Expert Review: Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod

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

A man holds a fishing rod in a river.

Fishing the Creek with my Clearwater. All photos by Joel S.

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

My take

The Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod is an all-around workhorse. I was looking for a “jack of all trades” and I found one in the Clearwater.

Top down view of a man fishing.

This could be your view!

About this rod

  • Model: 2018 Orvis Clearwater
  • Rod Length: 9’
  • Rod Weight: 5wt
  • Rod Pieces: 4 piece
  • Rod Material: Graphite

About me

  • Preferred fishing style(s): Dry fly/nymphing
  • Experience: 20+ years of fly fishing

Test conditions

  • When I bought this: April 2018
  • Reel Paired with Rod: Lamson Guru S
  • Line Paired Rod: Scientific Anglers Amplitude Infinity
  • Days tested: 180 days
  • Waters I’ve used it on: Rivers/Stillwater in Colorado
  • Species targeted with rod: Trout/Panfish

How it performs

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

What I was looking for

I was looking for an ‘all-around’ Colorado rod that I could let friends use on outings. It was important to me to not sacrifice quality, but still have an affordable rod with a good warranty.

Why I chose this gear

I bought this particular product because I know lots of full-time guides who use these as their client rods. I also really valued the 25-year, no-questions-asked warranty that Orvis provides with this model. I needed something I wouldn’t have to worry about breaking that was still on the low end cost-wise.

I also considered the Orvis Encounter, but I went with this rod because the Encounter does not come with the same level warranty as the Clearwater.

A fishing rod over some rapids.

Fishing below the rapids on Clear Creek

What I love about it

  • Versatility: This is the perfect all-around rod that fills the void in my quiver for many fishing situations and types of waters here in Colorado. I have used this rod for heavy nypmhing rigs, dry fly fishing with bigger dries, and hopper dropper setups while walk-wading, as well as out of the boat on float trips.
  • Action:
    • Ease of casting: This rod can pick line up off the water easily and has a forgiving action for a beginner angler.
    • Accuracy: This rod is surprisingly accurate.
  • Weight: The rod I purchased is a 9’5wt, which is ideal for the trout encountered here in Colorado.
  • Warranty: This is the main reason I went with the Clearwater - Orvis provides their standard 25-year warranty.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Quality: The rod is a graphite rod and has an overall feel/action of higher priced rods I have used. Oftentimes when I buy something that is “middle of the road” on the spectrum of a particular brand's offerings, I am concerned that it might have a noticeably cheaper feel compared to the higher end offerings. That is 100% NOT the case with the Clearwater rod. I will say though that the resin used for the line guides has degraded and is noticeably cracking. This is really a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but something to be aware of. This is also an issue which would be covered under warranty, but I don’t want to have to send this thing in because I’ve been so busy using it! Maybe next winter…
  • Action:
    • Line speed: It is relatively difficult to generate fast line speeds with the action of the Clearwater.
    • Delicacy of presentation: This is not a great rod for delicate dry fly presentations. I typically use a lighter and shorter rod when I am fishing small dry flies.
  • Grip: The cork used on the Clearwater is relatively low grade compared to other offerings from Orvis. My cork has become chipped and broken near the ends.
The resin on the stripping guide cracking after a few years of wear and tear.

The resin on the stripping guide cracking after a few years of wear and tear

Favorite moment with this gear

I used this along the Taylor River near Taylor reservoir in Colorado where the state record rainbow trout was landed. I didn’t get a record, but it handled the relatively large trout with ease and I never felt under-gunned.

Value for the money vs. other options

This is easily the best choice for any angler looking for what is in my opinion the best-value fly rod on the market. Over the last 4 years I have been pleasantly surprised with how well this rod performs relative to the cost. It also makes me feel warm and fuzzy knowing if anything were to accidentally happen to it that it would be covered under the Orvis warranty.

Final verdict

The Clearwater is a true performer and all-around workhorse.

Selling Orvis on Curated.com
Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod
$249.00
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Written By
I am an avid lifelong fisherman and a passionate outdoorsman! After receiving a degree in Outdoor Recreation from the University of Northern Michigan I moved west to Colorado where I have lived for the last 5+ years exploring all this great state has to offer and fishing as much as I can! I love sha...

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