10 Best Fly Fishing Rods: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

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Some say a fly fisherman is only as good as his or her gear. While that may not be entirely true, you certainly can't go flyfishing with a baitcaster. Gear is important. Having the right rod for a fly fishing adventure is especially essential. This guide is for any angler in the market for a fly fishing rod that matches all budgets and needs.

Preview

Model

Rod Length

Action/Power

Check Price

Sage Fly Fishing - PULSE Fly Rod

Sage PULSE

7’6” - 10’0”

Fast/Medium

Tailwater Outfitters Toccoa Fly Rod: High...

Tailwater Outfitters Toccoa

9’

Fast/Medium

Hardy HROZEP103F Zephrus Fws Rod Fly Rods

Hardy Zephrus FWS

8’ - 10’

Fast/Medium

Redington Fly Fishing Rod 386-4 Classic Trout...

Redington Classic

7’6”-9’

Moderate/Medium

2019 Orvis Clearwater 905-4 Fly Rod Outfit :...

Orvis Clearwater Outfit

9’0”

Fast/Medium

M MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Extreme Graphite Fly...

Maxcatch Extreme

8’4” - 10’

Fast/Medium

DRAGONtail Shadowfire 365 12' Tenkara Fly...

DRAGONtail Shadowfire 365 Tenkara

12’

Soft 6:4/Medium

Piscifun Graphite Fly Fishing Rod 4 Piece 9ft...

Piscifun Sword

8’6” - 9’

Slow - Fast/Medium

Fenwick AETOS Fly Fishing Rod, 9 ft., 5 wt

Fenwick AETOS

9’

Fast/Medium

Temple Fork: Professional Series Fly Rod, TF...

Temple Fork Outfitters

7’6”-10’

Medium-fast/Medium


Why Fly Fishing Requires a Specific Rod

Fly fishing is all about how you cast your line. While regular spin or bait casting relies on the weight of a hook or lure to drive the cast fly fishing uses the weight of the line. This use of a weighted line means the casting technique for fly fishing is unique, and this requires special gear, namely the right kind of rod. Fly rods are lightweight and are used to cast the line by what is called false casting. Other rods are heavier by comparison and handle very differently.


Buyer’s Guide: What Makes a Great Fly-Fishing Rod

Frame Quality

Fly rods are primarily made from fiberglass or graphite, while others are made from materials like bamboo. Large stores often sell fiberglass rods, but what you really want is graphite. Graphite is lightweight, strong, and sensitive, albeit usually more expensive than fiberglass. More non-traditional rods like bamboo can be interesting to cast with and often come with great warranties should they break.  

Casting Ability & Distance

Casting is the name of the game with fly fishing, so you need to make sure you get a fly rod that casts how you want it to. Casting ability and distance are both products of other features in the rod, like its length and action. As a general rule, longer rods with a faster action will cast further and more powerfully.  Accuracy, however, can suffer at the expense of power. 

Target Fish & Fishing Environment

When selecting a new rod, you might actually want to start by considering the type of fish you are hoping to find. This, in turn, helps dictate the environment you'll be fishing in. Fish type and fishing environment are big factors in determining what rod is best for you. If you'll be fly fishing in a big body of saltwater, then casting distance and corrosion resistance will be necessary. However, if you're fishing in smaller freshwater streams, you might need a shorter slow-action rod.

Rod Length

Fly rod length can be broken down into three categories. The longer rods at 9 feet in length are great for long casts and heavy lines; these are the big boys. A step down at 8.5 feet, you have a length that is considered more general for all-around fly fishing. Anything from 8 feet and below offers shorter, more precise casts and is also suitable for lighter lines. 

Rod & Line Weight

Fly rod and reel weight, fly line weight, and fly weight are very important things to consider. It is imperative that they match. Remember, in fly fishing, it is the weight of the line that casts the fly. If the fly is too heavy or the rod isn't right, you won't be able to cast correctly.

Thankfully, there is an easy system to follow. You need to fish weights 0, 1, and 2 for small fishes, weights 3-4 if you’re using small flies to target panfish and trout, weights 5, 6, 7 for general fishing, 8, 9, 10 for saltwater fish, and 11, 12, or 13 for larger fish. For example, you might have a 6-weight fly line with a 6-weight fly rod fitted with a 6-weight fly reel. Everything must match.

Rod Action

The action of a rod just refers to how quickly it bends under pressure. The closer it bends to the tip, the faster the action is. Fast action rods are great for longer casts and fishing on windy days. Medium action rods bend closer to the middle, and they are great as all-purpose rods. If you get only one rod, it should probably be a medium action rod. The slow action rods bend all the way down by the handle, and they are great for casting shorter distances with more accuracy.

Other Features

There are several other features to consider on the rod itself. Check how many pieces the rod comes in, two is common. If you like to travel a lot with your rod, you might want something that breaks down more. You can also check things like the durability of the reel seat and line guides, the comfort/form of the handle, and even what kind of storage options come included like bags or cases.

Price & Warranty

With all fishing equipment, you need to make sure you get a good value for your money. Sometimes it is worth spending more on better equipment while at other times you can find a better deal and spend less. It pays to do your due diligence and make sure the equipment matches what you need. Always check for a warranty as well. An ok deal can become a great one with the right warranty in place.  


10 Best Fly Fishing Rods Reviewed

1. Sage PULSE

Our Top Pick!

Length

7’6” - 10’0”

Line Weight

3-8

Action

Fast

Power

Medium

Pieces

4

The Sage PULSE fly fishing rod is the best rod available on the market. It is so good that, if it weren’t for the high price, there might not be any downsides. With this rod, you get what you pay for and then some. These rods were built from the ground up, tested thoroughly in extreme waters around the globe, tweaked, and then perfected. 

From freshwater to saltwater, single-hand, switch, or Spey, there is a rod in this series that performs perfectly for what you need. The secret lies in the craftsmanship. Extreme attention to detail and a curated selection of the best materials available have resulted in a fantastic product. 

Handcrafted on Bainbridge Island, USA, these rods utilize a unique Graphite IIIe Technology, which lends them their power and durability. They come in a lichen blank color with olive thread wraps with Black trim wraps, fuji ceramic stripper guides and, hard chromed snake guides. In addition to that, there is a rosewood insert with a gloss black anodized aluminum up-locking reel seat.

A snub-nose half-wells cork handle completes the package. As an added bonus, a black nylon rod tube with divided liner is included as well, so the rod can be transported safely. From end to end, this is a premium rod with a spectacular performance.

Pros
  • Excellent construction
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Very durable
  • Handcrafted
Cons
  • Price is high

2. Tailwater Outfitters Toccoa

Best Fly Rod For Bluegill Fishing

Length

9’

Line Weight

5/6

Action

Fast

Power

Medium

Pieces

4

The Tailwater Outfitters Toccoa fly fishing rod is an affordable all-around rod that performs under almost any conditions. It is extremely versatile and built with IM8 graphite which lends it durability, accuracy, and performance.

This is a tough rod. For anglers on the go, it comes with a rod tube that includes an adjustable shoulder strap so you can just grab it and go. This is perfect for those times that you have to hike into your fishing spot or if you have to stow the rod away on a long flight. The rod tube gives you the peace of mind that your rod will still perform when you get where you’re going.

To make transport easier, the rod comes apart in a convenient and travel-friendly four-pieces. When you go to reassemble it, there are alignment dots for fast setup. The rod itself is well constructed with ceramic stripping guides and chrome snake guides for smooth gliding fly lines.

There is a machined aluminum reel seat with double lock rings for a sturdy reel attachment and also a half well cork handle that helps ensure casting accuracy and helps you to avoid fatigue. This rod can perform against all kinds of fish, but we've found that it is especially effective against Bluegill, so if that's what you're after, you'll want this rod.

Pros
  • Well constructed rod
  • Performs great against Bluegill
  • Tough rod tube included
Cons
  • Swift action so tip might break

3. Hardy Zephrus FWS

Top of the Range

Length

8’ - 10’

Line Weight

3 - 6

Action

Fast

Power

Medium

Pieces

4

The Hardy Zephrus FWS fly fishing rod is a top of the range rod that will cost you a pretty penny, but it is worth it. Every dollar that goes towards this rod is reflected in the quality of its construction and the attention to detail in the quality of the materials it is made with.

Hardy's award-winning material, Sintrix 440, is used for the blank construction, which instantly sets this rod apart from others. The material makes for a powerful and responsive rod that not only looks good but also feels good when you use it. The designers didn't stop there with the added value, though.

They added REC black pearl recoil guides for beautifully smooth casting and retrieval. These guides are laser straight and durable. The rod also boasts Fuji Titanium stripper guides to provide that smooth, frictionless action that you need.

This is all accented by a selection of hardwood and triaxial carbon spacers. This rod was designed and built with premium quality in mind. It performs under pressure, feels great to hold, and looks fantastic. Then, as is standard with Hardy products, when you order this rod, you will also get the Hardy rod end plugs, a cloth storage wrap, and the storage/travel tube. You'll pay more for this rod, but that's an investment that pays dividends for years.

Pros
  • Includes manufacturers lifetime warranty
  • Excellent construction quality
  • Comfortable to fish with
  • Smooth cast and retrieve
Cons
  • Price is high

4. Redington Classic

Best Fly Rod For Trout Fishing

Length

7’6”-9’

Line Weight

2-6

Action

Moderate

Power

Medium

Pieces

4-6

The Redington Classic fly fishing rod is designed especially for the trout angler. The moderate action and balanced power allow you the sensitivity and strength you need to handle trout in any environment.

Smaller 2-weight models of the rod are available for little trout in tiny streams requiring a more delicate presentation. In contrast, 9-weight versions of the rod are perfect for those monster trout in larger rivers. Regardless of the trout, you want Redington Classic offers a rod that meets the need.

The rod itself is beautifully constructed with a dark clay brown blank and matching rosewood reel seat insert. Custom Machined reel seat components and titanium oxide stripping guides offer a robust rod construction as well. For the avid traveling angler, rods are available that come apart into an easily transported six pieces, and a divided brown ballistic nylon rod tube is included to protect them.

Afterward, when it comes time to fish, all the pieces connect easily by using the included alignment dots for easy rod setup. For any trout fisherman on the go, this rod is a dream come true. It also comes with a standard lifetime warranty to guard against the occasional fishing accident or behemoth trout that takes off the end of your rod.

Pros
  • Lifetime warranty included
  • Great against trout
  • Tough rod
  • Easy to transport
Cons
  • Slower action than most fly fishing rods

5. Orvis Clearwater Outfit

Best Fly Fishing Rod And Reel Combo

Length

9’0”

Line Weight

5/6

Action

Fast

Power

Medium

Pieces

4

The Orvis 2019 Clearwater 905-4 Outfit fly fishing rod and reel combo were designed by fishermen for fishermen. Avid Vermont anglers have taken all their experience and synthesized it into this rod. The 9' 5-weight rod comes equipped with stylish blanks that are black chrome with white accents. It is fitted with a chrome snake and stripping guide with a ceramic insert and full black nickel aluminum reel seats.

For the rods with fighting butts, they have composite tips for durability, and the two-handed rods have composite on the tip of the foregrip. Every little touch has been added to optimize the functionality and effectiveness of the combo. Experienced anglers that switch to this combo are actually surprised by how much better it is.

The difference was night and day. My casts were more accurate. It held more line in the air and it was significantly lighter than the old rod."

In many ways, this rod design is what you probably wish other rods were. For ease of transport, the rod comes with a durable gray rod tube that the disassembled four-rod pieces slide into. The rod and reel combo are covered under a 25-year guarantee as well, so once you start using an Orvis, you can happily continue to do so for years to come, no matter what happens.   

Pros
  • Includes a 25-year guarantee
  • Accurate casting
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Graphite is weak under heavy impact

6. Maxcatch Extreme

Best Fly Fishing Rod For Beginners

Length

8’4” - 10’

Line Weight

3-10

Action

Fast

Power

Medium

Pieces

4

The Maxcatch Extreme fly fishing rods are great for beginners as the best starter fly fishing rod and reel, or as backup rods for more experienced anglers. The rod is constructed with pure IM7 24T plus 30T carbon fiber. This includes 5 layers of carbon with a reinforced muscle carbon layer adding at least a 20% increase in strength to the rod.

The rod is also equipped with MaxSelect stripping guides and ultra-lightweight hard chromed stainless steel snake guides offering strong, smooth, and straight-line guidance. An over-sized tip loop is added for smoother and longer casting. A pure A+ contoured cork handle is fitted to the rod, providing a very comfortable grip, especially for less experienced hands.

A high density machined aluminum reel seat with two up-locking rings for reliable fixing of the reel foot is also part of the rod and is even resistant to saltwater. The whole rod system has been engineered for a slim taper, which allows for more efficient loading and allows for more natural longer casts for new fly casters.

From top to bottom, this is a rod that was built to perform and assist the angler while doing so. Also, keeping in mind that things sometimes break, especially with new fly fisherman, free returns, and a lifetime of repairs are included with any Maxcatch rod.

Pros
  • Lifetime repair warranty
  • Designed to ease casting for beginners
  • Durable construction
Cons
  • Heavy rod for its size

7. DRAGONtail Shadowfire 365 Tenkara

Best Tenkara Fly Fishing Rod

Length

12’

Line Weight

~3

Action

Soft 6:4 Action

Power

Medium

Pieces

1 Collapsable

In fly fishing, things don’t get much simpler than with a Tenkara rod. These long stripped-down minimalistic rods don’t use reels but, instead, rely on the simplicity of the line. The Dragontail Shadowfire 365 Tenkara is among the best you can get.

This 12' collapsable rod is made with IM 10 graphite, so it is durable, lightweight, and capable of handling most medium-sized fish. The beauty of this rod is that all you need is the rod, some line, and flys. The whole thing condenses to a very portable 23.25," so it is perfect for backpacking and other traveling.  

When you're ready to fish, you just telescope the eight sections out, add your line, and fly, and you are good to go. It shouldn't take more than three minutes to go from the packed pole to having your line in the water.

That's what Tenkara is about, simplicity. A rod sock and carbon fiber storage tube are included, so storage and transport are easy too. The rod specially features the swivel tip Lillian which was brought back to the design by popular demand. This special swivel tip is at the end of the rod and holds the line for you as you fight a fish. Tip caps are also included to protect this feature of the rod.

Pros
  • Very easy to transport and set up
  • Swivel tip Lillian is included
  • Strong simple design
Cons
  • Warranty only includes one-time rod replacement at a cost 

8. Piscifun Sword

Best Value Fly Fishing Rod

Length

8’6” - 9’

Line Weight

4-9

Action

Slow - Fast

Power

Medium

Pieces

4

Of all the rods featured in this guide, the Piscifun Sword graphite fly fishing rod is among the most affordable and offers great value. Given the quality of the rods in this collection, it wouldn't be unfair to say that they are probably underpriced.

In that sense, buying one of these rods is like purchasing a rod with a discount. The rod is constructed with IM7 Graphite offering its durability, accuracy, and performance. There is a machined aluminum reel seat with double lock rings, providing a secure reel attachment while ceramic stripping guides inserts and chrome guides make for smooth casting fly lines.

The super-light and comfortable 3A grade cork handle is sensitive and more comfortable in extreme climates than EVA alternatives. Depending on the model you buy, you will find either a full wells or half wells cork handle, both of which are perfectly contoured for the rod they are on.

The whole rod also comes apart when needed and can be easily stored in the durable, travel-friendly PVC rod tube included. When you need to reassemble the rod, just follow the white guide dots, and you'll be fishing in no time. With Piscifun, you get more rod for less money.   

Pros
  • Great value rod
  • Casts well
  • Comfortable to use
Cons
  • Tip breaks under some loads 

9. Fenwick AETOS

Best Fly Fishing Rod Under $200

Length

9’

Line Weight

5

Action

Fast

Power

Medium

Pieces

4

The Fenwick AETOS fly fishing rod is another great value rod given what’s included. This is the best fly fishing rod available for under $200. The lightweight fast-action blank is optimized for ideal performance and recovery and maintains a stylish appearance with the 4-section deep blue rod with carbon flake accents. 

The AAA-grade cork handle provides a firm yet comfortable grip for extended rod use. The rod also includes large diameter gunsmoke stripper guides and double foot gunsmoke snake guides to keep your line going where it needs to. The reel seat is made of aluminum anodized with a double uplock (down lock on Spey models).

This selection of rods offers something every style of fly fisherman with freshwater, saltwater, switch, and Spey models available. These are versatile well-constructed rods built to rise to whatever challenge you throw at them. Anglers of all kinds praise the rod after getting their hands on it.

They leave comments describing the rod as

Such a value. Great work Fenwick. Very impressed,” and “This is a rod for any level of fly-fisher. It's accurate and delicate in its presentation."

There are many ways to describe these rods. They are effective; they are a deal; they are a fish's worst enemy.  

Pros
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Casts well
  • Comfortable to use
Cons
  • Alignment dots on the rod aren’t well-aligned

10. Temple Fork Outfitters

Best Fly Rod For Bass Fishing

Length

7’6”-10’

Line Weight

2-10

Action

Medium-fast

Power

Medium

Pieces

4

Temple Fork Outfitters professional series II braided graphite fly fishing rods are among the best on the market for bass fishing. The series offers a wide range of options, though, so you can find a version of this excellent rod that matches whatever fish you want to land.

With over 19 models to select from, these rods run from light 2-weight constructions up to heavy 10-weights. These affordable rods are all smooth, powerful, sensitive, and forgiving enough to hold up under pressure. As long as you properly match the weight class that you need to the rod you get, you'll be impressed by the durability and versatility of the rod.

Each rod comes with black matte finished blanks embedded with stylish gold logos. Combined with the premium grade cork with burled accents and oversized stripper guides, these rods have an elegant look and feel.

The rod also features anodized reel seats with braided carbon fiber inserts and even comes with a TFO-logo red rod sock for optional customization. The alignment dots are color-coded by line weight so you can confidently set your rod up in the best way possible each time you use it. This is a rod that looks good, feels good, and then catches fish even better. 

Pros
  • No-fault lifetime warranty available
  • Great variety of rods available
  • Stylish finish
  • Good performance
Cons
  • Cork in the handle isn’t high quality

Tips for Fly Fishing Rod Setup

The first step to set up your fly fishing rod is to make sure that the weights of each component match. If you have a 7-weight rod, make sure you also have a 7-weight reel and 7-weight line to go with it. Assembling the rod, it is best to apply a little candle wax to each ferrule, which is the connection between each part of the rod. Then, begin connecting the pieces about a quarter turn out of alignment. As everything comes together, you can slowly tighten everything up.

Once the rod is together, you can attach the reel foot of the reel into the reel seat. Make sure you place it in the right direction based on whether you are right or left-handed. For a right-handed person, the spool should turn counter-clockwise. With the reel in place, you should then attach what is known as backing. This backing attaches to the spool arbor with an arbor knot and, when the spool is full, the actual fly line shouldn’t be touching the reel.

With the backing in place, you can attach the fly line using either the loop that is part of it or, if there is no loop, a connection known as a nail knot. Remember, when fully reeled in the fly line should not touch the reel body.

It might take some trial and error to get this right. If it does touch, then shorten the backing until it doesn't. With that settled, you can then string the fly line through the line guides. To do this, it is best to pull out about 16 feet of line, double it back on itself, and then feed that through. 

Once it is through, reel it back some and double-check that you didn’t miss any line guides during the process. Now tie the leader onto the fly line using a Double Surgeon’s Knot. The tippet then attaches to the leader with another Double Surgeon’s Knot (first below), and you can finish it all of by attaching your fly to the tippet with a clinch knot. Once you have done all of this, you'll be ready to fish rivers, lakes, and streams pulling up everything from panfish to salmon.


How to Use Fly Fishing Rods - Tips & Techniques

The actual act of fly fishing is something that needs to be seen to be understood. There are some great tutorials out there to get you started, but if you can, you should take a class or hire a guide to help you. The casting motion isn't like casting other fishing lines, so having some guidance and feedback will go a long way. Once you start practicing, you should find a nice calm lake to start in until you get your casting down pat.

Once you feel comfortable casting, then you can take it up a notch and try landing a fish. This is where fly fishings' titular flys come into play. There are a million and one ways to go about this, but the simplest way to put it is you need to find out what the fish you want likes to eat. Once you know the insect or critter that they are feeding on, you can match a similar looking and behaving fly to that. This is part of the art of fly fishing.

With fly fishing, you can continually learn new techniques and approaches to landing the catch you want. From how you point your shots to the way you read the water, there is a lot to learn. In this sense, the internet and other experienced anglers are your best resources for learning the many tips and tricks that are available. 


Other Fly Fishing Essentials

  • Fly fishing rod holder
    Picture this, you’re standing in the stream with your fly fishing rod in one hand, your fly fishing net in the other hand, and you’re tying a fly with your other hand. Wait, that’s one too many hands. This is why you need a fly fishing rod holder. These devices typically clip on to your body somewhere and can hold your rod for you to help you free up an extra hand.  
  • Fly fishing rod case
    A fly fishing rod case is absolutely essential if you are going to travel with your rod. A case is durable enough to protect your rod, while bags can lead to damage and a ruined fishing trip. It isn't worth the risk of trying to transport your rod the wrong way.  
  • Fly fishing reel
    After you have bought the best fly fishing rod, you can find you need to buy the best fly fishing reel. Unless you've purchased a combo, you'll need to put in the work and create the best pairing you can. Just make sure the weight of the rod and the weight of the reel match!
  • Fly fishing waders
    More often than not, fly fishing is done in the water and not from shore. This gets you closer to the action, closer to the fish. To do this without getting wet, you will need some great fly fishing waders. There are lots to choose from, so we have already selected the best fly fishing waders for you. 
  • Fly fishing net
    If you plan to actually beach the fish you catch while fly fishing, then you're going to need a fly fishing net. This will save you a lot of frustration and broken tippets. If you are planning to do catch and release, a fly fishing net is essential. Removing your hook quickly and easily depends on having a way to secure the fish in the water.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are Spey rods?

A Spey rod is an extra-long style of fly fishing rod and usually measures around 12’6” to 14’. This rod is used to accomplish what is called Spey casting. Spey casting is a technique that allows for longer casts without bringing the line behind the back. This approach is most common in larger rivers and can be used to land large trout or salmon.

What is Tenkara fly fishing?

Tenkara fly fishing literally means "fishing from heaven." This simple Japanese method of fishing developed alongside traditional fly fishing and only requires a rod, line, and fly. There is no reel. The focus is intended to be on the fishing and not on the equipment. This old-style is often found practiced along mountain streams. 

How should I choose the right fly rod length?

You should choose your fly rod length based on the fish you want to catch and the environment it lives in. If you will need long casts with heavier line, then get a longer rod closer to 9' in length. If you are fishing smaller streams, however, a shorter 8' or less rod will be more appropriate. If you are unsure what type of environment you will be fishing in, then go for an 8.5' rod for the best versatility.

Do most fly fishing rods come with warranty coverage?

Yes, most fly fishing rods should come with some type of warranty coverage. It can vary significantly from one company to the next, though. Some manufacturers offer lifetime coverage, while others provide nothing or only minimal coverage. It's always a good idea to research the warranty for fishing equipment before you buy it.

How do I clean and store my fly fishing rod?

After every use, especially with saltwater, make sure you thoroughly rinse the rod with freshwater then gently dry it. Any moving parts, like those in the reel, should be lightly oiled. For long term storage, disassemble the rod and reel, clean them deeply, and store them in a cool, dry, secure location. While disassembled, you should do full maintenance on the reel and fix or replace any parts that show wear or corrosion. 


Conclusion

Fly fishing is a sport and an art form. And in both, it pays to have the best equipment. This guide offers the best selection of fly fishing rods on the market today. Above them, all stands the Sage Pulse fly fishing rod as our top pick.

Despite its higher price tag, the quality of the construction, the effectiveness of the rod on the water, and the excellent warranty and customer service offered by Sage make it a clear choice as the top contender.