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Enter the Matrix: The Best New Fly Rods for 2024

8 great rods to help get you into fish today and in the future.

Enter the Matrix: The Best New Fly Rods for 2024

Fly Fisherman editor/publisher Ross Purnell unfurls a smooth, symmetrical loop on the Rio Corintos, Argentina, under the watchful eyes of guide Mauricio Techera. (Isaias Miciu Nicolaevici photo)

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This story originally appeared in the 2024 Fly FIsherman Gear Guide, published in November 2023.

From the outside, most rods look roughly the same. Of course the hardware, the wraps, and the finish can give a rod a distinct appearance, but what’s inside the rod is more important. Just as a computer program determines the results of your input, it’s the “code” inside the rod—the taper, the transitions, the carbon fiber matrix, the resin system and other additives, and the performance motives of the designers—that makes it react to your input and generate a desired result. Bad input will always result in a bad cast, but good input will unlock secret levels and allow you to go head-to-head with the “boss” fish you’ve been looking for.

G.Loomis  IMX-PRO V2

Studio photo of G.Loomis  IMX-PRO V2 fly rod
$595 - $675 |

G.Loomis fly rods have set a standard for high-performing, workhorse rods at reasonable prices. The new IMX-PRO V2 series sits within those expectations, delivering a series of smartly engineered, durable, and highly intuitive fly rods.

Proprietary Conduit Core technology, multi-taper designs, and a GL7 resin system combine to create lightweight, impact-resistant, and sensitive rods. Conduit Core technology analyzes the graphite wraps throughout a rod, then strategically removes and replaces the graphite with a lighter proprietary material that has the same strength. Multi-taper designs allow engineers to place more material on potential break points, and less material in other areas, keeping the overall weight down without sacrificing durability.

I fished the IMX-PRO V2 590-4 FB (fighting butt version) for five days on Colorado’s Yampa River in a variety of situations. I noticed improved feedback from the new technology while twitching small hopper patterns, mending, and casting both while wading and from a drift boat. The midsection and tip flex allowed me to skitter the hopper with minimal flex in the butt section. I kept the twitches short and sharp, and was able to finely manipulate the tip of the rod to dance the fly. While backcasting, the slim micro full wells grip allowed me to feel the kinetic energy of the fly line throughout the rod. The chrome stripping and single-foot guides helped target the fly line like a laser beam, while the fast recovery of the mid- and tip sections presented flies on a dime to rising targets.

I paired the rod with a 5-weight Scientific Anglers Amplitude Smooth Trout fly line, which is a true-to-weight line for more accurate presentations. The fighting butt was appreciated when I needed to gain extra leverage for hefty “head-down” browns, and blitzing rainbow runs. I consider this a confidence rod, knowing it will perform, can take a few dings, and keep fishing dry flies, nymph rigs, or streamers without fault. The slim rod tube with a grab handle is perfect to carry on flights, or fits easily into luggage. 

Available in 11 freshwater models from 4- to 8-weight (including a streamer series), seven saltwater models (IMX-PRO V2S) in 6- to 12-weight, and three 11'1" short Spey models (IMX-PRO V2 SHORTSPEY) in 2- to 4-weight. —Dennis Pastucha

$595 - $675 |

Sage  Salt R8

Studio photo of Sage Salt R8 fly rod
$1,100 |

In 2022 Sage released its new premium rod family, the R8 Core, and won Fly Fisherman’s Gear Guide award for the best new freshwater fly rod of the year. In early 2023—just in time for saltwater season in Florida—they followed with the SALT R8, with the same Revolution 8 Technology, but a different focus on tapers and hardware to provide power and strength for big-fish environments, along with the finesse and touch that have long been lacking in some saltwater sticks.

To develop the SALT R8, Sage engineer Peter Knox left the confines of cold, rainy Bainbridge Island, Washington, and spent weeks fishing with top guides in the Florida Keys—pros like captains Camp Walker, Chad Huff, and Mike Guerin. Then he went back again and again, getting feedback from these same captains and fine tuning what is very obviously a Florida-centric fly rod series, built with the focus of sight fishing on the flats.

Sight fishing in these conditions has one important difference over situations where you are making long casts constantly, hoping to run into a fish. When you are sight fishing in Florida, winds and clouds often conspire against you, and you often don’t see the fish until it is 40, 30, or even 20 feet away. In these cases you have to make quick, accurate casts. You don’t have time for false casting, and it has to be right on the button. You don’t have room to swim the fly into the fish. These are the situations the SALT R8 is built for—high-pressure casts that can make or break the day.


Of course, it’s relatively easy to build rods that load easily and cast with finesse. The challenge is building one that has all that, and still has the power to bring the fight to large, powerful fish. This is the ultimate yin and yang of saltwater rods. Sage has done it with the SALT R8 by using their new R8 graphite material—which has 25% greater strength-to-weight ratio—in all the right places to shape a taper with immense pulling power in the butt section, and the capability to make a light touch with the top two thirds of the rod. This strength isn’t just for pulling on fish. The new material is tougher and resists damage from rod racks, flies with dumbbell eyes, and whatever else you can throw at it.

The nine rod models range from a 6-weight bonefish rod to a 15-weight for billfish. There are two 12-weights: One of them has a foregrip for GTs and bluewater applications. They have heavy-duty aluminum reel seats with oversized locking rings so you can clamp down the reel even with hot, sweaty fingers. The tempest blue rod blanks have slate thread wraps with a graduated trim of white and gray, titanium Fuji K-Series stripping guides, oversized chrome snake guides, and oversized tip-tops to more easily pass large saltwater knots.

$1,100 |

Temple Fork Outfitters  Blitz

Studio photo of TFO Blitz fly rod
$429.95 |

Blitz saltwater fly rods combine years of on-the-water experience to produce a fly rod that responds quickly in all high-tension situations—not just when schools of fish are busting up the surface, but  also when a rooster comb breaks the surface, a group of tarpon begins to daisy chain, or the sound of snook popping in the mangroves requires a cast deep into the brush.

This is not a flats-specific rod, it’s a salty workhorse with the flex to deliver intermediate and full-sinking lines, or to pump large flies over long distances.

Fly Fisherman contributing editor Blane Chocklett was one of the field testers who helped develop the rod, putting early iterations through the paces with large Game Changers and 50-pound+ Chesapeake redfish, Cape Cod striped bass, Texas drum, Cape Lookout albies, and Florida tarpon and bonefish.

Capt. Joe “Maz Man” Mustari also helped tweak the designs for New York Harbor stripers—big tanks that in the fall feed on adult menhaden and sometimes require 12-inch and larger flies.

With a pedigree like this, you know the rods will be stable, smooth, and be able to comfortably tolerate overloading when it’s time to “push” large flies or cast for distance.

The Blitz uses TFO’s Axiom technology, which combines high-modulus carbon fiber material with an embedded double helix of Kevlar wrapped around the blank. The 6- through 12-weight models all have alignment dots color coded by line weight so you can distinguish rods in the rack,

RECOIL guides, and lightweight stainless steel snake guides. All the rods are finished in a deep turquoise, with dark blue thread wraps, silver accents, and full wells grips.

“It has good mojo everywhere I’ve fished it,” said TFO advisor Chocklett. “The cosmetics, matched with the feel and ease of casting, make this rod a great choice for a multitude of purposes.”

$429.95 |


A hand holding a fly rod and reel just into the water.
$975-$1,025 |

Theyyy’rrreee back! Actually, the juggernaut St. Croix Rods hasn’t gone anywhere, and has been producing fly rods and top-tier conventional rods in their high-tech Park Falls, Wisconsin factory for many decades. They just haven’t produced anything substantially new for fly fishers until about three years ago when they decided to reenter the marketplace—but only if they could produce a rod that would send shock waves across the industry, and more important, throw substantially better loops with less effort.

The old St. Croix was best known for producing quality American-made rods at affordable prices. The new St. Croix is focused on a different benchmark—making the highest-performing fly rods. Period. To do it, they hired some of the top minds in the fly-fishing business and plunged into nearly three years of research and development. The result is the new EVOS consisting of 14 four-piece models ranging from line sizes 4 through 8, and EVOS SALT covering line weights 6 through 12.

The fast-action EVOS and even faster EVOS SALT tapers are driven by a new proprietary carbon fiber matrix and MITO graphene technology that comes from a partnership with the company MITO Materials and is exclusive to St. Croix in the fly-fishing space. Graphene is a carbon allotrope, tightly bound in a hexagonal honeycomb lattice that is just one atom thick. Diamonds are also carbon allotropes, yet graphene is the strongest material ever discovered, with a tensile strength of 130,000,000,000 Pascals (or 130 gigapascals), compared to 400,000,000 for A36 structural steel.

Fly rods have previously been made with graphene particles pre-mixed helter skelter in the resin within the sheets of carbon fiber prepreg. MITO graphene is actually the first process to functionalize graphene for industry and for sporting equipment, because it allows St. Croix to evenly disperse the graphene in-house by spraying it with pinpoint accuracy and consistency so there is no agglomeration that can cause excessively stiff or weak spots. The process St. Croix has developed to apply the material uniformly in its thinnest form is the first time fly fishers have been able to take advantage of the benefits of this incredibly strong material, which are primarily increased hoop strength, faster rod recovery, increased torsional rigidity, and significantly improved strength-to-weight ratios.

In fresh water, this can mean a 3-weight rod that almost floats in your hand, tracks straight, and puts small dry flies on target with less thought or effort. In the salt, it means you can make a Hail Mary cast with precision and also apply enormous lifting power. We used the EVOS SALT 7-weight for smallmouth bass and found it had smooth reserve power to launch wind-resistant flies like Double Barrel Poppers and Game Changers with laser-pointer accuracy. It doesn’t wobble, generates enormous line speed very quickly, yet it feels like you are casting a rod a full line weight lighter.

EVOS and EVOS SALT use premium hardware best suited for the application, but include CERECOIL stripping guides, machined aluminum reels seats (walnut inserts on the 4- and 5-weight models), RECOIL single-foot guides and micro full wells grips on 4- through 6-weight rods, and RECOIL snake guides and modified full wells grips on 7- and 8-weight EVOS and all EVOS SALT models.

$975-$1,025 |

Douglas Outdoors  Sky G 4104

Studio photo of Douglas Sky-G fly rod
$895 |

Negating surface drag and line sag while maintaining constant contact with your fly requires the right rod—one that’s built to handle the demanding requirements of today’s Euro-nymphing enthusiasts. Douglas Outdoors released a Euro-nymphing rod in their Sky series a few years ago that quickly gained a following of diehards who appreciated its low swing weight, balance, and tippet protection from a deep-flexing rod with incredible sensitivity. All of those qualities in the Sky model are now amplified and designed into their top-tier model, the award-winning Sky G, as a new model series designed with avid nymph junkies in mind.

The new models are offered in three sizes, a 10' 2-, 3-, and 4-weight. Douglas uses what they call G-Tec Platelets. These are graphene particles mixed into the resin of the rod to help strengthen the structure without adding weight. A matte platinum blank coated with their G-Armour coating for durability won’t spook wary fish. The 10' rods are light in hand, have fast recovery, yet are soft enough to cast monofilament rigs, FIPS/Mouche-approved fly lines, and traditional lines. When you’re fighting a fish the rod bends deeply, protecting your tippet by absorbing energy.

I tested the Sky G 10' 4-weight on Pennsylvania’s Letort Spring Run. If you’ve fished there in late September you know the grass is high, the weeds are even higher, and the fish can be wary. The 10' length helped keep me hidden from shy wild brown trout. The rod fished well with a Scientific Anglers Mastery Euro Tactical Nymph Mono fly line and an Airflo Superflo Universal to cast dry flies, nymphs, and streamers. The first REC Titanium CERECOIL stripping guide with a zirconia insert is set close to the cork grip to avoid line sag from the guide to your fingers or reel. A total of 13 REC Titanium Recoil snake guides running the length of the rod allow for extra line control and precision casting. The G-Tec Platelets enhance the sensitivity of the rod. You can feel every tick of your flies along the streambed, or a subtle eat from a trout. Though this rod is listed as a moderate-fast action, the 10' length gives more overall flex. The 4-weight is a go-to model for anglers looking for a rod to tackle medium to larger rivers and stillwaters.

“The SKY G 4104 is a very versatile rod for trout anglers. The obvious is tight-line nymphing and dry-fly fishing on the stream, but it also is a fantastic rod when it comes to stillwater angling. On a recent trip to Montana, Julie and I spent a lot of time on the lakes targeting larger rainbow and browns. We were able to make long casts to spooky trout, yet had enough rod to bring fish to hand that averaged 5 to 7 pounds,” said Fred Contaoi, senior rod designer.

The Sky G comes with a skeletonized aluminum reel seat with double downlocking rings to keep your reel in place. A burled blackwood insert and rubberized cork fighting butt round out the finely tuned components. A powder-coated aluminum rod tube with a spongy, moisture-wicking rod sock keeps the rod safe and secure. —Dennis Pastucha

$895 |

R.L. Winston Rod Co. Air 2 MAX

The butt section of a Winston Air 2 Max fly rod held over the other sections.
$1,249 |

Big fish. Big flies. Big water. Those are the three biggest reasons you’d want to pick up Winston’s new AIR 2 MAX, a light, powerful, fast-action rod designed and handcrafted in Twin Bridges to take on big gamefish around the world. It’s at home in the jungle pulling on arapaima and dorado or in the salt casting to blue bastards, permit, and tuna. When AIR 2 rods were first introduced, they brought a light, airy strength-to-weight ratio to trout fishers looking for a rod that combined delicacy with reserve power. This new AIR 2 MAX version uses the same boron and carbon fiber technology to boost performance for long casts, big flies, and for turning the heads of big fish in a heavyweight battle—all with a rod that tracks easily, recovers quickly, and is light enough for all-day casting.

The very fast-action rods have 7" full wells grips and 1.5" fighting butts on 6- through 10-weights and 8" full wells grips and 2.5" fighting butts on the 11- and 12-weight models. The silver reel seats are lightweight anodized aluminum with double uplocking aluminum rings, and the barrel is engraved with the R.L. Winston script logo.

They have two REC CERECOIL hard titanium double-foot guides with slick, hard ceramic inserts, and flexible RECOIL saltwater snake guides with hard titanium finish. They are built to be tough, but everything about this rod has that beautiful Winston finish and attention to detail.

$1,249 |

Scott  Swing

A chrome steelhead held in the water; Scott Swing fly rod superimposed over the fish image.
$1,095-$1,495 |

Swinging for fish like steelhead, sea-run browns, and salmon is one of the most challenging and difficult skill sets in fly fishing. Even though swinging a fly may seem like simple technique to the uninitiated, to do it just right requires subtle manipulations, the utmost level of concentration, a deep understanding of the habits of migratory fish, and unparalleled commitment.

The seasons and other environmental factors add more layers of complexity. Very often you are fishing in places where you might get one chance from one fish per day, so doing things correctly and efficiently is of the utmost importance. Scott accepted the challenge of addressing all of these factors when Jim Bartschi and his team of experts designed and developed the new Swing fly rods.

Swing rods are single-hand, switch, and Spey rods with progressive loading actions; fast recovery speed; directional stability; a combination of finely tuned new tapers; Scott’s multi-directional, multi-modulus layups; ARC 2 reinforcement; and a Carbon Link resin system, which all work together to produce a rod that feels light in the hand, mends crisply, and keeps you in constant contact with your fly.

Components on Swing rods include tangle-free titanium stripping guides with silicon nitride inserts that help prevent tangles in mono or braid running lines and allow casts to shoot farther. Snake Brand Universal guides round out the guide set. Scott also designed a new fully milled aluminum reel seat with aggressive threads so it’s easier to operate with cold hands. The reel seat is type 3 anodized, and milled with reel foot pockets that securely hold both current and most vintage reel feet. The all-new front and rear grip designs ensure comfort and sensitivity while you are waiting for the line to go tight.

Rich Culver is a guide on some of the most prolific anadromous fisheries in southwest Alaska, where he fishes for steelhead, char, and five species of Pacific salmon. “For silver salmon, I particularly enjoy the Swing 1287, and could easily fish this rod all day,” said Culver. “Whether I’m casting a 450-grain Scandi to the nose-wakes of porpoising cohos in tidewater, or swinging heavy Intruders broadside through swift-flowing runs with a 525-grain Skagit and a T-11 tip, it gives me confidence that I can present my fly across a full spectrum of water types to elicit electrifying takes.

“The Swing 1288 is my go-to rod for large, wild Pacific Northwest and California coastal winter steelhead. When properly balanced, the 8-weight rod feels amazingly light, is exceptionally sensitive, and transfers casting energy smoothly throughout the rod during a cast of any style. The tip turns over big or small flies with ease, and the rod easily rips a heavily weighted Intruder or brass tube fly out of the water and launches it to its desired destination across a wide lane of distances.”

$1,095-$1,495 |

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