Best Fly Fishing Rods in 2021 – Complete Guide for Top Pole Brands

Searching the internet for the best fly fishing rods can be overwhelming due to as many fly rods available. For this reason, I decided to put the best ones together.

I researched and found the Wild Water Fly Fishing 9 Foot to be the best. It’s an all-around rod that comes in a fishing kit, so what more can we want?

Still, give the others a chance. Some are more specific, while others are versatile, but they’re all excellent fly fishing gear.

Continue reading to learn more about each rod and the factors you should consider when buying one.

Best Overall

Wild Water Fly Fishing 9 Foot

4.6/5
Best for Beginners

Moonshine Rod Co. The Drifter Series Fly Fishing Rod

4.9/5
Best by Budget

Redington Fly Fishing Combo Kit 580-4

4.5/5


Our Top 15 Fly Fishing Rods Reviewed

  1. Wild Water Fly Fishing 9 Foot
  2. Redington Fly Fishing Combo Kit 580-4
  3. Moonshine Rod Co. The Drifter Series Fly Fishing Rod
  4. Redington Classic Trout
  5. Echo Fly Fishing Trout 4 Piece Fly Rod
  6. Orvis Clearwater Fly Rods
  7. Sage Fly Fishing – FOUNDATION Fly Rod
  8. Echo Fly Rods River Glass Fiberglass Fly Rod
  9. Sage Fly Fishing – X Fly Rod
  10. KastKing Emergence Fly Fishing Combo
  11. Orvis Encounter 5-Weight 9′ Fly Rod Outfit
  12. Sage Fly Fishing – FOUNDATION Outfit
  13. Orvis 2019 Clearwater 905-4 Fly Rod Outfit : 9’0″ 5wt
  14. Redington VICE Fly Fishing Rod w/Tube
  15. Fenwick AETOS Fly Fishing Rod

Wild Water Fly Fishing 9 Foot

The Wild Water fly fishing rod comes in a kit and is among the easiest and cheapest ways of trying fly fishing. It comes as a 4 pc 5/6 wt and is suitable for beginners fishing in variable conditions.

It comes in a hard case that makes it practical to take places. Plus, the case has several smaller pockets for you to hold your tippet spool, leaders, fly box, and more. It also has a carrying strap and a hand ring.

The reel has an adjustable disc drag, which we usually see with more expensive fly rods. It allows you to adjust the drag according to whatever you’re fishing.

This one comes pre-spooled with fly line, backing, and leader, and you can change it from left to right hand.

The kit includes a fly box with 18 flies, so you can start your fishing day right when it arrives.

Standout Features:

  • Many additional accessories
  • Die-cast aluminum reel
  • Machined-aluminum reel seat


Redington Fly Fishing Combo Kit 580-4

Redington is another name in the industry you don’t want to skip. It offers a wide range of fly rods at reasonable prices and quality. Their Redington Fly Fishing Combo Kit is no different.

The kit includes a Crosswater fly fishing rod and a reel. It comes pre-spooled with a Rio WF fly line. Also, the case it comes in is made from Cordura and has enough space to fit the reel as well.

What’s great is that this one is available in many options. You can go for a 4wt if you’re into fishing in smaller streams. On the other hand, the 9wt rod might be better if you’re interested in saltwater and bigger fish.

Other options, including the 5wt, are more versatile but mainly meant for small fish. Another thing worth noting is that it comes with an aluminum reel.

This is an efficient kit that’ll serve you well regardless of whether you’re a beginner or an intermediate-skilled angler. In addition, it’s easy to use for improving your skills even more.

Standout Features:

  • Alignment dots for setup
  • Durable carrying case
  • Pre-spooled


Moonshine Rod Co. The Drifter Series Fly Fishing Rod

This Moonshine fly rod is made with medium-action graphite, featuring high-quality AAA cork grips. These have burled ends and double-locking reel seats, dyed to show the rod’s wood graining.

It’s a 4-piece rod with copper anodized hardware to match the sleek design. It comes with two tip sections, meaning that you always have a replacement at hand.

You’ll love it if you’re into long-distance fishing trips as it comes with a portable hard canvas rod tube. It does an excellent job of protecting your rod from dirt, water, road bumps, and much more.

This Moonshine fly rod is suitable for both seasoned pros and beginners. It’s comfortable and has enough agility to throw big flies gently.

On top of that, Moonshine offers a lifetime warranty on this one, which is always a plus.

Standout Features:

  • Premium materials
  • Two tips included
  • Hard carrying case


Redington Classic Trout

Redington Classic is an excellent choice if you’re looking for an affordable rod. This one truly is a classic, as the name implies, since it’s meant for traditional fly fishing.

It’s one of those you’re most likely to see at a fly shop and for a reason. It does a great job of fishing tons of different fish using flies and other small lures.

It sports a medium-fast action, which forces slow casting. It has a light tip that protects smaller tippets, but you might find it underpowered when it comes to bigger fish.

Also, this fly rod comes with a rosewood reel seat insert and custom-machined reel seat components. In addition, it has titanium oxide stripping guides and alignment dots for an easy setup.

It has a nice cork handle that remains comfortable and non-slippery even when wet. And, you can choose between a few sizes ranging from 7’6” to 9′.

Standout Features:

  • Lifetime warranty
  • Comfortable handle
  • Lightweight design


Echo Fly Fishing Trout 4 Piece Fly Rod

This fly rod is new to the Echo’s lineup of fishing rods. Although new, many people used and reviewed it, so it’s proven to be among the best fly fishing rods.

What’s great is that you can choose between a few models that feature a different action. This makes it easy to match the rod to your fishing style since each piece will perform differently.

The 4-piece fly fishing rod is especially impressive as it makes this angling method easy for beginners. And, it looks nice with its matte-black blank and blue-threaded wraps, unlike other Echo’s rods.

This fly fishing rod has a cork handle that we know is quite comfortable to use in different conditions. It’s not the most long-lasting one, but it’s unlikely to break apart as quickly.

Nonetheless, the cork handle has a unique shape that accommodates different grip styles. It’s just one of many things that make this one worth your attention.

Standout Features:

  • Attractive look
  • Comfortable cork handle
  • Durable construction


Orvis Clearwater Fly Rods

Orvis has been around for ages, making some of the fly fishing rods ever. This might sound like an overstatement, but it’s really not if you ask anyone who has ever used the Clearwater rod.

It’s a favorite among many anglers due to its fast action that makes it easy to fish all day long. It has a lot of power in the butt area, allowing effortless casts even at a distance.

You’ll find it easy to cast even through wind and other challenging weather conditions. However, you might not like the look of it.

The pole itself looks like nothing too impressive. Still, it shouldn’t play a big role in your choice since it has nothing to do with its performance.

It’s capable of doing a lot for improving your fly fishing skills, and it’s also quite affordable.

Standout Features:

  • Graphite construction
  • Several sizes available
  • 15% improved strength


Sage Fly Fishing – FOUNDATION Fly Rod

The Foundation fly rod is about as good as it gets when it comes to entry-level fast-action rods. And, it’s most certainly the best of its kind from Sage.

It’s built with enough backbone to allow easy fishing, pushing flies through heavy wind if need be. It’s also suitable for shooting at short distances.

Sadly, it doesn’t look too aesthetically pleasing. It’s also slightly heavier than most fly fishing rods of its composition.

Still, it’s relatively affordable and a good choice if you’re looking for a beginner’s rod. It gives that recognizable Sage performance many anglers always come back to.

One thing we have to mention is that the company offers a lifetime warranty. This means it’ll either fix or replace your Foundation rod for a small fee.

Standout Features:

  • Graphite IIIe Technology
  • Fuji ceramic stripper guides
  • Anodized-aluminum up-locking reel seat


Echo Fly Rods River Glass Fiberglass Fly Rod

The first thing that makes this one suitable for fly fishing is the size. It breaks down into three pieces and comes with a carrying case so that you can take it anywhere.

The case has a hard shell covered in Cordura fabric, so it does an excellent job of protecting the pieces during transport.

It’s good for beginners, thanks to its forgiving smooth action. It’s mostly because it’s made from fiberglass that helps take loads more easily. It slows things down to allow natural fly movement.

On top of that, this fly fishing rod weighs only 2.4 ounces. It’s ideal for long fishing trips as you can cast it all day long without feeling any hand fatigue.

Thanks to its weight and composition, Echo River Glass is ideal for small spaces. It makes short casts easy, allowing you to focus more on the cast itself rather than the obstacles.

It comes in two colors and has alignment dots for an easier setup.

Standout Features:

  • Hard-shell case
  • Lifetime warranty


Sage Fly Fishing – X Fly Rod

Sage came out with this all-black fly fishing rod relatively recently. It’s a quality-made rod with excellent power and casting distance without any side-to-side movements.

However, although it’s pretty precise, it’s also quite forgiving. It allows you to throw with ease regardless of how you cast, which helps to upgrade your skill levels.

The only downside is that it’s not a soft-touch fly rod. Sage X Fly rod might feel like too much on medium to small water, but this also depends on your preference when fly fishing.

It has plenty of power, which can make it difficult to use for short casts. It also makes it tricky to lay the fly gently on the water surface.

But, it’s an extraordinary rod if you’re out on big waters where power matters the most. It’s ideal for long-distance casting as it makes this a breeze.

Sage used its well-known Graphite IIIe Technology to make this highly durable fly fishing rod. It even features an anodized aluminum up-locking reel seat like the previous Sage rod we mentioned earlier.

Standout Features:

  • Cork foregrip
  • Metallic grey trim wraps
  • Fuji ceramic stripper guides


KastKing Emergence Fly Fishing Combo

This KastKing fly rod is among the best options if you’re a fly fishing beginner. It’s affordable, which is always important for newcomers since you don’t know if you’ll even like fly fishing in the first place.

It comes in three versions, depending on what you need. The 5wt-9′ version is the most interesting for trout fishing as it can handle strong fish with ease.

This fly rod has four pieces and is convenient to travel with. It features an aluminum fly reel, a tapered leader, and a fly line and backing. The kit also has a collection of twelve flies, including nymphs, dry flies, and streamers, all packed in a fly box.

One of the best things about this kit is that it comes ready to use. It’s already loaded with fly line, backing, and leader, so you don’t have to hassle with that.

It also includes several small tools you’ll find useful when on a fishing trip. You’ll find things like a line nipper, strike indicator, forceps, and more.

Standout Features:

  • High-quality tools included
  • Carrying bag
  • Easy assembly


Orvis Encounter 5-Weight 9′ Fly Rod Outfit

Orvis Encounter is truly a standout fly rod where you can see the brand had put extra attention to detail and manufacturing quality. It’s an entry-level rod, so it’s primarily made for beginners.

This is a 5wt – 8’6” fly rod with a Cordura tube. It’s a great choice if you’re only looking to buy one rod as it’s suitable for most fishing situations.

The rod comes with an Encounter fly reel, Dacron backing, an Orvis WF floating line, and a tapered leader. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with any flies, so you’ll have to purchase this separately.

It’s not the most expensive piece, but it’s not the most affordable either. For this reason, it’s best for people who are sure they’ll stick to fly fishing, although this one can work with other angling methods as well.

Standout Features:

  • Backing included
  • Hard carrying tube
  • Cork handle


Sage Fly Fishing – FOUNDATION Outfit

This is another excellent fly rod from Sage. It’s handcrafted on Bainbridge Island, USA, and is among the best options when it comes to value for money.

Sage is known to make some excellent high-end fly rods, so they used some of that knowledge and experience in making this one as well. As a result, it looks and plays the part – featuring premium details and features to help your experience.

Everything about it is included to boost its looks and performance, including the wraps, snake guides, and the blank color.

This fly rod comes with a Sage Black/Platinum 2200 fly reel. It also includes a Rio Gold fly line with a tapered leader and a rod and reel case for easier carrying.

The company used Graphite IIIe Technology and included black primary wraps with silver trim wraps to stand out. The ceramic stripper and hard chrome snake guides add even more to the look.

Although it’s not the priciest, it’s still rated as a premium rod, so it’s only worth investing if you’re serious about fly fishing.

Standout Features:

  • Excellent design
  • Lightweight cork handle
  • Graphite IIIe Technology


Orvis 2019 Clearwater 905-4 Fly Rod Outfit: 9’0″ 5wt

Orvis Clearwater 905-4 5wt 9’0”is another excellent option if you’re looking for maximum value. It’s an all-around rod with an affordable price, which means it’s great if you still don’t know if you’ll like fly fishing.

It has a nice feel with its medium-fast action that’s soft enough to lay dries carefully. However, this doesn’t mean it lacks backbone to cast weighted nymphs and heavy flies.

The combo includes a rod, reel, and line, all for quite an affordable price. It’s crisp and durable as it uses quality materials that can take quite a beating.

On top of that, it comes pre-spooled and with backing. You can take it on a trip right when it arrives as it comes ready for use.

Standout Features:

  • Rod and reel combo
  • Medium-fast rod action
  • Pre-spooled


Redington VICE Fly Fishing Rod w/ Tube

Redington Vice is unlikely to disappoint you, especially if you’re after a fast-action fly fishing rod. It offers just the kind of performance beginners need as it’s quite soft and flexible.

The way it acts enables you to cast with ease, picking the line off the water without making too much hassle.

This one has a laser-etched reel seat with the model engraved for easier identification. It also has snake guides that some people find a bit too basic for how this rod looks.

However, you can see them on pricier fly rods as well. They’re corrosion-resistant thanks to the anodized coat that protects against water.

This one is 4wt 9’0”, although it comes in several other sizes to pick from, depending on your needs. Think about your skills and the waters you’re in to determine the best length.

Standout Features:

  • Anodized-aluminum reel seat
  • Laser-etched reference
  • Durable Cordura case


Fenwick AETOS Fly Fishing Rod

Fenwick Aetos is among the most cost-efficient rods suitable for beginners. It was probably the most popular until Orvis Clearwater came out, but it’s still up there close to the top.

It’s lightweight and has a light swing weight suitable for beginners. It doesn’t come with a warranty, but fly rods at this price rarely do.

Still, it’s quite versatile, allowing you to lay out a 22 dry fly or a heavy nymph rig. It feels like Orvis Clearwater, although it has some critical differences.

You can choose between a few sizes, depending on what you’re trying to achieve. Its AAA-grade cork grips have composite cork tippings and are comfortable even when wet.

As you know, cork isn’t the most durable material for handles, but this one should hold up well. Another thing worth noting is the Nano Composite Technology used in blank construction. It also has a two-tone anodized aluminum reel seat and woven carbon spacer.

Standout Features:

  • Black satin blank finish
  • AAA-grade cork grips
  • Woven carbon spacer


Fly Fishing Rod Buying Guide

Rod Weight

Rod weight is among the most critical things you should think about when looking at fly rods. We’re talking about the actual weight in ounces and pounds. Go further down for the rod weight rating section.

Fly fishing is unique and requires a rod that’s as lightweight as possible. It’s unlikely you’ll ever have rests or idle waits when fly fishing because the rod is always in your hands.

Holding a heavy rod for too long makes fly fishing more difficult than it has to be, so always check the weight.

Unfortunately, the lower the price, the heavier the rod.

Length

As you noticed, brands offer a variety of length options to pick from. The length varies from 7′ and 10′, but the most common rods are 9′ long.

The longest rods have the most power when casting, which can be helpful for distant casting. It’s also useful when using heavier nymphs.

Still, bigger is sometimes not the best choice. A long fly rod can get caught in all kinds of bushes and whatever lies on the water.

So, it’s best to think about a few things before selecting a certain length. For example, a 7′ or 8′ fly rod is best for distance casting, whereas a 9′ or 10′ rod is better for bigger water that doesn’t have as much vegetation.

Pieces

Modern fly rods usually have four pieces, making these easy to transport and store away. However, the connections between these pieces (ferrules) often have a big impact on how the rod performs. For example, it can lose power once it hits a ferrule as it starts to bend.

Some will say this is a problem of the past and you don’t have to worry about this with modern technologies. Surely, you don’t if you go for a high-end rod. Those on a cheaper end might still cut costs here.

So, use your best judgment. If you know your rod is of top quality (regardless of the price), you can go for a four-piece model. If not, you’re best off with a two-piece.

Reel

Always match the reel with your rod and line. This is because a fly rod is meant to cast a line that weighs just as much. And, reels also have a weight that helps you match everything.

For example, a 5-weight rod needs a 5-weight line, as well as a 5-weight reel. The same goes for whatever weight you go for.

Matching everything properly allows the line to fit on the reel. It also allows enough backing when you hook into a larger fish, which is likely to happen with fly fishing.

Another thing to remember is that the reel should also match your fishing style. Dry fly fishing requires a lightweight reel because a heavy one would be hard to balance and cast.

Guides

At this point, you probably know what guides are. It’s the little loops on the rod that the line goes through.

Some have two to save some weight, while others have four to achieve more durability. Which one you’ll choose doesn’t matter so much in terms of performance.

Most affordable fly rods have stainless steel guides. Best fly rods at a higher price have alloys to cut on the overall weight.

With that said, this is one of the rod parts that typically increase in quality as the price increases as well.

Spey Rods

Spey rods are those you cast using two hands. These are longer and meant for swinging streamers for salmon or steelhead.

The added length is a useful advantage of these rods. It allows you to achieve significant distance, covering more water each time you cast.

On top of that, the casting method with no backcast is quite different than what we use for one-handed rods. It allows you to go up or downstream along the shore slowly and without worrying about trees and bushes.

They’re only used for large rivers due to the increased length.

Rod Action

Rod action is where it’s at with the best fly fishing rods. It refers to how deep the rod can flex as you cast.

The three categories we recognize and use are fast, medium, and slow action. A fast-action fly fishing rod is stiff and doesn’t flex much. When it does flex, it’s usually closer to the top, resulting in longer casts and fast line speeds.

A medium and slow-action rod has more flex. It bends deeply and all the way to the handle. This results in a soft presentation and slow line speed, which helps not to spook the fish.

Warranty

Hopefully, you never have to claim your rod warranty. But, things happen, and rods break for various reasons, so make sure to have a warranty to claim.

Most rods have a serious warranty deal that’s typically built into the cost. The most expensive ones usually have a lifetime warranty, while others last a year or two.

Although most companies have their own policies, they’re typically forgiving. This means they’ll cover a broken rod without any questions as long as you pay for shipping and processing.

Grip

Nearly every fly rod has a cork handle. Lightweight rods usually have a cigar-shaped handle that tapers down closer to the thumb. This gives a light touch.

Heavy rods have a reverse taper with a larger diameter close to the thumb. This can be just as comfortable when adding more power to your casts.

Choosing a handle is up to you and what you find comfortable. As we said, fly fishing involves holding a rod in your hands all the time, so a comfortable handle is quite critical.

As always, the higher the price, the higher the quality of cork. Cork found on a cheap rod might break down easily, especially if you get it wet frequently.

Rating

Weight rating is among the most critical things to think about. It’s not the weight in ounces we talked about earlier in the article.

Weight rating is used to match the rod with a line. So, a 4-weight rod goes with a 4-weight line. Using a line too light for your rod will make it hard to load and cast.

Freshwater ratings go from 2 to 10, but a classic rod typically has a rating of 5. It might be underpowered when deep nymphing and tricky on small creeks, but you’ll find it can do both.

Reel Seat

The reel seat is exactly that – a seat where the reel attaches to your fly rod. Some anglers like an unlocking reel seat with a fastening mechanism that holds the reel in place.

Others might like a downlocking reel seat where the mechanism acts towards the fighting butt. Most will agree that a downlocking seat is slightly easier to use due to gravity.

What you’ll use depends on your fishing style and the water you fish in. Saltwater requires special equipment, including a reel seat that’s designed specifically for that purpose. So, don’t go for a wooden one.

Those meant for saltwater are almost always corrosion-resistant.

Shaft Materials

Modern fly rods are made from graphite. The material delivers an excellent combo of low weight and strength to allow lighter, longer, and better rods.

You can still come across fiberglass rods, but these aren’t as common anymore. Nonetheless, even fiberglass is no longer the same as it’s much stronger today.

Still, graphite is the way to go. Bamboo is another option, and these rods are truly a sight to see. However, these can be tricky to use for all casting, and decent ones can cost as much as a used car.

Rod Case

Nearly every fly rod comes with a custom case made from fabric or hard materials. In most cases, the interior has a silky fabric to prevent scratches and damage.

You can even buy an aftermarket case if your rod doesn’t come with one. But, make sure it’s lined with some fabric to protect the finish.

On top of that, check if it has compartments for the reel so that you have it near.

Whatever you go for, make sure it’s protective enough. Long tubes can sometimes bend after a while, so make sure not to leave your rod in there over winter.

Also, always make sure your rod is dry before putting it in the case. Moisture can damage the coating, and it’ll also smell horribly after a while.


Freshwater vs. Saltwater Rods

As you know, rods are categorized as those meant for freshwater and those for saltwater. What’s interesting is that you can use saltwater rods in freshwater, but you’re not supposed to go the other way around.

Saltwater rods are made from corrosion-resistant materials. This is especially the case for guides, reel seats, and the eyes.

Also, saltwater rods are built for larger fish, which is why they’re often heavier.


All-Around Rods vs. Specialty Rods

Serious and experienced anglers often have multiple rods for different fish, waters, and conditions. Still, some like having one rod for all kinds of fishing situations.

An all-around rod is usually a 5wt 9′ model. It’s efficient in small streams, large flies, and rivers. You’d want a heavy, long, fast-action rod if you want to handle anything more than that.

You can always purchase a few more rods to fit different situations. But, all-around rods exist, and they’re pretty efficient for basic fishing methods and conditions.

Think about where and how you usually fish, as this can help you decide. It’s maybe best to start with an all-around fly rod if you’re a beginner. If you’re already experienced, you probably know your preferences by now.


The Function of a Fly Rod

Cast

A fly rod has a job to help you place a fly in front of the fish as delicately as possible. But, it has to have enough accuracy and power to get it close without spooking the fish.

For this reason, it’s always best to go for a fly rod specifically made for fly fishing.

Line Control

Once you drop the fly in the water, you want to control the line so that it moves naturally. Not every fly rod will allow this, so make sure yours is delicate enough even with all the power.

Those that make it difficult to control the line aren’t good enough for fly fishing.

Landing a Fish

It’s important for the rod to alert you when the fish is on the fly. This should happen right when the fish strikes the first time so that you can set the hook and prepare for the fight.

This is precisely why best fly rods are strong but flexible. They show when there’s fish but are also strong enough to handle the pressure.


FAQ

How much do fly fishing rods cost?

Fly fishing rods come at various prices that typically depend on many things. The best ones made from durable materials are often the most expensive, more so if they come in a kit.

It’s up to you to think about how much you want to spend. Think about what you need and how often you’ll use the rod before you make a decision.

Who makes the best fly fishing rod?

This depends on what you’re looking for. The best and most popular brands are exactly the ones we included in our list above.

Names like Sage, Orvis, Redington will likely pop up most frequently on your search, but make sure to look into all of them.

Wild Water and Moonshine Rod Company are also right there at the top of the list.

What weight fly rods should I use?

As mentioned, most people benefit from a 5 weight rod in freshwater. Beginners often go for fly rod combos that include a reel.

Having both a rod and reel in one kit makes things easier since you won’t have to worry about matching the two yourself.

What size of fly rods is best for beginners?

This is another thing we may have mentioned earlier, but here it is again. You should start with a #5 fly rod that’s 9′ long.

It’s the best size for beginners that brings perfect flexibility and power when targeting bass or trout.


Final Thoughts

Hopefully, we helped you make up your mind when it comes to fly rods. If you can’t decide, we suggest you check the Wild Water Fly Fishing 9 Foot.

It’s quite possibly the best fly rod that comes pre-spooled, and with eighteen different files, so you can test it out right when it arrives.