Best Fly Rod for Beginners

What is the Best Fly Rod for Beginner Fly Fishermen and Women?

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.

Before we dive into what the best rod for a beginner is, let’s go over some concepts that will make the rod selection process more manageable.

Rod Weight: 

3 Weight – 6 Weight

  • Cast and present small flies delicately
  • Better tippet protection
  • Makes fighting smaller fish more fun
  • Excellent for trout, panfish, bass, and carp

7 Weight – 10 Weight and up

  • Cast larger flies
  • Cast farther
  • Less affected by wind
  • More rod backbone for larger fish
  • Great for bass, carp, pike, musky, and saltwater species

Rod Action: 

Slow Action

  • Can be difficult for beginners due to the slow casting stroke
  • Excellent tippet protection
  • Casts big, open loops

Moderate / Medium-Fast Action

  • Forgiving casting stroke
  • A middle ground between slow and fast action
  • Good tippet protection
  • Ability to make open or tight loops depending on casting stroke 

Fast Action

  • Requires precise timing while casting, but makes tighter loops
  • Cast larger, more air resistant flies easier
  • Cast in windy conditions with much less effort
  • Cast farther distances

First things first, buy the rod you enjoy casting the most. I would not recommend purchasing a rod simply because of its price or because a buddy thinks it’s the best. Instead, visit your local fly shop, ask the staff questions, and cast as many rods as you can get your hands on. Just because you cast a rod in the fly shop does not mean you have to buy it. But be warned, you might want to!

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?

A quick Google search can leave someone feeling overwhelmed with the variety of rod options available. To make this process a little simpler, here are a few rod recommendations I have first-hand experience using.

Redington 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 also 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. It is a decent starter rod, but will probably leave you wanting after you have an opportunity to cast an assortment of other rods.

My favorite Redington rod 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.

Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) makes great fly rods as well. The Professional II is a medium-fast action rod that is very forgiving, casts beautifully, and is very accurate. The TFO warranty is excellent, but their rods do not come with a rod tube, so you will need to buy one separately. When I first put the rod together, I noticed the sections did not fit snugly up to the epoxy. I called TFO and spoke with a very knowledgeable representative about my concern. They assured me nothing was wrong and I have not had a single issue with my Professional II.

Finally, if you want to try your hand at a fast action rod, look no 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 shootouts, 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.

If cost is not a concern, some of the highest quality rods are made by Winston, Sage, Orvis, G. Loomis, Thomas and Thomas, Scott, and Hardy, to name a few. These rods come with a hefty price tag, but the build quality, components, and casting are second to none. You will not go wrong with one of these.

In conclusion, I believe the best all-around rod for beginners is a 9 foot 5-weight medium-fast action rod. While the Redington Crosswater would get the job done, I would highly recommend either the Redington Classic Trout or the TFO Professional II. The Fenwick Aetos is an excellent rod, but being a fast action rod, it is not as forgiving as the others. Pair any of these rods with a reel, quality fly line, and you’re in business!

Finally, don’t overthink this decision. Most likely, your first-rod purchase will not be your last. Once you get comfortable with your casting style and have an opportunity to try a variety of rods, you will find the perfect rod. So, get out there. Appreciate nature. Bask in the here-and-now. Revel in the memories you make – both good and bad. Tight lines and mash those barbs.

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An avid fly fisherman, my work with FlyFishingDaily.com is an effort to give back to the community that has given me so much. If you're interested in writing a guest post send me an email! (tyler at flyfishandcamp dot com)