(Photo/Rachelle Schrute)

Is Costco the New Fly Shop? WETFLY Element Black Ops Review

Paper towels, granola bars, cheesecake, vitamins, and … a fly rod?

Costco is now home to a turn-key fly fishing kit that can leave the parking lot and go straight to the river — so long as you have a few flies on hand. The WETFLY Element Black Ops Fly Fishing Kit is now available on the shelf at your local big box store.

If showing up to a fly shop and asking a specialist about what type of fly rod you need seems overwhelming, this might just be your solution. If you’re nervous about talking to the pros and just need a simple way to start, look no further than Costco for a complete fly rod and reel setup.

As advertised on its website, the kit finds its place next to the paddleboards and blow-up flamingos. No joke. However, just because it can be bought at Costco, doesn’t mean the big name brands of the fly fishing world shouldn’t take notice.

In short: The WETFLY Element Black Ops Fly Rod Kit ($275) includes just about everything you need to get out on the water and has the ability to bring in fish — at a price that won’t break the bank.

WETFLY Element Black Ops Fly Rod Kit Review

Wetfly Element Black Ops

WETFLY Element Black Ops Fishing Kit

Includes:

  • Rod
  • Reel
  • Line
  • Backing
  • Leader
  • Fly box
  • Reel case
  • Travel case

Element Black Ops 5WT 9FT Fly Rod Specs

  • Carbon fiber materials, premium finishes, and superior craftsmanship
  • Medium-fast action, smooth casting
  • Four-piece, five-weight, 9-ft. fly rod — compact size for easy storage and travel
  • Preloaded fly reel with 30-lb. Dacron backing, floating line, and 3x tapered leader

Nitrolite Pro 4/5/6 WT Reel Specs

  • Pre-lined with floating line, backing, and leader
  • Large arbor spool for quick reeling
  • CNC and diecast construction for maximum durability
  • Left- or right-hand retrieve

Costco on the Water

Wetfly element
(Photo/Sean Jansen)

First Impressions

Unzipping the travel case, the cork and reel seat strikes even the grittiest of hands. The unexpected, high-quality feel commands attention from such a budget-friendly rod. The remaining pieces of the four-piece rod link up with a simple dot system that even my $500 Sage rod couldn’t muster to budget into its design.

Once pieced together, a simple thrust of the wrist to feel its flexibility was immediately halted by the stiffness of the rod. WETFLY claims this to be a fast-action five-weight. My noodle desire for fly rods is thrown out the door with this stiff-action five-weight that feels more like a six or seven.

Furthering the operation, I grabbed the neoprene reel bag to inspect the crisply designed reel. It is pre-outfitted with a five-weight floating line and 3x tippet. As I connected it to the rod and began pulling line to thread the guides, the drag quietly hummed as the line careened out of the reel.

I don’t know about most anglers, but I love the sound of a heavy drag when a quality trout takes line. This gentle hum will not enhance the excitement of a fish on.

River Time

Wetfly Element Black Ops
(Photo/Rachelle Schrute)

With a dry fly on, the casts began and the stiffness furthered. The flex of the rod made apparent my desperate need for a reservation at the nearest hot yoga studio, but the distance and ease of casting shined with the rigid nature of the rod.

A slow slurp of a fly on the surface from a small creek brought a tiny 8-inch trout to hand, though the worry of oversetting the hook puzzled me, wondering if the stiffness is suitable for anything under the full measure of a ruler. The rod made nary a bend as the tiny trout did its best to escape its mistake.

However, a slow and wet release from hand brought the first successful catch and live release of the day.

Beginning to cast with more abandon and further distance, the rod did begin to warm in my hands, and the distance covered for a pristine cast was impressive, to say the least. The slow peel of line out of the reel shines despite my dismay at the quietness of the drag.

The knob presents easy adjustments, allowing you to set the drag to your quiet preference.

The floating line effortlessly pulled out of the reel and through the guides like a hot knife through butter. The 3x leader is a bit long and required a cut to enhance my fly presentation.

However, the floating line was very visible and handled riffles, calm water, and pocket water with any of the top name brands I’ve had the pleasure of casting.

Element Black Ops Downfalls

Firstly, this isn’t a $1,000 fly rod and shouldn’t be compared to one. For the price and what’s included, it is tough to find serious cons to this setup. The shocking stiffness is something to note, as it may be off-putting to those accustomed to a rod with a bit more finesse.

Additionally, there’s an issue of availability. This rod is currently only available at Costco, making access to purchase an issue for some. There’s a fly shop near every fishable river. There might not be a Costco at the headwaters of that mountain stream.

Final Thoughts

wetfly
(Photo/Sean Jansen)

Is it worth it? Absolutely. There’s something to be said for any of the products that come out of Costco. For a fly rod that handles most small water fish and terrain, it’s impressive.

The next time you are looking for a rod to mix things up in your life, a gift for a child or friend, or even the desire to replace a broken rod without breaking the bank on an Orvis or Sage — swing on down to Costco. Grab some paper plates, dish soap, a tri-tip, a dozen free samples, and check out the Wetfly Element Back Ops rod, reel, and line combo kit.

The price tag on this kit will likely disappear within the mile-long receipt, and you’ll barely feel the sting. Plus, it comes with the added bonus of being able to hit the river directly after your grocery run, before your afternoon barbecue even begins.

Wanna buy one? Go get your Costco card and head into your nearest location (this Wetfly Kit is available in Colo., Utah, Idaho, Mont., Ore., Wash., and New Mexico).

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Sean Jansen
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Sean has been writing about fly fishing, hiking, trail running, backpacking, surfing, and standup paddling for 14 years. As an accomplished freelance outdoor writer, he works for various publications as well as guides clients in Yellowstone National Park. Jansen is an avid angler and trail runner who overdrinks coffee and deeply thinks about future stories and environmental issues that he is passionate about.