Last updated on May 13th, 2021
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A question often asked is: “how do you choose the best fly rod weight?” The answer depends on a number of factors like what species of fish you are targeting, the environment you are fishing in, and the fishing conditions. I wanted to explore whether or not there was a “universal” weight that could cover most areas of fishing.
The conclusion I came up with is that there isn’t one universal fly rod weight because of the vast differences between freshwater and saltwater fishing. But, I do believe there is one best overall fly rod weight for fresh water and one for saltwater.
The “weight” of a fly rod correlates to the size of the fly line that manufacturers believe the rod is best suited to throw. Fly fishing is different because fly rods are designed to build momentum in the line to deliver a fly to a fish. Conventional fishing uses the weight of the lure to help deliver the bait.
That is why there are a number of different “weights” of fly rods. Because fly rods also assist in the fighting and landing of the fish, targeted species should also be taken into consideration when choosing a fly rod weight.
Because of better manufacturing practices, less expensive fly rods have also become good options. You aren’t necessarily sacrificing quality when you choose a less expensive rod.
Of course, the big players like Sage and G-Loomis are still great options, and the principles discussed below apply to them as well. But I hope that this article can help people understand that you can buy two fly rods that are able to cover most of the fishing around the globe for very little money.
The five options listed below are a great place to start if you are just getting started in fly fishing. That first fly rod is important because it can define how a person will fish for the rest of his life.
I still have my first rod, which I hold onto for sentimental reasons. There is no need to buy a Porsche for your first car and the same goes for fly rods. I beat my first fly rod up and it never let me down. Hopefully, the products listed below will do the same for you.
5-Weight Fly Rod for Freshwater Fishing
Trout fishermen know that fishing for trout alone can require a wide range of fly rod weights because some anglers target 13-inch wild brook trout and others go after behemoth lake trout.
The average size for the species around the world falls between one to five pounds. With this being the case, I find the 5-weight to be the best weight fly rod for trout as it will be able to handle most trout fishing anywhere in the world.
The 5-weight fly rod is the most versatile because it can handle fishing for most freshwater species in most environments. It performs nicely when fishing small North Carolina streams and it can also deliver a fly to your favorite eddy on the Green River in Wyoming.
A 5-weight rod can handle largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, northern pike, bluegills, and just about any other species of freshwater fish.
I would recommend one that is built on the stiffer side, sometimes called “stiff butt” or “tip flex.” That will ensure that the rod is able to handle the larger species of fish while not sacrificing any of the fun or feel of catching smaller fish.
With that being said, let’s now take a look at what I believe to be three of the very best 5 weight fly rod values that you can buy.
Temple Fork Outfitters TFO BVK Series 5 Wt Fly Rod
Temple Fork Outfitters has become the premier budget-minded fly rod company. The 9-foot 5-weight version of their TFO BVK series of rods is one of the best buys in the mid-price range.
This rod has a “better-than-excellent” presentation for a lightweight rod and boasts aggressive power and strength. This rod can be easily packed in a backpack for a hike and is strong enough to cut through the wind while fishing on a lake.
Orvis Clearwater 5-Weight 9 Ft Fly Rod Outfit
Orvis Clearwater is such a good “beginner” rod that people end up fishing with it for decades. The 9-foot 5-weight combo version of this rod is one of the best you can buy for the money, and it may be the only freshwater fly rod that you ever buy.
This rod is strong enough to fire streamers to the far bank of wide rivers and is also delicate enough to drop a nymph down to a spooky brook trout. It is packaged as a combo that also includes a Clearwater fly reel and fly line. And the best part of this rod may be Orvis’s 25-year warranty.
Moonshine Rod Co. Drifter Series 5 Wt Fly Rod
A new player on the fly rod scene is the Moonshine Rod Company. They say that their mission is to “imagine, create, and distribute unique, well-built fly rods that real people can afford.” Their Drifter Series fly rod is available in a 5-weight version and is a fantastic bargain.
They offer a lifetime warranty on these rods, plus they provide you with an extra tip section in case you smash one in the car door as we all do. This high-performance, medium-action fly rod will handle anything a freshwater fish can throw at it and is also light and durable.
9-Weight Fly Rod for Saltwater Fishing
No one is suggesting that you should go after white marlin with a 9-weight fly rod, but you can land an 80-pound tarpon with one and that is good enough for me. All of these rods are available in a 4-piece version which is great for travel.
Conditions become more of a factor in saltwater because the wind is always blowing. That is why I suggest a 9-weight rod and not an 8. While the 8-weight might provide a little more feel, the 9-weight is better suited to cut that crab fly through a 20 mph gust that would otherwise knock your cast off-target.
Whether pulling snook out of the mangroves in Florida or fighting roosterfish in the surf in Baja, Mexico, the 9-weight fly rod is all you are going to need. This weight is light enough to feel the slight gulp of a redfish on a flood tide flat as well as tough enough to withstand one last acrobatic leap from a silver king.
Here are two favorite top-rated 9-weight fly rods I recommend for saltwater fishing.
Redington Crosswater 9-Weight 9′ Fly Fishing Outfit
A lot of anglers do most of their fishing in one environment but would like the option to fly fish while on their annual beach trip in the summer or in the Bahamas with the kids during spring break. Redington is the perfect company for this type of angler because its 9-weight Crosswater Fly Fishing Outfit offers quality and versatility at a bargain.
Included in this combo are the rod, reel, line, and even a protective rod tube – everything you will need for a great day on the water. This is a great rod to learn with as well. If you are transitioning from trout fishing to saltwater, you are going to want to practice a lot before attempting to fish.
Temple Fork Outfitters 9 Wt 9′ Lefty Kreh Professional Series II Fly Rod
The legendary Lefty Kreh started Temple Fork Outfitters because he saw a need in the market for an affordable fly rod. His memory and this company live on with the TFO Lefty Kreh Professional Series II.
This braided-graphite rod is described as “smooth and powerful” with a “medium-fast” action. This rod is perfect for zipping through the wind in the Bahamas on a bonefish flat but is also delicate enough to drop a fly so it is unnoticed by the grey ghost.
Perfectly suited for fly fishermen of all skill levels, this TFO fly rod is further enhanced by a lifetime warranty.
Closing Thoughts: Fly Rod Weight and Fishing Responsibly
Local traditions will always dictate varying techniques and equipment, and I am sure many folks will read this and disagree with my conclusions. That is understandable. I can’t exactly justify fly fishing for sea trout with a 9-weight fly rod. But if the most you ever compromise is a little less fight because you only own a 9-weight fly rod, then you are doing fine.
I believe that there is an ethical reason for my fly rod weight choices as well. It is unfair to fight larger fish species with lighter equipment because you enjoy the challenge. Your catch should be respected and released unless you are planning to keep it.
When fish are fighting, they are under tremendous amounts of stress and I believe that it is the angler’s duty to land, revive, and release them as safely as possible. Using a smaller weight rod could cause a larger fish to die during the fight if it goes on too long.
I hope that this has been informative and has aided you in making a fly rod purchase. If you should have any comments about any of my arguments, please leave them below. Here’s wishing you tight lines.
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