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Best Fly Fishing Rods

Published June 4, 2024 

 

Sometimes, a good fly rod just isn’t good enough. There’s a tipping point—once fly fishing begins to take us over—when we’re drawn to the best fly fishing rods on the market. Rods that improve the accuracy and distance of our casts, our feel and strike detection, and our ability to lift a lunker and play it quickly to release it safely. As outdoor industry pros, our buyers and Gearhead® Experts have access to the best fly rods that money can buy—and a lot of experience fly fishing blue lines, limestone and freestone streams, mountain lakes, saltmarshes, and coastal flats. Here’s our short list of the best fly fishing rods for ascending and expert anglers. 


Orvis Helios F Fly Rod  

Orvis Helios F Fly Rod

Top Dry Fly Rod

 

Welcome to the world’s most accurate fly rod. F stands for Finesse in the Orvis line, which means the new Helios F fly rod handles delicate dry fly presentations better than the distance-oriented Helios D above. Building on the best-in-class Helios 3, the fourth-generation Helios F features an improved rod blank and four times the casting accuracy with a smooth action. This helps us land dry flies like parachutes in front of sipping and slurping trout. It also features higher hoop strength for more fighting power and long-term durability. This is another top-shelf fly rod—one that helps us pull off the perfect cast to land the fish we’ll be holding in our next profile pic. 

Winning Features 

  • Best for dry flies and finesse presentations 
  • Reduced tip displacement for accurate casting
  • Low swing weight for great fishability 
  • Made in the USA 
  • 25-year warranty 
Get The Helios F




Orvis Helios F Fly Rod  

Orvis Helios D Fly Rod

Top All-Around Fly Rod

 

D stands for Distance in the Orvis line, and the Helios D sets the standard for distance and accuracy in fly fishing. Its hard to top the famous Helios 3, but the new Helios D boasts 4 times the accuracy of the old H3 and 25% more rod strength. With limited tip displacement, the Helios D helps us drop flies over fish like laser-guide bombs. Meanwhile the butt section has plenty of backbone to withstand the runs of bruiser browns and bonefish. This is Orviss flagship fly roda pinnacle pick for discerning anglers who demand the best. 

Winning Features

  • Great transfer of energy for distance casting 
  • Miniscule tip displacement increases accuracy
  • Improved rod blank for reserve power and durability 
  • Made in the USA
  • 25-year warranty   




Sage R8 

Sage R8 

Runner-Up All-Around Fly Rod

 

Sage has been making handcrafted fly rods since 1980, and the R8 is their premier, multi-application fly fishing rod. Made with aerospace-grade materials, the R8 features a strong backbone, sensitive tip, and connected feel to help us master a range of trout fishing disciplines. With this quiver-killer, we can shoot a streamer to the far bank, drift a hopper-dropper down the feeding lane, land a size 22 dry fly upstream of a riser, and lead a nymph rig through a seam. For versatility and fishability, it’s hard top the Sage R8. 

Winning Features

  • Premier multi-application fly rod
  • Aerospace graphite composite  
  • Fast action 
  • Made in the USA 
  • Limited lifetime warranty 




Winston Air 2 Max

Winston Air 2 Max

Top Saltwater Fly Rod

 

The Air 2 Max is R.L. Winston’s answer for anglers who want max accuracy, max power, max line speed, and max performance in a saltwater-friendly package. This premium fly rod boasts the best strength-to-weight ratio of any Winston rod, featuring the brand’s proprietary Air 2 Boron for better feel, power, tracking, recovery, and lightweight performance. With a very fast tip, the Air 2 Max is pretty much a fly cannon for double-haulers who need to shoot big flies through stiff breezes to reach bonefish, tarpon, and stripers without spooking them.

Winning Features

  • Best for saltwater fly fishing
  • Winston’s fastest, most powerful taper
  • Very fast action 
  • Made in the USA 
  • Lifetime warranty 




Sage Salt R8 Rod

Sage Salt R8 Rod

Top Big-Game Fly Rod

 

The saltwater version of the Sage R8 (listed above) gives us some bigger artillery to target big jacks cruising the flats and to lift a behemoth to the boat before it’s completely stressed out. The Salt R8 may be a big game rod, but it’s still relatively light, loads easily, and leverages Sage’s R8 technology to transfer energy to its supple tip to blast big flies through the wind while still giving us some touch to land them right where we want them. The Salt R8 line has guide-grade chops and a broad assortment of bonefish, permit, tarpon, striper, and redfish rods to fuel our adrenaline rush.

Winning Features

  • Best for saltwater fly fishing 
  • Made for distance casting in the wind  
  • New R8 graphite is aerospace technology 
  • Made in the USA
  • Limited lifetime warranty 




Sage Salt R8 Rod

Orvis Clearwater

Best Value Fly Rod

 

The Orvis Clearwater is one of the rare fly rods that’s beginner-friendly yet advanced enough to keep us happy as we level up our fly fishing game. This versatile rod features a graphite blank that rivals the feel of some high-end rods with a range of actions and tapers that are purpose-built to target different species of fish in different types of water. The best-value fly rod on the market, the Orvis Clearwater is a popular recommendation at local fly shops and the fly rod that many professional fishing guides pick for their clients. We like it for beginners and for those of us who can’t shell out $1,000 for a fly rod.

Winning Features

  • Best for multi-application fly fishing
  • Perfect price-point rod 
  • Designed in the USA
  • 25-year warranty




Sage Foundation Rod

Sage Foundation Rod 

Top Entry- To Mid-Level Fly Rod 

 

The Sage Foundation Rod lays a solid foundation of performance to help us make the jump from advanced beginner to intermediate fly anglers. Sage’s entry-level fly rod features a fast-action tip for long-distance casts and a high-performance blank for better power and strike detection than typical entry-level fly rods. The Foundation series includes a range of rods fine-tuned for more specific presentations from tiny dry flies, nymphs, and all-around trout fishing to streamers, large flies, and bass, salmon, striper, redfish, and saltwater rigs. 

Winning Features

  • Best for multi-application fly fishing
  • Perfect price-point rod 
  • Designed in the USA
  • 25-year warranty
Shop All Fly Fishing Rods




Find The Perfect Fly Rod At Backcountry

 

Do you want to spend your hard-earned money on a high-quality fly rod? Our short list of the best fly rods has been vetted by our outdoor industry pros to help you pick a premium rod that can help you take your fly fishing to the next level. For more help, feel free to call or chat with a Gearhead® Expert and read more about these recommended rods on our website. 


FAQ

 

Q: What are the best fly rod brands?

A: Our Gearhead® Experts recommend Sage, Orvis, and Winston fly rods.

Q: What is the best fly rod weight for beginners?

A: Most beginners start with a 9-foot, 5-weight fly rod for its versatility. Fly anglers can use this size on everything from small streams to lakes and target trout, bass, and panfish.

Q: What’s the best length for an all-around fly rod?

A: Most anglers prefer a 9-foot rod for all-around use because it’s small enough for small streams with enough reach and casting distance for bigger bodies of water, too.

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From The Backcountry Bulletin 

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