Fly Rods for Sale…$800

by Mysticfish on January 30, 2013


Fly Rods for Sale…$800.  Not to be confused with the 800 lb Gorilla.

$800 is a snack.

$800 is a snack.

I recently followed a link from Wind Knots & Tangled Lines to a blog post at Fly Fishing & Tying Obsessed.  The post is titled, “I Am Disgusted”.  Apparently; the rant was set off by a new Orvis Catalog.  It is an interesting post, and you should definitely check it out along with all the comments. It got me to thinking and feeling slightly guilty.  I have been posting about my love for the Sage One fly rods, specifically my new favorite 4116 Sage One Switch rod.  I realize it is an expensive specialized rod that many anglers will not likely feel that they can afford.  I have the rod because I work in both the guiding and retail side of the fly fishing industry.  My business owns a large number of premium fly rods and clients utilize them on my guided trips.  Of course I also get to use them when I go fishing.  That is a benefit most recreational anglers don’t have.  Believe me when I say there are other trade-offs.

Many anglers seem to view fly fishing tackle as somehow different from other retail goods and become offended when they view the costs as being too high.  A day seldom goes by when someone in the fly shop does not react to the price of a high end fly rod.  Then they go to the gun counter and spend $800 or more without batting an eye.  The reality is that premium tackle is very specialized, available in smaller quantities and as such, priced accordingly. High end rods also carry no fault warranties that must be factored into the selling prices. While some domestic companies may be more altruistic than others, they still need a profit to keep the wheels turning and to keep on developing new and better fly rods.  If consumers don’t view newer generation rods as better than older generation rods, they go out of business.

Sage One Fly RodsStill, do we need $800 fly rods to catch fish?  The answer is clearly no.   If you are an experienced caster and educated angler, you can handle just about anything and catch fish.  That may be why Yvon Chouinard and Craig Mathews have taken up Tenkara.  Why than are some rods over $800? How about looking at it this way: Do you need a 60” LED Flat Screen to watch the Super Bowl?  Well we all know the answer to that.  Will the experience be more enjoyable on the big screen?  I think that answer is obvious.  We all make our choices based on our perceived needs, desires and resources.  I would rather have a 27” TV screen and an $800 fly rod.  That’s my personal cost to benefit analysis.

Still, $800 dollar fly rods seem expensive, but maybe we can look at them another way.  Remember when home computers first came out?  A decent machine went for over $2000. For less than $300 now, you can get a better machine than $2000 would buy in 1994.  My smart phone is better than my first computer at 1/20th the cost.  Thanks to $800 dollar fly rods, the same is true in the fly fishing market.  For less than $300 now, you can get a fly rod that is likely as good as or better than, the most expensive fly rods available in 1994.  If you want the best of the best at any given moment in time, you will have to pay a considerably higher price.  In a few years, the technology in the Sage One, Orvis Helios2, Hardy Proaxis, G. Loomis NRX, Loop Cross S1, Winston Boron III-SX etc. will be available in less expensive rod models.  That’s because there will be $900 rods that have features and benefits not available in the premium rods of today. That is how retail works.

You get little benefit from an $800 fly rod if you have a .50 cent cast.

Are rods under $300 any good?  Check out the St. Croix Imperial Series.  They are made in the U.S.A. with models starting under $200.  Will they deliver a fly like the Sage One series? Not quite.  Are they durable, quality, domestically produced rods that will provide years of service and fun?  Absolutely!

St. Croix Imperial Fly Rods

All the previously mentioned manufacturers of premium fly rods also offer rods at several price points.  There are also decent rods available for less than $100 that will still get you on plenty of fish.  The Redington Crosswater Series starts at $69.95.  You can get the Minnow outfit with line and reel for $99.95. Guess who owns Redington?  Sage does.  They certainly know that it is essential to have outfits available at price points anyone can afford.  Lower priced tackle is also essential for getting kids involved in fly fishing.

I got started with a discarded bamboo fly rod. I added a level Cortland 5wt fly line purchased with my paper route money from a Sears Store.  I did not even have a fly reel or backing.  I pulled line loosely in coils from the spool for 20’ casts in the pursuit of panfish.  I had as much fun with that partial outfit as I do with my 4wt Sage One Switch Rod today.  It’s all relative.  Give me back one summer season of free time on Boulder Lake and the Manito-wish River with that old bamboo and I will gladly trade in my Sage Ones.

$100 Fly Line



How do you feel about $100 fly lines!







  • Rainbow Chaser

    Understand your side of the equation completely. I also added a comment over on original post on this subject. If I had the financial ability to do so, no doubt, I would be playing with more expensive fly fishing toys. Sadly, with the economy in disarray, and being retired and living on a Social Security income, makes that a non-possibility. I think you made the point very well that if you are only able to afford a $150 – $200 rod, you can still enjoy the fly fishing and have lots of fun doing so. Your high end vs. low end assessment is quite right. We all just need to keep costs in perspective and don’t expect more than what your gear and your skills can give you.

    • Fred Telleen

      Thanks for the comment Rainbow Chaser. I would rather have more time with a $200 rod than be able to buy all the $800 rods I desire only to have them sit in the closet. That’s one of modern life’s ironies. Enjoy your time on the water. That’s the priceless stuff.

  • Jeff

    Well stated. I liked your analogues. Good stuff. I live, sleep and eat fly fishing. I simply love it. My wife and I own and operate a very small fly tying company called J&M Flies. I am a warm water junkie I suppose. I have such a passion for fly fishing that it has become a way of life for me. Hell I even have rainbow trout dinner plates and cerel bowels with flies on them. In my chosen profession, I don’t make a ton of money. I am not whining and complaining regarding my lack of funds. Rather, I was trying to point out that this wonderful pursuit shouldn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to enjoy. Just my personal opinion and two cents, but maybe sometimes we get too caught up with the newest, latest and greatest and loose sight of the journey we all take as fishermen (women). Most of us start out chasing bluegill and other panfish on the fly rod to “learn”. Yet at some point, we move to trout and almost turn our nose up at those who still pursue the green trout and panfish with a fly rod. I have taken a few people out who were die hard trout guys and had them reconnect with panfish. They are like kids all over again. It is great to see. Sometimes we need to take a step back from this sport and remember why we do it in the first place.

    • Fred Telleen

      We do it because we can’t stop. Fly fishing is like fresh chocolate chip cookies. Mom always said I could have one, and I always took two.

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