The Best Trout Fly Rods

Trout fly rods represent one of the largest single segment of the fly fishing gear market, and the most common fly fishing rod size sold today is the 9-foot, 5-weight. This configuration provides the best versatility when targeting trout in a wide range of conditions and water bodies. Rods designed for 4-weight or 6-weight lines are also popular and fit within the “trout rod” category.

The fact that trout are the most common target for anglers using these rods doesn’t mean that they are the only fish for which the rods are suitable. Trout fly rods are generally the most versatile of all fly rods. Indeed, the 9-foot, 5-weight rod is the far-and-away the best-selling rod configuration today largely because of its great versatility. A good 5-weight proves effective in fishing for everything from bass to walleye. Trout, bluegill, whitefish, char, grayling, and even carp can be taken effectively with a 5-weight.

In testing a good trout fly rod, we do consider its versatility. We test its ability to cast small dry flies accurately with a delicate presentation, as well as throwing heavy streamers a good distance. We also look at the rod’s power in casting in windy conditions, and strength in fighting strong deep-diving fish.

The weight and feel of the rod also play a role in the rods’ ratings. Trout fishermen frequent spend most of a day casting. Swinging a rod for 6 or 8 hours a day can be tiring, especially if the rod is unbalanced, or fits poorly in hand. So, we cast each rod we test. Our team casts in wind, and in tight casting conditions. We cast from shore, and we cast from boats. We cast, and cast some more — usually logging at least a hundred hours with each rod in hand.

It’s worth noting, too, that price is seldom a serious consideration in determining our “best in class” ratings. Top-notch quality and performance do at times come at a higher financial cost, but not always. Sometimes, small differences in weight due to the use of less expensive components can cause a difference in total score between a $200 rod and an $800 one. It’s up to the end user to decide if that higher price is worth the modest difference in weight and total performance.

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Thomas & Thomas Avantt 590-4
96
Best in Class
2017
Fit in Hand / Grip 10
Casting Accuracy 9
Casting Distance 9
Fish-on Performance 9
Versatility 9

Perfect balance with low swing-weight

Versatile performance

Strong butt & mid-section for fighting fish

Sensitive tip for good line control & accuracy

Comfortable & secure grip

Made in the USA

Expensive

Not as accurate as some

Fast action performance can be difficult to master by novices

MSRP
$825.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Orvis H2 Covert 905-4
94
Fit in Hand / Grip 9
Casting Accuracy 9
Casting Distance 8
Fish-on Performance 9
Versatility 9

Lightest rod in the test

Very accurate casting

Good fit & balanced casting

Good casting distance

Made in the USA

Expensive

Not as powerful as some

Limited models & availability

MSRP
$850.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Sage Accel 486-4
93
Weight 8
Fit in Hand / Grip 9
Casting Distance 8
Casting Accuracy 9
Versatility 10
Value 9

Extremely accurate

Very versatile

Good feel

Great swing weight

Made in the USA

A bit expensive

Slightly less distance than others

A bit heavier than the Orvis Recon

MSRP
$595.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Orvis Helios 2
91
Best in Class
2012
Weight 10
Fit in Hand / Grip 9
Casting Distance 9
Casting Accuracy 9
Versatility 8
Value 6

The lightest rod in the test (and possibly the lightest on the market)

Very accurate casting

Beautiful styling and detail

Great fit and feel in the hand, suitable for all-day casting with little arm fatigue

Most expensive rod in the class

Not quite as powerful (i.e casting distance) as some

Limited availability of different line weight models during initial release

MSRP
$795.00
BEST DEAL
$629.00
Sage One 590-4
90
Weight 9
Fit in Hand / Grip 7
Casting Distance 10
Casting Accuracy 9
Versatility 8
Value 7

Among the lightest rods available

Narrow rod sections reduce air resistance, reducing casting fatigue

Fast-action taper produces great line-speed for distance and performance in windy conditions

Design and materials dampen lateral vibrations during casting, improving accuracy

No ‘alignment dots’ on ferrules to ease set up

Rod tube is very narrow, making packing rod more difficult

Smaller handed testers felt the traditional half-wells grip felt a bit cumbersome

MSRP
$725.00
BEST DEAL
$475.00
Orvis Recon 904-4
90
Weight 8
Fit in Hand / Grip 9
Casting Distance 10
Casting Accuracy 7
Versatility 8
Value 8

Good casting distance

Very versatile

Moderate price

Made in the USA

Slightly less sensitive ‘feel’ than others in the class

Some felt it a bit ‘butt heavy’

Not as accurate as some

MSRP
$425.00
BEST DEAL
$425.00
Sage X 590-4
90
Fit in Hand / Grip 8
Casting Accuracy 7
Casting Distance 10
Fish-on Performance 8
Versatility 7

Longest casting rod in the test

Good power & fish control

Well balanced

Made in the USA

The most expensive rod in the test

Limited accuracy

Grip wasn’t ideal for some testers

Lacks versatility

MSRP
$895.00
BEST DEAL
$895.00
Scott Radian 864/4
88
Weight 8
Fit in Hand / Grip 8
Casting Distance 9
Casting Accuracy 8
Versatility 8
Value 7

Excellent casting distance

Great performance in windy conditions

Good swing-weight/feel

Made in the USA

Most expensive in class

Limited versatility

Slight loss of accuracy in exchange for power

MSRP
$795.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Redington VICE
88
Fit in Hand / Grip 7
Casting Accuracy 7
Casting Distance 8
Fish-on Performance 8
Versatility 8

Great price

Good casting accuracy

Good casting distance

Good versatility

Slightly heavy

Heavy feel/swing-weight

Not made in the USA

Grip wasn’t comfortable in smaller hands

MSRP
$200.00
BEST DEAL
$189.95
G. Loomis PRO4x
87
Weight 7
Fit in Hand / Grip 7
Casting Distance 8
Casting Accuracy 8
Versatility 8
Value 9

Good blend of power and presentation

One of the lowest priced rods in the class

Most versatile rod in the test

One of the most inexpensive rods in the test

Slightly heavier than some

Felt a little tip-heavy to some casters

MSRP
$360.00
BEST DEAL
$375.00
Redington Vapen Black 409-4
87
Best in Class
2015
Weight 7
Fit in Hand / Grip 9
Casting Distance 6
Casting Accuracy 8
Versatility 9
Value 8

Modest price

Great ‘feel’ when fishing small nymphs and dry flies

Accurate casting

Less casting power/distance than most of the others in this class

Slightly heavier than others in the class

Not made in the USA

MSRP
$350.00
BEST DEAL
$349.95
St. Croix Sole
85
Fit in Hand / Grip 7
Casting Accuracy 8
Casting Distance 5
Fish-on Performance 8
Versatility 7

Inexpensive

Good casting accuracy

Good performance with fish on

Made in the USA

Difficult to transport due to its length

Modest casting distance

Lacks versatility

Heavy

High swing-weight

MSRP
$340.00
BEST DEAL
$340.00
Redington Link 590-4
83
Weight 6
Fit in Hand / Grip 8
Casting Distance 6
Casting Accuracy 7
Versatility 7
Value 9

Best value of its class

Fast-action design with good tip flex for delicate feel

Minimal lateral vibration for good accuracy

Attractive styles with optional matching reel

Forgiving; well-suited to intermediate casters

Slightly less ‘power’ than others in this class

Heavier than others in class

Not made in the USA

Shortest casting range of rods in our 2012 test

MSRP
$350.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Scott S4 904-4
83
Weight 6
Fit in Hand / Grip 8
Casting Distance 8
Casting Accuracy 6
Versatility 7
Value 8

Great performance casting heavy flies or complex multi-fly rigs

Powerful enough to cast in 10-20 mph winds

Well suited to drift-boat fishing on big western rivers

Great accuracy at middle distances

Slightly heavier than most of the other rods in the class

Accuracy drops off at longer casting distances

Not as versatile as some others

MSRP
$745.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Rugged Creek Traditional 4-wt
77
Weight 6
Fit in Hand / Grip 6
Casting Distance 5
Casting Accuracy 6
Versatility 7
Value 7

Least expensive rod in the test

Good general purpose design

Comes standard with reel-mount rod tube

Heavy swing-weight

Lack of accuracy

Poor casting power

MSRP
$220.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Thomas & Thomas Avantt 590-4

The Thomas & Thomas Avantt is the lightest fast action rod we’ve tested, yet it also proved to be one of the strongest in terms of fighting power and casting distance. The Avantt earned the test’s highest rankings across all but one of the test categories, and was dubbed the favorite by every test team member. The biggest knock on the Avantt proved to be its price: As with much of the outdoor market, lighter weights and better performance equates to higher prices and the Avantt is one of the most expensive rod in the test.

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Sage Accel 486-4

After just a month of fishing the Sage Accel 486-4, I had fallen in love. The medium-fast action of the Accel offered me a smooth, progressive action that was able to push a lot of line a good distance, but with great tip flex suitable for long mends and delicate presentations. It doesn’t have the pure power of the Scott Radian, or even the reach of the Orvis Recon, but it is an all-around master.

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Orvis Helios 2

The Helios 2 is the lightest fast action rod we’ve found, but it gives up nothing in performance, coming in first or second in our tests on distance, accuracy and versatility. Unfortunately, it also follows the general rule of lighter weights meaning heavier prices – it’s the most expensive rod we tested.

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Redington Vapen Black 409-4

The Redington Vapen Black utilizes the original Vapen’s synthetic grip without the gaudy colors. The fast-action taper provides good casting power with better than average accuracy. The Vapen offers a general performance similar to that of the Sage Accel, but with slightly less accuracy and overall fishing sensitivity.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Gear Coop

Thomas & Thomas Avantt 590-4

The Thomas & Thomas Avantt is the lightest fast action rod we’ve tested, yet it also proved to be one of the strongest in terms of fighting power and casting distance. The Avantt earned the test’s highest rankings across all but one of the test categories, and was dubbed the favorite by every test team member. The biggest knock on the Avantt proved to be its price: As with much of the outdoor market, lighter weights and better performance equates to higher prices and the Avantt is one of the most expensive rod in the test.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at

Orvis Helios 2

The Helios 2 is the lightest fast action rod we’ve found, but it gives up nothing in performance, coming in first or second in our tests on distance, accuracy and versatility. Unfortunately, it also follows the general rule of lighter weights meaning heavier prices – it’s the most expensive rod we tested.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Amazon.com

See All Trout Fly Rods Reviews