Expert Review: Orvis Clearwater® Fly Rod

This review is my honest opinion of the fly rod, which I purchased with my own money in May of 2018.

Close up of the Clearwater Fly Rod.

All photos courtesy of Joseph Smith

Published on

About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the fly rod, which I purchased with my own money in May of 2018.

My take

The Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod is an easy-casting, moderate to fast action rod that beginner anglers will find easy to cast. It will still satisfy more experienced anglers too, and is a good rod to grow with the angler as they improve.

A fisherman wearing waders standing in a river casting a fly rod.

About this outfit

  • Model: 2018 Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod
  • Length: 9-foot rod
  • Weight: 5 wt
  • Rod pieces: Four pieces
  • Rod material: Graphite
  • Accessories included: One rod tube

About me

  • Preferred fishing style: Dry flies, nymphing, streamers, freshwater and saltwater
  • Experience: 40+ years of fly fishing

Test conditions

  • When I bought this outfit: May 2018
  • Reel paired with rod: This was paired with various reels including an Orvis Battenkill click-and-pawl and an Orvis Clearwater II reel.
  • Line paired rod: Orvis Hydros Trout Line
  • Days tested: 250+ days
  • Waters I’ve used it on: Eastern trout streams, farm ponds, and local lakes in Pennsylvania
  • Species targeted: Trout, largemouth bass, bluegill, and smallmouth bass

How it performs

Casting Ease

What I was looking for

I was looking for a back-up fly rod. I was already familiar with the Orvis Clearwater as I had previously purchased one as part of a combination first rod and reel set-up package for my son. I was looking for an all-purpose fly rod that would be versatile enough for different fishing conditions, but that casters of varying skill levels would still enjoy using.

Why I chose this gear

I liked that the Clearwater fished well on ponds as well as streams, and could handle bass, trout, and bluegill. I also chose it for Orivs’ 25-year warranty on the product. Although this is not a lifetime warranty, in 25 years it would likely be time for a new rod anyway as technology will have progressed much further than this current set up. I did not strongly consider other rods because I was already so familiar with this one, but I did look at the TFO Pro 2 Fly Rod.

A man wearing waders in a river. In one hand he has a fish and in the other hand he has a fly rod.

What I love about it

  • Quality: This is a quality Orvis product. The reel seat is made from nickel aluminum, and graphite blanks with chrome and ceramic insert guides make for easy line control.
  • Versatility: This rod was purchased primarily as a trout rod but it has been able to fish anything from dry fly fishing to throwing streamers. It has also been used to catch smaller-sized largemouth bass and has handled any smallmouth bass it has encountered by chance.
  • Use Case: This outfit was fished in the rain and sun during summer, spring, autumn, and winter. Dry flies, nymphs, streamers, have all been casted with this outfit.
  • Action: I would classify this as a medium-fast fly rod.
    • Ease of casting: This is an easy-casting rod with a very forgiving casting stroke.
    • Recover rate: This rod has a slower recovery rate than a modern fast action rod.
    • Power: As this is a moderate action rod, the power is not as strong as a faster action rod and casting in the wind could be challenging.
    • Line speed: The line speed this rod generates is medium to fast.
    • Ideal casting distance: This rod can routinely cast around 50 feet accurately with minimal effort. Distances beyond this are achievable but require more effort and skill from the caster.
    • Accuracy: This rod can accurately deliver flies to their intended target. However, at exaggerated distances of greater than 75 feet, accuracy begins to fail.
    • Delicacy of presentation: Although the rod is not the most delicate, I encountered no problems with placing small flies in front of wary fish.
  • Weight: This is a 5-weight rod, which is an all-purpose trout rod weight.
  • Literal weight: A rough estimate is 3 1/4 oz, which is in the middle ground for weight, not particularly lightweight or heavy.
  • Length: At nine feet, it is a good all-round trout length.
  • Sensitivity: This is not the most sensitive rod I have used but for a beginner, it is more than adequate.
  • Grip: The grip is made of budget cork and is comfortable full well grip.
  • Build: Orvis’ quality ethos is evident in this rod. Although not built with the best materials (as this is an entry level rod) the workmanship is good and the materials get the job done.
  • Warranty: This rod is covered by a standard Orvis 25-year warranty.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Aesthetics: This particular rod is green while the newer rods are black. Scratches are very evident on my rod and I have heard similar issues with the newer black rods. Also, a hook keeper is not featured on the newer rods which may be an issue for some.

A fly fisherman standing in a river with a fly rod.

Favorite moment with this gear

My favorite moments with this gear are typically when I go fishing with a friend or family member who has never been fly fishing before. Handing them the rod and watching them successfully fish with just some rudimentary instructions makes me realize I chose a great rod for their first-time experience.

Value for the money vs. other options

For the money, this rod does cost more than other entry-level rods, such as the Orvis Encounter, but it will grow with the angler. In a couple of years, the angler will not need to upgrade it because their skills have surpassed their gear. For the more advanced anglers, this is a budget-friendly back-up rod.

Final verdict

This is a well-built entry-level rod that has plenty of room for anglers to grow. The moderate-fast action is far crisper than many entry-level rods available, and it is of high enough quality that more experienced anglers would seriously consider this as a back-up rod.

Selling Orvis on
Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod
Meet the author
Fly Fishing Expert Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith
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Written By
I am an avid fly fisherman. Luckily, I have a pond in my backyard exactly two minutes from my fly tying bench. If there is open water, I will fish just about every day. Although I grew up fishing the fabled streams of Pennsylvania, I love to travel and fly fish for diverse species both fresh and sa...

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