Salmon and other big game fish bring another dimension of power and aggressiveness to fly fishing. While you will encounter different species of salmon with varying degrees of size and strength, let’s just say it’s not a job for your trout rod. Unless of course you’re in the market for a new one! Here are the best salmon and big game fly rods you can count on.
These days, mass produced fly rods with reasonable quality have been flooded the fly fishing community. This in turn has helped make fly fishing more affordable, and more people to try out this great sport.
However, fishing for salmon and other large game such as tarpon and muskie demand much higher performance from your rod. Losing a trout is one thing, but losing a trophy fish is another and you don’t want to be short handed right when the great moment arrives.
So, we’ve waded through the many choices to help you find only the best rods, in 3 price categories, to assemble a great gear setup for salmon.
How We Find Best Value For You
Tired of reading gear ratings that have arbitrary ratings in pretty tables, with lots of links to primarily the expensive models, without enough information to tell if the gear is really right for you? Or that were obviously written by someone in another country who’s never actually seen or used the equipment, much less been an outdoors enthusiast?
In contrast, we are always on the lookout for best value products for you, and we evaluate in detail before presenting anything to you. Yes, even if it’s not expensive and doesn’t benefit us, we cover it. Here’s how we deliver our proprietary ValueMeterTM ratings to you.
First, we use well defined, meaningful rating categories that focus on what you’re getting for your money:
CHEAP – Not up to the task, prone to breakage (we don’t report on these)
PRACTICAL – fewer features for lower cost, entry level, yet still quality
BEST VALUE – More features and higher quality but for a reasonable cost, excellent all-around and versatile
HIGH END – Best in class, highly specialized, usually more expensive
OUTRAGEOUS – Custom, scarce, unique, collectors, antique, etc.
Second, how do we arrive at our ratings? Through detailed comparison of features and performance, relative to cost, with a carefully weighted scoring system.
Note, our ValueMeterTM ratings are complimentary to the common 5-star rating system used by most retailers, and does not replace them. Those tend to be a measure of satisfaction of individuals not only with the product itself, but star-ratings get easily clouded by other issues such as shipping, retailer level of customer service, return policies, etc. And, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish one reviewer’s view of value versus another.
Our ratings measure directly how much you are getting for your money, factoring out all other variables (such as which retailer sells it, what the shipping experience is, etc.) so you can make a smart choice about exactly what gear best meets both your needs and your budget. Once you’ve discerned a smart choice for your needs, then the next decision is how and where to buy it!
· None presented, the high-end models will handle your needs well without costing more than an arm and a leg!
Note that dollar figures shown above are for the rod only (without a reel or combo package), and will vary by retailer. However, to give you options we also show packages available with reel, backing, and line so you have a read-to-go outfit if that’s what you’d prefer.
Read on for our detailed reviews and recommendations. Please note that dollar figures shown above are for the rod only (without a reel or combo package), and will vary by retailer. However, to give you options we also show packages available with reel, backing, and line so you have a read-to-go outfit if that’s what you’d prefer.
The first thing you’ll notice are the number of varieties of this brand and model – what’s great is you can tailor by preference, e.g. double vs. single grip, length of butt section, etc. That can make a big difference during a 20-30 minute fight, if you are totally comfortable with the design and feel. Moreover, several of the designs are fish-specific, e.g. Muskie, Pike, etc.
As a fast-action rod, the Redington Predator’s stiff and robust qualities allow you to quickly capture salmon. You can even flexibly straighten up its loop to create more energy to win battles with the fish. It is no doubt perfect for longer casting. What’s more, it is the rod for windy conditions, performing excellently even in longer distances.
Redington rods have been known for versatility and that quality is evident in the Predator. It is protected from scratches and dings, thanks to its anodized composition. You can even use it for both saltwater and freshwater fly fishing. It is true that it is intended for catching predatory fish like salmon, walleye, and pike, among many others. However, you can adjust it for capturing smaller fish.
Another notable quality of the Redington Predator is it can endure forceful stripping when you’re fishing on or below the surface. So, when you’re stripping large flies, you won’t have to wade as much through the water to manage your casting.
Multiple models specific to your prey – e.g. Muskie, Pike (though one of these models is sufficient for most large game)
Allows you to cast larger flies at a distance with excellent accuracy
Great value for money
Not necessarily an all-around rod
Considered heavy when compared to other models in its class
Echo EPR Saltwater Fly Rod
The Echo deservedly takes our “Best Value” spot in the line up. Price relative to features and performance is right in the strike zone.
First of all, what you’ll love about the Echo EPR Saltwater fly rod is its fast action. You can consider it a wind tamer that offers smooth action. With a short stroke, you can load the tip easily, allowing you to make an accurate cast even between 20 to 30 feet. You wouldn’t have to force it just to let it generate plenty of line speed. A true tip action rod, the Echo EPR responds quickly even with a short stroke.
If looks matter to you, then you’ll definitely like the Echo EPR saltwater fly rod. The snake guides, blank and, and reel seat are all black. The black wraps even have a sleek look, thanks to the fine copper tipping. The only area that needs improvement is the rod tube. The fabric covering it just doesn’t go well with the aesthetics of the entire rod.
You won’t be disappointed with the quality of the Echo EPR saltwater fly rod. The large guides shoot the line freely. For a mid-priced rod, it has an above-average reel seat. You will also love the comfortable profile of the cork grip. A lot of saltwater grips start to give out when the front begins to crack, which can be a problem. However, you can trust that the Echo EPR’s cork grip will hold up very well.
Compared to other salmon fly rods, the Echo EPR is relatively faster
Simple and lightweight foot guides
Its accuracy makes it versatile for catching more fish
Available in models for different situations
Durable and long-lasting
Great value for money
Well designed for a new angler trying their hand in fly fishing
Orvis Helios 3D
Orvis brings with it a level of quality that will never let you down. A familiar brand for any avid outdoorsman, the company offers a great line of outdoor products, always known for its premier quality fly fishing gear. Of course, the brand comes with some of the best fly rods for salmon fishing.
The third iteration of the Helios series has been the rave in the fly fishing community. While it is not yet flawless, you can tell that the company has improved it to the point of almost perfection. It has an excellent bend and a fast action core. Indeed, when you take the Helios 3D in the backcountry, it can keep up with the best.
You will find most Helios rods in 9-foot lengths. You will also occasionally find 10-foot rods in 7-weight. Most sizes will work for salmon fly fishing. However, if you’re venturing on bigger water with longer casts, it’s better to choose the 10-footer. Regardless of what you buy, you will get a rod specifically designed for distance. Orvis also re-engineered the line guides and reduced rod vibration to give you a perfect, crisp release every time.
Straight and powerful casts
Performs better in bigger waters
Sage Salt HD Fly Rod
This is a rod that’ll handle large salmon and tarpon alike. If you want the maximum power and ability to control a massive predator fish that is stripping off line fast, then consider the Sage Salt HD.
Whether casting on a river thrashing in salmon or out on the salt flats, you often don’t have time to negotiate with the rod you’re casting. It’s important that you have the confidence to deliver a perfect cast in one shot. What you’ll love about the Sage Salt HD fly rod, with a wide variety of weights up to even an 11-weight version if you truly want horsepower. Despite being a fast action rod, it can be deadly in close encounters. Of course, you’ll likely take most of your casts closer in, especially when you’re wading.
Another notable quality about the Sage Salt HD fly rod is how it feels in your hands. It has a noticeably softer tip. So, there is an improvement in the energy transfer from the mid-section through to the rod’s entire upper third.
However, when you start casting further out, some anglers notice that the rod may not have as much casting distance as some other brands, and may have slightly less lifting power as well. So, to consider purchasing one weight above what you are accustomed to is a simple way to adjust for this factor.
A great fly rod that performs excellently at key flat distances
Built to be toughed and backed by a great warranty
Not advisable for open seas or anywhere you’ll need long-distance casting
Average rod design
There you have it… our top fly fishing rods for catching salmon! See you in the water and get ready to score your trophy salmon with these rods!
Additional Considerations For Selecting The Best Fly Fishing Rods for Salmon and Big Game
Selecting the best fly fishing rods for salmon is like picking out the ideal shoes for a particular purpose. You can’t use training shoes for running. They can lower your performance and even put you at risk for injuries! The same is true when you are fly fishing for salmon. Without the proper rod, you won’t be able to catch those elusive trophies you’ve been dreaming about. Of course, it’s no fun when can’t cast comfortably
When choosing the ideal fishing rod, the size of the fish is among the biggest variable. However, you will need to consider other factors before you invest in any fly fishing gear. For instance, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
How will I fish?
Where will I fish?
What is my budget?
What is the quality of the fishing rod?
Other technical aspects come into play in selecting fishing rods that will improve the chances of landing salmon. Here they are:
The Length of the Rod
In general, finding the ideal salmon rod will depend on the method of fishing you will do. Salmon anglers commonly use rod lengths ranging from 8’ to 10’. These are perfect for big-game fishing. Of course, you shouldn’t forget the butt sections. As a rule of thumb, it should be anywhere from 6 to 12 inches.
Usually, the rod but will rest into your torso while playing salmon. So, if you get something that’s too long, you might end up stretching out your arms while fighting the fish. Consequently, you can get tired easily. Meanwhile, if you choose something too short, it may not sit in your rod mounts properly, especially when you’re trolling. Compared to a trout fly rod, salmon fly rods are more efficient in handling bigger fish. Typically, fly rods for salmon fishing are within the 9’ to 10’ range.
The Weight and Balance of the Rod
Of course, it is better if you can get away with a lighter rod. Ideally, you should get an 8-weight rod, but a 9-weight may be a bit overkill. On the other hand, a 7-weight may be too small. After all, it may not have adequate backbone to help you snag hefty 25 pounders.
Do not forget about balance because it is also a key factor. You should be able to balance the rod comfortably in your hand when holding it near or at the reel seat. In turn, you wouldn’t have to struggle and deal with greater stress and fatigue. So, you can get the best fun and comfort while fly fishing for salmon!
The Composite of the Salmon Rod
You will find most salmon fishing rod blanks with graphite or fiberglass. Meanwhile, some products have a combination of both materials for added flexibility and strength. Remember that you’re battling fish, so it is important to find a rod primary designed with superior durability and strength. This quality should be chosen over the product’s casting capabilities. Ideally, you should choose a rod with adequate strength for securing a solid hook set right into the bony jaws of salmon. It should also be able to handle the long, intense battles that the fish is known for.
The Price and Warranty
When you’re looking for fishing rods for sale, you should always consider the size of the fish you’re after. Remember that salmon tend to fight with a vengeance. So, it is always better to go with a heavier weight rod. As we’ve mentioned, an 8-weight rod is an ideal size to get. That said, when you’re considering quality, the better it is, the higher the price will be. Here are our tips when you’re looking at price and quality:
Choose the best fly rods that your budget can allow.
Ideally, you should find a product with an unconditional lifetime warranty. However, expect to spend at least $200 to find a rod with that offer. Trust us—it is worth the investment. After all, it is not uncommon for anglers to break rods sooner. Aside from that, you will only regret buying a low-quality rod with no warranty, especially when you’re fighting with salmon in saltwater.
All the big rod manufacturers offer great warranties even for their bass fishing rods. If you look around, you may find brands with programs that allow you to get a new rod even within a few days after a break.
Fast Action Fly Rods for Salmon Fishing
If you’re fly fishing for salmon in saltwater, you must ensure that you are choosing a ‘fast action’ rod. Basically, you can expect the rod to be quite stiff, allowing it to deliver optimum power. At the end of the day, you may nurse a tired shoulder. That said, there are still plenty of reasons to choose fast action rods, including the following:
Effective for Combating the Wind
Expect to battle with the wind when you’re fishing for salmon in saltwater. Well, fast action salmon fly rods are designed specifically for that purpose!
Covering Greater Distance
Since fast action rods can deliver optimum power to the line, they can deliver further cast compared to softer rods.
Ideal for Heavier Flies
You wouldn’t cast small bugs to rising salmon when you’re fly fishing in saltwater, right? In most cases, you will use wind-catching, heavy bait fish imitations. And oh boy, they can be tough to cast! That is where you’ll find a stiff, fast action fly rod useful. It will help you pull that fly out of the water, even casting it out further. In contrast, with a soft rod, you will struggle to get the fly out of the water while avoiding to strip a bunch of line.
Freshwater or Saltwater Fast Action Fly Rods?
We know you’d want all the qualities we just mentioned for salmon fly fishing in freshwater. Indeed, when you’re chasing after big fish, most saltwater rods make excellent rods for freshwater. However, you must know that most freshwater fly rods are not ideal for the conditions in the saltwater. So, if you need something that will perform excellently in both salt and freshwater, then you should opt for a fast action rod or one that is intended for saltwater fishing.