Many fly anglers begin their journey with hand-me-down gear from a sibling, friend or elder. This equipment often comes with valuable information and is typically enough to get anyone started down the rabbit hole that is fly fishing. With that being said, there’s nothing quite like picking out your own fly rod for the first time. If you’re like me and got into the sport on your own, I hope this guide will help you choose an entry-level fly rod that meets your needs and enhances your passion for fly fishing for years to come.
Where to begin?
For the sake of simplicity, we’ll compare models available in 9-foot 5-weight configurations, what is commonly accepted as the “do it all” fly rod and ideal for beginners. Some companies like Orvis, and Redington have designed complete “outfits” that contain a fly rod, reel, and fly line. Outfits are perfect for the first time angler that doesn’t want to have to find a fly line and reel to balance a new fly rod. While there is certainly a place for these outfits, the Orvis Encounter outfit was my first set-up, this review will focus on fly rods only. Beginners looking to take a step further into the sport can benefit from a higher quality rod without breaking the bank. These rods can also help flatten the casting learning curve, making your time on the water more enjoyable.
Fly Rods Under $150
The Redington Classic Trout Rod is the leading option for a trout fly rod under $150. This rod has a moderate action that is great for beginners as it provides added line control over a fast action rod at shorter distances. This will promote a better casting stroke and provide more feedback as you progress as an angler. Equipped with a rosewood reel seat insert, dark clay brown blank, and titanium oxide stripping guides, the Classic Trout has everything you could want in an entry-level fly rod. The Redington Classic Trout Rod will suit the needs of any new angler looking for an all-purpose trout rod without breaking the bank.
Fly Rods Under $250
Next up is the Douglas LRS which comes in a variety of weights ranging from 4-10 with an MSRP of $249. There’s a lot of bang for your buck with this fast action rod from the hard chrome snake guides and dual up locking rings on the carbon reel seat. With over 10 length-weight configurations, there’s sure to be an LRS model to meet your fly fishing needs. While Douglas may not be a traditional fly fishing brand, the Douglas LRS provides a lot of value and performance for an entry-level fly rod.
The Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod priced at $198.00 is a phenomenal option for anglers looking to pick up an entry level fly rod that comes backed by a 25 year warranty. The entire line of Clearwater Fly Rods from Orvis are designed in Vermont with purpose built profiles to match a variety of angling scenarios. The 9-foot 5-weight model is perfect for medium to small rivers and can handle nearly any trout fishing task with ease. Fly rods tend to get broken from time to time and the 25 year warranty of the Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod is nothing to shake a stick at, especially at this price point.
The Redington Butter Stick flexes deep into the rod blank which makes fighting fish of all sizes a true pleasure. While slow action-fiberglass rods have largely fallen by the wayside to modern graphite blanks, the Redington Butter Stick is a worthwhile consideration for any beginner angler looking for traditional feel and aesthetics in a fly rod.
Fly Rods Under $350
The Sage Foundation is the highest performing all-around rod on this list, albeit the most expensive at $325. This rod is a backed by a lifetime warranty and the only rod on this list that is made in the USA. This rod has been my personal go-to for over 2 years and is a true workhorse.
While I’ve included it on a list for beginners, the Sage Foundation is sure to meet the needs of more demanding anglers and should be given serious consideration. With the 9-foot 5wt configuration, I’ve been able to throw everything from weighted streamers with polyleaders to small dries with ease. The biggest downside to this rod is the lack of a hook keeper which can be a pain but is far from a deal-breaker. At this price point, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better fly rod.
Finding The Right Rod for You
While reading lists and guides is a great way to start your search for an entry-level fly rod, going to your local fly shop to compare a few of these models in person isn’t a bad idea if you have the option. Getting a few different rods in hand and talking to a local expert about the waters you fish will help you choose the best rod for you. The offerings on this list from Sage, Redington, Orvis, and Douglas are sure to meet the needs of any angler looking for an entry-level fly rod that doesn’t break the bank.
Article by Evan Garda, he is on the Content Team here at Fly Lords. He can be found chasing trout throughout the west with his trusty fly rod. Check out his adventures at @evangarda.