Fly fishing for trout takes a combination of finesse, know-how, and the right gear. Central to your success is a quality fly rod, which will help you cast accurately, detect subtle strikes, and land strong fish. Here are the best fly rods for trout that you can count on.
Does your fly rod give you casting accuracy, sensitive feeling for subtle takes, and strong power for playing larger fish? The good news is, there’s a proliferating number of fly rod brands and models, that will give you all of these attributes in one fly rod. The other news is, there’s a lot to sift through, and the best fly fishing rod for you depends on a number of factors, so let us break it down for you.
This angler is enjoying the moment when it all comes together – the rod is performing well, and all he needs to do is guide a nice fish into the net.
Summary Of The Best Fly Rods for Trout
While many mass produced fly rods are flooding across the fly fishing marketplace, not all of them are suited to the task. So, we’ve spent a lot of time wading through the multitude of options to not only recommend the best rods, but also provide you with useful information that will aid in your decision making. We want you to be confident in your selection, so here are our picks and why we chose them.
BEST TROUT FLY RODS – BY VALUE & PRICE POINT
Note the price ranges shown are for the rod only, but many of these come in combo packages, for which we provide a separate link you can explore the price if you need a full outfit.
This rod is designed well because it evenly distributes the load from playing a large fish all the way down to the butt section. In turn, the tip section is protected from breaking, allowing for both finesse and feel at the same time as strength to cast and play larger fish.
[Not a great habit to play fish with the line through your finger, instead of reeling in the slack to utilize the reel and drag, but we’ll save that for another article!]
BEST TROUT FLY RODS – BY CATEGORY
This section gives you an overview of the fly fishing rods we consider best trout rod for a given category, meaning fishing conditions or situation:
Landing a nice trout is a culmination of many skills and pieces of gear, but your fly rod is the most central to making it all happen. From casting to playing, you’ll be glad you chose your rod fly fishing rod thoughtfully so it fits the fishing conditions, type of flies you are using, and size trout you are pursuing. This section covers our summary fly rod reviews, with links to our more detailed reviews as well.
The Classic Trout is designed for trout fishing, with a moderate action rod. It handles any situation from smaller and technical creek fishing, up to moderate weights and lengths for normal and average fishing conditions. There are 11 models to choose from, with a nice feature being you can choose from 4-piece or shorter 6-pieces rods for compact travel requirements.
Redington is an established company that makes relatively economical fly rods. In this case we’ve assigned our “Practical” rating to the rod.
Just for perspective, if you didn’t know, Redington’s owner Far Bank Enterprises also owns Sage, a producer of higher-end fly rods. Just because Redington are lower price rods, doesn’t mean they are strangers to quality.
Redington claims the Classic “packs sufficient power for big rivers & boat fishing,” which is the only manufacturer claim we don’t agree with. Besides that, the lightweight construction and modest action make make it a very good rod to save your arm and shoulder during long hours of casting.
Using our evaluation critera, we rate the Classic Trout as “practical,” and recommend it for routine trout and panfish angling, as an entry-level rod, a great gift, and a solid choice as a back-up rod for an expensive trip you may be taking. If that fits the bill of what you are looking for, then you can consider it one of the best trout fly rods you can get for your dollar. To sum up this point, we consider this a good budget fly rod, not a cheap fly rod in terms of quality.
The Sage Foundation is a medium-fast action fly rod, in the right sizes and weights for trout, that is geared for most but not all fishing conditions. The rod draws its versatility by using a medium action in the top sections, while relying on a more powerful stiff action in the butt section. This yields a combination of stronger casts and fighting ability, combined with a softer more delicate action in the top end of the rod. All put together, we consider this one of the best fly rods for trout you can buy.
Sage is no stranger to quality with it’s high-end reputation, at the same time, because it is owned by the same company as Redington, has done a good job getting into the market for more affordable rods. The Foundation is made from more traditional, pure graphite rather than a more modern hybrid composite materials. However, it has still achieved a level of performance that is uncharacteristically high for the mid-price market. As a result, it has earned a hard-won place in our “Best Value” category.
The foundation offers a very nice combination of strength and smooth, not entirely flexible but we’ll call it medium-softer stroke. This is result of the pure medium action up top, coupled with the stiffer/stronger butt section normally associated with fast-action rod. The recovery speed is good, and even with a softer tip can still punch out beyond 50-60 if necessary.
We say that recognizing that longer casts are not this rod’s strong suit compared to other pure-fast action, stiffer rods. With 8 models available ranging from 4 – 9 weight, you can pursue most species in all but the most challenging conditions. Even at the 8-9 weight rod, we recommend other rods for salmon and steelhead, given the softer tip, but this rod can certainly handle larger fish when needed.
All in, the Foundation brings more quality features and performance for the price than most rods, even than rods that cost considerably more, so consider it a solid choice for best fly rod for trout.
Average trout and panfish – YES – lighter-weight models
If you want to take your casting to another level, with a high-performance rod that is great at casting accuracy, the Helios 3F is a rod to consider. While a high-end price, this versatile fly rod retains touch and feel, coupled with a stunning design and inherent quality construction.
The 3F is moderate action made with break resistant, high-tensile graphite. Orvis has designed it to mitigate many of the variables that otherwise reduce precision in your casting. The rod’s sweet spot casting distance is in the 30 to 50 foot range.
It can certainly cast longer, but as a medium stiffness that takes quite a bit more effort. Said another way, the 3F isn’t specifically built to handle heavier weight lines (e.g. 9 = 12 weight), or to consistently cast over 50 feet. Nor is it idea for high wind, strong currents, or deep water. As such, you can fish for smaller salmon species (silvers, sockeye) with the heavier weights of this rod, but we wouldn’t consider it a top contender for best salmon fly rod as it would not handle the larger fish (Kings/cohos).
All that said, if want to improve your fly fishing cast, this rod is a solid selection. As another option to consider as you read this Orvis fly rod review, look at the 3F combo. By adding the reel, line, and leader Orvis adds additional value to this high quality rod.
The centerpiece of the 3D is how much casting accuracy it enables, at the same time as the power it provides for distance. This is exceptional given that there”s a considerable tradeoff between accuracy and distance for most fly rods.
Orvis has nurtured a long-standing legacy reputation for quality in their fly fishing gear, and well deservedly so. Orvis fly rods are sought after around the world for their standard-setting design and build. As a reliable company, you can count on getting what you are looking for with the purchase of an Orvis rod.
Because Orvis consistently delivers on their promises, it comes down to deciding which fly rod is the right one for your needs. And of course, whether the price tag that comes with this rod, and this level of quality and performance is the right one for you.
With that in mind, our review of the 3D reveals a rod built for strength and power, yet at the same time focused on casting accuracy. The Orvis Helios 3D is a stiff, fast action, long-distance casting fly rod. It has a strong casting action that will out-perform in many challenging fishing conditions. These include fast and strong currents, windy days such as in box canyons on big rivers, longer casts to reach your prey, for saltwater fishing, and of course it has the power to land large trophy.
In these challenging types of fly fishing, the Orvis Helios 3D is so versatile, it is one of only several top-notch fly rods in its class. What that translates to you is, the heavier weighted 3D’s are among the best salmon fly rods, other big game fish, and it’s a fly rod for saltwater not just inland trout. For more detail, click this link to read our fly rod review of the Orvis Helios 3D Rod.
There you have it… our top fly rods for trout fishing – see you on the water!
[to be added, congrats, you’ve found an early version of this article, to which we are adding daily!]
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!
Additional Considerations For Selecting The Best Fly Rods for Trout
Picking the best fly rod for trout is not unlike carefully selecting a car or truck. You want to pack in the most features you can, but also stick to a budget. There are cars that are better for fuel efficiency, or do you want one that will be great at tripping and off-roading instead?
The same is true choosing your fly rod for trout fishing. Do you want more power, or one that loads more efficiently and is easier on your arm and shoulder for a long-day on the water? Are you fishing mountain streams, average sized rivers, or big powerful water?
When looking for an ideal fly rod, you may want to consider multiple factors before you invest your gear. Ask the following questions:
Where will you fish, on what types of water and what type of conditions?
Will you be fishing smaller nymphs, emergers, and dry flies, or large articulated streamers, or both?
What size fish do you expect to catch?
What is your budget, not just for fly poles but for the gear you need with it?
What quality are you looking for in a fishing rod?
Do you need an all purpose rod, or perhaps even several rods for distinct purposes such as traveling fly rods?
Other technical aspects come into play when choosing the best trout fly rod, including:
Rod Length and Weight
Trout rods range from short 6-7 footers for small mountain brook trout streams, to 13 foot euro-nymphing rods. Line weights generally range from 3-weight to 8-weight. The average trout rod is 7.5 – 9 feet, with a corresponding 5 – 7 line weight.
You’ll see in manufacturer’s model selection tables, that length and weight are generally correlated, but not always so. For example, euro-nymphing uses a lighter weight for feeling, combined with a longer rod length for “high sticking” your line off the water.
In general, you’ll only need the upper end of these ranges if you are fishing big rivers, with windy canyons or deep powerful flows. Longer, stiffer rods are needed for these conditions, but also can take something away from playing an average sized trout. Longer rods also become a liability if you are fishing in tight spaces, such as mountain streams. Consider also that an average trout will feel much larger on a smaller, more flexible rod.
Some of the trout rods we review also come in heavier weights, e.g. 8 to as much as 12-weight lines. In these cases there are tradeoffs with trout fishing, but consider that the rod might double as a choice for best saltwater fly rod, or best fly rods for salmon.
Balance of the Rod
Keep balance in mind because it can really make a difference. You should be able to balance your fly rod comfortably, when holding it near the reel seat. Balance really helps reduce casting fatigue, so you can enjoy your day on the water as well as have great feel for accurate casting and sensing strikes.
You will find most trout fishing rod blanks are made with graphite, while fiberglass is regaining popularity. And not many anglers may know that some models utilize a combination of both graphite and fiberglass, to combine the best features of both: strength and flexibility. When it comes to trout, as compared to trophy game fish, remember the game is more about touch and feel, and less about power and strength except under the minority of fishing conditions. Many anglers fall prey to paying more than they need to, but instead wind up with a stiffer rod than they really need – or want. Of course, bamboo rods have a special touch and feel all their own, and can make fantastic collectors items, but in most cases may out price your budget unless that is what you really want.
Price and Warranty
When 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 rod, but within your budget.
Be sure to leave money for the many other pieces of gear you may need to complete you set.
Most manufacturers offer a limited or even lifetime warranty for manufacture’s defects.
Check the one you buy, but most now offer a one-time fee of $50-75 for accidental breakage or damage, no questions asked.
Ideally, you would get a brand/model with an unconditional lifetime warranty, but those are less frequent these days, and generally only for the more expensive rods.
But consider there’s also a replacement cost if you get an inexpensive rod and have to pay full cost to replace it.
Of course, also search on “fly rod sale,” “fly rods on sale” or “fly rod on sale” to determine if you can get what you are looking for at a discount.
Action – Medium vs. Fast For Trout Fishing
In general, we prefer and recommend a medium action rod for trout fishing. This gives you more flexibility to load the rod for the cast, feel strikes, and play the fish. Unless you expect to fish for and land lunkers (e.g. 3+ pound fish) on a routine basis, we’re hesitant to use a stiffer, fast action rod.
We recommend that you only bump up to fast action if you need more power in your cast, for example for longer distances, larger rivers, windy conditions, powerful currents, and/or large flies such as articulated streamers. In our experience, many anglers tend to bump up to a stiffer rod when they don’t need it. At the end of a long day, you may very well wind up with a sore shoulder and arm. That said, one of the benefits of a fast action, stiffer rod is also getting one of the best fly rods for salmon and/or best saltwater fly rods.
Used Fly Rods For Sale
Unless you know the seller and history of the rod well, like from your fishing buddy, we do not recommend purchasing a used fly rod. At first it might seem like a way to get a better deal on a better or even high end fly rod. However, there are many factors that can detract from your experience if you buy a used fly fishing pole. The manufacturer’s warranty usually is void if you are not the original buyer. Also, even if a used rod looks good on the shelf or online, there can be subtle nicks or scratches that are a prelude to rod failure. If you really want your experience to be the best, we suggest choosing from the best fly fishing rods, purchased new. Better to have a new rod at a lower price, than a used rod even from one of the high-end fly fishing brands. This is our opinion of course, and you are free to choose whatever trout fishing rod works for you, just in our experience used rods ultimately don’t last as long or work as well. Another consideration is that fly rod technology has advanced so much, that the best beginner fly rods today are better than many of the older fly rods. If you want your fly pole to be the best beginner fly rod you can get, buy new for the best experience. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get for your money in flyfishing rods these days, and the variety available such as travelling fly rods.
What weight fly rod do you use for trout?
For most trout fishing, we recommend fly rod weights, 5 – 7. Depending on conditions (casting distance, depth) and size of the fish, consider weights 3 – 8. Use a double taper, weight forward, or straight line depending on the conditions, occasionally a sinking line.
How do you set up a fly rod for trout fishing?
You’ll want 100 yards of 10-15 lb backing, in case you hook into a lunker. A tapered leader is preferable, down to a tippet of 4x – 8x depending on the size fish, and whether the fish in the stream you are fishing are leader sensitive or not. There are many ways to rig your fly, with the most common you can read in our article 12 Tippet Tips.
When would you use a longer heavier fly rod?
Use a 9-10 foot rod for trophy or big game fish such as trophy trout, salmon, steelhead. The longer rods help make longer casts, with a heavy fly line (8-10 weight), especially in the wind or powerful flow conditions.
What is the best trout rod for the money?
Based on our Best Value review, some of the best trout rods for the money are the Sage Foundation, and St. Croix Mojo Trout Rod.
How much does a good fly rod cost?
We like to rate fly rods according to “value,” meaning how many features and performance specifications the manufacturer can pack in relative to price. For trout and panfish, you can expect to spend $150-800 for a quality rod. For big game fish, you’re looking at $400-1200 to do the job right.
Which fly rod should I buy?
The fly rod that’s best for you will depend on what type of fish you are pursuing, fishing conditions, the quality of rod you want, number of features, and your budget. For trout and panfish, you’ll generally want a 7 to 9 foot fly rod, matched to 5 to 7 weight line. For more specialized rods, such as for euro-nymphing, you may go longer and lighter (e.g. 11 – 13 feet matched to a 3-weight line). For big game fish, or longer casting in the wind or powerful currents, you’ll want a 9 to 11 foot rod, with 8 to 10 weight line.
1a. Redington Predator – 9′ 8 Wt Rod
A fast-action rod, stiff and robust to quickly tire salmon. Perfect for longer casting, windy conditions. Versatile with over 6 designs to choose from.