This is my unbiased and honest hands-on Orvis Clearwater review. I’ve been using this rod and reel setup for over a year. I’ve definitely gotten a fair amount of use out of it, so I feel I’m more than capable to offer an in-depth review on the Orvis Clearwater setup.
During the year I’ve been fly fishing with the Orvis Clearwater setup, I’ve landed fish both large and small, from largemouth bass to brook trout. I’ve taken it to mountain streams in the West, wide rivers in the East, and lakes of many sizes all over North America. It’s not without its flaws, but in every scenario it has performed admirably well.
Table of Contents
After spending hours on the internet trying to decide which fly fishing setup is best for you, you may feel like you’ve made no headway. From startup companies to long-standing fly fishing corporations, there are hundreds of rod options for all levels of anglers.
I was in the midst of a similar dilemma when I was choosing which 6-weight to purchase. I decided to go with Orvis because they’re a reputable company with a solid warranty program. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I was extremely pleased.
I chose to add the 6-weight Orvis Clearwater package to my fly fishing gear. It was more reputable than the 6-weight Orvis Encounter I owned (see my Orvis Encounter Review here). When I first took the Clearwater to the water, I knew I had made the right choice.
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Why Trust My Orvis Clearwater Review?
I’m not sponsored by Orvis, nor is this website at the time of writing, and while there are affiliate links in this post, I personally don’t stand to gain anything from their commissions.
I have full creative freedom to write any positive and negative comments in this Orvis Clearwater review and I will gain nothing extra either way.
I’ve been using the Orvis Clearwater 6-weight for a little over a year now. While I have since upgraded other rods in my arsenal, the Clearwater 6-weight has stayed the same. It’s my all-around rod that I feel comfortable taking on any fishing excursion.
I own a 5-weight Orvis Recon, so I have a solid grasp on the quality of Orvis’s higher end rods. The Clearwater holds its own against the Recon and I don’t plan on buying a new 6-weight anytime soon.
On top of its strong performance, the Clearwater is backed by Orvis’s 25-year guarantee, so I’m set for a long while. I’ve taken this fly rod to plenty of different fly fishing destinations across the US and I’ve enjoyed using it.
What’s in the Box?
You can purchase the Clearwater rod alone or in a full outfit. The rod itself costs around $200 and the reels cost around $80 a piece. Depending on your needs, Orvis has a package that will fit you. I’ll be reviewing the Clearwater 6-weight 9′ rod outfit.
In the package, the first thing I noticed was the Clearwater rod tube. The rod is sent in four pieces all packaged in an attractive tube. The weight of the rod caught me off guard at first. It feels a bit heavier than other 6-weight rods you can find.
You’ll receive the Clearwater II reel equipped with backing, weight forward line, and a few choices for leaders. The reel has a bit more bulk to it to make it feel like a higher-end product. You’ll have confidence in the reel from the first moment you hold it.
Plus, for many anglers, it’s easier to buy a reel that’s fully ready to go. The Clearwater has everything you need to head straight to the water.
It’s important to have a travel case that holds your rod and is easy to fit on an airplane. The Clearwater has presented no issues when I’ve traveled with it. I’ve had confidence in its durability and the peace of mind that the travel case will keep my rod safe.
Orvis Clearwater Review Features & Specs
Versatility is the name of the game for the Clearwater. Since it’s a higher-end entry-level rod, it’s not spectacular at one specific thing. Instead, it’ll succeed in a variety of circumstances on almost any body of water.
You can rest assured that the Clearwater will hold its own against whatever you throw its way. This’s not easy to say about a package costing around $300. Many anglers purchase it with the intention of having it as an entry-level or backup rod and find themselves using it as their main rod.
That also happened to me, and my bank account thanks me for it!
Rod Build Quality
The Orvis Clearwater is based on the Orvis Helios 3D and 3F fly rods. For anyone who knows Orvis, this is a big deal. These are their top-of-the-line fly rods with a phenomenal reputation.
The Clearwater is made out of mid-modulus graphite and only weighs around 3 ounces. The rod feels solid and unlike the previous model, you can tell that it’s a 6-weight. The old Clearwater models all felt similar. It was hard to tell the difference between the 4-weight and the 8-weight.
Each had a similar design and the weights weren’t distinct by any means.
The new Clearwater model gives you the power that a 6-weight should. The cork is solid and there’s nothing too flashy about it. It looks almost identical to the Helios in its design. The solid material is comfortable and doesn’t cause any problems during a long day on the water.
The reel seat is made out of aluminum, and the dark black design looks wonderful. The seat holds the reel well, and I’ve never worried about it loosening over time.
One turnoff for me is that the rod doesn’t have a hook keeper. I’ve opted to place my fly in one of the guides or at the bottom of the cork as a result. Either way, it’s important to know that there is no designated area to hold your fly.
The tip is composite and has proven its worth over and over again. This medium action rod thrives in a variety of situations and has never caused me to worry in any specific scenario. It’s a nice mix of action and power that won’t overwhelm you one way or another.
The Orvis Clearwater collection is massive. You can purchase freshwater, big game/saltwater, two-handed, and travel Clearwater rods. Depending on your needs, Orvis has it. The traditional freshwater rigs range from 2-weight to 8-weight.
You can purchase up to 12-weight Clearwater rods as well as switch and spey rods. On the 6-weight, I’ve had confidence casting a small dry as well as a heavy streamer. It’s impressive how Orvis has balanced the rods.
As soon as anglers purchase one Clearwater rod, they’ll likely find themselves with an arsenal full of them later on.
Reel Build Quality
The Clearwater II reel may just be one of the best fly reels overall. It has a great feel to it, and the Rulon-to-stainless drag system is great. You can purchase these reels separately for around $90. When you purchase the reel separately, it won’t come fully equipped with the backing and fly line.
The Clearwater reels are all large arbor. You can bring them to any fight that you’d like to have. They come equipped with 75 yards of 20-pound backing as well as weight forward line. Plus, the reel sounds great. Some reels are obnoxious and click far too loud, but Orvis keeps the traditional clicking sound without it being too much.
The great thing about the new Clearwater reel is that it isn’t much different than the older model. The older model was excellent and didn’t need much more upgrading. Orvis cleaned up the appearance and made the entire reel a bit more sleek. Either way, you can’t go wrong with a Clearwater reel.
The casting power of the Clearwater 6-weight is downright impressive. It has a medium action and Orvis has found the right balance between power and accuracy. I found that any cast between 20-65 feet doesn’t take much effort.
You’ll hit your spots no matter what type of fly you’re using. Those picky trout all the way across the stream won’t know that your fly is artificial thanks to the precision that the Clearwater provides.
Even roll casting or river loading larger nymphs is simple on the Clearwater. I’ve never felt as if I had to put all of my effort behind the rod when trying to make these specific casts.
Unlike the more affordable Encounter, the Clearwater does well in inclement weather. I’ve never had to worry about not being able to cast in the wind or missing my spots on larger bodies of water. The stiffer makeup of the rod has helped me withstand those difficult fishing days.
I’ve had confidence that the rod will perform well even when I wasn’t. It can make up for some mistakes with the medium action and composite tip.
The short casting is where the Clearwater can run into issues. On the new model, Orvis opted to make the rod a bit stiffer. The stiffness has allowed me to cast heavy flies and long distances, but lacks a bit in the shorter finesse casts.
This being said, with some practice, I gained the feel for the timing and had no trouble. Some high-end rods have extremely fast actions that make it difficult to cast short distances.
The Clearwater is more on the medium side, so it’s manageable when I’m trying to pick my spots in pocket water or tighter seams. It also has a soft tip that works well with lighter tippet. I’ve managed to hit those spots, but I found myself having to rely a bit more on my casting ability to do so.
If you know you’re going to only fish small streams and tight water, Orvis has other options that will perform at a higher level.
Presentation is one of the most important factors in fly fishing. You need your flies to look natural if you’re going to catch fish. The Clearwater allows for extremely natural presentations. You can lay your small dry fly down with no problem on the Clearwater.
You won’t have your flies slapping on the water because the rod tip isn’t sensitive enough. As long as you’re casting well, the Clearwater will respond to each and every one of your commands.
Plus, the soft tip allows you to mend and place the fly wherever you’d like once it is on the water. The sensitive tip allows you to make up for the lack of sensitivity on the rest of the rod. If you make an inaccurate cast, a quick flip of your wrist will move it to the proper place.
This is where Orvis truly earns business. The 25-year warranty applies to the Clearwater rods. If you break or damage your rod in any way, you can send it back to Orvis and they’ll fix it for no extra charge.
This allows anglers to be a bit more adventurous with their rod and take a few chances. You can test the limits of your Clearwater and see how it’ll perform in a variety of circumstances. You may be surprised by how much this rod can handle and how long it will last!
Not Made in the USA
The main reason that the Clearwater is so affordable is that the rod is not made in the USA. Orvis outsources the Clearwater, and this allows them to keep the prices at a more manageable level for consumers.
This really is the main difference between the Clearwater and some of their higher-end rods. Many people like Orvis because they can purchase rods made in the USA, but these don’t come without an additional price.
Orvis Clearwater Review: My Personal Thoughts
Before finishing up this Orvis Clearwater Review, I wanted to share some pros and cons of this rod and reel setup. As with any setup, it’s not perfect.
I purchased this rod hoping it would feel better than my entry-level setup, and without a doubt it does. I was ready to move on from my cheaper setup but wasn’t willing to break the bank. I’m extremely pleased with the overall performance of the Clearwater. For $300, I’d recommend it to anyone.
The rod looks phenomenal. The black and chrome features look great in the sun and don’t scream too fancy or too cheap. The simple design is elegant, and I have no shame pulling it out in some of the “high class” streams out on the East Coast.
The rod is extremely versatile. I’ve used it on rivers like the Yellowstone, small mountain streams, and a variety of lakes and ponds. It passes each test that I put it through.
I’ve handled 4-pound largemouth bass and felt the sensitive strike of an 8-inch brook trout on my 6-weight. I have no doubt that it could handle larger and smaller fish if I asked it to do so. I’m fully confident that it could handle many kinds of salmon and even some larger pike.
I wish the rod wasn’t as stiff as it is. I spend quite a bit of my time on mountain streams and I struggle to pick my spots at times. This could be due to my casting ability, but I don’t think I’m alone when I say the rod is fairly stiff.
The lesser sensitivity is what pushed me to purchase the 5-weight Recon. I needed something that would feel at home on those tighter streams. I may be asking too much of a 6-weight to work well on smaller streams, but I still hoped it would perform a bit better.
Concluding My Orvis Clearwater Review
The Orvis Clearwater setup isn’t just for a beginner. Anglers of all skill levels can use this as their main or backup rod and be pleased with the performance. It seems as if rod outfits are becoming more and more expensive, but Orvis has managed to keep the price down enough that it won’t hurt too much to buy it.
The Clearwater collection has a rod for any type of fishing you’d like to try. While I only have the 6-weight, I have no doubt in my mind that the other weighted rods will perform exactly how they’re supposed to. Orvis continues to pull their weight when it comes to versatile rod setups.
If you have any hesitation about purchasing the Clearwater, push it aside and buy it. You can’t go wrong!
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