I am regularly asked what best fly rod or fly rods, I recommend for anglers. The best fly rod is a personal choice based on many factors including but not limited to the niche where you will fish it the most and your budget. As an outfitter/fly fishing guide in Alaska and Montana, I handle many different rods and I have quite a few for use by my guests. Every rod I own makes its way into the hands of my clients, including the best ones. Here are the fly rods I fished and guided with the most this year. To get the best out of any fly rod, fly line selection is critical, so I have included the best fly line matches based on my experiences.
My favorite rod for trout fishing is without a doubt, the Sage One 4116 Switch Rod. Unless I’m striping streamers from a boat or casting to a rising fish, I will likely be using this rod. I fish it with a Rio Switch Line and a Rio Scandi Short VersiTip. This rod excels at nymphing with the Switch Line. Long dead drifts are easy and picking up and rolling out line is a snap. It also works for smaller streamers, caddis pupa and skating dry flies.
The Scandi Short VersiTip system seems like it was tailor made for this rod. It is amazing how powerful this little 4wt feels when casting Skagit style with the 320 grain VersiTip. I most often use the type 6 tip, but the type 3 and intermediate tips come in handy. I seldom use the floater, as I usually change to the Switch Line if a floater is needed.
My most reliable rod for trout fishing has been and continues to be the Sage Z-Axis 6101. This rod has been a nymphing workhorse in Alaska for many years and performs just fine in Montana. It has literally landed thousands of trout and a fair number of incidental salmon. The 6wt Z also landed a 24# Alaska Rainbow while swinging with a Rio Clear Intermediate Line, however, I typically set this rod up with a Rio Grand 8wt. While that may seem ridiculous on a 6wt, it makes short line nymphing a breeze. Roll casting is effortless and single hand spey casts are easy. Both novice and experts love this set up.
When I’m not swinging with the 4116 One rod, I will likely be using the Ross Reach 6113. The 11’ 3” 6wt rod with a 360 grain SA Skagit Extreme Head and 8’ of T10 rocks for zinging sculpins and swinging for big bows and small stream Steelhead. The rod is light and fun and just begs to throw line.
On my trip to the Kanektok River to fish with Alaska West, I brought several rods and borrowed a couple others. I ended up primarily fishing my new Sage One 8126 Spey Rod. An 8wt steelhead rod is a bit light for King Salmon, but I simply loved casting this rod. To find out how I set it up, visit the Deneki Blog. This fall, the rod got bent again while swinging for big silver salmon and a few magnum dollies.
My new favorite rod for streamers is the Sage One 890. Whether chucking huge articulated flies for Hawg Brown or stripping flash flies for silver salmon, this rod is the ticket. I fish it with three different 8wt Rio Lines. The Power Fly floater is the all a rounder. I also use the Streamer Tips in Clear Intermediate and Sinking.
I did not get enough opportunity to fish it this year, but my new dry fly trout rod of choice is the Sage One 590. It is a great 5wt rod for both distance and accuracy. The Kenai and the Mo are big rivers and this thing is amazing to me. I see anglers increasing their casting distance significantly with this “One” and getting the drift that matters…drag free. I had a client launching a 60’ reach cast and then getting a drift all the way to the backing. The technique worked for a spooky rainbow that would not let us approach any closer…got him. The line that made the cast was the Rio Gold 5wt.
While I generally prefer premium rods, not all my rods cost a fortune. The Redington Pursuit 7100-4 is perfect for yarding in sockeye salmon without fear of damage. Sockeye Salmon fishing is heavy work for any fly rod and these inexpensive sticks (less than $100) have worked great through two seasons of trauma. Any matching fly line will do.
So what is the best fly rod? Well these rods worked really well for me and Mystic Waters anglers this past season. There are many many best fly rods out there. I’d love to hear about your best fly rod.