What Do You Get at Each Price Point for Fly Rods?

Fy Fishing Expert Rylyn S. explains the different price points in fly rods so you can make an informed decision on which rod fits both your needs and your budget!

The handle of a fly rod with a reel attached to it.

Photo by Alex Smith 

When walking into a fly shop, most of us get overwhelmed with the many options regarding fly rods on the shelf. I remember getting started in fly fishing, walking into the local state park trout lodge, and seeing many different rod brand names on hats, truck decals, and rod tubes that were leaning up against everyone's pile of gear next to the river. The question that ran through my mind constantly was "Which one is truly better?"

The market for fly fishing is becoming even more complex, with the vast number of brands and manufacturers growing daily. I know for even me, it is easy to get lost in a flood of options, with prices that can range from the $50 Walmart rod up to fly rods pressing over the $1,300 mark. What makes a $1,300 fly rod worth more than a $250 fly rod? How do I know I am getting a better product by spending that cash? Or, we may ask, am I just wasting my money?

Let's get to it. What do you get at each price point for fly rods?

When talking about fly rods, a range of factors come into play. To make this easy for both of us, we will skip the application type, the kind of water, and the conditions, and we will not focus on every type of fly rod built out there. Let's even shy away from the length of the fly rod and even the weight. In other words, does spending more money on a fly rod get you a better fly rod?

We will look at three categories of fly rod price points in order to explore my take on the question "What do you get at each price point for fly rods?”

The Beginner-Level Fly Rod Price

A man fly fishing from a lake shore.

Photo by Robson Hatsuka

Most of the biggest name brands offer a relatively inexpensive fly rod option for beginners, and I feel it has the most votes out of the three. I suggest not to browse Amazon for a fly rod outfit, even if they come with all the "bells and whistles." Instead, please read my 20 Essentials For Every Fly Fisher article to get an idea of what you need versus what you want. Prices in the “Beginner Level” can range from $40 to $170 for the rod. You can also get some great ready-to-fish options ready to hit the water. Just tie on the fly, of course!

Most anglers that fall into this category sometimes do not have the experience or skills to tell the difference between these options. They are initially comfortable with the inexpensive option, and then end up upgrading due to their first rod not working sometime down the road. Think of it like this: companies are already pricing these entry-level outfits and rods at their best price to be competitive with other brands. If the rod costs more, it probably costs more to make it, which equates to getting a better fly rod. Most fly rods in this category are going to be graphite with a few fiberglass options. I also want to note here that while craftsmanship is kept in mind for any fly rod company, this range is where you will see imported cheaper materials to cut costs on the overall fly rod design process.

To summarize, there is a definite improvement in rod quality compared to what you spend in this category. Therefore, spend as much as you can afford in this category with the $170 price.

Here are some of my recommendations:

Outfits

Three fly rod outfits. The Redington Path outfit (top left), the Temple Fork Outfitters NXT Black Label outfit (bottom) and the Orvis Encounter outfit (top right).

The Redington Path outfit (top left), the Temple Fork Outfitters NXT Black Label outfit (bottom) and the Orvis Encounter outfit (top right)

Three fly rods. From top to bottom: the Douglas Era, the Temple Fork Outfitters Pro 3, and the Redington Path.

From top to bottom: the Douglas Era, the Temple Fork Outfitters Pro 3, and the Redington Path

Close up of someone holding a fly rod.

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl

We stopped at $170 in the last category, so let's start there. This price point ranges anywhere from $170 to $500. I would say that this is the most problematic category of the three to pick apart. Over the past few years, there has been an increase in the technology used to make fly rods specifically in graphite and carbon fiber mixtures. Today, fly rods are lighter and perform exponentially better than their ancestors. Twenty years ago, there were just a few tremendous road-building companies. Now that is not the case. Even overseas, we are seeing manufacturers creating magnificent fly rods, as well as U.S. companies outsourcing their products to be built overseas. Let me stop you there because I know what you are thinking. Just because they are being made overseas does not mean the product is poor. I will leave that to you. I am all for USA-made products, but just because they are outsourced does not mean it takes away from the quality of the fly rod.

This category is where the rod reviews, research, and patience will pay off. I believe that if you purchase a fly rod within the "Middle of the Road" range, you honestly cannot go wrong. I will say this, though, you will find yourself scratching your head to pinpoint the difference between the $170 fly rod and the $500 fly rod. If you are ever in this position, connect with one of our Fly Fishing Experts. We have these rods in our hands daily on the water and would love to help with that decision-making process.

In other words, do not spend the money because you think the price of the rod definitely means you are getting a better product. You will be blown away by some of the rods in the $150–$250 range. On the other hand, if you like the looks of the rod, the reel seat, the sensitivity, and the better grip of the fly rod, then do it! You want to love what you buy. No one wants to have to sell a fly rod down the road to replace it with another. Did I mention coming to talk to us if you have questions?

Here are a few of my recommendations:

Fly Rods

Three fly rods. From top to bottom: the Orvis Clearwater, the Douglas DXF, and the Sage Foundation.

From top to bottom: the Orvis Clearwater, the Douglas DXF, and the Sage Foundation

A man fly fishing in a river.

Photo by McKayla Crump

It is time to hide the bank statement from your spouse or significant other! It is about to get crazy! I know a few advanced fly anglers that can take a broken cypress limb, add a line and leader to it, tie on a fly, and cast to a moving target in a 100mph wind while videoing it on their iPhones. They do not need guidance on what kind of fly rod to pick up. But, when you get to this level, I want you to remember something: super-expensive rods do not necessarily mean super-good or super-performing.

Experts lean toward the tried and true when it comes to fly rods. I love an excellently performing rod, but that rod also needs to be reliable and durable. Some rods just can't be replaced. I know advanced anglers who still use the same fly rod after over 15 years. They love their rods with no intention of replacing them—too much fish slime, sweat, and memories in those cork handles.

These rods have great marketing ploys that display the latest fly rod technology. Advancing technology is real, which is why these price tags are higher. It costs a lot to research, design, and test these products. Talk with us here at Curated if you want a lifelong fly rod that can be handed down to the kids and grandkids, or view the suggestions below. These fly rods are designed with the best graphite materials available. For instance, the G-Tec in the Douglas Sky G and the latest graphite technology in the Sage R8 Core make for some of the lightest fly rods on the market and are named the top-performing fly rods because of this technology. In this category, you will also have your bamboo fly rods which will take you back in time to the basics of fly fishing where it all started.

There are some downsides to these fly rods. First, you have to ask yourself "Do I want to worry about damage or traveling with it constantly (customs or TSA issues)?”

To sum it up, as a Fly Fishing expert, buy whatever rod you dadgum want! If you are in this category, you have the money to spend, are a professional, or spend more than 50 days on the water a year. If you want us to narrow down some options for you, talk to one of our Experts!

Here are three of my recommendations:

Fly Rods

Three fly rods. From top to bottom - the Orvis Helios 3F, the Douglas SKY G, and the Sage R8 Core.

From top to bottom: the Orvis Helios 3F, the Douglas SKY G, and the Sage R8 Core

When buying a fly rod there is much to think about. My first suggestion is to get an idea of how much you are willing to spend on the total setup and spend the most money on the fly rod and the fly line. Whether you are a beginner, someone who was introduced to fly fishing five years ago, or an expert guide and professional, there is truly a fly rod for everyone. Our Experts can help you make those hard decisions. We want you to love what you buy because quality gear makes for a quality experience.

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Written By
Hey There! My name is Rylyn Small. I am a High School Agriculture and FFA/Outdoor Teacher that teaches fly-fishing, angler education, hunter education, veterinary science, agricultural welding, and woodworking. I am also thankful to be the Coach for the EPHS Bass Fishing Team where we compete in the...

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