The Practical Guide to 3 Weight Fly Rods + 7 Best Rods of 2021 Reviewed


When it comes to presentation, fly fishing is about as refined as it gets. Delicate flies, light lines, and gentle casts are what it is all about.

Try doing that with a heavy rod!

To get the best presentation, you’ll need precision tools, like the best 3 weight fly rod you can get your hands on!

I’ve taken a look at a few and come up with a few suggestions that would be ideal. I’ll also show you what I look for when choosing.

Read on to find out more…

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Top 7 Best 3 Weight Fly Rods of 2021

Redington Classic Trout Fly Rod

What do you think about Redington?

Oh, only that they are one of the best fly fishing brands on the market! If you are familiar with some of my other articles, you’ll already know that I think Redington is great. They produce really good gear at an affordable price.

Just like this rod.

At 7’6″, it is the perfect size for fishing small waters. I love that the rod has a moderate action, giving it enough backbone to cast light, delicate flies with enough strength to throw out something slightly bigger like gold head nymphs.

And here are a few nice little touches…

It looks really classy! The rosewood reel insert gives it a really high-quality finish. Pair this up with extras normally found on much more expensive rods, such as alignment dots and titanium stripping rings, and you’ve got an excellent rod for the money.

Pros

  • AAA Cork handle.
  • Classic good looks with a nice action.
  • Included rod tube.

Cons

  • It isn’t good for casting at range. If you fish anything other than small waters or close in, you might want to look elsewhere.

Takeaway

For the money, a real contender for the best 3 weight fly rod available. It performs well in excess of its price point. One of my favorites!

Moonshine Rod Co. The Drifter Series Rod

As I said at the start, fly fishing is all about gentle casts and excellent presentation.

If you ain’t getting both of those things… Something is wrong.

But here’s the answer.

For such a low price, this rod is one of the easiest casters on my list. With a medium blank, it loads well, even with a lighter line.

The rod comes in a Cordoba rod tube and breaks down into 4 pieces. It’s supremely portable too, so if you are hiking to the swim, this needs to find a place in your tackle bag.

Moonshine is fast making its name as a higher-end brand. Without the markup and for the money, you’ll get quite a few little extras that make it worthwhile.

Like?

I really like the AAA cork handle. This is dense and really comfortable to hold.

And there’s more. You might be looking for a new rod because you broke your last one. Moonshine has the answer. All of their rods come with an extra tip section, so if the unthinkable happens, and you do get a breakage, it won’t ruin your day’s fishing!

Pros

  • A great rod for the money.
  • Premium cork handle.
  • Really easy to cast.

Cons

  • Some might be put off by Moonshine not being a well-known brand. Don’t be! They are great.

Takeaway

I’m glad I came across this company. They speak my language. High-quality blanks and parts used in the manufacture make this one of the best 3wt fly rods out there. For mid-priced functionality, you’ll find it right here.

Fenwick AETOS Fly Fishing Rod

Speaking of quality parts, get this.

Fenwick isn’t perhaps the most famous fly fishing brand out there, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t produce quality.

There’s plenty to love about this rod.

Starting with the blank, you’ll find nanocomposite technology, with fast action, perfect for getting tiny flies and nymphs up to speed and out on the water. This material is lighter and stronger than similarly sized cheaper blanks.

A two-tone anodized aluminum reel seat gives the rod a really appealing look and corrosion-resistant!

And here’s something you really want…

The entire rod is finished in black satin. This is great as it stops the rods flashing and reflecting light when casting towards a particularly wary fish. You’ll also find alignment dots to make sure your rod is perfectly set up before fishing.

The entire rod is topped off with a high-quality AAA cork handle.

Nice.

Pros

  • Lightweight and strong.
  • High quality touches in the reel seat, handle and finish.
  • Great for small nymphs on streams.

Cons

  • The rod is 6′. Great for smaller streams. For big fish, you’ll find yourself outgunned.

Takeaway

This is a very location-specific rod. For shallow brooks and for fish up to a couple of lbs, it would be lovely. For bigger fish or heavy conditions, it is worth beefing up your game a little.

Orvis Clearwater 103-4 Nymph Fly Rod

When I started my quest to find the best 3wt fly rod, I knew that I’d end up at Orvis at some point.

I can’t say it simpler than this.

Their fishing gear works. It is the best!

The only downside is that they are a premium brand, and this is reflected in the price. All that said, you get what you pay for, and this rod should last as long as you decide to keep it.

Take a look…

At 10′, this rod is absolutely ideal for Euro nymphing. With a light and sensitive blank, you’ll be able to feel every twitch and pull on the line and have the ability to quickly pick the line up with those delicate little takes.

Because of the rod length, this is a great all-rounder in many situations, as you should be able to cast it a little further without losing any of the finesse required with a smaller fly presentation.

It also comes with a Cordoba rod tube and breaks down into 4 parts for ease of transportation.

Pros

  • A trusted fly-fishing brand, one of the best in the game.
  • Slightly longer rod, for better casting distance.
  • Really portable and lightweight.

Cons

  • The only real downside to this rod is the cost. It is But I’m not sure that, for the money, it is that much better.

Takeaway

Sometimes it pays to stick to what you know. If you want a reliable rod that is ideal for fishing in small to medium-sized waters and will have you covered for several styles, check this out. One of the best 3wt fly rods available!

Redington Strike Euro Czech Nymph

This is one of the longest rods on my list. At 10’6″, it is getting towards the upper end of what I would consider appropriate. As a result of its length, it has quite a fast action. This would be a great rod for those anglers with a slow casting tempo.

I’ll be honest.

I think most would find this rod extremely easy to cast with. It picks the line up of the water really quickly and loads really well.

And there’s more.

The sensitive tip section is great for feeling those finicky bites, common when fishing with smaller, lighter nymphs.

I really like the extended handle. It creates a nice balance in the rod and would work really well with a large arbor reel. It is finished with a rounded ‘fighting butt’ (sounds like my ex-wife) that you can brace your forearm against when fighting a monster.

The blank is a little unusual, and I mean this in a good way.

It isn’t coated or painted but left in a ‘raw’ condition. This is great as it prevents reflections which can really spook wary fish.

Pros

  • I like the larger handle and fighting butt. It’s a little unusual for a light rod, but it works.
  • This rod is really responsive. The fast action tip makes it perfect for fishing small flies.

Cons

  • Bearing in mind it is a Redington-made fly rod, you can get more premium offerings for similar money.

Takeaway

Had this rod been $50 cheaper, I’d have said it was hands down a winner. Don’t get me wrong… It is a nice rod… But you’ll be hard-pressed to choose between this and the Orvis clearwater. They offer very similar performance.

Orvis Recon Fly Rod

Orvis Recon Fly Rod

Do you want the best of the best?

I don’t normally go this far premium, but if you are looking for your ‘forever rod,’ you will want to look at this.

This. Rod. Is. Stunning!

At first glance, I saw that this was something special. The matte olive and green blank looks different and is the perfect color if you are trying to be all stealthy.

Go for the 3 weight 8’6,” and you’ll have one of the best all-round fly rods out there.

The entire thing just screams quality, from the bold white embossed “Orvis” on the blank to the premium silver snake stripping guides and pewter reel seat. As construction goes, you won’t find any better.

Here’s the thing…

Fly fishing is pretty tiring. You want your rod to be as light as possible. All that casting (and catching) can really tire you out. If this sounds familiar, this could be the one for you.

However…

Just because it is a lightweight fly rod, don’t make the mistake of thinking it isn’t powerful. This rod has plenty of backbone, and you’ll easily be able to pull in something that weighs double figures!

Pros

  • The best performer on my list. Strong yet lightweight blank.
  • Excellent control and casting accuracy.

Cons

  • I have a saying… A lightweight rod equals a lightweight wallet.
  • If you break it, you’ll cry.

Takeaway

This rod is exemplary in its performance. It is pricey, but I think it is worth it. For long casts, short casts, and everything in between (such as a whopping fish), you’ll be completely covered. Take care of it, and it should last you a lifetime.

St. Croix Mojo Trout Fly Rod

St Croix Mojo Trout Fly Rod

If the above has left you a little hot under the collar, but you still want something lightweight and slim, there are other options.

Like this…

The St. Croix Mojo is packed with features, and after a few casts, you’ll wonder why it is so cheap!

Within you’ll find plenty of great features.

The rod is built using a premium high modulus graphite blank with a mid to fast action, perfect for short casts and targeting close-in rises. But, it isn’t all just about the blank.

St. Croix has done all it can to reduce the weight further. This includes Kigan master hand 3D line guides, patented sea guide snake stripper rings, and a super high-quality aluminum reel seat.

You know me…

I like the little things… One feature I really like is the included hook keeper. This is great if you like to move around and are fishing on the go.

The rod is just a fraction under 8′, occupying just the right amount of space to fish in various environments, from getting pinpoint-accurate casts under overhanging bushes to throwing out something weighted into the middle of a fast-flowing river.

Pros

  • Considering the features, a great price.
  • Super lightweight.
  • Med-fast action, a good all-round rod.

Cons

  • I’m not so sure about the grey finish…

Takeaway

St. Croix rods are not the most well know of brands, but the fish won’t care. It is sometimes too easy to fall into the trap of paying for a name. For sure, this is nice to cast with and has all the attributes of a great rod. Give it a go. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

A Quick Guide to Fly Rods

Are you fully kitted out? A rod is one of the key parts of fishing, alongside a few other essentials.

To get the most out of it, you will want to choose the very best you can find.

Here are some things that you will definitely want to look at.

close-up fly fishing rod and reel with fly box in background

What is the Best Fly Fishing Rod Length?

Now, this is variable and will tend to boil down to a key factor…

Like what?

Namely where you will be using the rod. I have a good rule of thumb. The bigger the water, the longer the rod needs to be. If you are going to be fishing in small streams and lakes, then ideally, you want a shorter rod.

People often talk about fish size. My theory is that it is unlikely you’ll catch a 30lb monster in a tiny stream, so don’t worry too much about that.

Be realistic!

There are a few advantages to a shorter rod:

Short rods are…

  • Easier to cast accurately.
  • Easier to cast around trees and overhanging features.
  • Easier to transport.

The downside is that they can be hard to cast a long way. They also tend not to work well with larger flies.

small grayling caught while fly fishing

Choosing the Action

Rod action is important but is very much down to individual preference.

With a 3wt fly rod, you are going to want to be quick and responsive. Chances are you are targeting smaller fish, and they tend to be much more rapid and less obvious when they bite.

The ability to react quickly is key.

For that reason, I recommend going for a medium-fast rod action. That will give you enough backbone to fight fish of various sizes. It will also give you versatility in the flies you use and be quick and responsive enough to enable precision casts to quick-rising fish.

Want to see what I mean.

Check out this short video… Man, it makes me excited!

Rod Finish

Trout are funny. One minute they are gulping down anything that lands on the surface… The next, they are jumping at their own shadow.

When fly fishing, you need to be covert. Anything that looks unnatural is a bad thing… This includes your brand new fly rod glittering and flashing in the sun.

My point?

If possible, go for a rod that doesn’t have a shiny blank. You’ll find that the best quality rods tend to have a matte finish or aren’t painted at all!

Handle

It should be obvious that you’ll want a high-quality handle.

I’m going to make it easy.

Here’s what you need to know.

Look for lots of “A’s”! The number of A’s indicated the grade of cork that has been used in producing the handle. Triple-A is the gold standard. If you spot this on a rod, you can be sure that the cork used is the finest around.

fly fishing rod and fly box on the bank of the stream

Reel Seat

As fishing techniques go, fly fishing has to be one of the most dynamic and high-energy. You are constantly casting.

What has this got to do with reel seats?

Well, this is something you simply must look for when choosing a fly rod.

I’m going to say it clearly and simply.

Make sure your rod has a screw-type reel seat. Anything else will lead you to have a bad day. The reel WILL fall off with a friction-based reel seat. It’s a screw seat or nothing for me.

Stripping Guides

No, I’m not talking about the book I wrote about Las Vegas… (what goes on in Vegas, stays in Vegas).

I’m talking about what is commonly referred to as ‘rod rings’.

Stripping guides come in all shapes and sizes. Unlike with other types of rods, you want them to be as simple as possible on a fly rod.

My favorite kind is actually the snake-type stripping guides. These offer minimal contact with the line. As a result, you can expect to see an increased casting distance.

two men fly fishing in river

FAQ

Got questions? I don’t blame you! It can all be a little daunting. If you are brand new to fly fishing, why not check out my guide here on the best beginner fly rods? Here are some things that I get asked about all the time.

How big of a fish can a 3wt fly rod handle?

You’ll get guys saying that you can only catch little fish on a 3wt fly rod.

Simply. They are wrong.

If you choose a good quality rod and pair it with a decent fly line that matches the rod’s weight, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to handle bigger species. Up to early double figures.

But a word to the wise. While fishing with lighter rods does give you more sport, unless you are planning to kill your catch, it is kinder to use a heavier setup. Fish released after a prolonged fight tend not to survive!

Who makes the best fly fishing rods?

For me, that’s a tough call. From my list above, if you want to spend top dollar, I’d say that you’ll never go wrong with Orvis.

But we don’t all want to spend top dollar on a rod…

In that case, your next port of call would be a high-quality budget brand like Redington, with a company like the Moonshine Rod Co as a very close second… I admire their humor as well as their rods…

What is a 3wt fly rod good for?

3 weight rods really shine when used in small streams and still waters. They are the ideal rod for marrying up with tiny flies.

You won’t be needing to cast far with a 3wt rod. Mostly you’ll be sight fishing and targeting specific fish.

What is the most versatile fly rod weight?

For most, a 5 or 6 weight rod will cover the majority of situations. They are a great all-rounder and good for casting long and short and playing a range of fish sizes.

The only downside is that it is hard to find a rod that shines in absolutely all areas. They will be ‘ok’ in all areas, but it might be worth considering a custom solution in a lighter or shorter rod for extreme ends of the scale.

Summary

Using the best 3 weight fly rods is one of the most interesting ways to fish. Precision casting to an unsuspecting fish certainly gets your pulse racing! It’s all about presentation!

If you are looking for a new setup, I’ve got plenty of fly fishing info. I even offer budget suggestions and combination packages to get you out fishing that much sooner.

What’s your favorite rod weight to use? Got any tips? Let me know in the comments!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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