Review of the Orvis Encounter – Best Beginner Fly Rod Combo

Last updated on August 22nd, 2022

orvis encounter best fly rod combo for beginners

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The Orvis Encounter up close

Breaking Down the Orvis Encounter Fly Rod Outfit (My Personal Encounter)

Key Reel Features:

  • Large Arbor
  • Comes with 150 yards of Weight Forward line
  • Disc Drag System
  • Click Drag Knob
  • Composite Plastic

Key Rod Features:

  • Graphite
  • 4-Piece
  • Cordura Case
  • 32 inches when broken down
  • Medium to Fast action
  • Total weight: 117 Grams

Outfit Size Options:

5-weight 8’ Outfit5-weight 8’6” Outfit5-weight 9’ Outfit6-weight 9’ Outfit6-weight 9’6” Outfit7-weight 10’ Outfit8-weight 9’ Outfit

Perfect Fly Outfit for Beginners (or as a backup)

6-Weight 9’0″ Orvis Encounter Fly Rod Outfit used for this review

Purchasing fishing equipment can be overwhelming. For beginners, buying the right equipment is the goal, but knowing where to start isn’t easy. Most people sit behind a computer screen and read reviews until they have a general idea as to what they’d like to purchase. It’s an easier way to go about things, but not always the most efficient. Fly fishing is a niche sport and it may not be possible to find a store to get fitted within driving distance.

With that being said, welcome to this review of the Orvis Encounter, perhaps the most versatile and functional beginner fly rod package available. This Encounter setup is also great for seasoned fly anglers looking for an inexpensive, well-made backup outfit or a travel setup.

Fly fishing is similar to golf. Most agree that a nicer set of clubs doesn’t matter if the owner has an awful swing. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of dollars are spent on clubs, if the mechanics of the swing are poor, the nicer clubs don’t make a difference. Also, nicer clubs usually have a smaller sweet spot and as a result can make it more difficult to learn.

The same can go for fly fishing. It takes time to become a quality fly angler. Some people get over-anxious and purchase a spendy rod and reel for their first setup. The nicer rod and reel are great, but they require more skill to cast properly. It’ll take longer to learn and many people quit before they have it mastered.

A beginner fly fishing rig is important to purchase because it allows anglers to make casting mistakes, but still grow in their skill. These rigs also allow people to try numerous types of fly fishing to determine what they like best.

The quality setups found on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist in the middle of winter are likely from people who tried to learn with an expensive setup, couldn’t figure it out and quit. These rigs are great for experienced anglers to purchase.

The Orvis Encounter can tackle numerous types of water ranging from the ocean to tiny streams. Orvis is a reputable fly fishing brand. They’ve been around since the mid-19th century and have set a standard for fly fishing equipment that is matched by few.

No one wants to question the ability of equipment when they’re first learning an activity. You won’t have to do that with the Encounter. As long as you aren’t being careless, the Encounter will succeed in the majority of what it’s asked to do.

The Orvis Encounter Fly Reel

Keep in mind that Orvis Encountery can be purchased in different sizes (See the specs listed above for all of those sizes). For this review, we’ll stick with the 6-weight 9’ fly combo. It’s the most versatile of the options. Again, it can tackle the smaller streams for trout and handle a 10-pound Pacific-run salmon.

All of the Orvis Encounter fly reels are made from composite plastic. For some, this might be a turn-off. Some higher-end reels are cast aluminum. However, the plastic on the Encounter reel has proven to be extremely durable. I have fished with it over 100 times in the past year and there have been no issues.

For any beginner, you want to know three things before you purchase a reel. The first is the arbor size. You’ll want a different size arbor depending on what type of fishing you are doing. A large arbor reel, like the Encounter, is going to hold 150 or so yards of line. This will be plenty when fighting a salmon or bass or any larger fish. Orvis sets up anglers with a large arbor reel on the Encounter to allow them more versatility.

The second thing beginners need to know is reel size. What are the dimensions of your rod and what size of reel does it need? This all depends on what kind of rod you possess. If it’s a spey rod, you’ll need a reel that’s two sizes larger. If it’s a switch rod you’ll want a reel that’s one size larger.

Some of these aspects can get confusing, but Orvis does all the work for you on the Encounter. If you purchase a 6-weight rod, they’ll send you a 6-weight reel equipped with everything you need.

The third thing to look for is the fly line. This is the most confusing aspect of it all. Do you need floating line for fishing dry flies? Do you need a sinking line to go after bottom feeders?

Orvis puts weight forward (WF) line on the Encounter reel. This means that the line is a bit heavier on the first 10 yards to make casting easier. Also, this heavier line gives anglers more power to flip flies and present them properly. For beginners, weight forward line is great. Casting is the most difficult part of fly fishing so the heavier line is of great use.

Weight forward line isn’t going to sink immediately, but it will sink depending on the weight of the fly.

What Else You Need to Know About This Reel:

It is fitted with a disc drag system. This ensures that you’ll be able to fight the larger fish without having to worry about drag slipping. The drag is set by a knob on the side of the reel. It’s a simple tightening system that allows you to set it exactly where you’d like.

NOTE: The reel is not sealed so if you are using it for saltwater fishing, be sure to clean it after every use or it will corrode.

You are able to switch the reel from right to left-handed and vice versa.

The Orvis Encounter Fly Rod

Choosing the proper rod is another tall task that can take quite a bit of time to decide. However, the versatility of the Encounter fly rod is impressive. I’ve handled fish on it well over 10 pounds and felt bites on it from six-inch fish.

The rod is made from graphite. It’s a smooth finish and gives anglers a great feel for the water. It isn’t heavy, weighing just 118 grams. This may be the biggest knock against the rod. Its light weight doesn’t allow for as much power when casting.

Orvis combats it with a weight forward line, but you’ll notice the lack of weight on extremely windy days. The 8-weight rod feels more like a 7-weight, but again, you don’t lose the ability to fight fish. You only notice it when trying to make longer casts.

It’s a medium-action rod that will shoot line out at a solid pace. It’s obviously not going to provide the smoothness of a bamboo rod, but it’s a clean feel when casting. The Encounter can handle size two streamers as well as size 18 dry flies. You can pick the spots you want to hit on the water and get the line there. This is no easy task, but Orvis has found an impressive balance.

The rod breaks down into four 32 inch pieces. It comes in a Cordura fly rod case that is about 33 inches tall. I’ve carried it on several international trips and haven’t faced any backlash from airlines. The reel does not fit in the case, but Orvis will send along a soft fabric reel holder. It’ll protect the reel, but be sure to wrap it in some softer clothes if you’re packing it in a suitcase.

The handles on the rod are made of cork. It’s well constructed and makes for a comfortable afternoon fishing. You won’t get blisters from gripping the rod too tightly.

When casting, the rod will be at its best when you have about 15 feet of line out. This is when it’ll load in the most smooth manner and allow you to pick your spots. Hitting the corner of a small eddy with less than 15 feet of line out can be difficult with the Encounter, but nowhere in its description does it pretend to be a finesse rig.

Personal Observations and Conclusion

fly rod combo review

Putting it to the test during a recent trip to Canada

The biggest knock against the rod is its lack of the standard Orvis warranty of 25 years. The Encounter rods come with only a limited warranty against defects in workmanship. Again, I’ve taken it to two countries, 15 states and fished with it well over 100 times and I haven’t had a single issue. There are no small cracks in the graphite or corrosion on the reel.

Believe me, I’ve been stuck in the trees more times than I want to admit and I’ve seen some impressive bend. The large fish I’ve fought haven’t given me any trouble. The rod gives me enough power to fight the fish upstream. It handles head shakes extremely well. It also has a soft enough tip that I’m able to feel tiny wild brookies hit my nymph.

The drag handles the runs and can be loosened enough to not lose a small trout. I’ve fished in the rain, saltwater and held it underwater quite a bit over the last year or so. There is no sign of corrosion and the drag isn’t slipping.

Overall, it’s a great rod. The average score of the 200-plus reviews on the Orvis website is 4.7 out of 5.

It’s an affordable option that is going to allow you to fish in almost any environment. The 6-weight is going to be your most versatile option. If you know you’ll only be in bigger water then the 8-weight is best. If you’re fishing small rivers and streams, you’ll be surprised at the touch of the 5-weight.

I’ve purchased four of these rods for family/friends and haven’t had a single complaint yet.

Buy Orvis Encounter Fly Rod Outfit on Amazon


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About Avid Angler

Dave "Avid Angler" Miller has been an author and contributor to Reel Adventure Fishing since its inception, going back to 2010. Dave has fished just about every freshwater and saltwater body from coast to coast and enjoys putting a lifetime of angling experience to use in helping others to become better anglers. In addition to penning featured posts, Dave also writes a good deal of our product reviews.

2 thoughts on “Review of the Orvis Encounter – Best Beginner Fly Rod Combo

  1. Chuck

    Dave, thank you for the information. You mentioned using the Encounter in saltwater but that you need to clean it thoroughly. Can you provide more details on the best way to rinse the rod/reel to prevent corrosion? Also for someone that fishes saltwater a handful of times a year for trout/redfish, would you recommend the Encounter? I currently have a 5wt but I am thinking about buying the 8wt as well for lager freshwater fish and inshore saltwater. Thank you

    1. Dorado

      Hi Chuck, this is John. I would need to write a separate article on the topic, but here are the basic steps for some light, routine maintenance. The recommendation for fly reels is no different from other reel types as far as after-use maintenance goes. You want to gently rinse the reel after every use with freshwater – nothing too pressurized. Warm water under a sink faucet is perfect. The rod can be rinsed under pressurized water from a garden hose without issue. Be sure to wipe it down afterward.

      Fishing saltwater adds another level of corrosion concern that requires a little deeper cleaning. I would, following harsh saltwater use or every few months, remove your line/backing then the spool from the reel frame/housing. Then soak it in warm water with a very small amount of dishwashing soap and let it soak well for about 30 minutes. Finally, scrub the spool clean with a small brush (toothbrushes are great for this). Let it dry.

      As for the reel housing itself, lube the important components with one of the many reel grease products available according to your manufacturer’s instructions. This is basic advice but will help prolong the life of your reel. And I would go larger than a 5wt for saltwater fishing as a general rule.

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