My Favorite Affordable Fly Rods

June 3, 2024 By: Spencer Durrant

Photo: Spencer Durrant

Last week, I shared some of my honest thoughts on fly rods. Namely, that a great fly rod doesn’t do you much good if you’re not an adequate caster.

I stand by that, but one of our readers made a comment along the lines of “it’s hard to focus on learning to cast if you’re fighting your gear all day.” His argument is that you should buy a decent rod when learning – one that delivers enough feedback for you to feel the rhythm of a fly cast. That’s the point I hoped to communicate, but I shared this comment because I appreciated how that reader articulated the idea.

I also shared that comment because it got me thinking – which rods currently on the market are both affordable and offer a pleasant casting experience?

Before we look at my list, let’s define “affordable.” I’ve spent the past decade as a fly fishing writer and high school English teacher (although I’ve since retired from that profession), so my idea of “affordable” is a rod that’s less than $500. That’s enough money to get something great, but it’s not approaching a mortgage payment. Shoot, I have friends with truck payments higher than that.

Now, for the pleasant casting experience. A good fly rod should provide you with enough feedback during the cast that you know when to make each casting stroke. The swing weight should be minimal (swing weight is how heavy a rod feels during the cast) and the rod weight itself should be as low as possible. This generally means medium-fast to fast-action rods fit the bill best, because most affordable slow-action rods are so torsionally unstable that they’re not very accurate.

So, with those criteria in mind, here’s my list.

  • Douglas LRS – at $269, this rod is very affordable. It’s medium-fast but packs a wonderful punch, easily throwing line to 70 feet. In a 9′ 5-weight, I’d be hard-pressed to tell anyone to pick a different rod under $500.
  • Redington Classic Trout – this rod will set you back $169, and it’s slower than anything else on this list, but it’s a fantastic little stick for those who primarily fish for trout.
  • Echo Boost Fresh – this is the updated version of Echo’s Boost rod, and it’s fast. It packs a serious punch, but it’s a great casting too as well. It runs $279.
  • Sage Foundation – at $495, this is the most expensive rod, but it’s probably the most well-rounded in the group. Sage is known for its great rods, and the Foundation has the versatility to handle any job well.
  • Fenwick Aetos – the Aetos is similar to the LRS, but slightly faster. It’s around $200, depending on the retailer, and it’s one rod that I regret selling (even if it was to a friend).

I’m sure you’ll have ideas about rods I’ve left off this list, so feel free to share them in the comments.