Choosing a fly rod is probably the most important task that any angler has when it comes to buying fly fishing gear. We’re here to help.

When you’re in the market for a new fly rod, it can be overwhelming. There are so many different manufacturers, weights, actions, and balances that it can become a daunting task searching through dozens of rods to find one that’s perfect for you.

In this post, I’m going to help you choose the best fly rod for whatever situation you’ll be fishing in. Whether you’re on the river, on the lake, or on the ocean, fishing for trout, bass, salmon or bonefish, you’ll find what you’re looking for on this page.

Our Top Fly Rod Picks for 2021

Best Fly Rod Overall: G. Loomis NRX+
Best Value Fly Rod: Orvis Clearwater
Best Budget Fly Rod: Maxcatch Premier
Best Top-End Fly Rod: Sage Foundation
Best Beginner Fly Rod: Redington Classic Trout
Best Travel Fly Rod: Eco Trip 8-Piece Travel Rod
Best Saltwater Fly Rod: Sage X Series
Best Trout Rod: Redington Classic Trout
Best Bass Rod: G. Loomis NRX+
Best Fly Rod Combo: Sage Foundation

I’ve personally fished with probably 50 fly rods over the years, but I’m not just using my expertise to come up with this list.

At Into Fly Fishing, we are a team of 5 professional fly fishing guides, casting instructors and avid anglers who have all had a say in choosing the best fly rods for this list.

Between us, we have more than 100 years of experience and we’ve tested over 150 fly rods extensively to bring you those we believe are the absolute best.

A bunch of bamboo fly rods

In this post, I’ll cover the most important things to think about when shopping for fly fishing rods and which brands produce the best rods for your style of fishing.

I’ll go over the best budget fly rods, the best beginner fly rods, the best fly rod combos, the best saltwater fly rods, and more. First, I’ll list important things you should think about when shopping for fly rods.

Then, I’ll list the actual rods, and finally, I’ll cover rod maintenance and what to expect from your rod once it arrives on your doorstep.

Also, don’t miss our Best Fly Reels of 2021 Buyer’s Guide if you want to match the perfect reel with your new rod.

Let’s get started! Here’s my list of the best fly rods that you can buy in 2021.

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NRX+ Best Fly Rod OverallBest Fly Rod Overall
G. LOOMIS NRX+

Pros: Nice design, great accuracy, super smooth, good warranty
Cons: A bit stiff, a little overpowering for smaller flies
Best For: Advanced Anglers, Euro Nymphing & Freshwater

 

The G. Loomis NRX+ is the best 7-weight fly rod (as you’ll see later in this list), and it’s also the best rod overall. It easily beats out all other 7 weights on the market in 2021.

It’s not a cheap rod, but for the quality you get and the affordable added warranty cost, this rod simply can’t be beat. G. Loomis is getting better and better at producing rods every year.

With each subsequent release of the NRX, the rods get lighter, stronger, and smoother, and they dampen better.

We find that the NRX+ is one of the most accurate rods we’ve ever casted and it has incredible blank recovery, which is what you’d expect from a $900 rod, but G. Loomis takes it to a new level with this release.

Fly Fisherman Silhouette

The manufacture uses a new resin for the new NRX+ series of rods, which they call G8. This new blend of Mega Modulus+ Graphite, GL8 Resin, and Multi-Taper Design is able to reduce blank weight by 15% while simultaneously improving the overall durability of the setup.

On top of all of this, the new design is even more precise than its predecessor, the NRX. With the Plus series, we were able to delicately present our flies with pinpoint accuracy.

This rod is so good that it could’ve beat out a lot of other rods in different weights on this list and could also win as the best trout fly fishing rod and the best saltwater rod as well.

If you’re looking for quality and you don’t mind spending nearly $900 on a rod, most professional anglers agree that the G. Loomis NRX+ is the best rod currently on the market.

NRX+ Specs & Info

Handle Type: Full Wells Blanks: Mega Modulus+ Graphite Matrix w/GL8 resin
Fighting Butt: Yes Action: Fast
Reel Seat: Double Uplocking w/Marble Insert Sections: 4
Warranty: Lifetime Limited Warranty Country Of Manufacture: USA
Guides: Titanium Stripping & Nickel/Titanium Single Foot Recoil Sizes: 9′ & 10′ 4-6wt, 10′ 7 & 8wt, 9’5″ 5wt

CHECK PRICES ON TRIDENT

 

Orvis Clearwater SetupBest Value
Orvis Clearwater

Pros: Great value, graphite design, excellent 25-year warranty
Cons: A bit stiff, a little overpowering for smaller flies
Best For: Intermediate Angler, Euro Nymphers, forgiving casting

 

I’ve long been a big fan of Orvis rods. Orvis is without question the largest fly fishing brand there is, and they make all kinds of rods.

From the budget Encounter series to their top-end bamboo rods, they’re constantly innovating in the industry with design, materials, and technology.

While I wasn’t overly impressed with the feel and accuracy of the Encounter rods, the Orvis Clearwater series is incredibly accurate and is without a doubt the best fly rod for the money right now.

If you’re new to fishing and you want a good quality setup but don’t want to buy the cheapest gear possible, then I recommend the full Clearwater outfit, which includes the rod, reel, case, line, leader, tippet, and everything else you need.

One thing I’m not crazy about with the Clearwater is the grip. It’s just not as comfortable as it could be and Orvis would’ve been better off going with a reverse full wells grip. But hey, for this price that’s a pretty tiny complaint and some anglers will love the feel of it as it is.

If you’re considering this rod, check out our full hands-on Orvis Clearwater review.

Orvis Clearwater Specs & Info

Handle Type: Full Wells Blanks: Black Nickel Aluminum
Fighting Butt: Yes (On Euro Nymph 10′ Rods) Action: Medium
Reel Seat: Downlocking Anodized Aluminium Sections: 4
Warranty: 25 Year Limited Country Of Manufacture: USA
Guides: Chrome Snake & Stripper w/ Ceramic Sizes: 2-12wt / 7’6″, 8’6″, 9′, 9’4″,9’6″, 10′

CHECK PRICES ON AMAZON

Read More: Best Value Fly Rods (Buyer’s Guide)

 

Maxcatch Premier Best Budget Fly RodBest Budget Rod
Maxcatch Premier

Pros: Great price, graphite blanks, everything you need
Cons: A bit stiff and heavy, poor warranty/after-sales service
Best For: Absolute Beginners, backup rod, bargain hunters

 

When it comes to ridiculously inexpensive rods, there’s one manufacturer that always comes out on top. That’s Maxcatch, and the Maxcatch Premier Rod is a great budget option for new anglers.

When I was living in China for a year, I was preparing for a long fly fishing trip in Mongolia and I needed an entire setup on a tight budget.

I purchased the Maxcatch Extreme 5-wt Outfit, and while it was a great value (it used to be rated as our top budget fly rod), I believe the Maxcatch Premier is well worth the extra spend.

The Extreme is even cheaper than the Premier and still comes with everything you need for an almost unbelievable price, but, having fished both set-ups extensively, I believe the Premier is just a much better kit.

The rod is more accurate and feels just as good as some more expensive rods that I’ve had, and it’s still going strong after two years of intermittent use. I even fished it in saltwater, and the rod and reel somehow held up.

If you want to get into fly fishing for under $80, the Maxcatch Extreme Fly Fishing Combo Kit is a great choice, but if you have the extra $100 to spend, it’s well worth the money for the Maxcatch Premier.

This kit has literally everything you need to get started, including the rod, reel, case, line, backing, leader and even line snippers, a fly box and some flies!

Maxcatch Premier Specs & Info

Handle Type: Half Wells Blanks: Green. Pure IM8 30T Carbon Fiber
Fighting Butt: No Action: Fast (Actually Feels More Medium)
Reel Seat: Aluminum Double Uplocking w/Carbon Fiber Sections: 4
Warranty: 3 Year Limited Country Of Manufacture: China
Guides: Chrome Snake & Stripper w/ Ceramic Sizes: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10

CHECK PRICES ON AMAZON

Read More: Best Budget Fly Rods (Buyer’s Guide)

 

Redington Classic Trout Fly RodBest Beginner Rod
Red. Classic Trout

Pros: Price, accurate, easy-casting, durable, travel-friendly 6pc
Cons: Cheaper feeling reel seat, tailing loop on 60ft+ casts
Best For: Beginners, Anglers on a Budget, Easy Casting, Accuracy

 

Learning how to cast is one of the biggest hurdles that new fly fishers have to overcome, so by starting out with an easy-to-cast rod, you’ll save yourself a ton of headaches when you’re getting started.

Not only is the Redington Classic Trout an excellent moderate-action fly rod that offers quite a bit of forgiveness for new anglers who haven’t mastered their timing yet, it also comes in at a very affordable price, making it a great fly rod for beginners.

It was a close call between the Orvis Clearwater and the Redington Classic Trout, but overall the Redington won out because it’s a bit more accurate and snappy than the Clearwater and gives new anglers some wiggle room when it comes to making the perfect cast.

Landing the full outfit is an even better deal, or if you only want the rod, it comes in at around $130, which is still a steal for a rod of this quality.

Redington Classic Trout Specs & Info

Handle Type: Reverse Half Wells Blanks: Brown Clay. High-modulus Toray Graphite
Fighting Butt: No Action: Medium
Reel Seat: Aluminum Uplocking w/Rosewood Insert Sections: 4 & 6
Warranty: Lifetime Original Owner Country Of Manufacture: China
Guides: Titanium Oxide Stripping & Hard Wire Snake Sizes: 2-6wt / 7’6″, 8′, 8’6″, 9′

CHECK PRICES ON AMAZON

Read More: Best Beginner Fly Rods (Buyer’s Guide)

 

Sage Foundation RodBest Fly Rod Combo
Sage Foundation

Pros: Made in America, excellent value, great blanks, lifetime warranty
Cons: Only comes with rod, tube, reel, & line, not Konnetic HD
Best For: Sage Lovers, intermediate anglers, mid-long distance casters

 

The comfort, accuracy, and feel of this rod definitely doesn’t compare to the more expensive Sage X (listed as our best pro-level rod later in this post), but when you get an entire Sage Fly Fishing Outfit Package including the rod, reel, line, net, snips, flies, fly box and more for $575, you can’t complain.

Sage has always been the Bently of fly rods. They make some expensive but incredibly high-quality rods. The Foundation set, however, comes somewhere in the mid-range category, and you won’t find a better rod combo for the money.

It’s not cheap, but it’s not insanely expensive either, especially considering it’s a Sage combo kit, made in America with a lifetime warranty. I still love Sage rods despite their hefty price tag.

I don’t think that new anglers need to spend much on a rod, but if you’re looking to upgrade, or you’re a die-hard Sage fan that doesn’t want to break the bank, then the Foundation kit is perfect. If you want to have more accurate casting up close, definitely go for the 5 weight setup. It’s a faster action rod with wicked precision.

Sage Foundation Specs & Info

Handle Type: Snub-Nose Half Wells (4-8wts), Full Wells (6wt) Blanks: Matte Black Graphite IIIe Technology
Fighting Butt: Yes (Only on 6wt) Action: Fast
Reel Seat: Uplocking w/Black Anodized Aluminum Sections: 4
Warranty: Lifetime Limited Country Of Manufacture: USA
Guides: Chrome Snake & Ceramic Stripping Sizes: 9′ 4-9wts, 10’7wt

CHECK PRICES ON AMAZON

Read More: Best Fly Rod Combos (Buyer’s Guide)

 

Echo Trip Rod - Best Travel RodBest Travel Rod
Echo Trip 8-Piece

Pros: Ultra-portable 8pc design, fits in luggage, lifetime warranty
Cons: Slightly less accurate because of so many pieces
Best For: Travellers, Backpackers, Bush Fishing, Long Trips

 

Even though you’ll always lose some accuracy and flex the more you segment a rod, the Eco Trip 8-Piece is incredibly well designed and it eliminates most (but not all) of the negative impact that you normally have from such a compact rod.

Travel backpack Fly Fishing Portable Fly Rod

Sometimes, when a multi-piece rod is flexed, bent or shaken, you can feel a creak or a bit of a break coming from one or more of the blanks, but that’s not the case with this rod.

Weighing in at 4.8 ounces with just an 18-inch tube length when stored in the tube, this is the highest quality and the most compact travel fly rod you’ll find on the market today.

Echo Trip Specs & Info

Handle Type: Reverse Half Wells (5-6wts), Full Wells (8wt) Blanks: Green or Blue, Slim Profile Graphite
Fighting Butt: Yes (Only on 8wt) Action: Medium-Fast
Reel Seat: Uplocking Anodized Aluminium Sections: 8
Warranty: Lifetime Warranty ($35 Replacement Fee) Country Of Manufacture: China
Guides: Low-Friction Ceramic Stripping & Stainless Snake Sizes: 9’5wt, 9’6wt, 9’8wt

CHECK PRICES ON AMAZON

Read More: Best Travel Fly Rods (Buyer’s Guide)

 

Sage X Fly Rod ImageBest Saltwater Rod
Sage X Series

Pros: Lifetime warranty, accurate casts at 20-80 feet (even in wind)
Cons: Slightly stiff tip (only with the Salt series)
Best For: Serious Anglers, Sage Lovers, Distance, Accuracy

 

This rod won pretty much all of the awards at the ICAST Show last year, and for good reason. This is an excellent all-around rod.

Our team has fished the X extensively in many different weights. We own a few different weights in our kit and we’ve also rented plenty of these to our clients.

Even though Sage classifies the X-series as “all-water fly rods,” the higher 7-11 weight models of this line are incredible saltwater rods. The same way that the Trout Series is geared towards freshwater river fishing, the X is made for the sea.

If you’re fishing for bonefish in the Caribbean, then the 8-weight version will be perfect, while for bigger deep-sea game I’d stick with the 10 or 11 weight rods.

We love the feel, the build quality, and the casting accuracy of the 8-weight and we did a full review of it here. We also recently tested the 3wt 9′ variation of this rod as well.

The stiffer blanks aren’t ideal for the 3wt and actually, we thought it felt more like a 4 weight, so if you’re shopping for a Sage X in the lower weights, keep in mind you may want to shop down a weight. Check out our full Sage X 3wt 9ft Review for more information.

Sage X Specs & Info

Handle Type: Snubnose Half-Wells (3-6wt), Full-Wells (9′ 5-10wt) Blanks: Matte Black, Konnetic HD
Fighting Butt: Yes on 9′ 5-10wts Action: Fast
Reel Seat: Aluminum Uplocking w/Vera Wood (Black on Full-Wells Models) Sections: 4
Warranty: Lifetime Limited Country Of Manufacture: USA
Guides: Hard Chrome Snake & Fuji Ceramic Stripping Sizes: 9’3-9wt, 7’6″3wt, 10’4-8wt, 8’6″4-5wt, 9’6″5-8wt, 10’4-8wt

CHECK PRICES ON AMAZON

Read More: Best Saltwater Fly Rods (Buyer’s Guide)

 

Headwaters Bamboo Fly RodBest Bamboo Fly Rod
Headwaters Premier

Pros: Incredible price, great stiff feel, accurate, comfortable
Cons: More weight and length options would be great
Best For: Nostalgic Anglers, Hipster, Bamboo Angler

 

I have to be honest. Myself and the team haven’t had the opportunity to get our hands on that many bamboo fly rods for full reviews, but we’ve casted quite a few and we love the feel of the Headwaters Premier Gallatin 7′ 6″.

We thought that being a 7.5 foot 4-weight fly rod, the Premier Gallatin would cast a bit like a wet noodle, but that’s not the case at all. This thing is crisp, firm, and super accurate.

Previously we had listed the Orvis Penns Creek fly rod as our top choice in the bamboo category, but in 2021 the Headwaters Premier beat it out simply because it feels just as good in hand, casts wonderfully, and costs less than a quarter of the price!

A bamboo fly rod is one of those luxury, nostalgic, hipster items that every angler dreams of having in their kit.

Well, finally you can get a super high-quality bamboo pole without having to take out a loan. Check out our full, hands-on review of the Headwaters Premier 7’6″ Fly Rod (coming soon).

Headwaters Premier Gallatin Specs & Info

Handle Type: Reverse Half Wells Blanks: Bamboo
Fighting Butt: No Action: Medium or Med-Fast (Depends on Weight)
Reel Seat: Uplocking Anodized Aluminium Sections: 4
Warranty: 25 Year Limited Country Of Manufacture: USA
Guides: Red Agate Stripping, Hard Chrome Snake Sizes: 7’4wt, 7’6″4wt, 7’9″5wt

CHECK PRICES ON HEADWATER

Read More: 5 Best Bamboo Fly Rods (Buyer’s Guide)

 

Sage ESN HD Fly RodBest Euro Nymphing
Sage ESN HD

Pros: Best Konnetic HD Blanks, accurate even at distance
Cons: Expensive, no fighting butt, snub nose grip is a bit short
Best For: Hardcore Euro Nymphers, casting accuracy, drag-free drift

 

The new Sage ESN HD replaces their old ESN (European Style Nymphing) model and now features their patented “Konnetic HD Technology” blanks.

We’ve fished plenty of Sage fly rods with Konnetic HD and plenty without, and we have to say that it’s always worth the upgrade.

In the case of the Sage ESN HD, the rod’s recovery rate increases dramatically over the previous versions which makes it feel much nicer to cast.

The blanks are super-sensitive thanks to their high-modulus graphite design which makes it easier to detect subtle takes and protect ultra-light tippets.

We found that the ESN HD was even accurate at distances over 60 feet, which isn’t something you’d normally expect or need from a euro nymphing rod, but it’s nice to have that capability.

We’ve been fishing the Sage ESN rod for years and it’s long been our favorite euro nymphing rod on the market, but the ESN HD is considerably better.

With the ESN HD, we would’ve really liked to have seen a fighting butt and a half wells grip rather than a snub nose, but aside from those minor issues and the high price tag, there’s not much else wrong with this rod.

For the die-hard euro nympher, the rod has all of the other features, like great balance and a minimalized down-locking reel seat, but still, some people are going to miss that fighting butt.

I recommend pairing this rod with a Lamson Litespeed reel. Having this super lite and excellent reel on the ESN HD makes a perfect balance and will complement the rod beautifully.

We recently got our hands on the Sage ESN HD and did a full hands-on review. Make sure to check it out! (coming soon)

Sage ESN HD Specs & Info

Handle Type: Half Wells Snub-Nose Blanks: Matt Black KonneticHD Technology
Fighting Butt: No Action: Medium
Reel Seat: Downlocking Anodized Aluminium Sections: 4
Warranty: Lifetime Original Owner Country Of Manufacture: USA
Guides: Fuji Ceramic Stripping, Chrome Single Foot Snake Sizes: 10′ 2wt, 10′ 3wt, 10’6″ 3wt, 10′ 4wt

CHECK PRICES ON TRIDENT

Read More: Best Euro Nymphing Rods (Buyer’s Guide)

 

Sage Trout Spey HD Fly RodBest 2-Handed Rod
Sage Trout Spey HD

Pros: Casting accuracy, best blanks in class
Cons: A bit unforgiving for new spey anglers
Best For: Hardcore Spey Casters, Sage Lovers, Distance Casting

 

For years, the Sage One Trout Spey was the best Spey rod on the market, but with the recent release of the Sage Trout Spey HD this has all changed.

This rod is incredibly light and super-accurate. It has great power and distance capabilities, and the finish and design is what you’d expect from a Sage…oh-so-sexy.

If there’s one con for this otherwise perfect rod, it’s that it’s a bit unforgiving, so new anglers might have a bit more difficulty with it when it comes to their casting timing. A bit of practice can help.

Sage Trout Spey Specs & Info

Handle Type: Full Wells Spey Blanks: Conifer, Konnetic HD
Fighting Butt: Yes Action: Fast
Reel Seat: Downlocking Aluminium w/Vera Wood Sections: 4
Warranty: Lifetime Original Owner Country Of Manufacture: USA
Guides: Fuji Ceramic Stripping, Chrome Snake Sizes: 10’9″ 1-2wt, 10’3″3wt, 11’3wt, 11’3″4wt

CHECK PRICES ON AMAZON

 

Best Fly Rods by Weight

Depending on where you’re fishing, you’ll want to choose the best rod for the job based on the weight of line you’ll be casting. If you’re on a river shooting for small trout, you’ll likely benefit from the precision of a 3 wt fly rod.

If you’re on the sea stalking a big bonefish or tarpon, you’ll want something between the 8 to 13 wt range with a saltwater ready design. Below are our picks of the best fly rods in each line weight. 

Snowbee Prestige G-XS fly rodsTop 1 wt Fly Rod
Snowbee G-XS

This rod is hard to beat in the 1-weight category. We put it head to head against some more expensive rods and the Snowbee G-XS topped the list (don’t miss our review of the G-XS) You may not have heard of this lesser-known US-Based fly fishing brand, but it’s growing fast and has some die-hard fans for good reason!

Read More: Our Full List Of The Best 1-weight Fly Rods

orvis recon fly rodTop 2 wt Fly Rod
Orvis Recon

We’ve fished this rod extensively and have a review of the Orvis Recon fly rod on our blog as well and we love it. This is a great rod and in the 2wt category, it’s affordable but super sensitive and great for small streams.

Read More: Our Full List Of The Best 2-weight Fly Rods

moonshine euro nymph vesper reviewsTop 3 wt Fly Rod
Moonshine Vesper

We’ve tested a lot of 3 weight rods and compared them on this blog and in our opinion, the new Moonshine Vesper beats them all. These are extremely well-built and underrated rods. If you want to find out more, check out our Moonshine Vesper Euro Nymph Review.

Read More: Our Full List of The Best 3-weight Fly Rods

Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod and ReelTop 4 wt Fly Rod
Orvis Clearwater

The Orvis Clearwater already made this list as the best value fly rod on the market and we particularly love the 5 and 6-weight models. Check out our full Orvis Clearwater Review for more about why we love this rod.

Read More: Our Full List Of The Best 4-weight Fly Rods

Orvis Helios 3DTop 5 wt Fly Rod
Orvis Helios 3D

Without a doubt, the Orvis Helios 3D and even the cousin the Orvis Helios 3F are both our favorite 3wt rods.   The F in the 3F stands for feel, while the D in 3D stands for distance, but we actually found that the 3D is more accurate, has better swing weight and just casts a lot more like a premium performance rod than the 3F.

Read More: Our Full List Of The Best 5-weight Fly Rods

sage x fly rod reviewTop 6-Weight Fly Rod
Sage X

The 6-weight of the Sage X is the first weight in the line that doesn’t feel like a higher-weight rod. When we tested the 3wt to 5wt Sage Xs, they always felt like they were one weight up. From 6wt and higher in the X series, they are bang on how they should feel, and the 6 weight Sage X is a wonderful rod.

Read More: Our Full List of The Best 6-weight Fly Rods

G. Loomis NRX+ Fly RodTop 7 wt Fly Rod
G. Loomis NRX+

The NRX+ topped this list as our favorite fly rod in 2021 and the 7wt is our favorite weight in the G. Loomis NRX+ Range. The 790-4 7 weight NRX+ has an incredible feel in the hand. It’s well balanced, beautifully built and casts like a dream.

Read More: Our Full List of The Best 7-weight Fly Rods

sage x rodTop 8 wt Fly Rod
Sage X

We have fished this rod for a couple of years and have to say that for 8wt applications, the Sage X is the best out there. While we did still like the lower weights of the X, the 8-weight is where this line truly shines.

Read More: Our Full List of The Best 8-weight Fly Rods

Best 9+ Weight Fly Rods

At this level, you’re firmly into saltwater, bass, and salmon fly rod sizes. You won’t likely be going after many trout that would require a rod this big, but a lot of fly fishers have at least one 10 weight in their kit for larger species.

In my opinion, if you’re going above 8 weight, you might as well step up to a 10 weight rod. It’s the in-between of the 9-15 weight range and is versatile enough to cover the gamut.

TFO Lefty Kreh Professional Series II – 10wt

  • Action: Medium-fast
  • Pros: Smooth & powerful
  • Cons: Cork handle isn’t as good as some more expensive rods

It’s another offering from TFO. If you’re going 10wt, then the Temple Fork Outfitters Lefty Kreh Professional Series II is the way to go. This is an excellent saltwater rod and it’s very affordable, particularly when compared to similar quality rods in this weight class.

It’s super accurate and loads up really nicely for some fast line action. The only con is that the cork tends to deteriorate a little bit more quickly than what you’d expect from a nearly $200 rod, especially if you’re using it in saltwater.

If you’re getting a lot of use out of the handle, be sure to take care of it to avoid any damage.

VIEW ON AMAZON

 

Best Fly Rods by Species

If you’re fishing for specific species and want to know which rods are the best for the job, I’ve listed them below. Each of these rods is already listed under another category in this post, however. There are no new rods below, but they’re the best for the job.

Top Fly Rod for Trout

Redington Classic Trout: No big surprise here, the name pretty much gives it away. I listed it as the best beginner fly rod already on the list, and while it’s available all the way up to 10-weight, the lower weights like the 3 and 4-weight rods are especially good for smaller trout.

Read More: Best Fly Rods For Trout Buyer’s Guide

Top Fly Rod for Salmon

Sage Pulse: An 8-weight+ rod is what you’ll need to cast into the wind and have the power and flex to retrieve massive salmon on the river. The Sage Pulse is the best at the job. While the 5 wt is slightly more accurate, the 8-weight 9’ 5” rods are the best for those hefty salmon.

About Us Page Header Fish Fly Fishing

Top Fly Rod for Smallmouth Bass

G. Loomis NRX+: For smallmouth bass, the 6-weight is the most versatile rod you can choose. If you remember my praise for the NRX+ series in the 5-weight category on this list, know that the 6-weight is just as accurate and feels super light in the hand, making it perfect for smallmouth bass.

Top Fly Rod for Largemouth Bass

Redington Predator: You can fish largemouth easily with a 5, 6, 7 or 8 weight rod, and while the 5 is a bit light and the 8 is slightly overkill, the Redington Predator 7 weight comes in at Goldilocks perfection. It might not be super accurate, but it’s still a great rod for largemouth bass.

Read more: Our guide to the best fly rods for bass

Fly Fishing Species

The Function of a Fly Rod

At the start of this post, I talked about things you need to look out for when shopping for fly rods. Perhaps a better way to clarify this is to evaluate the function of a fly rod. What is it exactly that a fly rod is meant to help you do (besides the obvious answer of simply throwing a fly out on water)?

The Cast

Like with a spin-casting rod, the fly rod’s main job is to help the angler delicately place a fly in front of the fish’s mouth with enough power to get it there and enough accuracy to get it close. A good fly rod, alongside decent casting skills, will allow the fly to be presented properly without spooking the fish.

Lake Long Cast Calm Water Fly Fishing

Line Control

Now that the fly has been dropped on the water, the next function of the fly rod is to control the line so that the fly looks natural as it drifts with the current. A fly rod that aids the angler in this natural approach and drift is a good rod. If it’s difficult to mend and control the line, then the rod is failing.

Landing the Fish

The final function of the rod is to alert the angler to the initial strike of a fish on the fly, to aid in setting the hook, and to help fight and land the fish. This is why fly rods are flexible and strong and don’t break under pressure.

Fly Fisherman Holding Fish

Rods Based on Experience

Just like there are different rods for different species of fish, there are also different rods for different levels of expertise on the fly.

For Beginners

Beginners should go for a medium-action, 5-weight, 8.5 to 9 foot fly rod that’s affordable, lightweight and durable. The best inexpensive brands include Maxcatch, Orvis, and Redington.

Read more: Best Fly Rods for Beginners (2021 Buyer’s Guide)

For Intermediate Fly Fishing

For those who have some experience with fly rods, stepping up to higher weights like 7 and 8 for larger game, or more delicate weights like 2 and 3 for small creek fishing, is doable. Great brands for intermediate fly fishers include Sage, G. Loomis and Hardy.

For Professional Fly Fishing

At this level, anything goes. When you’ve mastered casting all fly rod weights and lengths and you can do backcasts and two-handed Spey casts with perfect tight loops, then there’s no rod you can’t shop for. Why not go for the most expensive rod in the world, the Oyster Bamboo at $4,600?

Who Makes the Best Fly Rods?

There are plenty of different brands of fly fishing equipment on the market today, with many of the big players consistently innovating with new, lightweight and ultra-durable technology. Here are a few of the top brands for fly rods.

Top-End Fly Rod Brands

Mid-Range Fly Rod Brands

Budget Fly Rod Brands

Fly Rod Warranties

Different rod manufacturers offer different warranties on their products. The best is a full lifetime warranty with every purchase, while others require a separate fee to be paid.

Fly Fishing Rod Wet On Table

Sage, Winston, Echo, Ross, St. Croix, TFO, Moonshine, most Redington rods, and G. Loomis (among other brands) offer a full or limited lifetime warranty, while many other producers like Orvis and Cabales offer a 25-year guarantee. It’s worth checking the individual websites for the warranty regulations, as sometimes different lines of fly rods have different coverage.

Saltwater vs Freshwater Rods

Aside from weight, the next way that fly rods are categorized is between freshwater and saltwater. While you can definitely use a saltwater rod on fresh water, you don’t want to go the other way around.

Saltwater fly rods use corrosion-resistant materials, primarily in the eyes, guides and reel seats. They’re also typically heavier so that they can handle the larger game found in the oceans and seas.

Caring for Your Fly Rod

Let’s say I helped you pick the perfect rod from this list. You’ve ordered it to your house and you’re excited to open up the box and start fishing with your new toy. Remember that feeling!

Caring for your fly rod is extremely important, and if you want to still have it five or 10 years from now, you’ll need to properly care for it.

Corrosion

If you’re fishing in salt water, then corrosion will be your main enemy. Before you put your rod back in its sleeve and into its case, it’s important that you rinse it off and dry it well so that rust doesn’t start forming on the eyes, guides and reel seat (even if it’s a saltwater rod).

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At the very least, you should wash down your rod after every use with a damp cloth and then make sure it’s fully dry before you put it away in its case and sleeve. Every three to four months, it’s a good idea to wipe it down with warm, soapy water and then rinse and dry it to stop any potential harmful buildup.

Check the Connection

I’m not talking about the cellular bars on your mobile device. The joints where a rod connects are the most vulnerable parts of your rod. After every 20 or 30 casts, it’s worth checking your blanks to make sure they’re still properly seated.

If they’re loose, they can easily snap. Each section of the rod should be aligned properly when you set up the rod. Most fly rods have small alignment dots on the ferals. Make sure these are exactly aligned and the sections are well-seated before your first cast.

Leave the Cork

Never add any oils or sealants to the cork handle. Cork is used for the handles on fly rods because it typically stands the test of time. Just make sure that your cork handle is dry and salt-free when you’re putting the rod away.

Fly Rod Cork on Table

If you get a little bit of wear and tear on the cork, it’s no big deal. This is a good indication that you’re a seasoned angler!

Be Careful When Boating

Whenever you’re in a boat, be mindful of the tips of the rods. Every boat angler has broken off a couple of tips in the past.

Once the tip is gone, the rod is shot, and this can completely ruin a fishing trip. Treat the rod tip like a fragile piece of expensive china to ensure that none of your fishing trips are canceled without notice!

Review

If you’ve made it this far and you still haven’t made your decision, use the table of contents below to jump back up on the page and see the different rods I listed.

Watch the Video

In Conclusion

Now you know what to look for when purchasing a rod, how to care for a rod, and what a rod’s primary functions are, as well as 13 of the best fly rods currently on the market.

I hope you found this post useful, and if you have any questions, feel free to drop a line in the comments below (pun intended).

Happy casting!

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