Do you know what’s better than a fishing rod? A fishing rod and a reel.
By finding the best fly rod and reel combo, you can ensure that you’ve got a sweet set up where each part compliments the other, and it can save you time and money too!
I’ve spent a bit of time looking through some great fly fishing combos, and I’d like to show you a few.
I’ll also give you some guidance on some of the things that you need to look for.
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If you’ve seen my article on the best beginner fly rods, you’ll already know how much I rate this rod. When combined with the equally awesome Orvis encounter reel, you’ve got a setup that is a force to be reckoned with.
The rod is medium to fast action, giving plenty of control and excellent line pickup when casting. The fact that it is just a little shorter than 9′ means you’ll get a great degree of control and superb accuracy, perfect for landing a nymph slap bang on a trout’s nose.
And it doesn’t stop there.
In this fly fishing combo, you’ll also get the Orvis encounter reel. When products are designed to work together, it makes sense to use them. This reel is perfectly balanced when mounted on the rod and offers a pretty crisp performance.
As an additional bonus, you’ll also get a weight-forward floating line and backing. So aside from the flies and the leader, you’re pretty much good to go.
A really nicely balanced setup.
If you are looking to fish bigger water, this setup might be a touch on the ‘small side’.
I haven’t got a bad word to say about Orvis, simply put, their gear works. If you are just starting out, this is one of the best entry-level fly rod combo deals that I have seen. Hell, I’m not entry-level, and I want one.
Redington is fast becoming my go-to choice when I want something new but don’t want to break the bank.
Redington makes great fly fishing gear. This could easily be a contender for the best beginner fly rod and reel combo. Let me talk you through it.
On opening the included Cordoba rod tube (with room for your attached reel, too), you’ll be presented with a 9′ rod rated at #5 weight. This is the ideal size and weight for those looking for a good all-rounder.
It’s easy to assemble, and Redington has been kind enough to place alignment dots on each of the 4 pieces.
The cork handle looks and feels really good quality. Once assembled, the rod comes into its own. The medium-fast action has a nice responsive feel, and it casts like a dream.
And the reel…
My my, this setup feels like something that should cost 3 times more. The Crosswater reel comes preloaded with Rio mainstream weight forward line (that’s pretty premium right there). The reel is solid with a big arbor, manufactured from anodized aluminum. It’s pretty resilient.
And it’s not going to go anywhere. There is a dual screw locking system mounted below a wood insert on the handle. Classy.
Great casting action and a really responsive rod.
The reel is supremely high quality.
Included Rio line!
Honestly? I can’t fault it. It’s one of the best beginner fly rod combos I’ve seen.
Here look, I don’t mean to be all gushy about Redington… But this is a great deal. I wish these kinds of combos existed when I was just starting out. The rod casts nicely, the reel is pretty solid, and the setup works well together. You won’t be disappointed.
Ok, so Wild Water isn’t a mainstream brand. But when you are battling a big old rainbow, is that honestly what you are going to be thinking about?
This is a great budget option and will allow you to get kitted out for a low price. For the money, it’s a pretty good performer.
Here’s what you need to know.
Just as with some premium fly fishing combos, you’ll find a graphite 9′ medium-fast action rod. It weighs about 4.4 ounces, so it is light enough to give you a full day’s fishing without getting arm ache.
The rod has an etched laser butt and a dual reel lock. The stripper guide is stainless steel leading to silicon carbide rings, so it should be pretty durable.
The reel is a die-cast aluminum frame with an adjustable click-drag. These are both attributes that you’d expect to find on a reel costing the same as the entire combo!
And here’s the great thing… This combo also comes with a pre-installed line, backing, leader, and even some flies!
Now you will probably want to upgrade these at some point, but if you are looking to get out fishing, you are getting amazing value.
Pretty much all you need to start fly fishing.
Rod and reel are both pretty solid.
Ok, let us be upfront. This isn’t going to be your ‘lifetime’ rod. There is better out there (but not for this price).
As a really cheap way to start fly fishing, this is the setup for you. The amount of extras alone makes it worth it. This is a great set to start with before you fine-tune and figure out what you want long-term.
If you are looking to get started on an absolutely minimum budget, this could be the fly rod and reel combo for you. There’s nothing fancy here, and you won’t find heaps of technology, but you’ll be out on the water in no time.
The setup includes a 9′ fast action rod and a pre-spooled aluminum reel.
Speaking of the reel, again, you get what you pay for. It is a little on the heavy side, and while there is a nod to cut out sections on either side of the spool, you won’t find the futuristic look of more premium offerings. That said, it holds the line and has a decent drag.
The line is Ok, but it isn’t great. If you fit a more premium line, you’ll find your fishing experience is transformed. The included flies are a nice bonus too and should bag you a few trout.
Great if you are on a budget.
Well balanced with lots of extras.
It’s a bit heavy.
It isn’t the most technologically advanced.
Ok, so it’s bare-bones, but the included extras make it worth a look. You’ll be able to cast and catch fish with it. This setup will be ideal if you bring a buddy and don’t want to risk inexperienced hands damaging your more expensive gear.
If you liked the Orvis encounter combo, then you are absolutely going to love this. It’s like a pimped-up version. Better rod, better reel, better fly fishing combo!
The rod alone sets this combo apart. First off, it looks amazing. The dark grey blank is punctuated by clean text and white accents. With a great quality cork handle and a nickel aluminum reel seat, it just screams quality.
And let’s talk performance.
The rod has an amazing progressive action that gives you power in the cast but is also delicate enough to make presenting smaller patterns on the water easy. I love it for dry fly fishing especially. It’s really light and responsive!
The line guides are high quality too. The first stripper guide is ceramic lined. This leads to snake-style chrome rings, perfect for minimal line interaction, meaning an increased casting distance.
The Clearwater reel is noteworthy too! Pair this up with a #4 weight line, and you’ve got the perfect fly rod and reel combo! The reel has significant cut-out sections to reduce weight and a large arbor to give you plenty of room.
One of the best quality combos on my list.
Durable and lightweight reel.
The only downside is that it is weight #4. This might be a little light for bigger waters.
If you are happy to spend just a little extra, you could get a rod and reel combo that will be with you for years. I can’t really fault its performance. A good fly rod and reel combo is the sum of its parts. This adds up to one of the best out there.
One thing beginners struggle with is easy casting. So why not choose a fly rod combo that makes it as easy as possible.
Well, you’ve found it.
Fenwick offers two things. Great value and a rod and reel that will make casting easy. If you look closely, there are a few premium features that have managed to sneak in too.
Oh, just Hardy Chrome stripper guides, a woven carbon reel seat, high-quality aluminum lock fittings, and an AAA cork handle. The usual budget fly rod combo things… NOT! And that’s before we even talk about the performance of the rod.
It has a tapered blank, meaning it supremely controllable and responsive. It loads gradually, allowing the beginner to pick line up off the water easily.
The large die-cast arbor on the reel is impressive too. I’ll be upfront. You will find much lighter reels… But you’ll also pay a hell of a lot more. When you consider that it comes with backing and a weight-forward floating line, I think this isn’t bad.
A budget fly rod and reel combo with some nice extras.
Just a little on the heavy side for my taste.
As I’m sure you’ve figured, I’m all about getting great value. Would I pay $300 for this combo? Probably not, but at half that price, it really is a great place to start your fly fishing journey. It looks the part and performs really well.
Alright, so you don’t see yourself fly fishing that often, or maybe want something to take on the occasional camping trip? Perhaps you are on a real budget or want to dip your toe in without investing a fortune?
Well, check this out.
This is the most basic fly rod and reel combo on my list. It’s cheap, and I like it.
In the pack, you’ll get an 8′ three-piece rod, a Pflueger fly reel, and some line. The rod is pretty thick with a stiffer action but would be ideal for, say… a trip to the beach where you don’t want to risk ruining your best tackle.
The reel is durable aluminum and comes with both backing and line. It isn’t particularly lightweight, but for the occasional use, it’s ok.
One of the cheapest on my list.
Rough and ready.
Line and backing included.
I always like to include a super budget option. As a training set, it would be good, especially in younger hands who might not care for a more premium setup as they should. It isn’t fancy, and there are better combos out there. But for a few dollars, you’ll be able to get out casting.
Ok, so enough of budget. I much prefer showing you super high quality.
Just like this!
With this rod and reel combo, you’ll be getting the kind of performance that you’d expect from some major big names… Except you’ll pay quite a bit less.
Take a look at this.
The Streamlight Ultra II rod is available in a variety of weights and sizes. I love the #5 weight as a great middle ground. The rod is crisp and fast. This, combined with a really lightweight feel, makes it a joy to use.
As with some of my more premium suggestions, you’ll find great features like alignment guides, a graphite reel seat, and quality carbon blanks.
The rod looks amazing, with a deep bottle green finish and lined aconite stripping guides.
When you buy a fly-fishing combo, you want the reel to match the rod’s performance. This setup doesn’t disappoint. The reel is machined from lightweight aluminum and gives a really smooth operation. It’s also anodized, ensuring that it remains corrosion-free.
Oh, and don’t let me forget.
The drag system is also sealed too. This is vital to prevent dirt and debris from interfering with the action. It is made of carbon fiber, giving you the ability to dial down the drag to suit.
A setup that performs just as well as the ‘big players’.
Included backing, line, and leader… Just add flies!
Superb lightweight, and crisp action.
It’s minor, but some might not like the green finish.
I’m normally a big fan of fishing with more well-known names… But Orvis and Redington had better watch out. As a mid-priced fly rod and reel combo, this set excels.
Pleasing on the eye, pleasing on performance, for the money, one of the best fly fishing rod and reel combo packages out there!
If your idea of fly fishing is shallow, babbling brooks and tiny streams, you will have to scale down your ideas. This is no place for 10′ rods and big reels.
Relax, I’ve got you covered.
This setup is dainty, compact. And I love it. It’s a real throwback to the roots of fly fishing.
Let’s start with the rod.
It’s a lot softer than the rest, but it needs a bit of extra whip to get that fly traveling as it is so short. The slow action and high-quality fiberglass blank are just perfect for flicking something really light on a short cast.
The quality is sublime. It feels great in hand with the AAA cork handle, backed up with an aluminum reel seat.
When it comes to the reel, it matches perfectly. Manufactured from lightweight aluminum, it is anodized against rust. It’s really low maintenance.
Pocketwater has chosen to do away with the traditional click-drag and has made the reel an easy-to-manage pawl drag system instead.
Great for small streams and delicate flies.
Short casts made easy.
Not great big water.
The yellow color might be a bit bold for some.
Going bigger isn’t always better. If you like the idea of smaller flies and natural presentation, this could be the setup for you. It’s light and effective, just what a beginner might need when practicing the finer points of fly fishing.
Buying Guide to Fly Fishing Rod & Reel Combos
We all like a choice, but it can be difficult to know what you need when given a whole range of options.
Here are the main things you should consider when looking for the best beginner fly fishing combo.
Ok, what do I mean by ‘balance’?
Well, it is quite simple. I mean that you don’t want the traits of either the rod or the reel to work against the other. Essentially the rod should match the reel, and the reel should match the rod.
The good thing about buying a fly rod and reel combo is that (provided you choose something half decent) the manufacturer should have done the hard work for you.
With big names like Redington and Orvis, you can be sure that they know what they are doing and have created an ideal pairing. But you can achieve a similar standard with budget brands, provided you know what to look for.
Look for reels and rods that share the same name and model number. If you want an example, check out the clearwater kit above, as it is one of the best on my list.
Where to Start?
In fly fishing, the rod, reel, and line all interact to make up the perfect team. Each has a significant effect on how your setup behaves.
But I’ll make it easy.
Make your starting point the rod… And then work back from there.
Your rod choice will primarily be dictated by where you fish. Here’s some guidance about rods:
I have a handy rule of thumb that works well. Bigger water equals bigger rods. Smaller water equals smaller rods. If you want a good all-rounder go for something in the region of 9-10′. This will be easy to cast and will cover you for both smaller and bigger waters.
If you know that you’ll only be fishing in big lakes, go a little higher. If you only intend to fish brooks and streams, you can dip a little below.
I don’t normally deal in absolutes… But when I do, I say this…
Go for a medium to fast action rod.
They are easy to cast, have plenty of backbone to pull in lots of different sized fish, and you’ll generally be covered for 90% of the fishing you could ever hope to do. If you go too soft on the rod, you’ll find it hard to control your cast, end up with tangles, and generally find it harder.
Fast action rods are more responsive. They keep you in better contact with your line, which means you can react quickly when a fish takes the fly.
While it is preferred, you can test a fly rod action without casting. This video shows you how:
When I talk about a rod’s ‘weight,’ I am not referring to how ‘heavy’ it is in pounds and ounces. (although this is also important). You’ll see a little number printed on the side of the blank.
It looks like this…
#5 or #8, or something similar. This is a rod weight rating that tells you what kind of line it has been fine-tuned to cast. The rating system of a line is really easy to understand. The higher the number, the thicker and heavier the line.
Lighter lines are used in ultra-light setups. Heavier lines are used for battling monsters like Tarpon and Kingfish.
So which to choose?
A great middle ground and benchmark is a #5 weight rod. This is heavy enough to cover you for most situations but light enough that casting is still really easy. A number on either side of this won’t make a massive difference, but treat a #5 weight rod as the ‘standard’ and work from there.
So now you have chosen the rod, the reel must follow, right?
Unlike in other forms of fishing, the reel isn’t quite as important. In fly fishing, consider the reel more as a portable rod-mounted line holder. In freshwater fishing, you tend to play the fish using your hands on the line instead of winding it in on the reel.
However, there are still a few things you need to look at when it comes to fly fishing reels.
Unlike the rod, when I talk about reels, I really do mean ‘how heavy the reel is’. The reel is normally heavier than the rod, and when it is loaded with backing and line can actually weigh more than you’d think.
That’s right, fly reels are loaded with two different types of lines at once! If you want to know how to set up a fly reel for the first time, here’s a handy video:
While the backing and line remain pretty standard in how much it weighs, you can alter the reel’s empty weight.
Here’s what I recommend.
Choose something as light as possible. Trust me, after a full day of fishing, your wrists and arms will thank you.
I said we choose a combo by starting with the rod. But this has a bearing on your reel choice.
Here’s the reason.
The rod dictates the line rating, and the line rating dictates what capacity of reel you need. Go too thick with the line and too small on the reel, and you are going to end up with something that is jam-packed and difficult to use.
Buying a combo means this shouldn’t be an issue, but always take care to select something with a nice big spool.
If you are buying a fly rod combo, you are likely trying to save money. And of course, you will. But to get the most out of your investment, you want your gear to last.
Here’s a simple fact.
Your reel will get wet. As a result, be sure to choose those combo deals that offer a reel that will be durable. Coatings and anodization are great things to prevent rust.
Should I Buy a Combo Fly Rod and Reel Package or Separate?
That is a personal choice and entirely up to you.
But listen to this…
I’ve seen plenty of newbies struggle with a mismatched setup. I’ve also seen guys drop hundreds of dollars on a reel that they have paired up with a trashy rod. So here’s my advice…
If you are brand new to fly fishing, a combo package makes a great choice. Remember, you can still ‘tweak’ the combo at a later date. If something isn’t quite working out, say your reel, there are plenty of options to swap it out for something else.