When you fly fish, your line's weight will determine how far you cast and what targets you can catch. 5 weight fly rods are commonly viewed as all-purpose rods.
In fact, they’ve become the industry standard for freshwater fly fishing. Read on if you’re looking for your own 5 weight fly rod.
Why Invest In a 5 Weight Fly Rod?
5 weight fly rods are called fly fishing do-everything rods because they can handle light nymph flies or medium-sized streamers. Anything beneath a 5wt is usually not suitable for heavy flies, and anything above it won’t handle light flies well. 5 weight fly rods are suitable for many things, including:
Choosing the Right 5 Weight Fly Rod
Target Fish & Fishing Environment
5 weight fly rods are do-everything rods, but there are still some specifications among 5wts that you should pay attention to for maximum effectiveness depending on your target and environment. Most 5wts are built for freshwater sources, but there are plenty that are also made to handle saltwater as well.
Longer 5wts will cast further in wide-open bodies of water, but they’ll probably get tangled and be useless in smaller streams and rivers with lots of nooks and crannies. For that, you’ll need a shorter rod, say less than nine feet long.
Most 5 weight fly rods are fast action these days, but there are still medium-fast and medium action rods that will be better suited to different fly fishing tactics like roll casting. You might want to cast a lighter lure, in which case you'll want a slower rod action.
If you like wading into the water, you’ll probably want a shorter rod so it won’t end up in the water. If you fish from shore, you’ll probably want a longer 5wt that can get your lure out a good distance.
Type of Flies & Line
We already mentioned how lighter lures might call for a 5wt with a slower action, but other lures might call for different kinds of 5wts. 5wts can cast streamers, dries, wet flies, and nymphs, but you should know what kind of rod you need for each one.
Since it will be a 5 weight fly rod, you probably won’t need anything over 9 feet long to cast these lures well. You should be using a leader of 2 - 10 lb test and 50 yards of 20 lb test as backing.
Many fishing rods - including spinning rods and casting rods - used to be made out of fiberglass, which is very sensitive but not durable. Graphite and carbon fiber are the most common, although some fly rods have some wooden elements.
Graphite is the most lightweight and durable, but some companies have developed their own tech to make their blanks even more durable and lightweight without sacrificing flexibility, such as Hardy’s Sintrex material.
If you're using a 5 weight fly rod to cast streamers, dries, wet flies, and nymphs, you probably won’t need anything over 9 feet long. However, there are some instances where a 10-foot 5 weight fly rod.
For example, if you have tons of space, you might want an extra foot of length to cast further. You could also want a longer rod if you're going to use more or heavier lines to cast into the wind. Stick with the 6 to 8-foot fly rods if you’re in a smaller river.
Ok, it’ll probably seem obvious that 5 weight line is the best line for a 5 weight fly rod. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the only line weight that will work on a 5wt rod. You won’t find much success with 12 weight line, but you can sneak up a weight class or two for sure.
6 weight line will almost definitely work on most 5 weight fly rods, just make sure not to overdo it because too much stress could snap the rod. Lighter weight line can also work, but it might snap on the heavier 5 weight rod.
Tons of anglers reach for the fast action 5 wts and don’t consider any other types of rod actions. They can be great for a clean hook set, but if you’re casting lighter lures or nymphs, you’re going to want more flex lower in the rod.
This means you might be better off with a medium or medium-fast action rod. That additional flex also means the rod tip will bend more when you load the rod, which is the backward motion during casting. More bend during loading means more momentum on the cast.
Price & Warranty
5 weight fly rods make great rods for starter and intermediate-level anglers, so most don’t require a huge investment. There aren’t many features on a fly rod, so the more expensive ones are simply more likely to have more sophisticated blanks and last longer.
Similarly, more expensive rods tend to have longer and more open-ended warranties. Less expensive models may have warranties that only protect against flaws in the original manufacture, and some rods might not have any warranty at all.
5 Best 5 Weight Fly Rods Reviewed
1. Sage PULSE 5WT
Our Top Pick!
The Sage PULSE fly rod is a handmade work of art, but for all that, it’s surprisingly versatile as well. If you’ve already fished with a 5wt fly rod before, you’ll notice the difference between your old rod and the PULSE as soon as you cast it once.
Throwing mid- to large-size dry flies is easy with this rod, and it’s dead accurate if your form is right. Older rods from this company like the Sage VXP 9ft 5wt fly rod were pretty useful, but the PULSE 5wt has been updated with a new blank to outperform the older models.
It has a fast action that sets the hook well, although you might want a softer rod if you're going to fish really heavy streamers you might want to try a heavier rod like the 8wt Sage PULSE. The graphite in the PULSE blanks is sturdy and feels like it will last a long time even though it’s also quite lightweight. The line guides are ceramic and built by Fiji, so you know they're good. Line control is fantastic on this rod. It’s ideal for fly anglers who are ready to graduate from their beginner fly fishing rod.
The cork handle is comfortable in-hand, and the black aluminum reel seat on the lighter weight fly rods in this series hold the reel snugly. Best of all, the rod is protected by the Sage lifetime warranty, which is great if there’s a defect even if it doesn’t protect against damage from regular use.
2. Hardy Zephrus FWS
Best 10-Foot 5wt Fly Rod
The star feature of the Hardy Zephrus is its recovery time. It doesn’t spend as long recoiling from any pressure that engages its fast action. That means you can cast more without having to wait for a recast. Fighting fish is easy thanks to the strong rod blank, which is made out of a proprietary material called Sintrix that Hardy says can take anywhere from 30 - 60% more compressive strength at a lower weight than carbon fiber. You definitely notice the weight when you’re holding this fly rod.
The extra length in this rod allows you to cast it out even further. If you want to fish a bigger body of water but aren’t ready or don't need to buy a switch rod, this is a great rod. It also offers excellent line control so you can even use it to drop flies into pocket water or fish specific nymphing techniques.
This rod also comes with a storage tube, storage cloth for preventing damage, and some end plugs. You might lose some accuracy because of the 10-foot length of the rod, but you can also use longer leader lines without worrying about them getting pulled back into the guides.
This rod is covered by an extended warranty that does require payment for postage and fulfillment, but it appears to include much more than just defects in the original manufacturing. The Zephrus is a great fly rod that casts smoothly. It might be officially rated as a 4 weight, but we fished it all day long with 5 weight line, and it did a great job.
3. Redington Path II
Best 5wt Fly Rod for the Money
Get ready to do some serious fishing with pretty much any fly fishing technique you want with the Redington Path II. Its medium-fast action lets the blank flex a bit more toward the center than fast-action fly rods do, which means you can use anything from dry flies to light nymphs.
You can also fish this rod in saltwater or freshwater without worry. Putting the pieces together is fast and easy, and it comes with a very sturdy carrying case, although there’s no room for a reel in the case. Roll casting with the Redington Path is tons of fun, and it’s effective at catching fish as well.
The only thing that got in the way of our fishing with this fly rod is the length of the (admittedly comfortable) cork handle. It needs about another inch at least so you can grip it and keep it balanced in any situation with a fish on. That being said, it didn’t lose us any fish throughout the day, so we won't complain too much.
Redington does provide a lifetime warranty for this rod, but it reads as if it only covers replacement of the rod, not repairs, and only from manufacturing defects and not damage from regular use. However, given the cost of this rod, you could easily buy a new one when your first one eventually wears down.
4. TFO Lefty Kreh Pro Series II
Best 5 Weight Fly Rod for Bass
Named after its designer, Lefty Kreh, whose long career and expert fly rod design made him a cherished member of the fly fishing community all over the world, the Pro Series II shows much of Kreh’s expertise in its design.
It lives up to his goal of making fly fishing gear affordable to regular people. They have a medium-fast action that makes them more comfortable to cast and useful with a wider variety of fly fishing techniques. However, the blank still maintains a heft and toughness that are definitely on the angler’s side during a fight with a fish.
It’s the perfect rod for stringing bass and surface flies, and it can handle some pretty big flies, which will be handy for casting in heavy wind or at night. If you prefer to chase bass in saltwater, this rod will hold up to the corrosive elements just fine. Whether you like chasing smallies in rivers or largemouth in still water lakes, this rod is accurate for casting to a break or sending your fly lures sailing a pretty good distance in open water.
The fighting butt on the end of this rod is a nice feature that helps when you really have to dig to wrench heftier largemouth bass out of the water. Not only is it a great 5 weight fly rod for bass, but it’s also a smart option for beginner fly anglers because it's easy to cast and take a beating. It has a lifetime warranty, but only for manufacturing defects.
5. Orvis Encounter
Best 5 Weight Fly Rod Outfit
If you’re learning to fish and looking for a beginner fly rod with the right line weight to handle most flies and the right length to learn how to cast, this 9ft 5 weight fly rod from Orvis is a good option. It’s inexpensive and, although the reel is plastic and some of the other parts of the rod definitely don’t have the same sturdiness as more high-scale parts on more costly 5wt fly rods, the Encounter still packs a punch when it comes to performance.
You can even rip lures out of vegetation or rocks if they happen to get stuck, and this rod can handle it. While a 10ft 5wt fly rod would cast a little better on wide-open lakes and rivers, this Orvis does well in smaller areas, and you can cast it into breaks and small runs in rivers. It's more of a trout fly rod than a 5 weight fly rod for bass, but it’s good for what it is.
This rod barely weighs anything so you won't have to worry about wrist fatigue, and it breaks down and fits in its carrying case for easy transportation. Orvis doesn’t protect this rod with its usual 25-year warranty, but it will protect against defects in the original workmanship. Everything you need to fly fish is included except the flies themselves, from the reel to the floating line, backing, and leader.
Fly Rod Weight Comparison
Tips for Setting Up a 5 Weight Fly Rod
There are a few things you should consider for your 5 weight, but nothing is more important than the fly reel you use. Get one that can hold enough 5wt test and will fit snugly on your reel seat.
In addition to your main line, you’ll also be tying on a leader, a tippet, and a fly. The leader can be lighter than the 5wt test you’re using for the main line to protect that main line.
You can also start with 5 weight line if you’re just starting out and don’t want it to snap. Use 5X for both the leader and tippet, although you can use 4X too if you want. Tapered nylon makes a great leader. These are tips for all-purpose fishing - if you’re going to smaller bodies of water, tie on a shorter leader and use a dry fly.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Can you use a 6 weight line on a 5 weight rod?
While manufacturers may rate their rods as 5 weight, they can still handle 6 weight line in almost every case. Just make sure not to overload the rod if you’re going to set up your 5 weight with 6 weight line. If you’re in a unique environment and trying an unusual casting style, you might not want to risk it and stick to the 5 weight line.
What size fish can you catch on a 5 weight fly rod?
5 weight fly rods are great at catching panfish, trout of any size, and many different kinds of bass. You can catch both smallmouth and largemouth bass, for example. You can even try some lightweight nymph lures and land your fly in tight river conditions with a versatile 5 weight.
Are there any other fly fishing essentials to buy along with my 5wt fly rod?
You’re definitely going to want to buy a case for it to transport and store it safely. Try to find a case with rod compartments and a reel case to protect your fly reel. For that matter, make sure you buy a reel before you go out and try to find storage cloth to wrap the rod and protect it from scratches during storage.
What are the most common 5 weight fly rod uses?
The majority of fly anglers use their 5 weight fly rods to catch trout in mid-size to fairly large rivers. Most of the time, they probably don’t venture from putting 5 weight line on the rod and casting out more or less standard dries and wet flies. Try streamers and new casting methods to see just how versatile that 5 weight rod is.
How do I clean and store my 5wt fly fishing rod?
Always give it a spray down with fresh water after you finish fishing for the day. Dry it thoroughly and store it in a dry place, preferably in a carrying case with individual compartments. About once a season, apply a watertight sealant to the rod with a cloth to keep it looking better longer.
5 weight fly rods are the go-to all-purpose fly rods because they can catch small, medium, and sometimes even large targets. The best 5 weight fly rod is the Sage PULSE 5WT because it exemplifies this versatility in its performance, has a great warranty, and just looks great all around.