Choosing a Beginner Fly Fishing Rod and Reel

This post was last updated on June 1st, 2022 at 11:00 pm

Fly fishing rods are a key component to catching trout. You should not buy an extremely cheap fly fishing rod and expect to have great success right off the bat. Learning how to fly fish will be much easier if you start out with decent gear. If you are looking to save money on a piece of fly fishing equipment, save that money on the reel and use the money you saved to upgrade your rod. While you are out hunting for the best beginner fly fishing rod and reel, you should keep these tips in mind.

The Best Fly Fishing Rods for Beginners

The Best Fly Rod Size for Trout

The perfect trout fly fishing rod size will vary, but we can certainly limit the choices down to a couple options, leaving you with a very good idea of what type you need to buy. Most trout anglers will go with either a 4, 5 or 6 weight rod. Depending on the type of water you are fishing, you will likely want one of these sized trout rods. We will go over the benefits of all of these rod sizes and more to clear up any type of confusion you might have, along with some excellent recommendations for each.

4 Weight Fly Rods

If you are mainly fishing in small streams where your average cast will be under 30 feet, and your average trout will be fairly small, (under 12 inches) you might want to opt for a 4 weight rod. These small rods are a delight to fish with and they can usually handle anything a very small trout stream can dish out. Many areas in the Eastern US simply do not have very big trout, so if you are planning to spend all of your time fishing there—a 4 weight might be perfect. For most small Eastern brook trout rivers, a 4 weight is perfect.

We like the Sage Sonic 6wt here. View on Amazon

5 Weight Fly Rods

5 weight rods are the most common choice for trout fisherman nationwide. If you will possibly hook into a fairly large fish in your area, this will be a better choice than a 4 weight rod. 5 weight rods will give you a bit more versatility, allowing you to cast farther, haul in larger fish and give you more control in windy fishing conditions. This versatility is what makes this size of fly rod preferred by most fly fisherman who seek trout.

Our top option here is the Orvis Clearwater 5 wt. Check it out on Amazon here. 

6 Weight Rods

6 weight fly rods are the ultimate in versatility, but they might not be perfect for learning with. When learning how to fly fish, you will find out that as you pull your rod backwards to make a cast, it is critical that you learn when to end your back cast and begin to come forward to land your fly on the water. The disadvantage that most 6 weights have for new anglers is that they are stiff. You will not feel your rod bending on your cast as much as you would with a 4 or 5 weight fly fishing rod. This is not ideal, because without being able to feel when your rod is totally loaded up behind you, you won’t know exactly when to begin your forward cast.

There are also many benefits to owning a 6 weight rod that you should be aware of. First off, you will be able to cast farther, cut through the wind much more easily than you would with a smaller more soft action 4 or 5 weight fly fishing rod. Another factor is that these heavy rods will be able to cast large flies much more effortlessly than a smaller sized rod. If you will mainly be fishing in areas where you will have a good chance of hooking some very large fish, combined with fast water, a 6 weight might be for you. When you are fishing in many of the Western states, you will also encounter many days where there is heavy winds on the water. Fishing in Wyoming is just going to be much more windy on average than it is in North Carolina. Keeping this in mind, a 6 weight will have enough power to cut through the wind and therefore allow you further casting distances in heavy wind conditions.

Our top 6wt fly rod is from Echo. Check it out here. 

7 Weight Fly Rods

Most beginner fly fisherman for trout will not need a rod this large. If you are planning to cast some very heavy streamer patterns or even use your rod for bass or steelhead, then you might be in need of a 7 weight rod. Other than that, a new fly fisherman should stick with one of the other 3 options above.

We have another excellent rod for Sage here. Check out the Sage Pulse 7wt.

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Choosing the Best Trout Fly Fishing Reels

Fly reels are a much easier decision than buying a rod. For trout fishing, the reel is not as important as the rod is. This is not the case for most types of fly fishing, but for trout; you won’t need to spend a ton of money on a reel. Unlike when you are using a spinning or baitcast reel, you mostly won’t be reeling in your fish when you begin fly fishing—you’ll be stripping in line with your hand. When you start to move on to catching really large fish, an expensive reel with a good drag system is important, but at this point it really isn’t.

Most fly reels are categorized by 4/5, 5/6 or 6/7 weight sizes. This means that a 5/6 for instance will be suitable for most 5 and 6 weight rods. Choose a decent reel that you like and go with it. You should spend about $50-60 on a good reel. These will by no means be the best there is, but since you are learning, you just don’t need to spend a lot of money on one; save that money to buy a nicer rod. Like I mentioned, the rod is more important than the reel.

One more small decision is choosing a large arbor vs small arbor reel. A large arbor will offer you faster retrieve when you are reeling in. A small arbor reel will probably cost less money. At this point you should buy whichever suits your needs, but a large arbor or mid arbor reel will be the best choice in the long run.

In Conclusion – Choosing the Best Fly Fishing Rods and Reels for Beginners

Choosing the best fly fishing rod is a daunting task for beginner anglers. There are many factors to consider before making this decision, but we’ve provided some helpful insights and recommendations in our article above. In order of importance, you should first decide between 4 wt, 5 wt, 6wt or 7wt rods, since these will be most suitable for your trout fishing needs at this point. You’ll also need to choose whether you want a large arbor reel or small arbor reel.

Whatever route you take when buying your new fly fishing gear—whether it’s a rod or a reel you already own or a new combo package—your first fly fishing experience will be an exciting one. There’s nowhere else that you can find the same level of peace and tranquility as when out on the water, armed with your rod and reel. Hopefully this article helps you choose the best fly fishing rods and reels. Happy fishing!

Fly Fishing Rod and Reel FAQ

What is the best fly rod for a beginner?

The best beginner fly rods typically range from 4wt to 6wt and around 9′ in length. 3wt and 7wt could also be an option, but usually the other weights are more appropriate. Some of the best brands for beginner fly rods are Orvis, Sage and Echo.

How do I choose a fly rod and reel?

Choosing the best fly rod and reel for you comes down to a few factors including what you’ll be fishing for, your experience and where you’ll be fishing. The most important factors to consider are the fly rod weight, the length of the fly rod and your budget. For new fly fishermen, focus on getting a quality rod and saving money by getting a decent reel.

If you’re looking for a good value, check out our list of the best fly rods for the money.