Expert Review: Orvis Clearwater® Fly Rod Outfit

This review is my honest opinion of the fly rod outfit, which I purchased with my own money in May of 2020.

Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit on the Tuckaseegee River.

Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit on the Tuckaseegee River. All photos courtesy of Matt Beam

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About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the fly rod outfit, which I purchased with my own money in May of 2020.

My take

The Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit is the perfect fly rod outfit for new fly anglers and the fly fishing guide looking for a great fly rod outfit for their clients on a day-to-day basis.

A man holding a fish over a river with the Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit lying next to him.

About this outfit

  • Rod model: 2020 Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit
  • Length & weight: 10’ 3 weight and 9’ 5 weight
  • Rod material: Graphite
  • Rod pieces: 4-piece
  • Reel model: Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor
  • Reel material: Die Cast Aluminum
  • Line: Orvis Clearwater Weight Forward Floating Fly Line on 9’ 5 weight, Orvis Hydros Tactical Nymph Fly Line on 10’ 3 weight
  • Accessories included: Rod and Reel Tube

Test conditions

  • When I bought this: May 2020
  • Days tested: 300 days
  • Waters I’ve used it on: Small Streams, Large Streams
  • Species targeted with this outfit: Trout and Bass

About me

  • Preferred fishing style(s): Euro Nymphing and Streamers
  • Experience: 30 years fly fishing and 17 years guiding

How it performs

Casting Ease

What I was looking for

When I purchased the Orvis Fly Rod outfit, I was looking for new fly rod outfits for two purposes. I needed a good euro nymphing fly rod outfit that wasn’t overpriced, so I could purchase multiple fly rod outfits at once without breaking the bank but still get excellent rods and reels. I also required multiple affordable dry fly rod outfits for dry dropper fly fishing. I needed these new Orvis Clearwater fly rod outfits for my clients to use on their guided trips.

Why I chose this gear

I went with the Orvis Clearwater fly rod outfits based on the option to have the same outfit in a euro nymphing size, a good all-around size, and at a great price.

While looking for new fly rod outfits for my clients on guided trips, I also considered Redington Path, Redington Vice, and TFO NXT Black Label fly rod outfits. In the end, I went with the Orvis Clearwater fly rod outfit due to multiple size options that fit my particular needs in the same outfit.

A man using a fly fishing rod on a river.

What I love about it

  • Quality: The quality of these rod outfits feel high-end and look as though they are as well. Graphite blanks with a cool white Orvis Clearwater label are on the butt sections of the fly rod. The cork grips also feel really great in hand. The drag knob of the reel is oversized and easily adjustable when quick adjustment is needed.
  • Durability: I’ve put these fly rod outfits through about as rigorous of a test as they could be in normal fishing situations. The rods have held up amazingly with over 300 days of use, and the reels all have minimal everyday wear that anyone would expect from a reel being as used as mine.
  • Versatility: I have been highly impressed by the 10’ 3 weight Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit. I purchased this rod set up mainly for euro nymphing applications. However, this outfit has really shown that it can handle small dry fly casting and even small to midsize nymphs with an indicator as well while fly fishing for trout. The 9’ 5 weight outfit is great for dry flies, dry-dropper, and indicator nymphing for trout. It also turns over small streamers really well for trout and bass and can even handle poppers for bass.
  • Rod:
    • Weight: The 10’ 3 weight Orvis Clearwater fly rod outfit is a fantastic rod for fly fishers getting started in euro nymphing for trout. It comes spooled up with the Orvis Hydros Tactical nymph line, which is a really good flat euro nymphing fly line. The 9’ 5 weight Orvis Clearwater fly rod outfit is a great all-around freshwater use size fly rod for trout and bass. The 9’ 5 weight is spooled up with the Orvis Clearwater fly line in a 5 weight, weight-forward floating line. It is great for throwing dry flies for trout and small poppers for bass. It also works with dry dropper set-ups for trout and small streamers for trout and bass. Where the 9’ 5 weight excels is indicator nymphing for trout. It handles the extra weight of the indicator, heavy nymphs/small streamers, and even extra split-shot really well.
    • Length: I specifically chose the 10’ 3 weight Orvis Clearwater fly rod outfit for euro nymphing applications. The extra length is extremely necessary for euro nymphing to get good drifts. The extra length of the rod allows a fly fisherman to fish their flies closer to the rod tip but still far enough away to not spook fish. I chose the 9’ 5 weight Orvis Clearwater fly rod outfit specifically for a good all-around use-size freshwater fly rod. The 9’ 5 weight is widely known to be the middle ground of all fly rod sizes and handles multiple applications well.
    • Action: The 9’ 5 weight Orvis Clearwater's action is medium-fast, making for a really clean cast around 25-50 feet. The tip is more sensitive than one would expect, and this rod will actually handle smaller flies pretty well, but not perfect for small fly presentation. The 10’ 3 weight Orvis Clearwater rod is a little slower action being a longer and lighter rod. However, the longer length also allows for pretty accurate casts at 25-40 feet. This is an excellent rod for presenting close-range small dry flies and really excels when euro nymphing. I am really impressed by the sensitivity to strikes this rod provides while euro nymphing.
    • Sensitivity: Each rod is much more sensitive than expected in the tip section. The 9’ 5 weight tip section, even being medium fast action, is sensitive enough to throw smaller flies at short distances. The 10’ 3wt rod is extremely sensitive. It is designed for euro nymphing and excels at strike detection at close range. It's also sensitive enough to handle small flies at close range.
  • Reel:
    • Size: Both Orvis Clearwater fly rod outfits come with a size II (4-6wt reel) Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor reel. Matching reel size to rod weight is imperative as it can throw off the balance of the whole rod if it's too small or too large. The size II reel that comes with these outfits is perfect for each rod. Okay, I know what some are thinking, a 4-6 weight reel on a 3-weight rod? In order to balance out the weight of a longer rod in a 10’ length, one needs to go up one size on the reel. Orvis perfectly paired the 10’ 3wt rod with a size II reel. The large arbor on this reel allows for extremely quick line pick-up.
    • Drag system: Wow is the first word that comes to mind when thinking of the drag system in the Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor reel. It is designed with an in-line, carbon to stainless, stacked disc drag system. Honestly, the drag in these reels is up there with the best of the best. Plenty of stopping power!
  • Line:
    • Performance: I am very impressed by the performance of the Orvis Hydros Tactical nymph line on the 10’ 3wt Orvis Clearwater fly rod outfit. It's a floating euro nymphing line that is very thin but has just enough front taper to cast dry flies really well at short distances. This line excels in euro nymphing techniques and is very sensitive to strikes.
  • Outfit accessories: The fly rod and reel tube that comes with this outfit is very durable. It's a very impressive addition to this outfit.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Rod:
    • Distance: I wouldn't recommend either of these Orvis Clearwater outfits to any fly angler looking for distance increases in their casting. They are both great for short-range casts in the 25-40 foot range. The actions of these rods are great for new fly anglers, but experienced fly casters will be highly disappointed.
    • Accuracy: These rods are not built for dead-on accuracy. The rods are built for new fly anglers who just need to get the job done and experience fly fishing and enjoy it. The action of the rods is meant for short-range casts and will not provide the feel to drop casts on a dime at long distances.
  • Reel:
    • Build: The Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor fly reel that comes with these outfits is a die-cast aluminum reel. It's not extremely durable and can break with a pretty solid drop. The finish of the reel is also very susceptible to scratching. The porting on the reel is also minimal and allows the reel to hold water more than it should.
  • Line:
    • Performance: The 9’ 5 weight Orvis Clearwater fly rod outfit comes loaded with the Orvis Clearwater weight forward floating 5wt line. This line does not exactly do the fly rod justice while casting. The fly line's taper doesn't match up well to the rod action and limits the casting ability of the rod.
  • Warranty: Orvis offers a 25-year warranty on the rod and reel in the Orvis Clearwater Outfit. This warranty does not match up to competitors’ lifetime warranties or lifetime no-fault warranties on fly rod outfits in this same price range. However, Orvis customer service is top-notch and turns around warranty repairs faster than most companies.
  • Other: The biggest con of the Orvis Clearwater fly rod outfit is that there is no hook keeper built into the fly rod. This leaves the fly angler having to hook their flies to one of the fly rod guides or the grip, which is not great for any fly rod.
The Orvis Clearwater Reel.

Favorite moment with this gear

I have had many great moments with the Orvis Clearwater fly rod outfit, as one could imagine while using these rods for clients who are learning to fly fish. The most memorable moment for me was while on a guided trip with a first-time fly angler on the Tuckasegee River in Western North Carolina. This angler was brand new to fly fishing, so we started out with the 9’ 5 weight outfit to get the casting basics down. The angler picked up casting indicator nymph rigs really quickly and landed quite a few trout pretty quickly as well. During our lunch break, we talked about advanced techniques, specifically euro nymphing. The client decided they would like to try euro nymphing since the morning portion had been successful. A few casts later,with the 10’ 3 weight outfit, that client was hooked into a 20+ inch brook trout while euro nymphing and landed the fish. What can I say? Some people just learn fly fishing naturally!

Value for the money vs. other options

The Orvis Clearwater fly rod outfit in a 10’ 3 weight model provides top-notch value for the money. There aren't any outfits in this price range that would compare. The 10’ 3 weight outfit is designed and fitted perfectly for euro nymphing. However, there are definitely better options that are cheaper than the Orvis Clearwater fly rod outfit in 9’ 5 weight. Compared to a TFO Pro 3 rod and Lamson liquid fly reel set up, a fly angler would get a better rod and reel and a better warranty for a lower price.

Final verdict

The Orvis Clearwater fly rod outfit in 10’ 3 weight is top of the class in this price range when considering a euro nymphing outfit. On the other hand, the 9’ 5 outfit is a great one, but in comparison to other 9’ 5 weight models, it's not the top choice.

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Orvis Clearwater® Fly Rod Outfit
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Written By
Fly fishing has been my passion for over 30 years and have 18 years of guiding experience. I've managed fly shops and have won multiple fishing competitons all over the Southeast US and have fly fished all over the world in freshwater and saltwater. ​ I'm here to help you with advice and expertise o...

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