Choosing A Fly Rod For Trout Fishing: Buying Your First Rod Or Upgrading

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Choosing a fly rod specifically for trout fishing can test an angler’s patience. The dozens of options, various prices, and different sizes can confuse and lead to an improper purchase. Your rod will be an extension of your hand on the water, so you need it to feel right. 

If you’re only targeting trout, there are a few different options. Trout vary in the conditions where they live and the size they can reach, so it’s important to understand this when selecting your rod type.

In this article, I will cover: 

  • Things to consider before you purchase a fly rod for trout fishing
  • My 5 recommended fly rods for trout fishing
    • Moonshine Vesper (My Best Overall Pick!) 
    • Sage Foundation (My Most Versatile Pick!)
    • Orvis Clearwater (My Most Budget Friendly Pick!)
    • Echo Trout
    • Snowbee Classic (My Best Beginners Choice!)

Things to Consider When Purchasing A Fly Rod For Trout

When you’re looking to buy a fly fishing rod for trout, don’t just choose the first 4- or 5-weight you see. Before you make any decision, there are a few things you need to know. 

What Weight And Action Fly Rod Should I Buy?

All rods come in different weights and action. Fly rods are no different and come in a range from slow to a fast action. To understand and learn more about this, please refer to my article on choosing the right fly rod weight and action, where I go through each of the options available and what makes sense for your style of trout fishing.

Understand the Water You’re Fishing

You’ll choose a different rod depending on the type of water you’re fishing in. If you spend most of your time in small mountain streams, you’ll want a rod of a different size than if you’re fishing on a large lake. 

When fishing in small streams, rods should be a 3 or 4-weight and around 7’ long. 

If you fish mainly medium-sized rivers and smaller lakes, your rod should be 4 or 5-weight and 8 to 9’ long.

Large rivers and larger lakes require a 5 or 6-weight and should be 9’ long. 

If you’re looking for a more versatile length and weight option, an 8’6” 5-weight would do the trick. It’s not too long that you’d be completely out of place on a small river, but you’ll still have the power to tackle some larger fish. 

Give the water you’re fishing careful consideration. Fly rods are not cheap, and you don’t want to find yourself overmatched or undermatched. 

What Size of Trout Are You Trying To Catch? 

Another thing to know is the size of the fish you are likely to land with your rod. Snapping your rod on a sizable fish is heartbreaking. Not only do you regret the fish you lost, but you also have to think about replacing the rod. The cost and time alone to replace these forces you to lose precious time on the water. 

Most small mountain streams have fish ranging from 6 to 14 inches. After that, you never know! Speak with local guides or fly shops to find out what fish you might hook. They’ll give you some good insight into what you need. 

Fish less than 16 inches in length can easily be handled on a 3-wt or 4-wt. 

If most of the fish you plan to catch are up to 22 inches long, then it is best to step up to a 5-wt. 

If you’re lucky enough to hook into fish over 20 inches consistently, I strongly suggest investing in a 6-wt rod! 

Know Your Casting Conditions 

Casting a fly rod requires quite a bit of movement. Most rivers and streams have trees or foliage along the bank that might make casting a longer rod challenging. Yes, waders can help you get further into the water, but that could disturb and spoil the area you’re trying to target on small streams. 

Anglers often prefer to use longer rods because they can cast further. However, depending on the water, you might not be able to utilize a longer, more powerful rod. As fly anglers, adapting to our surroundings is one of our many skills, which regularly results in compromise and using a slightly shorter rod.

Also, remember that the backward motion requires clear space behind you. In tight conditions, the roll cast can be used effectively and resolve some extremely frustrating days on the water when you can’t complete your normal fly-casting methods.

Know Your Ability 

The final thing to consider is your own ability. Many high-end rods will be fast-action and require quite a bit of skill. Fast-action rods are stiff, and perfecting the timing of your cast can be challenging. 

If you’re new to the sport, it’s wise to choose a moderate or moderate fast-action rod. These rods are versatile and easier to cast. You won’t be overwhelmed by the feel and get the rhythm down soon enough.

The Best Fly Rods For Trout Fishing

Moonshine Vesper – Our Best Overall Pick!

Moonshine Rod Co. is no longer a newbie on the scene in fly fishing. While most anglers are going to flock towards the big-name brands like Orvis and Sage, Moonshine is a brand that creates a rod that’s easily comparable to those high-end brands! Plus, it will be a couple hundred dollars cheaper than another company’s top-end rod. 

The Vesper series is ideal for trout. Moonshine makes this rod in 3 to 6-weight models. Again, pay attention to the water you’re fishing, which will help you decide on the right weight. 

It’s a moderate-fast action rod, so its versatility is spectacular! You can make long casts and detect small strikes on your nymph. The rod is made of carbon fiber, has titanium stripping guides, and has an AAAA-grade cork handle. This rod feels terrific and performs even better.

Perhaps the best feature of this rod is that Moonshine sends you an extra rod tip with your purchase. The rod is broken down into 4 pieces, and you get an additional tip in case you break yours. For $450, you’re getting a high-performance rod—almost unheard of in the world of fly fishing! Enjoy the value with the top-of-the-line performance. 

You can read my in-depth review of the Moonshine Vesper, explaining why I think this is such a good investment.

Sage Foundation – Our Most Versatile Pick!

Sage makes high-quality fly rods and has eight options for fly fishing. The Foundation series is the lowest-priced option and is appropriately named as a multi-application rod. It’s a fast-action rod, but it’s extremely versatile. The 590-4 foundation all-around trout model can easily meet any situation in small and large rivers out west or local waters near your house. 

The rod is made of graphite, has ceramic guides, and comes in anywhere from a 4 to 9-weight rod. The 4 to 6-weight models are ideal for trout. They’re all 9’ long, so keep this in mind! You’ll be able to high stick with nymphs on smaller bodies of water and bomb longer casts out of the drift boat with the foundation. 

This rod will cost around $450, so you won’t break the bank with this model. Like most companies, Sage offers lifetime warranties on its rods. Fish hard, and don’t worry about what could go wrong! 

Orvis Clearwater – My Most Budget Friendly Pick!

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Orvis is best known for its extremely high-end rods. The Helios and Recon are fan favorites, but the Clearwater should never be overlooked. It’s affordable and performs exceptionally well. Most anglers absolutely love their Clearwater. 

For many, the Orvis Clearwater is their first fly rod. After a while, anglers realize that they don’t necessarily need a new rod. The Clearwater has the friendliness of an entry-level rod but the advanced technology of a higher-end package. 

It’s a medium-fast action rod with all the features you’d need to handle any sized trout. Depending on where and how you’re fishing, you can purchase a 2-weight to a 6-weight rod. The nice thing about the Clearwater is that Orvis has quite a few length options for you to choose from. You can really personalize your purchase to the exact type of rod you need. 

Also, you can purchase an entire rod and reel package from Orvis. The package includes the rod, reel, and fly line, giving you peace of mind that everything will be weighted properly. For the rod only, it’s a great, affordable price. 

Check out my in-depth review of the Orvis Clearwater fly rod, covering the quality, specifications, and versatility of this entry-level Orvis option.

Echo Trout

The Echo Trout doesn’t need much explanation, given its ability to cast a wide range of distances. Echo is another company like Moonshine that realized how expensive fly fishing rods were getting and wanted to create a more budget-friendly and relatable rod for anglers. 

The Trout model has everything from an 8’4” 4-weight to a 9’6” 6-weight. Whatever model you choose, you won’t be sorry. They’re light and extremely easy to use. It’s a moderate-fast action so they’re easy to cast no matter your skill level. You can throw streamers, nymphs, and dry flies and be just fine. 

The Echo Trout is only going to cost you around $300. Pay close attention to Echo’s warranty before you purchase one. They are less flexible with their warranty than other companies. If the rod is damaged by you, then Echo will not replace it! It’s not a no-questions-asked warranty, but if the rod does malfunction or snap, you will get a replacement. 

Snowbee Classic – My Best Beginners Choice!

Snowbee is more well-known in Europe. They make extremely high-quality waders, but their rods and reels are equally great value. The Classic model is Snowbee’s most affordable option. 

It’s a moderate-action rod and is ideal for an entry-level fly rod. You’ll only have to spend $130 or so to get the rod and out on the water. Snowbee has an interesting system in which their rods are 3/4 weight, 4/5 weight, and 6/7 weight combos. This allows you to mix and match your rods to make them fit your reels and the line that you have. 

You can read more about the Snowbee Classic fly rod in my detailed review and why I believe this is the ideal choice for new anglers just starting fly fishing.

Final Thoughts

Purchasing a new fly rod for trout fishing is an exciting time for any angler. It means more enjoyment and confidence on the water and a better chance of landing fish! 

Take the water conditions and your skill level into strong consideration before you make your purchase! My best overall pick, the Moonshine Vesper, is a spectacular choice that is a pleasure to use for any trout fly fishing trip! 

Wherever you fish, enjoy targeting trout! They’re beautiful fish that live in amazing and stunning locations worldwide. If you are planning a trip focused on trout fishing, check out my recommended trout fishing states in the US, which narrows down all the best locations for a productive weekend away!

Daniel Mooers