When looking at fly fishing gear, a fly rod will probably come pretty high up the list.
If you’re going to master casting, and catching then something that performs will make the start of your journey so much easier. But which to choose?
Well, I’ve assembled this handy guide with some great suggestions for the best beginner fly rods to get you on your way.
I’ll also run through some features that you really want to look for when deciding.
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When you can get affordable fly fishing gear, that really works. This might not be a premium brand…
But it certainly acts like it.
Moonshine has crafted a rod that is great value and looks the part too. You’ll find quality features that give this rod a truly vintage feel. The metallic hardware on the rod is made from anodized copper.
The reel seat, the rings, and the tips all have a soft red hew as a result. When combined with the exquisite hand-turned spalted burl, it is a head-turner.
And then there’s this…
How a rod feels in hand is one of its most important attributes, the grip is like something I’d expect to see on a $600 rod. It is a soft and smooth AAA cork.
Aesthetics aside, this rod performs beautifully. The blank is stiff enough to accelerate the line but soft enough to ensure that even a new caster can generate a decent line speed. And if you hook a fish, there is more than enough power ‘under the hood’ to land whatever you need to.
Performs like a more expensive rod.
Easy to cast.
While there isn’t too much to dislike, the younger angler may want something that looks a little more modern.
If you are looking for a middle-of-the-road, easy-caster, then this would be a great choice. I really like the attention to detail. The burl and copper finish works really well.
Ah, good old Redington, once again pulling a wonderful product out of the bag without charging a fortune. This is another rod that offers excellent value and would perform great in the hands of a beginner.
This rod is fast action, meaning that it is softer and more flexible. This will enable the beginner angler to easily pick line up off the water and cast with ease.
Here’s the thing about me…
I love little touches that make a good product into a great one.
Want to know what I mean?
Take the laser-etched reel seat. This is engraved with the model of the rod for quick identification. Snake guides may look basic, but they tend to be a feature of pricier rods. They are also anodized, meaning they won’t corrode, exactly what you want for a rod component that is sure to get wet.
At 8’6″, it is just the right length for smaller still waters and isn’t too long or unwieldy to cause beginners trouble when casting.
High quality anodized reel seat.
Fast action, great for casting.
I’m not a huge fan of the green finish. I think it makes the rod look cheap (even if it isn’t).
If you were to only buy your gear from Redington, you’d catch plenty of fish. They tend to produce really great fishing equipment, and this rod is no exception. The color won’t be for everyone, but as the performance goes, it’s pretty great.
If you liked the Moonshine rod’s look but weren’t so keen on the price, this rod by K&E Outfitters would make for a really worthy alternative. It has many similar features but is much lower cost.
Let’s take a look!
Just as with the Moonshine rod, this looks absolutely ideal as a fly rod for a beginner. The caramel guide wraps and brown blank are really easy on the eye. Throw in a wood burl reel seat, and it looks like a winner.
The rod is 9′ long. This is within the optimum range for ease of handling and casting distance. The rod is medium to fast in action, which will allow the beginner to cast in whatever style they see fit.
Remember how I said that I like little extras?
The reel seat is manufactured from super strong CNC cut aluminum. It also comes fitted with a double screw clamp allowing you to make sure that your reel stays firmly in position on the rod.
Unlike the moonshine, the rings are made of slightly cheaper steel, so they might not be quite as durable, but they are hardened, so they should last a while.
This rod is available as a 3 or a 5 weight, so towards the lighter end of beginner fly rods, it should still be hardy enough to get most lures and flies traveling in the right direction.
Another great beauty!
Good action for a beginner.
High-quality cork handle.
It might be a little light for bigger waters and faster flowing rivers.
While very similar to the moonshine, there is a minor reduction in some of the components’ quality. This isn’t a deal-breaker, and it performs just as well. If you want to get started with light and delicate dries, the #3 weight, in particular, looks pretty great!
Ok, so let’s take it up a notch. We are now into the realm of serious fly rods. If you didn’t know, Orvis is one of the world’s most premium manufacturers when it comes to fly fishing. If you take a look at this rod, you will be able to see why.
Beginners often want to throw bigger flies, as they are easier to see. It also pays to have techniques in your back pocket, so if dries aren’t catching for a beginner, they may stand more chance with a streamer.
If this sounds like you, then this rod could be the one. It has a powerful blank that will get the line traveling far and accurately. It also has the power to land some seriously big fish.
You know what’s next?
That’s right… The little things. Here you’ll see quality additions that just tip the balance to make this rod slightly more premium. First off, the large stripping guide. Orvis has lined this with ceramic. This is frictionless and reduces line contact for smoother casting and retrieves.
The black chrome blank looks phenomenal too, it features white accents, giving this rod a really great visual appeal.
The reel seat is of superior quality too. You won’t find any steel here, oh no, just solid and durable nickel aluminum. This is backed up with a superb high-quality AAA cork rod handle.
A trusted rod from a trusted brand.
All parts are really high quality.
Rod tube included.
There isn’t too much to dislike. At weight #5 it might be a little heavy for smaller still waters and streams.
Orvis hasn’t let me down yet. They always seem to come up with the goods. The Orvis Clearwater is the sum of all its great parts. If you fish medium to large waters or fast-flowing rivers, it is excellent.
This might seem a little steep on the budget, but I think it’s worth it when you consider what it can do. It’s a proven best seller and will cover you in a variety of situations. It’s particularly well suited for larger streams and rivers.
The blank is stiff enough to handle big flies (and fish) and has enough action to make dry flies and nymphs a possibility. You’ll be able to cast long, tight loops and get the line out a decent distance with ease.
The best bit?
You’ll be able to handle fish of all sizes. Orvis proudly boasts that there isn’t a freshwater species that you can’t catch using this rod!
When it comes to looks, the rod is clean in appearance, the matte olive blank has a slight sparkle of green. This looks great with the silver snake eyes and stripping guide.
You’ll have noticed that many of the budget rods have a wooden insert in the handle?
Do you know why?
It’s a standard feature in high-quality rods such as this. At the butt end, you’ll also find a pewter-type anodized aluminum reel seat with dual locking screws.
One of the best quality fly rods for the money.
A great all-rounder.
The only downside I can see is the price. It isn’t a budget rod.
If you invest in your fly fishing and are looking for a rod that will go the distance, you won’t find much better than this. You can cast flies of all sizes accurately, and with any luck, bring big fish in as a result.
Yet there something fishy going on here. I can’t figure out why such a great performing rod isn’t significantly more expensive. The performance is akin to rods that would be at least double the price!
For the money, you’ll be investing in a rod that will see you past the beginner stage and could be with you for years to come.
You’ll possibly have noticed with my suggestions for the best beginner fly fishing rods that they all have a moderate-fast blank. This rod has one too! This action is perfect for taking the line off the water quickly and producing easy castability.
And there’s more…
You’ll find really quality components used in the rod’s construction. Whether that’s the ultra-lightweight (and really slim) modulus graphite blank, the Kigan 3D stripper guides, or the Sea guide snake eyes, everywhere you look on this rod has little flashes of ‘extras’ that make it into something altogether just a little more special.
To fish with this rod is superbly light and responsive. It has a fine flex in it too, when you hook into a big old trout!
And here’s the good news…
The rod is available in a range of sizes and line weights, so if you’ve done a little reconnaissance and know the types of venues you are going to do the majority of your fishing, you can come perfectly prepared.
Moderate to fast action, great for beginners.
This is minor… But I really don’t like the logo on the reel seat. It makes this high-quality rod look a little cheap.
I really like it when I feel like I’m fishing with something high quality. When it costs the same as some ‘budget’ brands, I’m even happier. Beginners don’t want to spend a fortune working out what works. This is the answer. Believe me, it works!
Temple Fork Outfitters Signature II Series Fly Rod
I always like to think about the guys who are on a budget.
But you need to know this…
‘Budget’ and ‘low quality’ don’t have to be the same thing. If a rod is advertised as ‘suiting all skill levels’, that says to me it’s pretty good. Beginners might not know the difference, but experienced anglers will, so there’s no hiding an underperforming rod.
Fortunately, with this option, you are getting great value alongside a truly awesome rod.
It might be just a little thicker and heavier than some of our ‘designer’ options, but don’t let that fool you. It was designed by famous fly fisherman Left Kreh.
Here are the important parts.
The progressive blank makes casting for a beginner easy. It loads up fast, giving real shooting power to your line. You’ll be able to cast tight loops with penetrating line flight with your very first cast.
One thing that’s really nice to see is oversized line guides. These reduce contact with the line, aiding casting distance, which is just what a beginner needs.
There have been compromises made, the handle is AA cork (instead of AAA), but if that keeps the price down, I’m all for it… Beginners won’t notice the difference.
Designed by professional fly fishermen.
Great casting, with tight loops and fast line speed.
Oversized stripping guides.
The handle is lower quality than some of my other suggestions.
The rod is thicker and slightly heavier.
Getting great value is sometimes a trade-off. And you might have to forego one or two little ‘perks’ to stay within budget.
Fortunately, with this rod, your fishing won’t suffer as a result. It is just as capable with its performance. For one of the best starter fly rods, it is a worthy choice.
I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am that you are considering getting into fly fishing! It truly is a wonderful sport, and once you get the basics down, it’s a skill that will keep on giving.
To make sure that you fall in love with the sport, I want you to have the best possible experience, and part of that experience comes by choosing the right gear. If you aren’t sure what you need, why not start at my essential fly fishing gear list guide.
Anyway, you’ve no doubt got a few questions.
But listen to this…
While some things might sound pretty technical, they are easy once you know what they mean. I’m going to give you a rundown of the basics so that you can choose a really great fly fishing rod.
How to Choose Your First Fly Rod?
Choosing your first fly rod isn’t easy, I’ll be the first to admit. You don’t know what’s ‘good’ and have nothing to compare it against. But what you can do is buy a fly rod with proven features that will make it easier to use.
Want some ideas… Here, I’ve got you.
What to look for in the best fly fishing rods for beginners:
Let’s start with rod length.
Does it matter?
Absolutely! Let’s just put the venue to the side for one second. You will want something easy to handle but isn’t too short that casting becomes difficult. Anything over 11 feet is probably going to be a bit unwieldy for a beginner. Likewise, anything shorter than about 8’5″ is probably too light.
The sweet spot for a good all-around rod that will cover you in most situations is somewhere in the region of 10′.
You might have noticed that I mentioned the venue too? This has a bearing on what length of fly fishing rod you choose.
Here’s a simple rule that works in most cases.
The bigger the water, the longer the rod. The smaller the water, the smaller the rod.
In simple terms, if you are fishing small streams and tiny brooks, you will need a fly rod that is really accurate and isn’t so large that it’s forever getting caught in trees and bushes.
Conversely, if you are fishing big lakes or rivers, you will need to cover a lot of water. Big rods are easier to cast further, so opt for something above 10′ if you think that you will be fishing a big lake.
I used to have a beautiful 1-piece fly rod given to me by my grandfather. It cast like a dream, and I caught my all-time personal best trout with it when I was 16. Ah, I loved my 1 piece rod…
Do you know what happened to it?
It became a two-piece rod when I was careless with my jeep door. The moral of the story? Buy something easy to transport in a sturdy tube.
All of my suggestions above pack down into a small tube no bigger than a few feet. They are easy to transport, and unlike grandpa’s rod, they won’t get broken easily.
There was a stigma attached to multi-pieced rods in the past, and they were considered ‘not as good’. However, rest assured, nowadays, 4-piece rods far outnumber any other styles of fly fishing rods.
Action is one of the most important features of your fly fishing rod.
The action dictates the rod’s behavior in everything that it is designed to do. The way you cast will be determined by the rod’s action. The way your fly lands is determined (mostly) by the action of the rod, and the way you play a fish is determined by your rod action.
You’ll hear several terms relating to rod action. Words such as ‘soft’ and ‘quick’ are often used.
Here are the words you really want to hear when shopping for a new rod as a beginner…
‘Medium’ and ‘fast’.
A fast rod action means that the rod is really responsive. It will have a really significant amount of bend and flex. This is good as it transfers energy quickly. When casting, it will give you a little extra speed to your rod tip, which in turn will ‘shoot’ your fly line.
When pulling your line off the water, it makes sure that there is less ‘drag’.
And most importantly, when you hook a fish, it will act as a really great ‘shock absorber’ to any runs and pulls. This is particularly useful for a beginner as they might not have the sense of touch to know when to ease off on an aggressive trout.
If you want to know more about rod action, I’ve done a little research and have found a great video that explains it really well.
Ok, rod weight has a couple of meanings in fly fishing… If you want to know about weight rating, see the next heading down.
Where was I…
Ah, weight! For the time being, we are talking weight in the standard ‘pounds and ounces’ way. What I’m getting at is that you want to choose a rod that is as light as possible.
Here’s the thing about fly fishing.
There is no rod rests or sitting idle with your rod lying on the bank. If you are fly fishing, that rod is in your hand. All-day. Let me ask you a question.
Do you want to hold something heavy all day or something light? I already know your answer, which proves my point. Pick a lightweight rod.
You’ll tend to find that the cheaper a rod is, the heavier it is. For a couple of hours, this might be ok, but by the end of the day, your arm will be ready to drop off if you pick a heavy rod.
If you choose a heavy reel too, then you are going to have bad times. Fortunately, I have a guide just here on the best budget fly reels. You won’t believe how lightweight they can get.
So this is what I meant when I said ‘weight’ has a couple of meanings. You’ll hear rods referred to as ‘weight #3′ or weight #6’. Be aware, this has nothing to do with how much the line physically weighs.
This is, in fact, a measure of what weight of line the rod is designed to cast.
To put it in the most basic terms, the higher the number, the heavier the line. Lines for lightweight work like fishing tiny dry flies and nymphs might be #2 or #3…
Lines for heavy-duty work like saltwater fishing might be, say, #8 or #9. It stands to reason that the heavier line is bigger, which might require a bigger reel.
You’ll find that most fly rods have a cork handle. Unlike with other rods, we fly fishing folk like to stick to the traditional.
All corks aren’t created equal. You’ll find most are given an ‘A’ rating. It’s actually super simple to understand. The more A’s a handle gets, the better quality the cork is. Triple-A is considered the gold standard, and while you might not think so, you can really feel the difference.
Finally, let’s take a quick look at the reel seat. You may see fancy wood inlays, they are nice, but they are purely cosmetic. It’s how the reel seat works that you need to be most interested in.
Now let me give you a really great piece of advice.
Never… Never buy a fly fishing rod that doesn’t have a screw lock reel seat. Those that stay by friction will lead to one thing, and one thing only… your reel falling off into the water mid cast.
When you are fly fishing, your rod handle is constantly moving. You want a screw lock system so that reel stays tight and secure.
The thing with screws is, they tend to be made of metal. Metal rusts when wet, so when looking at rods, make sure you choose one with a reel seat made of anodized material to keep it corrosion and rust-free.
The best beginner fly rods will allow you to cast and catch more easily. And as my list has proved, they don’t have to be super expensive.
Some are good enough that they’ll last you for years. Stick to my guidance above as a general guide and see what works for you. Buying rods is always great fun.
What’s the furthest you’ve ever cast? Let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from you guys.