Best Fly Fishing Rods Reviewed: A Rod For Any River

It doesn’t matter if you are new to fly fishing, or a seasoned veteran of all things steelhead to brookies, research the fly rod market. Fly rods have improved in blank technology and are now performing better than top-of-the-line options a decade ago.

We have the perfect fly fishing rod for you!

Here is a quick look at the top fly rods.

  • Fenwick AETOS- The Best Budget Fly Rod
  • Hardy Zephrus FWS-Best Short-Range Dry Fly Rod
  • Douglas Sky G – Best Overall Dry Fly Rod
  • Winston Pure 490 Fly Rod Outfit- The Best Fly Rod For Beginner Anglers
  • G. Loomis Freshwater NRX + – The Most Versatile Fly Rod

Best Fly Rods Reviewed

Fenwick AETOSBest Budget Fly Rod

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

Specifications

Pros

Cons

MaterialgraphiteLength6’7′, 7’6″,9’9’6″,10′, 11’1″, 13’14’ and 15′
Weight:#3 to #11
Take actionFast
Pieces4
  • Reasonably priced
  • Excellent fast-action blank
  • Great distance
  • Large range of lengths & weights
  • Guides to quality
  • This is not the best option to fly fish novices.
  • With a quick action rod, subtle presentations can be difficult.

Summary

Fenwick offers the AETOS Series of rods in a variety of options to suit every angler and fishing situation. This line includes rods from 6-foot rods for short streams and short castings, to longer spey rods for big flies up to 80 feet.

These rods are sold by Fenwick at an affordable price. This is rare in the fly rod market. While you can’t expect to find titanium guides or premium materials, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be concerned. High performance is the AETOS series.

AETOS rods have a fast-acting graphite Blank, large SiC stripping guide, and series aluminum snake style guides that allow for excellent casting. Every rod except the spey comes with a AAA cork handle. Each option has an uplock reel slot with another locking ring that will ensure your reel stays put.

These rods are ideal for mountain streams with too much vegetation. The 3 is available in lengths of 6 and 7 feet. You can cast further with the faster action than with a shorter rod.

The most versatile rod of all is the 9-foot. It can also be used to cast medium distances (say 25-50 feet) and it is very strong in wind.

Saltwater anglers love longer, heavier spey rods like the 13-foot 8/9. The rod can lift a fly to up to 60 feet, 70ft, and even 80ft when used by a master, which is a testament to its high-quality blank.

Although the AETOS rods aren’t as powerful, you don’t need a second mortgage to buy one.

This rod is great for experienced fly anglers. These rods produce quick loops and powerful casts. They are very balanced and have a great feel.

If you’re new to the sport, these rods may be difficult to use. These rods are more difficult to load blanks than a medium- or slow-action rod. The AETOS is unbeatable in long casting or on breezy mornings.

Hardy Zephrus FWSBest Dry Fly Rods for Short Range


Material arbon fiber SINTEX
Length8′, 8’ 6″, 9’, 10’
Weight:#3 to #6
Get involvedQuick
Pieces4

Hardy’s Zephrus flyrods rank among the best in the world, and are regularly on the shortlists of serious fly anglers around the globe. Hardy’s Zephrus flyrods are renowned for their superior quality, unmatched performance, and superior blank technology.

All Zephrus rods come with a carbon fiber blank, which is fast and easy to use.

Hardy uses 3M adhesive resin to join the long carbon fibers. The result is feathers that are unrivalled in strength and weight. Hardy claims that the blank can withstand 60% more than graphite, and is 30% lighter than comparable graphite.

Each person wears a Fujititanium stripper guide and REC black pearl recoil guides. These components are very high-end and can increase casting performance.

How can I rate the rod’s performance

Despite its carbon fiber blank, this rod is very light and easy to hold. Anglers concerned about fatigue will find better options on this list.

A 6-rod with a casting range of 75 feet is the mark of true masters. The Zephrus’ quick action means that it runs out of steam at this distance. It is important to understand that the term “starts running low on steam” can be used in relative terms. This rod is still among the most beautiful available, and for many anglers, it’s the best they’ll ever own.

Casting dry flies with any rod weight is simple. The rod is extremely effective for casting short distances. This is not surprising considering the entire range shines at 50 yards.

The Hardy Zephrus fly rod is a great choice. It can be cast for all lengths, even the longest. It will do the job better than 99 percent other fly rods, even in those cases.

Pros

Amazing fast-action blank

  • Casts with extraordinary length
  • It is less than 50 feet high.
  • All components are exceptional quality

Cons

  • This is not the best choice for novice fly fisherman.
  • Long castings can cause some loss of accuracy

Douglas Sky G –The best overall dry fly rod

Specifications

Pros

Cons

MaterialCarbon fiber with graphene GTec plates
Length9
Weight:5
Get involvedModerately-fast
Pieces4
  • Blankets that are truly amazing
  • Extraordinary casting lengths are required for dry fly rods
  • Great presentation
  • It is less than 50 feet high.
  • All components are exceptional quality
  • This is not the best choice for novice fly fisherman.

Summary

The Douglas Sky G5 weight presentation rod is the best for casting dry fly-flies.

Fenwick offers the AETOS Series of rods in a variety of options to suit every angler and fishing situation. This line includes rods from 6-foot rods for short streams and short castings, to longer spey rods for big flies up to 80 feet.

Fenwick sells these rods at a very affordable price, which is a rare commodity in the fly rod market. You can’t expect premium materials or finishes with titanium guides, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be worried. The AETOS series delivers high performance.

AETOS rods feature a fast-acting graphite blank, large SiC stripping guides, and series of aluminum snake style guides that facilitate excellent casting. All of the rods have a AAA cork handle and every option except for the spey has an uplock reel seat with another locking ring to ensure your reel stays in place.

These rods are perfect for mountain streams where there is too much vegetation. You can get the 3 in 6-foot and 7-foot lengths. The fast action allows you to cast farther than a shorter rod.

The 9-foot is the most versatile of all the rods. It is also great for casting medium distances (say 25 to 50 feet) and is extremely strong in wind.

Saltwater anglers will love the longer and heavier spey rods such as the 13-foot 8/9. It can lift a fly up to 60 feet, 70 feet, or even 80 feet when used by a master–a testimony to its high quality blank at this price.

The AETOS is not a comparable performance rod to the more expensive ones on this list. However, it won’t cost you a second mortgage to purchase one.

These rods are great for fly anglers who have experience. They produce fast loops and wind-buckling casts. The balance and feel in the hand is also excellent.

These rods can be difficult to use if you are new to the sport. Loading blanks with these rods is not as easy as with a slow-action or medium-action rod. The AETOS is unbeatable for long casts or breezy mornings.

Hardy Zephrus FWS –Best Dry Fly Rod for Short Range

Hardy HROZEP864F Zephrus Fws Rod Fly Rods

Material Carbon fiber SINTEX
Length8′, 8’ 6”, 9’, and 10’
Weight:#3 through #6
Take actionFast
Pieces4

Hardy’s Zephrus flyrods are among the top in the world and consistently make the shortlist of serious fly anglers all over the globe. You can trust Hardy’s Zephrus fly rods for their uncompromising quality, superior blank tech, and almost unrivalled performance.

All Zephrus rods have a carbon fiber blank that is quick and easy to use.

Hardy uses a 3M adhesive resin to bond the long carbon fibers together. This results in feathers with unrivaled strength and weight. Hardy claims that the blank is 60% stronger than graphite and 30% lighter than similar graphite.

Each wears a Fuji-titanium stripper guide, followed by REC black pearl recoil guidelines. These components are extremely high-end and can improve casting performance.

How do I rate the rod’s performance?

This rod, despite its carbon fiber blank, isn’t particularly light on the scales or in the hands. This list has better options for anglers who are concerned about fatigue.

The true masters of the art look for a 6-rod that can cast at 75 feet. Despite its quick action, the Zephrus begins to run out steam at this distance. It’s important to be clear that “starts running out of steam” can refer to relative terms. This rod is still one of the finest available and, for most anglers, probably the best rod they will ever own.

Casting dry flies is easy with all rod weights. This rod is deadly for short casts, which are not surprising since the whole range shines at 50 feet.

The Hardy Zephrus is an outstanding fly rod that can be used for any length of cast, except the longest. And even then, it will get the job done better than 99 percent of other options.

Pros

  • Amazing fast-action blank
  • Casts of extraordinary length
  • At less than 50 feet, it is deadly
  • All components are of exceptional quality

Cons

  • This is not the best option to fly fish novices.
  • Long casts can lose some accuracy

Douglas Sky G –Best overall dry fly rod

Specifications

Pros

Cons

MaterialCarbon fiber with graphene GTec platelets
Length9
Weight:5
Take actionModerate-fast
Pieces4
  • Blankets that are simply amazing
  • For dry fly rods, exceptional casting lengths
  • Excellent presentation
  • At less than 50 feet, it is deadly
  • All components are of exceptional quality
  • This is not the best option to fly fish novices.

Summary

The Douglas Sky G 5 weight presentation rod is unbeatable when it comes to casting dry flies.

Douglas uses graphene in his Sky G. This wonder material is added to the resin and blank matrix to increase strength and reduce weight. This rod has a magical feel that makes it easy to cast.

The factory’s number one priority is quality. That’s obvious. Everything is high-quality, from the REC Titanium Cerecoil striper guide featuring zirconia inserts to the REC Titanium recoil guides. You can expect AAAA floor-grade cork, a skeletonized aluminum reel chair, and attention to every choice and detail.

We recommend this rod highly because of its high quality.

This blank loads well and produces tight loops. This rod is able to cast at shorter distances (under 50 feet), and it has an unbeatable combination of accuracy, subtle presentation and precision. It was designed for dry flies and casts well at shorter distances.

Casts of 75 feet are accurate and the rod never seems to run dry. This is a remarkable performance for a 5 and Douglas’s Sky rods simply can’t match the G.

It’s so good.

This rod is light in hand and cast, yet has the perfect action.

Winston Pure 490 Fly Rod OutfitBest fly rod for novice anglers

Specifications

Pros

Cons

MaterialCarbon fiber and Super Silica resin
Length9
Weight:4
Take actionMedium
Pieces4
  • Great medium action blank
  • Amazing presentation
  • At less than 50 feet, it is deadly
  • All components are excellent
  • Novice friendly
  • Performance in the wind and casting distance are affected.

Summary

Winston’s Pure medium-action fly rod is the best, and it’s almost impossible to beat for anglers who struggle to cast fast action rods. The rod includes a Ross LTX fly reel and all the other necessary equipment to get you out on the water.

The Winston is distinguished by its exceptional attention to detail and high quality components. The chrome stripping guide is preceded by chrome snake guides. While not as good as the Fujis, they are still very fine components that aid casting. The cork handle is tapered and high-end, with a reel seat that’s uplocked. This screams quality.

Winston is a master at designing each section of the rod so that it works its own magic, while still working well together. It’s a tip that is delicate enough to present beautifully, with mid-sections that are easy to load and a final section that can fight a trout.

It’s not easy to make a rod more than its parts. Winston is an exception.

Carbon fiber is the blank for The Pure. This high-end material cuts weight like a college wrestler, yet still provides stiffness for fight and cast. This rod is easy to load than fast actions and has a medium taper.

This rod’s strength lies in its ability to cast short distances. The Pure is at its best when it can cast 30-40 feet. It will struggle in windy conditions.

This rod can be loaded slowly and gently, and it will allow for amazing dry fly presentation.

G. Loomis NRX + FreshwaterThe Most Versatile Fly Rod

Specifications

Pros

Cons

Materialgraphite
Length9
Weight:5
Take actionFast
Pieces4
  • Amazing distance casting blank
  • You get more wind-buckling performance the further you cast
  • All components are excellent
  • Amazing all-rounder
  • They are not as precise or delicate as those designed for the short-range.

Summary

G. Loomis’ NRX series rods are legendary. Now, with the new blank of the NRX+, the company has raised the bar on its rods. The 9-foot 5, an all-arounder that is unrivaled, is a marvel for anglers. They can tackle a wide range of conditions with one rod.

G. Loomis blanks are made from graphite of very high quality. They’re well-known for their strength. They have a quick taper and are easy to load. However, once you’re comfortable with the technique, the rod has a great range.

You can expect premium materials all through: a titanium SiC stripping Guide, single-foot ReCoil guides and an aluminum uplocking reel chair. A fully reverse-contoured Cork handle is amazing for casting long, precise casts.

G. Loomis’s latest blank tech is a winner. This rod feels lighter than the previous (and still very good) NRX series. The sections’ multi-tapered design produces more casting power than one would expect. It also makes for tighter loops and performance that improves with each fly you cast.

This rod is capable of reaching 70 feet. While it may not be as fast as the Pure up-close, it can get the job done everywhere.

How to Choose a Fly Rod?

Conditions and Flies

A short rod with a good cast up close is ideal for me if I’m hiking in a tranquil mountain stream. If I am working in still lakes from a pier end, I prefer a longer rod which casts as far and as close as possible.

It is important to think about where you will be fishing in order to choose the right fly rod. For tight spaces, short rods are required. Open water requires long casts.

Rods that are specialized in dry fly presentation will also suffer from the wind and distance, while rods for wet fly presentation may be less accurate up close.

What are you catching?

These are the questions that you should answer upfront!

Material

Graphite and carbon fibre are the dominant materials in fly fishing.

Graphite is strong and stiff. It’s also light so it’s a great choice for fly rods. You can create a wide range of actions by changing the modulus, length, and taper of graphite. It is strong enough to make ferrules and much more flexible than fiberglass. It is also affordable, which helps to keep fly rod prices “reasonable.”

Carbon fiber has even better performance, with unmatched stiffness, strength, and sensitiveness. Carbon fiber is also extremely light. This helps to explain why high-end flyrods are so costly.

Which is better? It all depends on the rod. It’s safe to say that carbon fibre is leading the high-end rod industry, particularly for short blanks and dry fly flies.

You may have heard of alternatives such as bamboo or fiberglass. Although there are some rods made of these materials, the number is very small. Bamboo rods are expensive, even by fly rod standards. They require care and can be difficult to maintain.

Fiberglass was the best option for bamboo post-WWII. However, its performance has been overshadowed by graphite or carbon fiber.

Weight

The weight of a fly rod is not measured by its mass, but by how much line it’s intended to throw.

Common fly line weights range from 2-10, with the most common choices being 3, 4, 5, 6, and 6. Casting with line that isn’t compatible with your rod’s specifications will cause poor casting performance, just like when you are spinning or baitcasting.

Take a look at our top picks for fly line

Although 5 is the most common weight, it can do all of them. Lighter lines are better for tiny dry nymphs. Larger flies like those you throw for steelhead and reds will be more successful with lines in the 8-10 range.

A 4 to 6-pound rod is the best choice for most fly anglers.

If all else is equal, rods of heavier weight tend to cast further than rods of lighter weight.

Take Action

The action of a fly rod is the same as any other rod. It’s the point at which the blank begins to bend under load.

These terms are relative. They’re relative to the rod’s weight, its length, and one another. You can only feel the rod in your hands if you actually try it. These descriptions will give you a good idea of the rod’s performance.

Experts like Phil Monahan from Orvis say that while the rod-speed scale is not a good way to describe how a rod feels in your hands, it does give you some insight into how a rod might perform. The rod’s ability to bend and recover quickly is described by the terms “fast”, “medium”, and “slow”.

It’s generally true to say that:

  • Rapid actionThey tend to bend closer to the tip. They are great for casting in windy conditions and, when properly mastered, can be cast over long distances of 50-60 feet. However, delicate presentations can be a little more difficult with a fast-action fly rod.
  • Medium action rodsThe tip should be approximately 25-30 percent long. They can load and unload easier during casting. However, this usually increases casting distance. A medium action rod, however, can provide a deadly combination in accuracy and delicate presentation at less than 50 feet.
  • Slow action rodsYou will begin to flex down the blank further, creating a classic parabolic arch from the whole blank. This allows the rod’s load and unloading to be done quickly, which makes timing your casts a crucial concern. Although slow-action rods can make beautiful presentations, casting distance will be generally less.

Length

For many reasons, the length of a flyrod is important. A given thickness of graphite bends more if it is made longer, so a 5 rod that is “long” or “short” will perform very differently in your hands.

Fly rods have a sweet spot of 9 feet. However, shorter rods can be used to fish small streams with limited casting space. These rods are also extremely accurate up close, making them excellent finesse options. Longer rods, on the other hand, offer greater casting distance and are ideal for areas where open water is a problem.

As you might expect, longer rods provide more accurate castings than shorter rods.

Handle

Nearly all fly rods have a cork handle. Only a few exceptions to this rule are longer spey rods that can be used for two-handed casting.

Two handles at the bottom of the handle are covered by spey rods. This allows for two-handed casting and extra distance.

The handles of lighter rods are more tapered towards the front. However, heavier rods have a reverse taper. Modern fly anglers appreciate a large handle girth and a reverse taper for a comfortable grip.

Reel Seat

The reel seat is located to the rear of a fly rod handle. A ring is used to lock the reel in place. It can be screwed towards the blank or toward your butt. These down- or uplocking designs work equally well.

It’s largely a personal choice, but as long as it holds the reel in place, you won’t notice any difference on the water.

Our buying guide and reviews will help you choose the best fly fishing reels.

Last Thoughts

Fly rods can be an investment in excitement. To get the best value for your dollar, do your research.

We hope that these reviews helped you choose the right rod for you. As always, we welcome your comments, questions, and concerns.

Lewis
Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.