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Published Mar. 18, 2022

I’ve been reviewing fly rods, fly reels, and other gear for the better part of a decade. And fly rods at every price point have only become better. When it comes to the best fly fishing rods for beginners, there are more options now than when I started fly fishing 20 years ago, and many of them outperform their prices.

With so many great options for beginner fly rods, it might seem intimidating to find one that works for you. For this review, I tested the best fly fishing rods for beginners across all angling applications—from bass and trout to salmon and steelhead—so you can spend more time fishing and less time choosing a rod. I’ve either used these rods myself or personally know other guides and anglers who fish with them. In many cases, I use these rods when guiding first-time fly anglers and recommend them to anyone looking to get into the sport.

Read Next: The Best Fly Fishing Combos for Beginners

Best Beginner Fly Rod for Trout: Douglas LRS 9’ 5-weight

Douglas Outdoors

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Key Features

  • Medium-fast action
  • Carbon reel seat
  • Durable

Why It Made the Cut

The Douglas LRS is one of my favorite 5-weights that I fish on a regular basis. It has a ton of power and torsional stability for a sub-$300 rod, and its forgiving medium-fast action is perfect for beginner fly anglers.

Pros

  • Beginner-friendly action
  • Wallet-friendly price
  • Gorgeous blue blank finish
  • Lifetime Douglas warranty

Cons

  • A bit heavy
  • Noticeable swing weight

Product Description

The Douglas LRS is one of the best budget-friendly rods I’ve ever fished. It’s lighter than you’d expect and has a sweet action that lends itself well to a variety of fly fishing techniques. The tip section is surprisingly soft, and I’ve used this rod successfully during spring blue-winged olive hatches, throwing 6 and 7x tippet and small flies. The noticeable swing weight is really the only aspect of this rod’s performance that doesn’t completely set itself apart from other sticks in its class.

Best Beginner Fly Rod for Euro Nymphing: Cortland Nymph Series 10’6” 3-weight

Cortland Line Company

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Key Features

  • Downlocking reel seat
  • Light graphite blank
  • Single-foot guides

Why It Made the Cut

The Cortland Nymph series offers a great balanced rod for beginners to test the Euro nymphing waters for just $300.

Pros

  • Lightweight blank
  • Bomb-proof construction
  • Outstanding value
  • Single-foot guides reduce overall weight

Cons

  • Heavier than other Euro rods
  • Plain finish

Product Description

The extremely balanced Cortland Nymph Series fly rods make solid choices for beginners. When I first started Euro nymphing, I used one of these and was immediately hooked. The rods are heavier than other Euro rods, but the $300 price tag is a lot less than other options. And the large guides make it easy to shoot line. Overall, the build quality is fantastic, and the rod is sensitive and responsive in hand—and has the power to turn plenty of big fish. Add Cortland’s great lifetime warranty to the mix, and you have a rod that’ll serve you for years to come.

Best Beginner Fly Rod for Saltwater: Echo Boost Blue 9’ 8-weight

ECHO Fly Fishing

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Key Features

  • Fast action
  • Light tip section
  • Full titanium guides

Why It Made the Cut

The Echo Boost Blue is a high-performance, fast-action rod that’s light in hand and surprisingly accurate at the usual saltwater distances.

Pros

  • Fantastic performance
  • Lightweight blank
  • Great price point
  • Inherently accurate

Cons

  • Cumbersome warranty process
  • Could have a softer tip section

Product Description

Echo has long made a name for themselves by building great fly rods at reasonable prices. I have a few Echo rods I’ve used everywhere from the Rockies to Pyramid Lake, and they’re fantastic sticks. The Echo Boost Blue is a surprisingly accurate saltwater rod, built to handle everything from permit to tarpon. It’s a fast, stiff stick that’ll punch line through the wind. The included fighting butt, makes fighting big fish more comfortable.The rod could use a slightly softer tip section to better absorb the thundering runs of big saltwater fish, but overall, I’m not sure you’ll find a better saltwater fly rod for beginners.

Best Beginner Fly Rod for Steelhead: Orvis Clearwater 13’ 7-weight

Key Features

  • Two-handed fly rod
  • Chrome snake and stripping guide
  • Purpose-built tapers for specific applications

Why It Made the Cut

Orvis makes some of the best fly rods on the planet, in my opinion. Their proven Clearwater series offers one of the best bang-for-your-buck values in all of fly fishing. The spey version of the Clearwater is a workhorse of a rod that’ll get you started chasing steelhead (or salmon) without breaking the bank. Since you’ll spend a decent amount of money on lines for spey fishing, saving a few dollars on the rod is a great way to explore this corner of fly fishing.

Pros

  • Orvis 25-year guarantee
  • Built on the Clearwater blanks
  • Extra-durable composite fighting tips

Cons

  • Heavier than other spey rods
  • Not as sensitive as competitors

Product Description

I don’t try to hide the fact that I love Orvis rods. I think they make some of the best fly rods on the market, and I’m extremely fond of their Clearwater series. These blue-collar workhorse sticks outperform their price points, and while they lack the bells and whistles of more expensive rods, I can’t think of a better place for beginner steelhead anglers to start than here. At $400, you’ll likely have a bit of extra money to spend on other lines and heads for spey casting. And If something happens to your rod, Orvis’ stellar 25-year warranty takes care of it. 

Best Beginner Fly Rod for Streamer Fishing: Redington Vice 9’ 6-weight

Redington

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Key Features

  • Fast action
  • Carbon fiber blanks
  • Saltwater grade components

Why It Made the Cut

The Vice is a fast, powerful rod that cuts the wind to throw streamers from the bank or the drift boat, and it can handle big trout in big water with ease.

Pros

  • Redington lifetime warranty
  • Beginner-friendly fast action
  • Cuts through the wind

Cons

  • A bit too fast for bugs other than streamers

Product Description

The Vice is a great beginner rod for someone who wants a dedicated streamer stick but doesn’t want to drop the money for a premium product. But that doesn’t mean it sacrifices premium performance. It’s light, throws tight loops, and performs accurately out of the box. I’ve used it to tame big trout from a drift boat and while wading, and I’ve yet to find a trout that it can’t land quickly. The backbone and power help you muscle flies through high winds, and allow you to promptly land fish in the net. It’s a bit too fast for bugs smaller than streamers (or big hoppers) and isn’t as sensitive as other rods, but the other great qualities make these few drawbacks easy to overlook.

How I Tested The Best Fly Fishing Rods for Beginners

I’ve reviewed fly rods for more than a decade, and I’ve either used or know guides and other anglers who have fished these rods. For the rods I’ve used personally, I put them through their paces in as many different settings as possible. From fishing big dries out of my drift boat to stalking wary trout on spring creeks, I tried to give the best fly fishing rods for beginners the opportunity to shine in a variety of situations.

How to Choose a Fly Rod

Picking the right fly rod for you depends less on your budget, and far more on where and what you fish. If you just want to chase trout, I’d probably recommend a 9-foot 6-weight that’s capable of throwing streamers and small dry flies. However, if you want to wet your toes in the Euro nymphing waters, a 6- or 7-weight might work best.

While picking a rod based on your needs is critical, it’s impossible to beat the feedback you get from buying a rod at your local fly shop. We all joke about the “fly shop wiggle,” but it’s a great way to get a feel for a fly rod. And most fly shops let you test rods before you buy them.

With all the available options, you’ll be hard pressed to not find a rod that meets your needs and doesn’t break the bank. Many of the best fly rods for beginners come at reasonable prices, so you don’t have to spend the equivalent of a mortgage to get a good one.

FAQs

Q: What size fly rod is best for beginners?

There is no one best size fly rod for beginners because every beginner is different. That aside, a 9-foot rod is almost universally accepted as the do-it-all length. Whether you’re chasing permit in the Gulf of Mexico or trout in the Rockies, a 9-foot rod will almost always rise to the occasion.

Q: What is a 3-weight fly rod good for?

A 3-weight is fantastic for fishing small dries to small fish. Think of quaint Rocky Mountain high-country streams full of eager cutthroat and brook trout. A 3-weight throws a size 16 caddis with the ultimate suppleness and isn’t too much rod for the waters where you need a delicate presentation.

Q: What weight fly rod should I use for pike and bass?

Bass and pike are best chased on at least a 6-weight rod, though I’d recommend a 7. While the 7 might be a bit heavy for smallmouth, it still has the sensitivity to set the hook on wary largemouth, and the backbone to tame big pike.

Final Thoughts

There’s no one best fly fishing rod for beginners, but there are a bunch of great options if you’re new to the sport. Where and what you fish should inform your decision to buy a fly rod more than anything. The good news is that once you buy your first rod, you’ll know exactly what you want in your next—and the next after that, too.

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