For novices eager to get into the niche pastime of fly fishing, choosing the perfect beginner fly rod can be a challenge. Variables like the action of the rod, the rod’s length, the fly line weight, and the weight of the fly are confusing to anyone new to fly fishing.
But to save you from being overwhelmed or sold something in a pressure situation at the sporting goods counter, we put together this list of the best beginner fly rods for people looking to “dip a toe” in the fly fishing waters.
These rods are also great as a backup for veteran anglers. After all, you never know when your primary rig might go out on you, or when you may have a friend come along that needs a rod.
We’ll also get into which rods perform the best in certain conditions, such as fishing small streams or saltwater environments.
The Short Answer
1. Orvis Encounter Beginner Fly Rods
- Complete outfit with rod reel, line, leader, and backing.
- Great for beginners just learning to cast and present a fly on the water.
- Medium action makes for long and accurate casts on lakes and rivers.
- A completely balanced, affordable outfit starting at $169.
- Durable construction with a graphite rod and plastic composite line and leader
Orvis doesn’t like to call this product line “beginner fly rods,” but instead as “affordable awesomeness.” This terminology has to do with the durable, graphite construction of the fly outfit despite its affordable price point. At only $169, the various sizes of the Encounter product line will withstand the test of time and perform in a wide variety of environments.
The Orvis Encounter’s well-constructed design allowed one user to take it out over a hundred times without any significant issues. Orvis constructed the rod with a graphite composite that allows for a lot of flex, providing accurate aim and a good feel of the rod when you cast and reel in fish. But at the same time, the fly rod doesn’t sacrifice durability for performance.
With a variety of lines weights ranging from 5 to 8-weight lines and rod lengths from 8 to 9-feet, the Encounter fly fishing series allows for complete customization. The medium action of the rod allows for easy casting, meaning beginners will have an easier time learning the fundamentals of casting the fly, such as accuracy and presentation on the water.
However, Orvis doesn’t leave you in the dark with choosing a balanced rod, wheel, and line, since it comes packed with the appropriate rod pieces, line weight, leader, and a backing. The only downside to this product is that it doesn’t come with an included fly box.
Other Great Beginner Fly Rods
2. Cabela’s Bighorn Fly Combo
- Crafted with strong, sensitive 24-ton carbon graphite
- Forgiving moderate action
- Large-arbor reel offers quick retrieves with minimal memory
- Includes Bighorn rod, reel, fly line, and backing
Another great product from Cabela’s is their Bighorn fly outfit, a great product designed to help more people fall in love with fly fishing. Like their synch line, the Bighorn has a moderate action that’s forgiving for novice anglers learning the fundamentals. Furthermore, the 24-ton carbon graphite puts up a formidable fight, and it’s sensitive enough to alert you when fish strikes your fly.
The Bighorn line weights range from 3 to 8-weight, with the weighty lines being strong enough to wrangle with a large salmon. Cabela’s designed the large arbor reel so it would reel in the fish faster, while the chrome-encrusted stainless steel snake guides allow large knots to travel through it. The rod lengths vary from 9-feet, 8-feet, and 6 inches, 8-feet, and 7-feet and 6 inches.
Again, like Cabela’s Synch outfits, the only real downside to this product has to do with no box of flies included with the outfit. Other than that, Cabela’s create a great line of beginner fly rods that the veteran angler can also use as a backup rod.
3. Wild Water Fly Fishing 9′, 4pc., 5/6 Wt. Complete Fly Fishing Rod & Reel Starter Pack
- Slow action, 4-piece, 5-6 line weight, complete fly rod, and reel set
- Western-style cork handle makes casting more comfortable
- Easy-to-store case makes storage a non-issue
- 85mm diameter spool, die-cast aluminum, adjustable disc drag
- Box of flies included
The Wild Water fly outfit is a great option for beginners looking to learn the fundamentals of casting and presentation. The slow action of the 9 foot rod means you’ll have ample room for error, since the flex of the rod is so great. As such, these beginner fly rods are best suited for trout, panfish, small bass, small to medium streams, and ponds.
Casting with the Wild Water fly rod is as comfortable as possible, with the western-style cork handle that provides a superior grip. Wild Water manufactures the rod with a graphite composite, a durable material that makes sure your fly rod outfit outlives its cost.
Another perk is the storage case that you can easily strap to a backpack, making for easy and convenient storage when you’re not fishing. What’s more, is that the spool is die-cast aluminum with an arbor reel that makes reeling in small fish a breeze.
Finally, since this is an all-in-one fly rod outfit, everything from the line weight to the weight of the flies is dialed-in perfectly. All you need to do is tie the fly to the line, and you’re ready to go.
4. L.L. Bean’s Quest 2 Beginner Fly Rods
- Medium to fast action rod made of graphite
- Available in a rod weight between 9 and 4 to suit any fish you might hook
- Lightweight, durable cast-aluminum fly reel with a smooth inline disc drag.
- Great for fishing big lakes and rivers, as well as saltwater fly fishing
L.L. Bean, still headquartered in Freeport, Maine, produced a solid beginner fly rod with the Quest 2. With a one-year warranty, the Quest 2 is excellent for fly fishing rivers, and lakes since the medium-fast action of the rod allows you to cast farther than a product like Wild Water’s beginner fly rods.
At an affordable price, you’ll get a balanced rod and reel if you want to order the entire outfit. We’ve found the best rod weight for this product is around five, since this provides the most adaptability to shifting circumstances.
Like many of the products we’ve listed here, the Quest 2 comes with a handy travel case. The only real downside to this product, when you compare it to the others, is the lack of an included fly box. Other than that, the graphite rod will last you countless fishing trips. The Quest 2 is amazing for beginners, because the action of the rod is forgiving to common mistakes novices make.
5. Cabela’s Synch Fly Outfit Beginner Fly Rod
- Forgiving moderate action for the beginning caster
- Chromed snake guides, Zirconium-ring stripping guides, Stainless steel tip-top
- Machined aluminum reel seat
- AA-grade cork handle
- Large-arbor fly reel for quick line retrieval
Cabela’s wanted to make sure almost anyone could afford their beginner fly rods. However, they didn’t want to sacrifice quality, so Cabela’s manufactures the Synch Fly Outfit with quality materials. Cabela’s includes a graphite rod, chromed snake guides, zirconium-ring stripping guides, a stainless-steel tip-top, machined aluminum reel seat, and an AA-grade cork handle.
Cabela’s Synch line are great beginner fly rods, because of the combination of performance and forgiveness. With a moderate forgiving action, casting is easier than ever to work into your muscle memory. There’s enough versatility in the flex of the rod to give you excellent control, while also providing the power the cast farther downstream.
Included with your rod and reel are 130 yards of 20 pounds of backing, 85 feet of weight-forward floating fly line, a 9-foot leader, and a Cordura® rod tube for easy carrying. The Synch outfit is a perfect entry-level fly rod and reel outfit that outperforms its affordable price point. The line weights range from 3 to 8, while the rod length comes in 9-feet, 8-feet and 6 inches, and 7-feet and 6-inches.
The only downside, when compared to other fly outfits, has to do with Cabela’s not including a box of flies to get started.
6. Piscifun Beginner Fly Rods
- 4-piece, 5-6 weight fly lines, and a 9′ rod
- Piscifun includes an arbor reel with drag, pre-spooled line, backing, and leader.
- Slow action makes learning to fly fish in smaller bodies easier, with a more precise cast and realistic presentation.
- The product includes a convenient rod case, a zinger retractor, a fly box, 3/4 dozen of 3 different fly patterns, and a stainless-steel line cutter.
Like the Wild Water fly outfit, Piscifun’s 9 foot, slow-action rod makes them excellent beginner fly rods for fishing small bodies of water. The slow action allows you to learn the mechanics of casting while providing enough support to catch a panfish or a small trout consistently.
Piscifun includes the convenient travel bag, which makes hiking through the woods to your fishing spot easy. You don’t have to worry about avoiding tree limbs since you can put together your fly outfit at the bank of whatever stream or pond you find.
The pre-spooled, arbor reel allows you to cover more distance quickly when you’re reeling in a cast. Meanwhile, the lightweight design will enable beginners to cast all day without wearing themselves out. Piscifun’s included box of flies is the perfect weight for your line, with slightly varying patterns to best suit your environment.
7. Redington CROSSWATER Combo
- Moderate to fast action rod,
- A 5-weight line
- A durable graphite rod
- Combo includes a CROSSWATER rod, a CROSSWATER reel pre-spooled with RIO Mainstream WF fly line and a Cordura rod tube
Redington’s CROSSWATER outfit is another excellent beginner fly rod that will outlive its markup value. The medium-fast action of the rod makes for easy casting, but if you’re used to a fast action rod, then it’ll take a quick second to adjust. With the limited flex, casting out at 80-yards won’t require much muscle, and it won’t tire you out quickly.
With a cork-grip handle, you won’t find blisters in the palm of your hand anymore. The materials in the rod are sensitive, so you’ll get a heads up whenever a fish decides to strike your line. When you order the entire outfit, you’ll receive a CROSSWATER rod, pre-spooled reel with their RIO fly line, and a tube to store the pieces of the rod.
This is a great beginner’s fly rod that will help convert even more zealots to the sport of fly fishing. The only gripe I have with this product is the fact that you’ll need to find your own box of flies.
What to Look for in Your Beginner Fly Rods
When you’re looking for fly rods, one of the things you’ll have to consider is the action of the rod.
With a medium action rod, you’ll cast farther than slow action rods, and you’ll have more control of the cast and presentation of your fly. For beginners just learning the intricacies of fly fishing, a medium action rod is the best teacher.
If you’re planning to fish a larger body of water or especially windy conditions, and short action fly rod is your best bet. The quick action of the rod makes for longer casting, but the downside for beginners is the lack of accuracy in placement and presentation.
For smaller bodies of water, such as streams and ponds, you’ll want a slow action rod. While you’ll lose some force with your casts, you’ll make up for it in a sniper-like ability to place and present your fly on the water.
Many fiberglass fly rods, as well as lesser quality graphite rods, break within the first twenty fishing trips. Despite the affordable price, products like Cabela’s Bighorn or Orvis’ Encounter outfits come in durable graphite composites. Graphite rods provide enough strength to fight your hooked fish, while also giving enough flex for accurate casts.
Furthermore, most graphite fly rods are more sensitive and will give you a warning when a fish strikes your fly. The fly rods we’ve listed here give you enough power to fight large trout and salmon. Meanwhile, the industry-standard large arbor reels make it quicker to reel in your catch.
The products we’ve listed above will outlast their market value, The graphite materials, and composite line, and leader ensure your fly rod outfit lasts through many fishing seasons. They’re great rods to learn the mechanics of fishing, such as casting the fly and presenting it on the water.
What are the three kinds of fly rod actions?
When it comes to fly fishing rods, there are three different rod actions: fast actions, medium action, and slow action. The “action” of a rod describes how flexible it is when you’re casting and fighting a hooked fish. Depending on your skill level and where you’re fly fishing, the action of a rod is vital.
A fast action rod is excellent for experienced fishermen or beginner’s looking to fish in windy and rainy conditions. By remaining almost completely rigid during the back cast, with only the tip flexed, a fast action rod allows for long casts. The quick action also means you can fight through the wind during storms and blustery days without too much physical strain.
Experienced and novice anglers alike take advantage of medium action rods. While it doesn’t have the extreme flex of a slow action rod, medium action fly rods have enough flex to make them ideal for most conditions.
Whether your fly fishing off the coast or in a small stream, medium action rods provide enough casting power while also giving novices better tools to aim their casts.
The Orvis Encounter is an example of a medium action rod, which is more comfortable for beginners just learning the sport. It’s also not ideal for shorter casts, since the barely flexible rod doesn’t allow for precise aim.
Slow action rods are great for small bodies of water, like ponds and streams, because the slow casts allow beginners to perfect their presentation on the water’s surface. However, if you’re looking to catch larger fish at farther distances, a fast or medium action rod will serve you best.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best fly line weights for different kinds of fishing?
Manufacturers of fly-fishing products measure the weight of the lines in units called grains. The average grains you’ll find universally range from 1 to 14, with 14 being the weightier end of the spectrum. This weight is significant because it’s the weight of the fly that launches your cast, not that of the line itself. Choosing the wrong fly and line weights will impact your accuracy immensely.
Before purchasing a rod-reel outfit or a pack of flies, make sure the weight of the flies works well with the heaviness of the line you plan to use. With the right combination of weight, you’ll learn to control the spot and presentation of your fly when you cast.
Here’s a quick and easy guide to figuring out which fly line weights work best for the types of fish you’ll catch.
- Small Fish (trout and panfish): 1-3 Fly Line Weight
- Small to Medium-sized Fish: 4 Fly Line Weight
- Average-sized Fish: 5 Fly Line Weight
- Trout, Bass, Small Salmon: 6 Fly Line Weight
- Large Bass, Trout, Salmon: 7 Fly Line Weight
- Saltwater Fish: Fly Line 8 and up
What are the best lengths for beginner fly rods?
There isn’t nearly as much to keep in mind when it comes to your fly rod’s length. Depending on where you’re fishing and what you’re fishing for, you’ll want a rod between 8 feet and 9 feet long.
If you need to make long casts with a weightier fly line, especially in the wind, you’ll want a rod about 9 feet long. 8 1/2 feet is a great all-around rod length because it gives you enough power to make long casts, while still maintaining a high level of control with the fly’s location and presentation. Anything 8 feet or shorter is best for smaller bodies of water, like ponds and streams, where accuracy outweighs the importance of casting length.
What’s the best fly rod for a beginner?
Our top pick for the best beginner fly rod is the Orvis Encounter fly outfit because you get a high-quality rod, reel, line, leader, backing, and a box of flies. The entire outfit outperforms against other rods that cost hundreds of dollars more.
It’s a great beginner rod because the medium action allows for both powerful casts and accurate presentations on the water. For a completely balanced fly rod and reel outfit, the Orvis Encounter’s $169 price tag is more than worth it for a novice.
What’s the best fly rod length for trout?
The industry standard for trout fishing is around a 9-foot rod because this gives you enough power for longer casts and strength for reeling in the fish. If you opt for a longer rod, perhaps around 10-feet, then you’ll have trouble controlling the rod and the line.
What do fly line weights mean?
Fly line weights refer to the heaviness of your line. Choosing the weight of your fly line has to do with the conditions you’re fishing in, and the type of fishing you’re looking to catch.
This weight is vital to know, because it’s the weight of the fly that launches your cast, not that of the line itself. Before purchasing a box of flies, make sure their weight corresponds to the weight of your fly line.
What is a 6-weight fly line good for?
A 6-weight fly line is incredible for catching trout, bass, and small salmon, especially in larger bodies of water with windy weather. The thicker fly line gives you more power in casting, as well as more control over the fish once you catch him.
Choosing the right beginner fly rods has to do with the preferences of buyers. However, in our estimation, the Orvis Encounter is the best fly outfit for novices looking to learn the sport. It’s the perfect all-around fly rod to make long casts and to reel in your catches consistently.