If you’re considering making your mark in the world of fly fishing, we’ve got the rod-and-reel combo kits to get you started.
Fly fishing is not a cheap hobby for newbies. Working at a fly shop, I often meet people with the twinkle of a crisp mountain day and the imagined poetry between fisher and fish in their eye — only to have that sparkle die when they see the price tag of a decent fly rod.
If they can fight their initial reaction and remember the visions of romance that brought them in, they again become discouraged when they realize that the list of “necessities” is long and confusing.
To combat this, fly rod companies have latched onto the idea of offering budget packages that include everything you need so that all you have to do is tie on a fly and leader, and you’re good to go. I took a good, hard look at some of the best of these to help decipher which combo is right for you.
There are a lot of different combos that were left out of this buyer’s guide. Combos for beginners should be reasonably priced. But I also wanted to showcase sets that could grow with you if your passion for fly fishing takes root and becomes an obsession.
That being said, I left out any combos with plastic or composite reels as well as any combos costing more than $350. Also, all of these combos will come in the popular trout size of a 9-foot 5-weight.
Any of these below should provide hours of enjoyment and learning time on the water.
Temple Fork Outfitters NXT: $165 ($55 Off)
Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) is known for its quality rods that won’t break the bank. The brand provides an easy-to-understand matrix for each of its rods if you want to explore its other offerings.
The NXT combo, of course, includes the obligatory cast aluminum reel, rod, and line with a case that will protect it all. TFO doesn’t specify what exact line is included, which isn’t a good sign.
The NXT rod has a medium-fast action. Some anglers might find this harder to cast beautifully, but it will be slightly more forgiving than a fast-action rod when it comes to dry fly presentation.
One great feature of this package is that it’s completely saltwater-safe should you live near the surf. All of these packages come with TFO’s unconditional lifetime warranty, which is a big deal if you end up putting this combo to hard use.
Redington VICE Combo: $273 ($27 Off)
You might say Redington is the king of combos. Many experienced fly anglers have gotten their feet wet with Redington gear, as the company is known for quality products at entry-level prices.
It offers five different combos, but only Redington’s top-end VICE combo meets the criteria of this test in that it includes the brand’s respected cast aluminum i.D. Reel. The selling point of this reel is the customizable faceplate and the wide range of decals Redington sells for it.
This combo comes with a Rio Mainstream fly line, a solid floating fly line for the price.
The VICE rod is a fast-action rod that will help those with a more aggressive casting style and, for some, is easier to learn on. Fast-action rods can suffer, however, in the fly presentation and prove harder to make casts to spooky fish.
Echo Traverse Kit: $270
Echo Fly Fishing is known as the brainchild of world champion fly caster Tim Rajeff. The brand makes budget rods that punch above their price tag in many scenarios.
The Traverse Kit has some cool features, and Echo claims that the kit was designed as a holistic package when it comes to line selection and rod action. The kit comes with the medium-fast Traverse rod, which includes ceramic stripping guides. This kit also carries Echo’s lifetime warranty so you can get back out on the water as fast as possible if something bad happens.
Also included is the Echo Ion reel. It boasts a multi-disc drag system for softer engagement when you do hook into a fish, which can help prevent snapping your tippet off.
Echo partnered with its sister company, Airflo, to rig the reel with its Forge fly line. It’s a weight-forward, all-around taper line designed to fish in lots of different situations.
Orvis Clearwater Outfit: $311 ($25 Off)
Coming in at just under the budget parameters for this buyer’s guide is the Clearwater Outfit from the well-respected Orvis. This outfit stands out from Orvis not only because it’s accompanied by Orvis’ stellar customer service (and 25-year warranty) but also because the design team purpose-built the taper and design of this rod.
At this price point, this level of intentionality is nothing to scoff at. Orvis’ design team in Vermont also designed a fly line and reel to go with this rod that all carry the name Clearwater.
Want to replace your line someday but don’t know how to wade through all the options at your local fly shop? Just look for the one that says “Clearwater,” and you’re good to go. Should you fall in love with this combo and want another for chasing bigger fish, Orvis also offers the Clearwater Outfit in two-handed models for spey casting.
Note: To make sure you get the kit, click the “Outfit” button under “Select Items” on the righthand side of the webpage.
Cabela’s Prestige: $180
Yes, I included a combo from a big-box store. When I saw the features of the combo and the price tag, I couldn’t resist. All of the products in this package are labeled “Cabela’s Prestige,” and I couldn’t find much more information about them than that. But for the lowest price in this buyer’s guide, you can have yourself a rod, cast aluminum reel, fly line, and even some starter flies and tackle!
The downsides to this rig are the lack of name-brand products that carry replaceable parts or any advertised warranty. Also, this rod is only moderate-action, which some new anglers might find a bit harder to cast accurately with.
On top of this, the rod doesn’t totally fit the criteria of this buyer’s guide in that it’s only offered in an 8’6” 5-weight and not the 9-foot 5-weight of the other combos discussed. This means that you will sacrifice some line control on the water, but darn if I’m not a sucker for a good price.