The 10 Best Fly Rods for Trout Anglers

If you're looking to land some trout this year, you're going to need the right gear! Read on to learn what to look for in a trout rod and some suggestions for rods!

A hand holding a trout out of the water.

Photo by Michael Yero

Choosing the correct fly-fishing rod can be challenging for anglers. Years ago, the choices were limited, and budget was the biggest factor in deciding which rod to acquire. Modern technology has improved fly fishing gear quality and anglers are now faced with a myriad of options.

Gone are the days of a simple 9ft, 5-weight fly rod for trout fishing. Many outdoor gear manufacturers have sought the holy grail of the best trout rod or have tweaked rods to excel in certain technical situations. Whether you are looking for a trout fly rod for yourself or maybe one for a youngster, or even looking for that perfect gift, there is no need to become confused and overwhelmed.

With a little guidance, you can navigate your fly rod selection and just concentrate on which lucky fly from your fly box will catch a fish.

In this article, I will attempt to highlight some of the better fly rods out there and for what specific application they work best for.

Action

A diagram showing the difference in bend for a fast, medium, and slow action fly rod.

Figure by Joseph Price

The fly rod action is perhaps one of the most important things to consider when choosing a fly rod. For beginners who do not have a developed casting rhythm down, getting a fly rod action that allows the caster to feel the rod load and forgive mistakes with the cast is important. For the more experienced angler, the action can be just as important, as certain actions are better suited to different applications. The action is simply where the rod bends when under load. Rods come in either slow, moderate, or fast action.

Different trout fishing applications require different fly rod actions. Slow-action rods tend to be geared more for delicate dry fly presentations. The deep slow bend of the rod is easy to feel and the slower casting stroke makes dry fly presentations fun and exciting. They are often the preferred action of ultralight setups.

Fast-action rods bend at the tip. These rods generate fast line speed and are great for casting long distances in windy conditions. These are great for casting large baitfish imitations or launching hoppers to the far bank of the stream.

Moderate or medium action rods bend in the middle. These tend to be the favorite actions for beginners, as they tend to be forgiving with errant casts and allow a solid casting stroke to be developed. Anglers can easily feel these rods load and generate enough line speed that they can fish most situations with ease. For this reason, these rods are often all-purpose rods.

Weight

Fly rods are designated with different weights. These are not the actual weight of the rod but rather, an indication of which fly line works best with this rod. The fly rod weight designation is very important as this often dictates not only what size fly it will cast but what species of fish anglers will be targeting.

For trout anglers, a 5-weight is considered the ideal rod. This weight has the ability to cast dry flies, large hoppers, and handle nymph rigs and streamers.

3-weight and smaller rods are often preferred for ultralight setups as well as Euro Nymphing setups. The increased sensitivity demanded by the technical nature of the fishing allows for these smaller line weights to be used.

A 4-weight rod is often preferred as a dry fly rod on smaller streams as presentations are more delicate and dead drifting a fly is easier to achieve.

Likewise, a 6-weight rod may be better for streamer fishing and fishing larger streams as this rod has the backbone to launch non-aerodynamic flies at greater distances. In some instances, where large streamers are cast long distances, a 7-weight fly rod may even be preferred.

Length

Fly rods can come in different lengths. Some ultralight setups are around 7ft and can be beneficial for casting in tight quarters. A 10ft rod may be easier to fish from the seated position of a kayak or canoe. Tight line nymphing applications are easier with longer rod lengths of up to 11ft as this makes line management easier.

As micro-spey techniques are becoming a popular way to swing wet flies and streamers to trout, two-handed trout spey rods come in sizes up to 11ft 6in. For most trout fly fishing situations, though, an 8ft 6-in or 9ft rod is ideal.

Rod Material

There are different materials that fly rods are made of. Historically, rods were made from split canes of bamboo. Rods can still be obtained in bamboo, and these slow-action rods, although they are quite expensive, can be a treat to fish with.

Fiberglass was the next technological advancement and they tend to be slower in action as well. Although they are still made, they tend to be niche rods. They also are heavy, which can lead to a tired arm after a day of fishing.

Most rods these days are made from graphite. Graphite makes lightweight, durable rods that are sensitive and easier to cast, and for this reason, most fly fishers will use them.

For the latest technological innovation, there are also nano-silica resin rods. These rods use silica particles to fill the gaps in graphite fibers adding strength and power to graphite rods while making them even more lightweight. These rods tend to be more expensive and are found in the higher-end category. Experienced trout anglers looking for a lightweight rod for long days of casting will gravitate toward these rods.

Other Factors

Although the aforementioned attributes are likely the more important factors in considering which is the best trout fly rod, other factors are just as important.

  • Price – Certainly price is a big factor. It will vary across different products, but remember, there is a reason the price differs and that is largely due to quality.
  • Warranty – These rods come with different warranties. As a general rule, if the company believes their product is made of high quality, the warranty is usually for a longer period of time.
  • Aesthetics – Let’s all be honest here. If the best-casting fly rod looked like a piece of junk, no one would ever fish it. Although trout do not care what the fly rod looks like, we as anglers often do. Attributes such as color may appear to be simply cosmetic, but some features such as a more comfortable cork grip may make all the difference after a long day of fishing. Likewise, different guides will affect casting distance as well as improve line management and should be considered as well.
  • Fly Line – Although this may seem a minor point, the quality of the fly line will greatly affect casting and the overall fishing experience. Although this is not an article about fly line per se, to get the most out of your fly rod, you need to match it with a fly line that is up to the task you are asking your fly rod to perform.

My Top 10 Best Trout Fly Rods

With all the background information covered, here are some of the top picks, in my opinion, that you should consider when shopping for your trout fly rod.

1. Douglas DXF – Best Overall Trout Rod

The Douglas DXF Fly Rod.

This is a versatile fast-action fly rod. Available in a plethora of weights and lengths, this mid-price rod can meet just about any need a trout angler would have and still leave money left over to pay for the fishing trip. The rod is a powerful, yet efficient casting stick able to accurately deliver dry flies with delicate grace as well as bomb hopper patterns against the far bank. Backed with a lifetime warranty, most fly fishers would enjoy using this rod.

2. Orvis Clearwater – Best Beginner Trout Rod

The Orvis Clearwater fly rod.

Photo by Joseph Smith

The Clearwater is a medium-fast action fly rod which is a great action for beginners to learn to cast on. The rod comes in a 3 weight 10ft rod designed to be an introductory European Nymphing rod, and the standard 5, 6, and 8 weight options. This rod also has the option of coming as a rod and reel combination package to help beginners enter the sport. Backed by a 25-year warranty, more experienced anglers should consider this as a backup rod as well.

Read my detailed review on this rod here!

3. Douglas Sky G – Best Premier Trout Rod

The Douglas Sky G Fly Rod.

Photo by Curated Fly Fishing Expert Josh H. 

For fly anglers who are looking for a rod that can do it all, this rod is for you. This medium-fast action rod features the finest components and is extremely lightweight. It has the power to throw large flies great distances with pinpoint accuracy. It’s also backed by a lifetime warranty. The only feature holding this rod back is perhaps the price.

Still have questions on this rod? Check out the Expert Guide to the Douglas Sky G Rod.

4. Temple Fork Outfitters Blue Ribbon – Best Budget

The Temple Fork Outfitters Blue Ribbon Rod leaning against a rock.

Photo by Curated Fly Fishing Expert Marshall McDougal

This medium-fast action rod is a casting-friendly rod that can handle most trout fishing situations. This rod certainly fishes well above its price point. It comes with a Cordura rod tube for protection as well as a lifetime warranty that should put the angler’s mind at ease.

Check out this review to learn more about this rod!

5. Sage Foundation – Best Rod/Reel Combination Rod

The Sage Foundation Rod.

Photo by Curated Fly Fishing Expert Josh H.

The fly rod in the Sage Foundation kits is a faster action rod, so some beginners may find this more difficult to begin to cast with. That being said, the components and graphite blank of this rod are better than other combination kit rods. This rod is available in a 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 weight option. The rod is paired with the Sage Spectrum C reel which is a die-cast aluminum reel with a solid drag. The fly line is the RIO Gold line, which is an upgrade from the RIO Mainstream line. This rod comes with a protective rod case and is backed by a lifetime warranty. Other beginner rod and reel combo packages (insert by beginner fly rod article) are discussed in this other article.

For more in depth information on this rod, click here.

6. Winston Air 2 – Best Dry Fly Trout Rod

The Winston Air 2 Fly Rod.

This fast-action rod features a graphite blank with boron incorporated into it for a lightweight rod that produces fast line speed with a quick recovery time. For those finesse situations, this fly rod delivers delicate presentations of dry flies without sacrificing distance. This fly rod features a lifetime warranty.

7. Orvis Helios 3D – Best Streamer Trout Rod

The Best Streamer Trout Rod.

Photo by Joseph Smith

This fast-action rod is designed to throw large flies at great distances. Although anglers will associate this rod with saltwater applications, this rod can easily and accurately deliver large hopper and indicator patterns to the far bank of a stream as well as handle the sinking lines often used with streamer fishing. A 25-year warranty guarantees Orvis will have your back if breakage occurs.

I have a detailed review of this particular rod that can be found here!

8. Douglas Upstream – Best Ultralight Trout Rod

The Douglas Upstream Fly Rod.

Photo by Curated Fly Fishing Expert Danny Salinas

This slow-to-medium action rod is a dream to cast when fishing small creeks and streams. The color combination even harkens back to a bamboo split cane rod. This rod has great casting accuracy inside 30ft and the blank is designed to protect light tippets. This rod features a lifetime warranty and comes with an aluminum rod tube for protection when not being fished.

Want to know more? Check out this review.

9. Sage ESN HD – Best European Nymph Trout Rod

The Sage ESN HD Fly Rod.

This medium-action fly rod is built for tight-line nymph fishing. This rod is extremely lightweight and very sensitive to detect strikes. Although most European-style nymph anglers will opt for the 3-weight option, this rod also comes in a 2-weight option for small streams and a 4-weight option when fishing heavy nymphs. This rod is backed by a lifetime warranty.

10. Sage Trout Spey G5 – Best Trout Spey Rod

The Sage Trout Spey G5 Fly Rod.

Full disclaimer, I do not spey fish, but my friends who do swear by this rod. Spey fishing is not just the milieu for steelhead and salmon anglers. Trout spey casting is gaining in popularity. This rod is designed to be a versatile spey rod. It boasts being able to swing dry flies as well as manage Skagit heads. This rod is designed with components that are designed to maximize spey action and performance. If you are looking to get into two-handed fishing, this is a good place to start.

Final Thoughts

Two hands holding a trout.

Photo by Joseph Smith

I hope this article has helped and inspired you to take up fly fishing. If you are still unsure as to what rod to buy, then don’t sweat it! At Curated, we want you to be happy and are so confident that we can find you the perfect fly rod. We even have a castability guarantee, so once you get your new trout fly rod, check out some of the great destinations you could go to break it in! If you have questions or need help selecting a fly rod or any other gear, please reach out to me or another Fly Fishing Expert at Curated. We would love to help. Tight Lines!

Fly Fishing Expert Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith
Fly Fishing Expert
Joseph here! How can I help?
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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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