Expert Review: Orvis Encounter Fly Rod Outfit

This review is my honest opinion of the fly rod outfit, which I bought in January 2021.

Students fishing using the Orvis Encounter.

Students using the Orvis Encounter. Photo by Rylyn Small

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About this review This review is my honest opinion of the fly rod outfit, which I bought in January 2021.

My take

The Orvis Encounter Fly Rod Outfit is ideal for those looking for an affordable outfit that is multi-application (small streamers, nymphs, and dry flies). This outfit is completely set up and ready to fish.

Students fishing in a river.

Photo by Rylyn Small

About this outfit

  • Rod model: 2021 Orvis Encounter Outfit
  • Length & weight: 5WT 9ft
  • Rod material: Graphite
  • Rod pieces: 4-piece
  • Reel model: Orvis Encounter 4-6 WT
  • Reel material: Molded Composite
  • Line: Orvis Clearwater Floating Fly Line WF5F
  • Accessories included: Orvis Standard Rod Tube and Orvis 5x Leader

About me

  • Preferred fishing styles: Dry fly, nymphing, and small streamers
  • Experience: 20+ years

Test conditions

  • When I bought this: January 2021
  • Days tested: 120
  • Waters I’ve used it on: Small streams, big rivers, and lakes
  • Species targeted with this outfit: Trout and smallmouth bass

How it performs

Casting Ease
5/5
Durability
3/5
Performance
4/5
Quality
3/5
Versatility
4/5

What I was looking for

I was looking for an affordable outfit that would be great for beginners getting started with fly fishing. These were purchased as part of a school fly fishing program that allows students to experience fly fishing for the first time. We were needing something that was the best value for the quantity being purchased.

Why I chose this gear

I chose to go with this outfit due to Orvis’ trusted reputation as a high-quality brand in the fly fishing industry along with its cost-effectiveness. Also, this was a great entry-level “best bang for the buck” outfit that comes completely set up and ready to fish with the rod, reel, fly line, backing, leader, and even a rod tube as most beginner outfits are. I did consider other options, such as the Echo Traverse and the Redington Path, for the outfits but concluded that this outfit would be the best option for my students and their beginner skill level due to the better cork grip and overall better durability of the rod. I wanted these outfits to last considering these would be used in a beginner environment where students are likely to be harder on equipment than most anglers.

Close up of Rod Tube, Reel and Rod.

Rod Tube, Reel and Rod View. Photo by Rylyn Small

"Together" View of the rod and reel.

"Together" View. Photo by Rylyn Small

What I love about it:

  • Quality: When holding this outfit, it definitely gives me the “quality” feel because of the high-quality cork and being such a lightweight rod. The rod itself is a great addition to anyone's quiver for a backup or for new anglers looking to get started in fly fishing on the right foot. Though this rod is imported, it doesn't have the cheaper feel of most other affordable imported beginner outfits. The construction and finishing are done to the highest standard, even on Orvis' most affordable fly rod, although they're not suitable for the hardcore angler.
  • Versatility: The wide range of fly rods available in the Encounter fly combo series lends versatility to this fly rod combo. It can be used effectively to fish in saltwater, freshwater, small rivers, large water bodies, and warm water conditions. The combo can be used to accurately place dry flies or heavy streamers when I fish for a range of species. This fly rod really excels in the trout park situation. For anglers who are going to be fishing in stocked locations and are just starting out, this is an ideal outfit.
  • Use Case: I have no trouble going after trout and the different bass like peacock, smallmouth, largemouth, and white bass, as well as redfish, catfish, and grass carp. The combo is ideal to play fish in shallow, fast-moving water and deep pools without letting large trout snap off. When my students are using this outfit, we are usually in a situation where the trout are anywhere from 1lb to 5lbs. This outfit, specifically the 5WT 9’0, is perfect for those situations. Some students are more comfortable with throwing streamers while others would rather throw nymph rigs under indicators. It’s super versatile for the beginner and for anyone wanting to get started in the sport of fly fishing.

Rod

  • Weight: For the specific rod that was tested, I used the 5WT 9’ fly rod outfit which is best suited for trout and smaller bass.
  • Length: A 9ft fly fishing rod is the standard in fly fishing and the perfect length for a beginner.
  • Grip: AAA Grade Cork Reverse half wells is by far the best quality grip that I have seen on a beginner outfit under $200. This grade and workmanship are not seen on most beginner outfits. Orvis did a great job paying attention to detail where most wear and tear can happen.
  • Action: The Encounter is a moderate or medium-action rod that ensures greater versatility. The flexible tip is balanced out with moderate stiffness in its lower half, allowing beginners to maintain good line control and accuracy in diverse fishing conditions.
  • Distance: This rod excels at mid-range distances. This is the ideal distance range for trout and bass. This is great at 10-40 feet of casting, but after the 50 ft mark, this is where the outfit struggles.
  • Accuracy: For the price of this outfit, I could not find a more accurate rod. There have been several fly fishing shootouts with beginner fly rods in this price range, and the Orvis Encounter almost always comes out on top due to its crisp performance.
  • Sensitivity: With the Encounter rod series being a medium-action rod, I have enough sensitivity in the tip section for feeling those strikes in the given targeted species.

Reel

  • Size: This particular outfit is paired with the 4-6 WT Orvis Encounter large arbor reel. When purchasing the 8WT option, the reel will be the Orvis Encounter 7-9 WT. These are specifically paired this way for balance and reel capacity for the given outfit. The large arbor Encounter reel allows the angler to to retreat more line per revolution which is a great addition to this fly fishing outfit.
  • Build: The composite plastic reel with its anodized seat is of excellent quality and comes preloaded with fly line, leader, and backing.
  • Drag system: This disc drag system is what I will typically find in a beginner setup. I can easily set the drag to whatever resistance I need, using the drag knob on the side of the reel. Plus, I can adjust the drag to a necessary level in the middle of the fight.

Line

  • Quality and Performance: The weight-forward line is an ideal choice because of its versatility for the newer fly fisher or those anglers that don't mind making casting a little bit easier. This outfit truly is the best fly rod combo under the $200 mark. There are no issues with this line for the weekend angler. It's also affordable enough to replace one to two years down the road. Match the rod weight with the line weight and it will be golden. The Clearwater WF5F is the perfect match for the Orvis Clearwater 590-4 fly rod.
  • Taper and Design: Orvis Clearwater WF floating fly lines are built a half-size heavier to provide extra help loading the rod, casting larger flies, and handling the wind. A compact head helps to transfer energy more efficiently, load the rod in close, throw tighter loops, and turnover flies.
  • Literal Weight: The Orvis Encounter Rod Outfits do not leave me or my students fatigued at the end of the day. For a beginner setup, this is one of the lightest outfits on the market. I put my students in these on all-day trips with no issues.
  • Build: This outfit is imported which is why the cost is so affordable. (Although it is unknown where these are imported from, if put next to some American-made rods, it would be hard to differentiate. But for those who are set on having USA-made gear, this is not the outfit to look at.)
  • Outfit accessories: This outfit kit comes fully loaded with a leader, Dacron backing, WF5F Orvis Clearwater Fly Line, and even a fly rod case (rod tube for previous models). After grabbing some tippet and flies, my students were ready to hit the water!
  • Outfit aesthetics: The outfit has a “typical” beginner fly rod outfit look with a black, matte finish on the rod and a black reel. Nothing fancy and nothing particularly aesthetically appealing as most beginner outfits are.
  • Warranty: The included Limited Orvis Warranty covers defects and craftsmanship.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Durability: I have had a few of these rods snap while students were trying to land fish. This rod is not backed by the 25-year warranty which is definitely a downside. With this rod being so affordable, they are meant to be replaced in the future by a “step-up”. This is not a rod that will last me years to come and is not something that will be handed down to the next generation. This fly rod is superior to many other rods available on the market for beginners. Constructed from graphite material, it has plenty of flex in the tips and impressive sensitivity and feel when fishing, and it's super lightweight as well. But, I wish this outfit had a better warranty. For the affordable price, I am literally getting what I paid for. Most beginner outfits come with a cast aluminum reels, however, this particular outfit is one of the very few that are plastic rod and reel combos.
  • Medium to Large Streamers: This fly rod does not handle medium to large streamers which I wouldn’t necessarily dock on this particular outfit, but some might do so depending on their fishing preferences. Orvis does a great job of offering several different options in length and rod weights for the Orvis Encounter Outfit. If looking for just a streamer rod, consider the 8WT option.
  • Saltwater: This outfit is said to be suited for freshwater and saltwater. I would suggest washing this outfit down after every saltwater use to maintain the longevity of the outfit. This is a great dry fly, nymphing, and small streamer rod—perfect for someone looking to get into fly fishing.
Student using the Orvis Encounter Rod in a river.

Student using the Orvis Encounter Rod. Photo by Rylyn Small

Favorite moment with this gear

The best part of owning this outfit is that it gets beginners out into the water to experience fly fishing. There is not an outfit of its kind when it comes to affordability and quality. The best moment with this outfit is seeing my students enjoying the great outdoors with their basic needs met. They do not realize or even care about the quality of this outfit. It’s truly a great setup to get anyone started.

Value for the money vs. other options

When considering this outfit, I compared it to the Echo Traverse Outfit and the Redington Path. The Redington Path comes with a rod and reel case, fully loaded, with a lifetime warranty for just about the same price. Both are imported, but great for beginners. A second option to compare this to is the Redington Path Outfit in the 5WT 9’ Option. I personally chose the Orvis Encounter due to its more affordable price (keep in mind I was purchasing 25 of these) and the renowned trusted reputation of Orvis.

Final verdict

This is the perfect outfit for beginner fly fishers to get started on the right foot with quality equipment that is completely set up to fish at an extremely affordable price. It has been said that the Orvis Encounter is "Affordable Awesomeness!"

Selling Orvis on Curated.com
Orvis Encounter Fly Rod Outfit
From $169.00
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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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