Like I used to say to my ex-wife… Too heavy ain’t a good thing.
The same can be said of fishing rods.
When fishing smaller waters, it pays to have a light and a little more agile rod.
The best 4 weight fly rods offer an excellent compromise between size, pulling power, and fly presentation.
This article will show you some of the best out there and give you a quick rundown of what I look for when choosing.
Read on to find out more…
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Suppose you are looking for ‘middle of the road’ bulletproof quality at a reasonable price. In that case, Redington will always have you covered. They offer very good performance at a reasonable price.
Check this out.
This 9 foot, four-piece rod is just the ticket. For the money, it is one of the best 4 wt fly rods out there.
When it comes to casting, it is right in the sweet spot. The Toray graphite blank is pretty easy to control with a moderate action, which will aid casting accuracy, especially for beginners. I like a moderate action in a 4wt rod. It gives a decent amount of pulling power without the rod being too heavy.
It also has one or two nice features, normally found on rods that are much more expensive.
I love the alignment dots on each section, and the dark clay brown blank looks pretty classy. Go towards the butt end, and you’ll find a high-quality cork handle, finished with a rosewood reel insert.
Oh, and it comes in a ballistic nylon rod tube, nice and durable for when you are traveling to the water.
Good casting action.
Really affordable price.
Some might find a moderate blank a little too slow for certain types of fishing (like Euro nymphing).
For the money, this is a great rod and performs more like something that would cost upward of $400. If you are buying for the first time, this would be a great place to start.
Okuma is a budget brand. For the money, this is never going to compete with the big names like Orvis and Redington.
But do you know what…
I actually really like it. This 4wt rod would be perfect for beginners who are just starting their journey.
The rod is pretty lightweight, with fast action. For those learning to cast, it can be difficult to generate enough energy. A more ‘whippy’ rod will get that fly line shooting nicely.
As with more expensive fly rods, it also features a rosewood reel insert and a titanium oxide stripper guide.
But there are a few downsides.
First, the rod is a two-piece. This means it is slightly more difficult to store and transport… And much easier to trap in a car door.
Second, it features stainless steel snake guides. Steel and water don’t really mix, so you’ll have to make sure the rod is bone dry before putting it back into its bag.
This rod is really cheap.
Fast action, great for casting small dries and nymphs.
It’s a two-piece rod.
It won’t last as long as others on this list.
Look, you get what you pay for. This rod would be a great choice for those looking to get fly fishing on the cheap.
You will want to upgrade eventually, but it is pretty good for a rough and ready solution or a backup rod. If you are looking for a strictly budget fly rod, you might enjoy this article here on the cheapest fly rods around.
These rods are hand-made in the USA. That will always get a big tick in the box for me. Years ago, Sage used to be one of the biggest names in fly fishing. With the rise of some other big players, they seem to have taken a back seat.
Which is a shame…
As they make awesome rods for fly fishing.
This rod excels in the looks department. The blank is a sort of golden-green color. Or ‘lichen’ to use sage’s terminology. Combined with olive thread wraps and a black trim gives a really classy look.
It’s different, and I like it.
It isn’t just about looks either. It casts like a dream. The fast action blank is perfect for accelerating small flies a long way.
The half wells high-quality cork handle feels nice in hand. When combined with a smart aluminum uplocking reel seat and dark rosewood insert, this rod screams quality.
To finish the entire package of this 4 piece rod comes with its very own Cordoba rod tube.
One of the best casters on my list.
Simply stunning in the looks department.
Included rod tube.
When you get quality as good as this, I don’t mind paying a little extra. Is it worth it? I think so. If you have a little more to spend, this 4wt rod is excellent.
Not everyone has the option to blow $500+ on a fly rod.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get great quality.
St. Croix offers something that is nearly as good as some of the Orvis range, at a fraction of the price.
The reason you pay less? It isn’t a ‘designer’ name… But it is still relatively lightweight and casts extremely well. Again, you’ll find a moderate to fast action with a pretty slim, high modulus, graphite blank.
One really nice feature is the line guides. They are sea guide snake guides with a non-stick coating, allowing you to wring every yard of distance out of each cast.
As with some of the more premium offerings, the rod also features an up-locking aluminum reel seat.
I like the added touch of a kigan hook keeper too, perfect for storing your fly as you make your way along a river looking for the fish.
Lightweight blank with a nice action.
Performs over and above its price point.
The only thing I don’t like is the color of the blank… But that’s just me being fussy.
If you don’t want to be spending fortunes, this is one of the best 4 wt fly rods for the money. Ok, so you won’t get a designer label… Do you think the fish care about what name is printed on your rod? A great all-rounder at a good price.
If you like having a designer label but don’t like paying designer prices, I’ve got something for you.
Check this out…
An Orvis rod for less than $300? Where do I sign?
Right here… It’s awesome. The Clearwater range is one of Orvis’s cheapest rods… But don’t let the price fool you! This shares many attributes of rods that are at least double the cost.
Here’s what I mean.
The black chrome finished blank is slim, lightweight, and has a medium action. The white accents of the logo and embossing on the butt section really pop too. It looks great.
Make your way up the rod. You’ll find chrome stripping guides with a ceramic insert, giving a great deal of corrosion resistance and minimal line friction.
The black nickel aluminum seat will keep your reel locked and secure. It is also pretty bulletproof when it comes to corrosion.
Yeah, it comes with a nice grey tube, so you can keep your rod safe and secure on your travels.
Excellent value, one of the best 4 wt fly rods for the money.
Its medium action, this might not suit a beginner casting style.
For me, this is the pick of the bunch. You are getting a tried and tested fly fishing brand, at the kind of money you’ll pay for ‘no name’ budget rods. The performance isn’t that far from the more expensive Orvis rods, and you’ll be using this for years to come.
A Quick Guide to 4 Weight Fly Rods
There’s plenty of options above, but how do you know what’s hot and what’s not?
Here’s a quick guide to what I look for when choosing a rod:
Where are 4 Weight Fly Rods Best Suited?
The answer to this question is actually the deciding factor in which weight rod to use.
A four-weight fly rod is ideally suited to fishing smaller rivers and still waters. It isn’t quite as light as a dedicated nymphing rod. These tend to be wt 2 or 3. It will still allow you to cast a weight forward line pretty easily.
One of the key advantages of a 4 wt rod is that it will also allow you to cast a sinking line.
If you are looking to fish streamers or slightly larger lures, this is about as light as you can go. If you want to know why sinking lines only go down to wt 4, I’ve got a whole guide about them right here.
What Size Fish Can You Catch on a 4 Wt Fly Rod?
You could probably catch a range of sizes from small half-pound brownies all the way up to double-figure rainbows. The rod certainly won’t break…
It will be a bit of a struggle if you do hook into a monster.
I want to talk to you about something important that you must consider:
If you fish to catch and release, then you really should consider going heavier in terms of rod weight.
Listen, we all love it when a fish puts up a great fight. It is one of the fun things about fishing. However, a lighter rod makes it harder to pull in larger fish. This prolongs a fight. The problem comes when the fight goes on too long.
Sportfish, in particular, trout, can literally fight themselves to death. If you return them, they no longer have the energy to swim or pump water over their gills, which means they will die. This isn’t so much of a problem if you are killing the fish to eat. Still, if you are returning them, it is kinder to use a rod that keeps the fight as short as possible, so the fish has a greater chance of survival once returned.
I don’t want to come off all preachy, but we should respect the fish that we catch and protect our sport for the future.
This one is a biggie.
That’s why I included it first. You can have all the features, fancy names, and clever designs. But if your rod action is off, it isn’t going to work.
The aim of your rod is to cast a light fly and cast it well. 4wt fly rods are meant for smaller flies on smaller waters. To do that, you are going to need a rod that is quick enough to keep up.
For that reason, I normally recommend choosing a rod with fast action. However, this is down to your casting style, and I find that some guys prefer medium.
If you are in doubt, go between the two and get the best of both worlds. Medium fast suits the vast majority of casting styles.
If you are looking for something really lightweight, it might be worth going down to a 3 wt rod. I’ve got an article devoted to 3 weight fly rods right here.
I mean this in two ways.
First the physical heaviness of the rod. Fly fishing is super active, and you are going to be casting a lot. A few ounces here and there can make all the difference.
Second, you need to make sure that 4 weight is right for the conditions and venue.
As a maximum, you might get away with using 4 weight on larger waters, but to be honest, they are better suited to smaller venues.
Back when I started fly fishing, there was one option and one option only…
Two-piece fly rods.
The game has changed a lot since then, and nowadays, a four-piece fly rod is very much ‘the norm’.
This is a good thing, and if you can, go for a four-piece fly rod.
They are easier to transport
They are easier to store
They are easier to manage
If you have a fair walk to the water, the last thing you want to do is to be lugging a 5′ pole around with you.
Multi-piece fly rods are a breeze to carry around and easily fit in the trunk. They are also much less likely to get broken.
With the best will in the world, an expensive fly rod will be no good if it starts to corrode and rust.
Here’s the thing about all fishing rods.
They tend to get a little bit wet. You’ll find that the best fly fishing rods are constructed from materials that tend not to corrode easily.
Look for the materials such as titanium, aluminum, zinc, and other alloys that aren’t prone to rust. Try and stay away from steel.
Keep a close eye on the handle too! Go for the best quality cork you can afford, as this area of the rod is really prone to wear and tear.
A Locking Reel Seat
This is another must in my book.
Ignore this advice at your peril…
Make sure you get a rod with a locking reel seat. Yep, friction rings are much cheaper and are a little bit vintage. There’s a reason you don’t see them so much anymore.
They don’t work!
You will be moving the rod constantly when you are casting and fishing. If your reel drops off your rod with every other cast, you are going to wind up frustrated, possibly with a damaged reel… or even a lost fish.
Do yourself a favor. Get a locking reel seat!
The Little Extras
We all enjoy getting more for less.
There are a few little extras that I always think sweeten the deal when it comes to buying a new fly fishing rod. And the sum of all these tiny parts makes a big difference.
First off… I want a rod tube. Sure, a cloth bag looks all cute, but when I’ve got bent rod rings, I don’t like it quite as much.
A rod tube will protect your rod. You’d be amazed how much punishment a rod takes just sat in the back of your car.
I also like to see alignment dots on my rods to get the rod set up and be ready to fish in double-quick time.
Yeah, keep an eye out for things like rod identifiers on the handle. You won’t always get these, but they are a blessing.
Ever got down to the water with an 8wt rod and a 4wt line?
I have… Guess how many fish I caught that day?
By easily identifying your rod, you can make sure you have paired it up with the correct reel and line. It’s a mistake you’ll only make once.
There’s plenty of choices above, and hopefully, you’ll have seen that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get some of the best 4 weight fly rods out there.
Pick a fast action with a multi-piece design, and you’ll be flicking tiny dries onto the nose of the trout in no time at all!
While you are here, why not take a look at my other articles?