A few months ago, I was dating this girl I’d been set up with thanks to a well-meaning (but terribly misguided) friend of mine.
The girl didn’t know how to fish, hunt, work with leather, forge knives, or build picture frames from slabs of rough walnut, so I had to get creative with our date activities. One evening I figured I’d take her shooting, and as she helped me take the guns and ammo from my closet she looked at the stack of fly rods and said, “Don’t you have enough of those?”
We didn’t go out again.
It’s impossible to have too many fly rods. You never know when you’ll need that one-piece 9-weight you bought off an old guy at a pawn shop in Montana, but for peace of mind it’s worth keeping that rod around. What else are you going to use if you get a last-minute invite to fish steelhead on the Rogue River?
So if you’re shopping for fly rods for a significant other this year, don’t worry about getting them something they already have. If there’s one thing an angler can’t have enough of, it’s floatant and 5-weight fly rods. With that in mind, I’ve picked five of my favorite fly rods to share with you. After 5-dozen rod reviews – and owning 2 dozen myself – I’d like to think I can make a decent recommendation on a rod for any given fishing situation.
I’m a big-time fan of Winston rods. I learned to fish on small spring creeks in the Rockies, and Winston’s legendary soft action and delicate presentation is a perfect fit for the type of fishing I do most often.
The Air is a spendy rod. There’s no way around that. But, it’s an absolutely incredible piece of gear that makes me wonder if Winston is eyeing a return to their soft-action rod roots anytime soon. With a supple tip section combined with a powerful all-boron butt section, the Air has the chops to handle big trout, while laying down a size 22 midge on a 12-foot leader without spooking them.
With the usual flor-grade cork, nickel silver butt cap and hand-written rod inscriptions, the Air is a classic Winston rod in every sense of the word.
Yeah, I know, this rod is expensive, too. But in a comprehensive review of over 30 fly rods, it showed itself as the clear winner in a recent fly rod buying guide over at Field & Stream.
I don’t know what there is to say about the Helios 3 that hasn’t already been said. It’s one of the best rods I’ve ever fished with. Only time will prove this point true, but the Helios 3 may just be the graphite rod that finally knocks the venerable Sage XP from the top spot on the list of best graphite fly rods ever built.
The Helios 3D is a workhorse and I put it through the paces on big and small water alike. For two weeks I tried to find something about the rod that I didn’t like: I couldn’t.
Back into the realm of relative affordability, the Echo 3 is a superb rod from one of the most innovative companies in fly fishing. Echo – the place for Tim Rajeff to get creative with his tapers and designs – has made a name for itself by putting the bulk of their production costs into the rod blank as opposed to splitting that between fancy cork and nickel-silver accoutrements.
It’s a smooth, medium-fast action rod with more power than you’d expect in a 5-weight. It’s definitely a faster rod, though other Echo rods are significantly stiffer. All in all, the Echo 3 is a great do-it-all rod, and picking one up will only lead to good things – like more time on the water and more fish in your net.
Another affordably-priced rod, the Hardy Sirrus Glass is one of the most unique rods I’ve ever fished. For starters, it’s not 100 percent fiberglass. The folks at Hardy wove graphite strands with the fiberglass to create a stronger blank that tracks straighter and fights fish better than traditional glass.
And as a fan of antique rods, I love their use of spigot ferrules. We don’t see enough of those ferrules these days (they’re arguably more expensive to produce, though I don’t know how true that is) and they make for a smoother transition from one rod section to the next. For a glass rod, a smooth feel is paramount, and Hardy knocks it out of the park with this one.
Hear me out on this one. Fenwick hasn’t been known for great rods since their Fenglass heyday of the 70s. Once those glass rods were pulled from production, Fenwick fell into obscurity in the fly fishing world.
Fast-forward to 2017: Fenwick has reintroduced their Fenglass rods to outrageous market success, and built the absolute best-performing budget fly rod I’ve ever used.
The Aetos in a 9”, 5-weight is probably the best rod for a casual fly angler. It’s light, yet powerful; smooth, yet fast; and best of all, it’s just plain fun to fish.
I’ve thrown the Aetos from Oregon to Colorado with dries, streamers, and any other rig you can dream of. For a sub-$200 rod, it’s the best bargain you could ask for.
Now just remember that you can never have too many fly rods. So treat yourself and pick one of these rods up.
Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, and novelist from Utah. His work has appeared in Field & Stream, Hatch Magazine, Sporting Classics Daily, and other various national publications. Connect with him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.