How to Buy a 5-Weight Fly RodPublished on 01/23/2023 · 12 min readFly-Fishing Expert Rylyn S. explains what a 5-weight rod is, what weight means for a fishing rod, and lists the best 5-weight rods for different types of anglers!
Photo by Glenna Haug
5-weight fly rods are some of the most versatile multi-application fly rods for trout fishing. The majority of these fly rods excel in dry fly, nymphing, and small- to medium-streamer applications. They are also great for those new to the hobby, as they will cover many applications for trout, panfish, and bass fishing. In this article, we will discuss the different rod options at each price range and the benefits they offer.
What Is a 5-Weight Fly Rod?
The 5-weight fly rod is suitable for small, medium, and even larger fish like panfish, trout, or bass. If you are just getting started in fly fishing or need a fly rod that can handle most freshwater situations, the 5-weight fly rod is the best choice.
Let’s face it, fly fishing can be a little confusing—especially when you start throwing in different lengths of rods, weight classes, and even “actions”. But, simply, if you want to add versatility to your quiver, grab a 5-weight. And, if you are mostly trout fishing, also look at a 5-weight—which can throw dry flies, streamers, and nymphs.
What to Consider When Buying a 5-Weight Fly Rod
Do You Need a 5-Weight Fly Rod?
To answer this question, you need to ask yourself if most of your fly fishing will be done for trout, panfish, and bass, and on streams, rivers, and lakes. Or, consider if this is something you would like to try out with the option for multiple applications. A 5-weight is a versatile fly rod that will get the job done in the hands of a beginner to even an advanced angler. When I’m floating down the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks rivers and streams, there will always be a 5-weight in my boat—as it can easily be used for nymph rigs as much as it can be switched over to a dry dropper or streamer rig when a change is needed.
What Is Action and Power?
In its basic form, the fly rod's action is where and how it bends under a “load” or pressure.
When you cast a fly rod, it loads, which causes the rod to launch the fly line. Rather than casting a lure, you are casting the fly line, which propels the fly to your target. Fly rods have four actions: fast action, moderate (medium) action, medium-fast action, and slow action. A fast-action rod bends closer to the tip, can be difficult to grasp, and is best for the experienced angler. Whereas slow- and moderate-action rods will flex more proximate to the fly rod grip and are recommended for complete beginners.
|- Less flexible||- Fluid motion||- High in flexibility|
|- Casts powerfully||- Multi - application||- Slow line speed|
|- Fast line speed||- Forgiving on timing||- Best for shorter distance casting|
|- Requires timing and skill||- Great for beginners and intermediate anglers||- Great for beginners to intermediate anglers|
|- Best suited for an experienced angler|
Power is how much pressure is needed to load or bend the fly rod. If the fly rod blank is thicker and has a fast action, these tend to perform more powerful casts. More controlled and small casts are produced from a thinner and more flexible fly rod, which translates to a lower-powered rod.
Most 5wts will be in the medium to low power range—a typical fly angler for trout or bass does not need to cast 80ft to a target. Further, most trout are caught between the 15–50 ft mark, which is best for a 5-weight fly rod with medium to low power.
What Exactly Is Weight?
Sizes of fly rods range from 1 (ultralight applications) to 15 (heavy applications). Today, the weight of a fly line measures in grains and are numbered accordingly. For example, a WF6F (weight forward, 6-weight, floating fly line) matches with a 6 weight fly rod. I recommend choosing a 5wt, 9ft fly rod if you’re just starting. This is a great starting point, as it can cover a range of species and the majority of freshwater applications (as shown in the chart above). Reach out to us Curated Experts, and we can even set you up with a different weight if you are fishing for mostly salmon and steelhead. The same goes for saltwater applications; we have better options for those.
Regarding the “best bang for your buck,” choosing a fly rod outfit is the best bet. It comes completely set up and ready to fish with rod, reel, backing, fly line, and leader (sometimes even a case). Check this outfit out!
Should I Consider a Warranty?
You will notice that many companies offer a lifetime warranty or discounted sections for replacing broken sections of a fly rod—an absolute advantage for getting you back on the water quickly. I have shut my fly rod in the tailgate and even snapped a rod for trout setting on a bull red. It happens, and warranties are there to have you covered.
And let’s face it, materials are not cheap these days. Before dropping $800+ on a fly rod, having a warranty is a great idea. So if you want protection for a fly rod, look at its warranty policies. However, if you plan on spending the least amount possible for a fly rod, then warranties may not be at the top of your list.
Choosing the Right 5-Weight for You
In order to determine which 5-weight is the best option for you, let’s dive into three real-life examples. Just like you, each of these fishers have their own personal specifications that help our Experts curate gear recommendations.
Kayla: Beginner Angler
Kayla is just getting started in fly fishing and will mostly be fishing in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, where the occasional larger trout is possible. She heard that dry flies are great, but she doesn’t know if she will like dry fly fishing more than any other application. Kayla doesn’t yet know if fly fishing is really for her, but she would like to give it a whirl without breaking the bank.
Features that Kayla should look for:
- A 5-weight rod that has enough power for multi-applications without taking away from the presentation.
- A complete outfit that is fully set up and ready to fish.
- Something that is beginner forgiving.
- A moderate-action fly rod.
These fly rod examples include:
This fly rod is the “best-bang-for-the-buck” fly rod. Yes, cheaper materials are used and it is made overseas, but that does not take away from their performance. This fly rod ranked high in the 2022 Yellowstone Angler 5 Weight Shootout placings, beating rods in the $700 range in the process. However, the cork quality is pretty poor, and this fly rod doesn’t offer much curb appeal. But, at its low price, you truly get more performance than you are paying for.
You will find everything you need right here in this rod—precisely what a 5-weight is meant to be without the high price tag. Yes, there are better-performing 5-weight fly rods, but if you do not have the cash to spend, go with this rod.
Anyone can pick this rod up and cast, which is excellent for my fly fishing clients in my work as a guide. The ideal casting range is 30–60ft, although you should not have many problems making an 80ft cast. After the 60ft mark, though, the rod loses power and becomes less accurate.
The Orvis Clearwater is a little on the heavier side compared to other rods in its class, but it doesn’t have me feeling fatigued at the end of the day. I usually recommend a heavier rod in a medium-fast action for beginners, as they can quickly feel their backcast—making it easier to cast.
The rod has a super simple matte black with black thread wraps design that isn’t catchy to the eye, but the look of the carbon fiber reel seat and insert is sharp. Though this isn’t necessarily the fly rod for someone looking for a striking look. The significant part about this fly rod is that it comes as a rod combo, which is an excellent value for any beginner or someone looking to add a rod to their quiver that can take a beating.
I prefer to stay simple with this fly rod, as it is a beginner-friendly setup. Throw a Rio Avid Trout Fly line or an Orvis Clearwater fly line on this, and you’ll be well versed. Due to this rod’s durability, lifetime warranty, and versatility, this is the best fly rod for the price compared to other high-end fly rods above its price range.
Josh: Intermediate Angler
Josh is heading to the White River in Arkansas and needs a step-up from his beginning fly rod setup that broke. He wants a higher-quality fly rod with similar action and power. He would like a fly rod with a lifetime warranty.
Features that Josh should look for:
- Higher quality graphite material.
- Higher quality guides and cork (This is a telltale sign that the build is much better than beginning fly rods).
- Backed with a lifetime warranty.
- Just the fly rod and not in a fly rod outfit kit (Curated Experts can help you pair the perfect fly reel and fly line for the rod).
These fly rod examples include:
The Douglas DXF series has a fly rod for anything, ranging from euro nymphing setups to saltwater options. Specifically, the Douglas DXF is genuinely the best mid-priced 5-weight. The Yellowstone Angler liked it so much they named the best mid-priced fly rod.
This isn’t the most powerful fly rod out there, but it is the most versatile in my opinion. Being a moderate/fast action, it mixes presentation all while having adequate power for most applications in trout rods. You can have a DXF for many applications in your arsenal, from Brookies to Tarpon, and even two-handed options.
This fly rod is a step up from your typical “beginner outfit.” Sage markets this outfit as a premiere beginner's rod, and it performs amazingly well for the price. Plus, Sage rods are made right here in the U.S. Few brands have produced an “all-around” fly rod, but this mid-priced fly rod fits the bill.
Sage is a proven brand; their state-of-the-art graphene blank quality shows as much in the foundation. This fly rod has been around for a while, and no new series has been added to replace the Foundation like other fly rods in the Sage line-up. The Sage Foundation Outfits is perfectly balanced with a Rio Gold fly line, Sage Spectrum C fly reel, a leader, and even a case. If you want a quality setup, go with the rod and reel combo outfit. Otherwise, the Sage Foundation rod is an excellent option in its price range.
Mark: Experienced and Focused on Performance
Mark needs a fly rod that is the best of the best when it comes to having a 5-weight. Price isn’t an issue as long as the fly rod is quality and performs well for many applications around the country. Mark targets trout and needs a fly rod that he can pack with him on the plane for fishing trips while on work outings.
Features that Mark should look for:
- In comparison to many other fly rods, this fly rod should be outperforming them all in the shootout.
- Make sure that the fly rod is performing high in power and in presentation.
- High-quality materials and technology.
- Lifetime Warranty.
These fly rod examples include:
This fly rod is an absolute gem and should be in everyone's quiver. With the G-Tec blank, this rod weighs in at 2.7 oz. And when guiding here in the Ozarks, this is a fly rod that I always keep in the raft with me, primarily because of its versatility. It fits all fly anglers from the beginner to the expert.
These fly rods are also built to take a beating. The titanium recoil guides are crushproof. Tired of those bent and broken snake and stripping guides? Douglas has fixed that. Also, aside from its durability, it is backed by a lifetime warranty. I also want to mention the REC titanium further, as these guides create even more efficient casting due to hardly any friction between the fly line and guides.
This rod is accurate anywhere within the 15–60ft range—perfect for trout fishing. Also, the craftsmanship of this rod is stunning. Just take a look at that reel seat and cork grip! This fly rod also comes with an aluminum rod tube, which is a plus.
G Loomis NRX+
This is a powerful rod that is easy to cast. Sometimes when power is in play, it takes a skilled angler to cast the fly rod. That is not the case with the NRX. This fly rod can cast loops 10–90ft if fitted with the correct tapered fly line.
What amazes me about this fly rod is that it is accurate at short distances and those longer distances reaching past the 70ft mark. It reminds me of the Orvis Helios 3F but without the price tag. There is also the NRX+LP, a better fitting rod for someone who needs a fly rod that is well-versed in delicacy and presentation for dry flies and nymph rigs—as the LP stands for “light application”.
I like the Rio Gold and the SA Infinity on this fly rod. If you want to stick to dry fly fishing and light nymphing, go with the Rio Gold; otherwise, the SA Infinity will have you well-versed with this rod.
No fly anglers should be without a 5-weight fly rod in their quiver, and all of these fly rods are stellar for multiple applications. If you are just getting back into fly fishing or are a beginner, I’d recommend starting with a 5-weight.
If you are having trouble determining which option is best for you, or want free advice to build a complete, customized setup (fly rod, fly reel, backing, fly line, and leader), come chat with one of us Fly Fishing Experts at Curated. We would love to help out! Tight lines!