One of the hardest choices for beginners is finding and choosing a good fly rod and reel combo. You probably know that a good rod and reel will help you learn and make it easier to cast. A bad rod and reel might be so troublesome that you give up the sport altogether. The biggest challenge is to find the best rod and reel combination for the money. Because the money is what matters, it is your budget.
The best way for a beginner to fly fishing is to choose a decent fly rod and reel combo.
You don’t want to buy a cheap rod and reel combo from a discount retail store because they offer the lower grade.
Did you know there are a handful of rods that are perfect for beginners? With a blend of quality and a low investment that will help you learn without breaking the bank. All of the rod and reel combinations listed would be worth the money for beginners, and they all make great gifts.
The guys that already have a favorite rod, these combos will give you a chance to get a backup rod (in case you break yours) or get a size and weight combination that you don’t have.
I mostly fished a 9-foot, 6-weight Sage that I received as a gift. The 6-weight is great for longer casts on bigger water. To balance the 6-weight, I also carried along an inexpensive 7.5-foot -weight fly rod and reel combo for the smaller streams or skittish trout.
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How to Choose a Fly Fishing Rod:
A fly fishing combo — like the Cabela’s Synch Fly Combo has a reel and fly line matched to fit the fly rod.
Fly rods are rated by “weight,” which is the weight of your fly line. So a 5-weight fly rod is for a 5-weight fly line.
They come in different lengths, but a 9-foot rod is a rod for most anglers. In fact, the most common rod, especially for trout, is a 9-foot, 5-weight fly rod. You can’t go wrong with this size as a gift or for your first rod.
If you know you will fish mostly on small creeks; you could get an ultralight 7.5-foot, 3-weight fly rod. Alternately, if you know you want to fly fish for bass or fish lakes and big rivers and use big streamer flies.
Then a 7-weight or 8-weight rod might be smart. If you are going for steelhead or salmon, you would want a versatile 8-weight fly rod and reel combo to get you started.
If you want to fish primarily for trout, stick with a 5 or 6 weight rod if you are fishing bigger water. You will probably want to get a 4 piece rod if you are going to do any backpacking.
Choose a Fly Fishing Reel:
The Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit offers you a superb mix of quality for the price.
Reels have large arbor designs that let you reel your line over a big cylinder rather than a small axel. Instead of reeling line furiously around a pencil, the newer reels work more like wrapping the line around a soup can; this lets you reel in line faster.
Even some cheaper reels these days come with larger diameter spools and are lightweight. The more expensive reels have a better fit and finish, and they have smoother drag systems. Drag is the part of a reel system that lets the line slowly leave the reel when a fish takes off hard.
A smoother drag allows you to set the drag system with a wider variety of pressure differences, and the drag stays put at the setting you intend. In addition, a well-made drag system will engage smoothly without sticking. You don’t need any hangup; it can be enough to snap your tippet and break off your fly. This could mean that you could lose the fish, which could be the fish of a lifetime.
You don’t have to worry; you can catch huge fish with today’s entry-level reels. I’ve caught some hard-fighting coho salmon on entry-level reels and even brought in a 5-pound brook trout on an entry-level reel rated for 6-weight fly rods. Both were on inexpensive combos.
The key is to set your drag lightly, and if you hook into a big fish, gently apply pressure to the outside rim. Use the palming rim of your reel during big runs where the fish takes off fast and hard. The technique is not to stop the reel from turning; slow it down to put more pressure on the fish without breaking your tippet. This is a technique, which is a big part of the challenge and joy of fly fishing in the first place.
Here Are Some Fly Fishing Rod and Reel Combos for Beginners:
These outfits are solid performers, but if you happen to fall and break your rod, the manufacturers typically won’t repair them without an extra charge. But, at these prices, you can buy two and not break the bank or save the extra money for a set of waders.
- Cabela’s Bighorn Fly Combo — New for 2018, the Bighorn is a forgiving moderate action and price-to-quality ratio hard to beat.
- Cabela’s Synch Fly Combo — This is a solid step up from the Bighorn, the new 2018 Synch has smooth castability, and you get a rod/reel case.
- Orvis Encounter Combo — Is a longtime entry-level favorite from Orvis. Also available directly from Orvis with free shipping on most orders.
- Redington Crosswater Outfit Fly Combo — The new Crosswater reel is a nice update to this trendy entry-level rod.
- Echo Base Fly Rod Kit — The feel isn’t that fantastic, but the distance makes the Base rod a good choice for beginners starting on big water or casting bigger flies.
- L.L.Bean Quest II Fly Rod Outfits — It does include a rod and reel case, but more importantly, it comes with L.L. Bean’s legendary “100% Satisfaction Guarantee.”
Best Fly Fishing Combo for the Money:
These fly fishing outfits offer an enviable blend of quality. If you can raise your budget, these combos will last for years and feel great every time you use them.
- The new Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit. You will get a 25-year guarantee on the rod and an excellent price point for the quality.
- With the Redington VICE Combo. You get a fast-action rod that casts above its price point; it’s bundled with a solid reel. Remington created this new combo for fly fishers looking for an affordable upgrade from their old entry-level systems.
- Cabela’s New Rogue/WLx Combo. On its own, the Cabela’s Rogue is a great fast-action fly rod offered at a competitive price point. The WLx reel is surprisingly smooth and very well made for the price. The two together deliver a combo that’s competitive with higher-price rods and reels. If you’re trying to decide, consider saving a bit on the reel by choosing the Rogue/Prestige Premier Fly Combo. (This one is still pretty sweet.)
- L.L.Bean Silver Ghost Fly Rod Outfit — You have to love the craftsmanship for this price point. If L.L.Bean is sold out of this combo, you can buy the rod and reel separately.
- Sage Foundation Outfit — The Foundation Outfit pairs Sage’s “entry-level” rod and reel to create a midrange + quality outfit. These fish above their price point (Sage is typically known for its more high-end rods and reels). Beyond its stealthy all-black design, the Foundation Rod is Made in the USA.
High-Quality Fly Fishing Combo:
The highest quality rods and reels usually never come in pre-packaged combos. There are a lot of great options from many manufacturers. The competition at this level means that most any $600 and up rod will fish well for almost anyone.
When the price is not a factor, these three rods and reels boast superior craftsmanship and overall performance. The thing here for beginners is that these rods and reels won’t instantly make you a better fly fisherman. But they can help you make the leap from an intermediate fly fisher to an expert. But you will have put the time in on the water, of course!
- The Hardy Zephrus FWS Fly Rod comes with the new Hardy Ultralite MTX Fly Reel.
- Orvis Helios 3D Fly Rod with Orvis Mirage Reel can turn most rods into combos directly from Orvis.
- G.Loomis NRX Lite Presentation Fly Rod with either the Nautilus X-Series Reel or the Galvan Torque. You could choose the G.Loomis Asquith Fly Rod if you want to win long-distance casting contests with your buddies eventually.
Fly Line Recommendation:
Do you need a fly line recommendation? If you’re not getting a pre-packaged combo, you’ll need a fly line and backing.
One of the best fly lines is Scientific Anglers Mastery MPX Taper Fly Line — hard to go wrong with it. Some lower prices pick up the Orvis Clearwater Fly Line or the Rio Mainstream Trout Freshwater Fly Line. These three options are flexible, versatile lines that will pretty much handle whatever you need to do.
What about all of the other options, many of which are much more costly? Mostly worthless to most fly fishers unless you need a specific taper for a specific kind of fish or style. (Seriously, wait until you’re a fanatic to worry about investing anything more than $40-75 in a fly line.)