From slow-action rods to the perfect nymphing setup, these are the best budget fly rods of 2020.
Within the past few years, budget fly rods have been all the rage in the fly fishing community. A resurgence of high-quality, lower-priced fly rods is being led by mainstream companies like Redington and Echo. But it can be confusing if you’re just starting out. And it’s an expensive hobby once you get into the higher-end rods.
There’s just so much to learn! From tying flies to picking the right rod and reel, it can get overwhelming. Which is why we break it down here.
We’ve waded through the options to help you find the best fly rod under $200. Whether you’re just starting out or want to add an affordable rod to the quiver, we’ve got just the rod for you. And if you need help choosing a budget fly rod, check out the buyer’s guide at the end of this article.
And if you’re looking to spend more dough, check out our overall review of “The Best Fly Fishing Rods of 2020.” A few of the following budget offerings made the list:
The Best Fly Rods Under $200 in 2020
Redington Path II: $100-140
Travis Lucas, shop guide manager at The Fly Fisher’s Place in central Oregon, has nothing but praise for the Redington Path. He recommends as his No. 1 fly rod in the sub-$200 price range. “You close your eyes, and it feels a lot more expensive than a $130 rod,” he said. The Path is a faster-action rod, meaning it is stiff and is best-suited to nymphing applications. Trying to fish a slow-action rod with a heavy strike indicator and split shot is no fun. I’ve been there many times.
That said, neither is trying to fish dry flies with the stiffest rod on the planet. In the interest of making sure you get the right rod for your purpose, know that the Path is a nymphing rod; I would not recommend it if you’re fishing small dry flies.
The Redington Path is covered by Redington’s Lifetime, Original Owner Warranty. This is a great warranty and covers damages as long as the rod breakage is due to manufacturer defect and not because of normal wear or misuse.
Redington Classic Trout: $114-170
The Classic Trout is Lucas’ other top recommendation for a fly rod under $200. It’s a fantastic dry fly rod and is a slower-action alternative to the Path for those looking to throw smaller nymphs or dry flies. He loves the “smoother feel that makes it perfect for slinging dries.”
The action on the Classic Trout is beautiful, and the rod is yet another example of Redington’s impressive resurgence in the fly fishing community, particularly with rods on the lower end of traditional pricing.
The Redington Classic Trout is also covered by Redington’s Lifetime, Original Owner Warranty.
Best Budget: WETFLY Nitrolite Tactical Pro Rod Series ($200)
The folks at WETFLY aim to make fly fishing an affordable sport, and through that, the brand has created a line that matches functionality to frugality. Its new Nitrolite Tactical Pro Rod Series is made from multilayer-wrapped carbon fiber to cut weight while retaining strength.
It has a five-star rating on the full Nitrolite package on Amazon. And with high ratings on a ton of WETFLY’s other products, including its previous Nitrogen rod series, I’d expect to see that stay stable.
Available in five 9′ weights from 4-8 and a 3/4-weight 10’5” nymphing rig, it covers a lot of the basics. And that’s just what it intends to do.
Redington Crosswater: $75-100
The only sub-$100 rod of all three Redingtons featured here, the Crosswater is an excellent all-around fly rod and performs well for its very low price point. If you’re getting into fly fishing and want an affordable rod suitable for all applications, the Crosswater is the rod for you. Its medium-fast action will perform well whether you’re nymphing, dry fly fishing, or even streamer fishing.
The Redington Crosswater is covered by a one-year limited warranty, meant to cover manufacturer defects.
Updated for 2020, the Orvis Clearwater setup is one of my favorites in my collection. It’s a high-performing, easy-on-your-wallet collection that covers so much ground, you might as well buy a few.
Plus, it’s just a great first rod for rookies. From freshwater to the brand’s big game and saltwater rods, switch and spey, and a collection of travel (six-piece!) rods, the Clearwater collection isn’t messing around.
I’m not the only angler who loves the new Clearwater. It won Yellowstone Anglers’ Best Inexpensive Power Rod in its Annual 5-Weight Shootout. I have to second that. This rod can swing.
You can buy the rods on their own, or Orvis sets up a nice package, which I highly recommend for folks just starting out. Also, these are backed by Orvis’ generous 25-year guarantee. If you like to break rods like I do, #worthit.
Echo Carbon XL: $150-170
Echo is, without a doubt, one of the most popular fly rod brands in the industry — particularly with anglers who want a high-end rod for a reasonable price. The Carbon, listed at $150, performs similarly to rods priced hundreds of dollars higher. This is a great all-around fly rod and can be used well for nymphing and dry fly applications. The medium-fast action will give anglers accurate and long casts. It’s light and user-friendly, a perfect rod for beginners who want to dabble in the sport without shelling out a small fortune while still finding success in learning to cast.
It’s also worth mentioning that Echo has a lifetime warranty on all its fly rods: one of the very best warranties in the industry.
Echo Base: $100-115
The Base is Echo’s lowest-priced fly rod at under $100. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good, though, and the Base provides unparalleled performance for its price point. This is a perfect entry-level fly rod for those interested in something that won’t break the bank. Compared to others here, you’ll give up a little accuracy, and it weighs a bit more. But for those looking for a true bargain, this is probably the top choice.
The crazy part? The Echo Base has a lifetime warranty. This is virtually unprecedented for a rod in the sub-$100 price range.
Fenwick Aetos: $150-200
Fenwick’s Aetos is wildly popular in the fly fishing community due to its crisp, high-quality action and low price point. Fenwick flies under the radar in the fly fishing community, perhaps due to the fact that it also manufactures spinning and baitcasting rods. But don’t let that put you off because the Aetos is one of the very best options in 2019.
Anglers love the Aetos for long-range casting. On the downside, it lacks some of the subtlety of slower rods at the 25-foot range. But when hucking long casts for far-off risers, the Aetos has a bevy of believers, especially for such a low price. The Aetos has a limited lifetime warranty. Even if you break the rod, Fenwick will still give you a hefty discount on a replacement.
How to Choose the Best Affordable Fly Rod
Fly fishing doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are some of the things we look for when evaluating inexpensive fly rods.
Go With Well-Known Fly Rod Brands
In the inexpensive arena, particularly on sites like Amazon, you’ll find dozens of cheap, generic, off-brand fly rods. We advise you to stay away from these rods, as they’re usually made with poor-quality components and won’t last long. Stick with well-known fly fishing brands that are dedicated to creating a quality, affordable stick.
Look for the Best Fly Rod Warranty
Even with these economical fly rods, some brands will offer warranties that are certainly well worth considering. If you’re trying to save money, having a warranty in place if your rod breaks is one of the best ways to do that.
Determine Fly Rod Type
Consider the type of rod and species of fish that you want to target. It will be difficult to find a specialized rod, like a spey rod or a euro-nymphing rod under $200, but there are plenty of options for more traditional and popular rod styles. Do you want a nymphing rod? A dry fly rod? A streamer rod? More likely, if you’re looking for a cost-effective fly rod, you’ll want something with great versatility. We’ve included plenty of options for that category, as well as some of our nymphing and dry fly-specific favorites.
Don’t Ignore Fly Line
While rods get most of the glory, it’s the fly line that actually catches fish and presents the fly. So when you’re shopping for rods, make sure to look at recommended fly line pairings. And don’t hesitate to spend a few more bucks on the line. Even though you’re getting a budget rod, pairing it with a high-quality fly line will help it perform at its best.
So get out there and find that perfect drift. The fish are waiting. Tight lines!