January 11, 2024
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Pick up a copy of Fly Fisherman's special publication Gear Guide 2024 here!
Buying your rod, reel, and line together in one package makes total sense. First, you know the components are all compatible. The line weight will match the rod, and the reel will be sized correctly. Most important, by purchasing all three together you are taking advantage of economies of scale, and the total value of the individual parts is often greater than the price of the complete outfit. These are perfect gifts for friends and family you think might enjoy fly fishing. They are the best fly rods and reels for beginners who don’t want to invest $1,000 to try a new hobby. These complete outfits are all under $500 and are the best fly rod combos for the money.
The term “beginner rod” no longer applies to the Orvis Clearwater line of rods. Instead, I would relabel the Orvis Clearwater as the “base model.” Let me explain.
Some “beginner” level rods are built using one blank design to create the entire lineup from small trout rods to heavy-duty streamer rods. The earlier Orvis Clearwater Rods did just that using just several blank designs to create everything from a 3-weight small-stream rod to their 12-weight tarpon rod. Yes, the rods were functional, but the blank design was never dialed in to offering superior performance for certain fly-fishing scenarios.
That all changed a few years ago when Orvis developed specific tapers for each line weight of their Clearwater series. This isn’t common practice because fly rod companies don’t want their entry-level fly rods casting like their high-end rods. But this is exactly what Orvis did with their Clearwater Series, which is amazing for customers.
I know, as I was part of the testing team for the 10' 3-weight Euro rod and their 9'4" 11-weight muskie rod. This testing process went on for months as we went through several variations of the rod until we were happy with the final product. This is the same level of detail that has gone into testing Orvis’s Recon and H3 lineups.
One difference between the Clearwater and its higher-end counterparts is the fact the Clearwater is made overseas so production costs are lower. Compared to the amazing attention to detail coming from the Orvis rod shop in Vermont, it’s possible the cosmetics are not quite as nice.
Also, the quality of the cork, along with the other hardware found of the Clearwater, is nowhere near the quality found in the Recon and H3. Not a deal breaker for some, but it’s important to know the facts. Many customers are willing to spend extra cash on a rod with better components while supporting American manufacturing.
Here’s several scenarios where I think the Orvis Clearwater is a perfect fit for consumers. Maybe you’re interested in learning to fly fish but not a 100% positive you’ll stick with it. Maybe you spend less than one week a year fishing for a unique fish species and don’t want to pay for a premium rod you’ll use only once a year. Maybe you already have a favorite rod but are looking for a quality backup. Or maybe you’re a responsible consumer and appreciate products that give you the best return on your investment. If any of the above circumstances applies to you, then the Orvis Clearwater may be a great option.
There’s a reason I’m 100% confident in recommending this rod to any of my fly-fishing clients or students enrolled in the Penn State Joe Humphreys Fly Fishing Program—it’s an amazing rod for the price point and backed by the amazing Orvis warranty. The Clearwater may not have the bells and whistles found in the Recon or H3, but it will get you to where you want to go, just like the base model of any popular vehicle. Sometimes options are a good thing! —George Daniel
$419-$429 | tridentflyfishing.com
Pescador on the Fly El Jefe Freshwater Complete Travel & Backpacking Fly Fishing Outfit
Fitting the El Jefe Freshwater Complete Travel & Backpacking Fly Fishing Outfit into your carry-on, or chucking it into a backpack for blue line and alpine fly-fishing adventures is easy and secure with this 6-piece outfit. When packing our gear to fish Pennsylvania mountain streams for trout, the 6-piece outfit shines by being lightweight, compact, and durable.
This model is built to cast either a 3- or 4-weight fly line. We used a 4-weight line, which loaded the fast action well in tight quarters on small streams. The rod cast well in the 10- to 20-foot range, and turned over nymph rigs on larger streams with success. The tip had good flex to protect light tippets while the mid and butt sections provided enough backbone to throw small streamers. The IM12 carbon fiber and 40T graphite blank is sensitive rod enough for tightline nymphing and wet-fly fishing. The fast action combats wind and shoots line smoothly through titanium-coated guides. A high-grade AAA cork handle, wood reel insert, and aircraft-grade aluminum reel seat add fine touches to an already well-built outfit that will last.
The carrying case has individual nylon slots to put each piece of the rod, or you can use the rod sock to stow it with extra padding. Extra protection while hiking or traveling is an added bonus to this outfit.
The El Jefe Freshwater Complete Travel & Backpacking Fly Fishing Outfit comes in eight sizes, from 3- to 8-weight outfits to chase panfish and small trout, large trout, bass, and more. Available with a lifetime warranty and package upgrades to additional products to complete your packable fishing system.
$499.99 | pescadoronthefly.com
Fly Fisherman's Best New Rod & Reel Outfit for 2024: Redington Wrangler Kit
Fly anglers tend to be adventurous types, always eager to explore. This spirit of adventure explains why even fly fishers with years of experience will usually leap at any chance to try fishing in waters they’ve never experienced before, casting for gamefish they’ve never seen, and challenging themselves with unfamiliar styles of fishing.
If you’re feeling adventurous, and think you might want to try another style of fly fishing, or an unfamiliar species—but are unsure about investing the effort and money needed to assemble your own outfit, in a marketplace where a high-end graphite fly rod can easily run you more than $1,000—Redington has you covered with economical Wrangler Kits, each one designed for a specific type of fishing.
The six Redington Wrangler Kits are complete fly-fishing outfits, each consisting of a convenient-for-travel, 9-foot, 4-piece rod, Crosswater fly reel, Dacron backing, RIO Mainstream fly line, RIO tapered leader, and durable nylon carrying case. All kits are ready to fish, right out of the box—just tie on a fly and start casting. The components are tailored carefully for each application and/or targeted gamefish regarding rod and line weight and other aspects. The three lighter sizes (4-weight Pond, 5-weight Trout, and 6-weight Trout XL) come without fighting butts, and with 20-pound-test Dacron backing. But the three heavier sizes (7-weight Bass, 8-weight Salmon, and 8-weight Salt) come with rubber-and-cork fighting butts and 30-pound backing.
$249.99 | tridentflyfishing.com