weight 10' Fly Rod

Orvis Clearwater

10’0”

Medium

Four

M MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch 3-12wt Medium-Fast...

MAXIMUM

CATCH

8’4”

Medium-fast

Four

What Uses is a 3 Weight Fly Rod Good For?

There are many 3 weight fly rod uses, but here are a few of the most common:

  • Backpacking
    Many of these rods are lightweight and break down into sections to be carried in a rucksack or kayak rather easily.
  • Small Streams
    In tighter spaces where there is more vegetation, boulders, and other hazards, these smaller and lighter fly rods excel.
  • Panfish & Smaller Targets
    The best 3 weight fly rod will make smaller targets feel much bigger and make the fight to catch them much more entertaining.

These 3 weight fly rods are more efficient than a 4 weight or 5 weight fly rod because they won’t be overkill for smaller fish that tend to appear in greater numbers. Plus, they can make fly fishing possible in locations with smaller pools and narrow runs.


Choosing the Right 3 Weight Fly Fishing Rod

Target Fish & Fishing Environment

The hardware on a 3 weight fly fishing rod should be able to withstand corrosive elements in saltwater environments. If you’re going to high stick, the rod should be longer to keep more line out of the water.

Fish like trout and bass like to feed in the topwater, so a rod should be ideal for Euro nymphing if those are the species you're after. Ensure the rod is portable and even collapsible if you’re going to take it on a backpacking trip.

Type of Flies & Line

Fishing with lighter lures and using a nymphing setup will require the right kind of line. Although the line should be 3 weight, not all fishing line is created equal.

If you want a line that floats on the water, Orvis Superfine is a great option. Mastery Trout Floating Dry-Fly Line is the best fly line for 3 wt fiberglass rods if you’re trying to catch rainbows, cutthroats, or brown trout.

There are topwater lures and others that sink slightly for use when Euro nymphing. The most important consideration is where in the water column you want your fly lure.

Frame Quality

Fly lines can be built out of graphite and fiberglass, just like casting rods can. They might also be made out of bamboo, but those are far less common.

Graphite is lightweight and more durable, while fiberglass has much greater sensitivity throughout the rod blank so the angler can feel what’s happening at the end of the line. Fly rods tend to get dropped and have to weather many elements, so they should be strong.

Rod Length

The best length for a 3 weight fly rod is somewhere between about 7’6” and ten feet long. The longer rods will be more useful if you’re Euro nymphing and they’ll cast further, while a shorter 3 weight fly rod will be better for secluded fishing spots with lots of vegetation.

Smaller fly rods can also roll cast a bit easier than longer fly rods do. Longer fly rods tend to break down into sections to make them more portable.

Line Weight

Fly rods are more or less defined by their line ratings. 3 weight fly rods are meant to be used with 3 weight line in smaller fishing spots or for more delicate fly fishing setups. That being said, they can probably handle 4 weight line from time to time.

Manufacturers are designing these rods with 3 weight line, and it’s not going to be the most effective rig if you’re using anything else. If you’re chasing larger fish, you might want to look into buying a 7 weight or 8 weight fly rod.

Rod Action

To give a better presentation to dry flies and topwater lures, a medium action is best. Some anglers prefer a medium-fast action so they can set the hook better. It’s also quite possible to use a fast-action 3 weight fly rod very successfully.

Ultimately, it depends on what kind of fishing style you’re using and what type of casting methods you want to have available. There should be some parabolic bend in the rod blank before the backbone kicks in, which is why medium is usually the best. It also makes fighting fish more fun.

Price & Warranty

A 3 weight fly rod usually costs a little less than larger fly rods, but if they’re made of better material or longer, then a 3 weight fly rod can have a comparable cost to larger rods.

The best entry-level 3 weight fly rod likely costs one or two hundred dollars, but there are some budget options for considerably less. More expensive 3 weight fly rods are more likely to have a better warranty.


5 Best 3 Weight Fly Rods Reviewed

1. PULSE Sage 3100-4

Best 3 Weight Fly Rod

Rod Length

10’0”

Line Weight

3 wt

Action

Fast

Power

Fly

Pieces

One

Key Feature

Graphite IIIe blank

There isn’t a better 3 wt fly rod on the market for nymphing with light lures. Long and short line techniques both work well with this lightweight rod. The graphite used to construct the rod blank is durable and flexes near the tip, allowing for a clean hook set. Casting feels completely natural with this 3 wt fly rod. The half wells cork handle and the lightness of this rod make casting easy and prevent hand and shoulder fatigue on long days of fishing.

This 3 wt fly rod also looks great. With olive and black thread wraps and a pleasant greenish hue, it’s certainly one of the most visually appealing fly rods on the market. The reel seat holds a fly reel snugly in place, and the line guides allow for excellent line handling ability. The longer length of this fly rod might make for difficult maneuvering in narrower fishing spots, but it also makes this rod more versatile in more expansive spaces.

Learning and using methods like high sticking and Euro nymphing is a breeze with this 3 wt fly rod. It’s lightweight enough, but the graphite rod blank also makes it sensitive enough to pick up on small nibbles. For lightweight lures and delicate fly fishing, there’s nothing that beats the PULSE Sage fly rod.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Fast tip action
  • Great castability
  • Visual appeal
Cons
  • Long for small fishing spots

2. Moonshine Rod Drifter Series

Best 3 Weight Fly Rod for Backpacking

Rod Length

7’6”

Line Weight

3 wt

Action

Medium

Power

Fly

Pieces

Four

Key Feature

Portability

Fishing in smaller fishing spots is more easily done with the Moonshine Drifter fly rod. This 7 foot 3 weight fly rod is less likely to lead to line tangled in vegetation on a backcast, but it's still long enough to cast a lure a good distance if there's room.

The length paired with the medium action makes this one of the best 3 weight fly rods for casting dry flies. With the right light line, dropping featherweight lures onto the surface of the water and giving them a presentation that will entice trout into striking is a simple task.

The Moonshine Drifter is also the best 3 weight fly rod for bass. The blank has plenty of backbone after it’s engaged, so as long as you take advantage of the parabolic bend in the rod, pulling bass up out of the water is readily done. It’s also a great rod for casting flies like fathead divers, minnows, and woolly buggers, all of which are highly effective at catching bass.

Best of all, it comes with an extra rod tip section and a lifetime warranty just in case. This rod isn’t meant for really heavy line, but for mid-level and light lines it's the best, and it breaks down into four sections so that it will fit in a backpack.

Pros
  • Perfect for dry flies
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Extra rod tip included
  • Flexible rod blank
Cons
  • Not for use with heavier line

3. Redington VICE 5-5021T-386-4

Best 3 Weight Fly Rod for the Money

Rod Length

8’6”

Line Weight

3 wt

Action

Fast

Power

Fly

Pieces

Four

Key Feature

All-aluminum reel seat

From the anodized machined aluminum reel seat to the Cordura rod tube, the Redington VICE is a sturdy rod in any size you choose. The 3 weight fly rod version is perfect for fishing the runs and pools of smaller streams and rivers.

Short casts are easy and accurate, but it’s still a long enough rod to cast a good distance to reach places that can’t be waded to. Black anodized line guides help direct the cast and help reel in fish even when they put up a fight. There’s no fighting butt on this 3 weight fly fishing rod like there is on some others, but it has a fast action, so the backbone engages much sooner than competing models.

Redington backs this product up with a lifetime warranty, and it also comes with a rod tube for storage and transportation purposes. The longer length of this rod means more line can be held off the water. High sticking is an excellent tactic to use with this fast action 3 weight fly rod.

The carbon rod blank gives this rod a speedy recovery so anglers can cast more and place their lures faster. More casts mean more bites on the lure, and that usually means catching more fish.

Pros
  • Quick recovery
  • Fast action
  • Strong line guides
  • Saltwater-friendly
Cons
  • No fighting butt

4. Orvis Clearwater

Best 3 Weight Fly Rod for Trout

Rod Length

10’0”

Line Weight

3 weight

Action

Medium

Power

Fly

Pieces

Four

Key Feature

Strong line guides

The Orvis Clearwater has been a favorite of fly anglers for years, and the newest design is no exception.  It's built for European nymphing, which generally involves a bright section leader called a sighter that the angler high-sticks above the water.

Euro nymphing lures also have weights and lead undersides attached to them, so the best 3 weight fly rod should capably cast these lures and be long enough to high stick. That’s exactly what you get with the Orvis Clearwater 10-foot fly rod.

Every motion anywhere on the line transfers to the angler’s hands thanks to the superior sensitivity of the blank in the Clearwater fly rod. High sticking can cause exhaustion in the forearm after several hours, but this fly rod is surprisingly lightweight considering its length. The handle is also comfortable to hold onto if a bit malleable and gives the angler enough leverage to get fish out of the water.

Casting dry lures is also very easy with this 3 weight fly rod. Getting bass and trout out of the topwater where they like to feed on nymphs is a specialty of this rod. Orvis also backs up this rod with its 25-year guarantee.

Pros
  • Sensitive blank
  • Parabolic flex
  • Ideal for Euro Nymphing
Cons
  • Soft handle

5. MAXIMUMCATCH

Best 3 Weight Fly Rod for Beginners

Rod Length

8’4”

Line Weight

3 weight

Action

Medium-fast

Power

Fly

Pieces

Four

Key Feature

Carbon fiber blank

For those who are interested in learning how to fly fish and don’t want to spend a fortune on gear, this MAXIMUMCATCH is the best budget 3 weight fly rod and a dream to learn on.

Sturdy line guides help reduce line sag and make casting and line retrieval smooth. It has excellent balance when a fly reel is attached, and it’s just the right length for casting in open spaces and on small streams and rivers. The rod action is also just right, flexing a bit further down the blank than a typical fast-action fly rod does.

Overall, fishing any fly method is comfortable with this 3 weight fly rod, and it's forgiving enough for beginners to use without getting discouraged. It can still catch plenty of fish, too, so newcomers won’t be bored. The carbon fiber blank allows for high performance that is generally outside the realm of fly rods at this price point. It can also break down into four sections for added portability.

The company backs it with a lifetime repair warranty that isn’t quite as robust as some others available but is still certainly better than nothing. For anglers looking for multiple rods, this is the best budget 3 weight fly rod and inexpensive enough to buy in multiples.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Casts great
  • Perfect action
  • Portable
Cons
  • Comparatively weaker warranty

What Weight Fly Rod Do I Need?

  • 3 Weight vs. 4 Weight Fly Rods
    A 3 weight fly rod is better for 2-pound trout and some smaller bass, while a 4 weight fly rod can be used for delicate techniques on slightly larger fish. Nymphing for bigger fish should be more effective with a 4 weight while a 3 weight is best for small fishing holes.
  • 3 Weight vs. 5 Weight Fly Rod
    A 5 weight fly rod is the most versatile fly rod there is. They can be used to catch larger targets and cast much heavier lures and lines. A 3 weight fly rod will make smaller fish feel like huge ones do on a 5 weight. It’s best to match the fish you’re most likely to see in your location.
  • 3 Weight vs. Other Fly Rod Weights
    2 weight fly rods also exist, and they make fishing for panfish and other small targets a ton of fun. They don’t have much application outside of that, though. Larger weights like 7, 8, or 9 weight fly rods are for larger targets and bodies of water.

Tips for Setting Up a 3 Weight Fly Rod

You'll need a fly line, a tippet, a leader, and a fly in addition to a fly reel. If you’re Euro nymphing, you’ll also need a sighter, which is a vibrantly colored section of the leader. If you’re nymph fishing, take lures with and without bead heads. These are meant to make the lure sink, but you might find more action on the surface.

When you cast, you should be aiming to lay the line, leader, and tippet out in a straight line. If you’re having trouble, your line and lure combo might be too heavy or too light. Piscifun makes this great nymphing line that should help fly casting.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

What size fish can you catch on a 3-weight fly rod?

Most anglers who use a 3 weight fly rod catch lots of fish that weigh about 2 pounds. A 3-pounder isn’t unheard of, and they can also catch anything lighter, but 2 pounds is about the standard. The lightness of a 3 weight fly rod will make these lighter fish feel like they’re putting up a fight, though.

Are there any other fly fishing essentials to buy along with my 3wt fly rod?

You’ll need a fly reel, of course, but you’ll also need lures, leaders, a rod case, and a rod holder if you don’t plan to have the rod in your hand the whole time. Match your lures with the fishing style and the size of your most likely targets. Nymphs and dry lures are usually lighter, but they may have weights added.

How do I clean and store my 3wt fly fishing rod?

Always wipe your rod down with fresh water after each use and make sure no grime is building up. Store it in a case or rod sleeve. About once a season, apply a sealant that will keep water out so the rod will stay in good working order for a longer time.

Where is the best place to buy 3 weight fly fishing rods?

The best place to find a 3 weight fly rod for sale is Amazon. There is a wider selection, more frequent sales, and the same warranty protection you can find on the manufacturers’ websites. It’s much easier to compare products, and they have an excellent delivery system already in place.


Conclusion

The best 3 weight fly rod should be castable, durable, and let anglers set the hook well. That’s why the PULSE Sage and its fast-action tip are the best on the market. It’s the perfect rod for any fly fishing method and great fun to have along whether you’re in a small stream or open river.

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