How To Choose The Best Fly Rod for Beginners [2020]

by Darby @ Fly Fish And Camp | Last Updated: June 20, 2020

How does one choose the best fly rod as a beginner fly fisherman or woman?

So, you want to learn how to fly fish? Congratulations! Fly fishing is an incredible activity that is sure to consume your imagination and time. Fly fishing can be a costly hobby, although it doesn’t have to be.

The essential gear to get started on this exciting journey is simple; all you need is a fly rod, reel, line, leader, tippet, flies, and some fishy water.  That’s it! As your knowledge and experience grow, you will find yourself accumulating more gear to meet your emerging skills.

It can be a daunting task to decide what is the best fly rod for beginners, which is why I made a list. A lot of it comes down to the weight, size and action of the rod.  Before we get into the list, you’ll want to understand what all those terms mean.

Here are the best fly rods for beginners in 2020

Fly Fishing Rod Terms to Understand.

Rod Weight: 

3 Weight – 6 Weight

7 Weight – 10 Weight and up

Rod Action: 

Slow Action

Moderate / Medium-Fast Action

Fast Action 

The Best Beginner Fly Rod Option:  Medium Fast Action

It’s hard to beat a medium-fast action 9 foot 5-weight for your first rod. A 5-weight is an incredibly versatile rod.  It can cast small flies delicately and still throw relatively larger flies in moderately windy conditions.  The casting stroke is very forgiving and a 5-weight makes fighting smaller to medium-sized fish more fun.  Besides, that’s what this is all about. Right?

There are a ton of rod options to choose from, but if you’re fishing for trout – I’d recommend getting a medium fast action, 9 foot 5 wt rod.  It just provides the best fishing experience and you’ll find yourself having the most fun when you are fishing with it.

If you are fly fishing for large fish, consider getting a fast action rod that has a 7 and up line weight.  The fast action will help you push your flies further out, especially in windy conditions.

The Best Fly Rods for Beginners

Redington Classic Trout

One of my favorite Redington rods is the Classic Trout. The Classic Trout is a massive improvement over the Crosswater, and in my opinion, one of the best rods on the market for the money. It also has a lifetime warranty. The Classic Trout has a moderate action and flexes deeply to allow for effortless casting.

It’s so sensitive that once the hook is set, you can feel every move and head shake your quarry makes. This flexibility enables you to fight the fish more aggressively since the rod absorbs a lot of energy, which in turn, protects the tippet and aids in landing the fish faster.

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Classic Trout Rod

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Related Article: Best Fly Reels Under $300 For 2020

Moonshine Co. Drifter Rod

Another very popular rod amongst fly fisherman and woman (140 reviews, 4.7/5 stars) is the Moonshine Company Drifter Series Fly Rod.  For just under 200 bucks you can snatch up a very accurate medium action fly rod.  It comes with a no fault lifetime warranty and a rod tube to boot.

This rod is extremely forgiving and will help you get the hang of fly fishing almost instantly.  A lot of fly fishermen have purchased this rod as a backup, and quickly realized that it is worthy of being used all of the time.  I would highly recommend this rod for anyone that is just starting out with fly fishing as it is super smooth and accurate.

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This is a picture of the moonshine co fly rod, drifter series.

Moonshine Co. Drifter Series Fly Rod

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Related Article: Moonshine Co. The Drifter Series Review

Redington Path Fly Rod

The Redington Path is another great option for beginner fly anglers.  It’s similar to the Classic Trout, but essentially a newer model.  The Classic Trout is more popular in terms of status, the Path is a little bit newer and also slightly cheaper.

Redington excels at creating quality inexpensive rods and the Path fits right into that category.  Easy to cast, easy to control with a forgiving feel.  It loses some accuracy past 50 feet, but other than that – it’s an awesome forgiving beginner rod.

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Considering getting a fast action rod as a beginner? 

I want to start this by saying be cautious with a fast action rod as a beginner.  They can be a bit to handle because they are so stiff in the mid and lower sections.  They do offer a lot more power and have better accuracy at longer ranges though.

Personally I would recommend sticking to the Redington Classic or a The Drifter Series rod.  They will be far easier to handle, but still offer great quality for the price that you will pay.

Remember, as a beginner fly angler, you don’t need to spend premium prices for a new fly rod.  Yes the fly rod is by far the most important piece of gear that you can use, but when you are just starting out, you don’t need to over do it.

Fenwick Aetos

But, if you want to try your hand at a fast action rod, you don’t have look further than the Fenwick Aetos. The Aetos is an excellent rod and a pleasure to cast. It consistently places at the top of the Yellowstone Anglers rod shoutouts, and for a good reason. While it does have a faster action, the rod still maintains the feel and forgiveness one would expect from a beginner rod. Fenwick offers a lifetime warranty on the Aetos.

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this is a picture of the fenwick aetos, a great fast action rod for beginners.

Fenwick Aetos

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Hardy Zephrus Ultralite Fly Rod

If you are looking for a top of the line rod I suggest the Hardy Zephrus Ultralite Fly Rod.  This rod is medium fast action that is extremely accurate and precise.  Controlling this rod is going to be very simple, unlike many other expensive fly fishing rods.  You as a beginner could probably make fly fishing easy.

The biggest downfall of this rod is the price.  It isn’t cheap, but it will last you a long time.

Pros:

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This is a picture of the hardy zephrus ultralite fly rod

Hardy Zephrus Ultralite

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Related Article: Best Fly Rods Under $400

Best Fly Rod and Reel Combos For Beginners

The next little segment has the best rod combos for beginners.  These are typically easier to setup and get on the river faster, but you lose the ability to customize your setup in the process.

I do usually recommend getting a beginner level combo in the start though.

Fist up…

Cabela’s Prestige Combo

As you probably have guessed by the name, this is not just a rod.  BUT, I had to mention it in this article because it is one of the easiest and quickest ways for you to get on the river, fast.  It comes with literally everything that you could need from a rod, reel, case, flies, fly box, leader, tippet and backing.

The reel that is featured in this combo has a large arbor design for quick retrieval of fish and has a powerful drag.  The rod is moderate action fly rod so it’ll be easy to control for beginners!  I highly recommend this one, it’s a great combo.

Pros:

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This is a picture of the cabela's prestige and one of the best rod combos for beginners.

Prestige Outfit

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Redington Crosswater Combo

Redington at the same time, makes several cost-effective rods designed with the beginner in mind. Their basic, entry-level rod is the Crosswater. The Crosswater is a medium-fast action rod and is offered in a package that includes almost everything you need to get started: a rod, rod storage/travel tube, reel, fly line, and leader.

This package sells for around $150 but only comes with a 1-year warranty.  This is another solid starting fly fishing rod and reel combo, but it isn’t very customizable.  It will do the trick down river though.

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This is a picture of the crosswater combo one of the best combos for beginners.

Crosswater Combo

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Related Article: All Redington Rod and Reel Combos Reviewed By Price

Something to remember when buying a beginner rod

Quality concerns

Beginner fly rods are typically inexpensive.  There’s a reason for that.   You just want to see how you like fly fishing and learn the ropes, without investing a lot of cash.

That’s perfectly fine, and I would personally recommend that.  But, fly rods that cost only a couple hundred dollars usually aren’t made of the highest quality.  And for obvious reasons, it’s hard to build an extremely high quality rod for a cheap price.

As a result, your beginner fly rod might not have the durability to last a long time.  It might, but it also might not.  My brother has a Cabela’s Prestige rod that he bought many years ago that still performs the same as it once did, with no breaks or anything.  But, he also took great care of it.

The point I’m trying to make is that your first fly rod might not have the durability of a Sage X fly rod.  But that’s ok.  Take care of it and it will most likely last you a long time.

Controlling your rod

Controlling your first fly fishing rod will be a challenge, but that’s the fun of the game!  We all try fly fishing because it’s a new experience and challenge, it’s something different!

It adds a little bit more pizzaz to a would-be-normal-fishing trip.

Don’t get angry or upset if it isn’t as easy as you think it might look.  It’ll take a little bit of practice, but when you get it figured out – it’ll be a blast for you.

Wear glasses!

The first time I went fly fishing, I distinctively remember while I was casting my fly came directly back in my face and I suffered the full force of my fly and line.  It hurt like crazy, and I didn’t have any glasses on.

The fly hit directly under my eye…

I didn’t have any severe damage, it just felt like a nice slap to the face, with a sharp fish hook.

I had no idea what I was doing honestly.  I saw videos of professionals doing cool casts and whatnot on Youtube, and thought I could do the same.

Boy did I look silly.

So yeah…. I bought a cheap pair of sunglasses.

I would recommend some!

You might lose some flies

I quickly learned that flies come and go very quickly at the start, especially if you are fly fishing around trees.

I recommend finding an open area and practicing your cast first, without trees in the area.

Trees while fly fishing are just an annoying obstacle that will only prolong your learning curve of fly fishing.

But, after you’ve sort of got a hang of fly fishing, you will still probably lose some flies.  They get caught on rocks, logs, and in some cases, fly off during during a cast.

Don’t get upset!  Someone is always making more flies!  Just realize that you might want a decent selection…

But, fly fishing is an awesome experience overall.

Making the case to buy an expensive fly rod as a beginner

As I said earlier, you don’t need to put a million dollars down on a fly fishing rod when you are just starting out.  But, there are some people that can afford a super expensive fly rod, and maybe will be wanting to do so.  That’s perfectly fine!  Get yourself a Sage X!  That’ll probably be the first and last fly rod you’ll use in the decade of 2020.

It’s that good.

But, it is a fast action fly rod, so it’ll be harder to handle as beginner.

Another reason you might want to buy an expensive fly rod as a beginner, is because you want to get it right the first time.  You don’t want to be buying a new rod every year, because your cheap one keeps breaking at the end of each season.  I understand that aspect of it!  It makes total sense.

Now, the choice is up to you.   You know where I stand… (quality, but inexpensive).

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Getting the perfect beginner rod is all personal preference

In conclusion, I believe the best all-around rod for beginners is a 9 foot 5-weight slow or medium-fast action rod. You probably aren’t going to find an easier starter combo than Cabela’s Prestige Combo. It has everything that you need to get started, and the outfit itself is very high quality.   

I personally would recommend purchasing the Moonshine Co. Drifter Series rod or the Hardy Zephrus rod the most.  They will leave you feeling like a champ when you throw your first fly into the stream.  You might pay the price for the Zephrus, but it will be worth it.

Otherwise for the best budget fly rod, get the Redington Classic Trout.  It’s nothing fancy, but will get the job done!

I hope this article helped you out, best of luck and tight lines!