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What Is The Best Beginner Fly Rod Combo?

When beginners are starting to fly fish, the best way to go is with a starter outfit. These rod combos come with a rod, reel, line, leader, and backing. They are ready to fish out of the box, and they are often more affordable than setting up a custom outfit.

These combo outfits allow beginners to get into fly fishing for less money, which attracts newcomers to the sport. Instead of having to piece together an entire outfit, you can buy a kit that is ready to roll. It also makes it less intimidating for beginners, since they don’t have to hand select a rod, reel and line all by themselves. If you’re just starting out, all these products look confusing anyway!

This guide will cover my favorite fly rod combos, and the pros and cons of each. There are lots of off-brand combos on the market these days, which I am not a fan of. The companies listed below are true fly fishing brands. They care about the sport and have been at it for a long time. I prefer to stick with 100% fly fishing brands instead of phony companies that don’t even fish themselves.

For cheaper fly rod outfits, the Redington Path Combo is hard to beat. For higher end outfits, the Sage Foundation is a top pick. For anglers looking for a mid priced outfit, the Orvis Clearwater Combo is a great choice.

Redington Path Fly Rod Combo

This combo has been around for a long time. It is the best selling outfit at most western fly shops, and most fly fisherman are familiar with the Path outfit.

Redington is Sage’s sister company which offers more affordable products than Sage. Redington’s rods are made overseas, which allows them to sell for less. However, Redington still offers a lifetime warranty on all of their rods and reels. The current fee is $60 for a broken rod. Redington will rebuild the broken sections and send back a brand new rod. As fly fishers, we all break rods eventually – so the lifetime warranty is super important.

The Path is a fast action graphite rod. Since it is cheaper than other more high end models, it is a heavier rod. The 5 weight feels heavier (and it is heavier) than a Sage rod. The Path still offers great performance and beginners will enjoy fishing this rod. I wouldn’t recommend this rod for seasoned fly fishers, as they will find it sluggish.

The reel on the Path is a Crosswater reel. This Redington reel is made of plastic composite, so it’s not very durable. However, the drag is great and performs like a nicer, machined reel. The main thing with this reel is not to drop it! Since it is plastic, it will probably break.

The line is a basic Rio line which is decent quality. It isn’t a high end Rio like the Gold or the Grand, but it works just fine. You will probably need to upgrade the line after a year or so.

I think for the current price point, Redington could include an aluminum reel. Other companies are doing this, and I think plastic reels are not beneficial for the beginner. Overall, I give the Path a thumbs up, but it is no longer the best starter outfit.

Temple Fork Outfitters NXT Fly Rod Combo

This is one of my favorite combos on the market. The rod feels great to fish and offers awesome performance. The reel is cast aluminum, and is as sturdy as you can ask for at this price point. The line is decent, and I haven’t had any issues with it.

The best part about TFO is their warranty. With most rod companies, you have to fill out a warranty claim and then send your rod back. Getting your rod back can take months… Not with TFO! Simply go to their website, select which section broke on your rod, and then purchase the section. You will have a replacement within a week for a small fee. This is a far superior warranty system, and I wish more rod companies would do this.

The price of the NXT outfit is generally lower than the Redington Paths, and I think it is a better overall outfit. For beginners on a budget, the Temple Fork Outfitters NXT is a great choice.

Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Combo

The Orvis Clearwater combo is more of a mid range outfit. It costs considerably more than TFO or Redington, but all the components are much nicer. The Clearwater is a great rod in its own right, it is a joy to fish. It is very lightweight and has lots of feel to it. The Clearwater reel is high quality and can handle all trout fishing applications – the disk drag is actually overkill for trout. The Orvis line is basically a Scientific Anglers line, and it can last for a long time.

For folks who think they will stick with fly fishing, the Clearwater combo is a good choice. As you progress your skills, you can grow into this rod without having to upgrade. I know veteran fly anglers that still fish a Clearwater, it’s just a solid choice.

Sage Foundation Fly Rod Combo

In terms of beginner outfits, the Sage Foundation is the cream of the crop. It is probably the most expensive outfit on the market, and for good reason. All Sage Rods and reels are hand made at their factory in Washington state. Only a select group of craftsmen are allowed to make Sage rods. A lifetime warranty is obviously included.

The reel is a Sage Spectrum C, which is a budget version of their Spectrum reel. The drag is still the same, but it is cast aluminum instead of machined aluminum. Cast aluminum is poured into a mold, but it is still quite strong.

The line is a Rio Gold, which is a premium fly line. The Rio gold is probably the best selling fly line of all time.

Overall, the Sage Foundation is a quality outfit that will last a lifetime. If your budget allows it, I would highly recommend.

Orvis Encounter Fly Rod Combo

I like this combo a lot because of the price point. It is bare bones and priced accessibly to newer anglers. It is basically a cheaper Clearwater package that still fishes well.

The Encounter rod does feel a bit heavier than the Clearwater, and that’s because it is. Cheaper rods actually weigh more, as mentioned at the beginning of the article. Beginners won’t notice this as much, and will most likely find the Encounter a pleasant rod to fish.

The Encounter reel is ok, but it isn’t very durable. Make sure not to drop this reel on rocks or other hard surfaces. It is a plastic composite like the Redington, so it can’t take much abuse like an aluminum reel can.

The fast action on this rod can handle dries, nymphs, and small streamers. Beginners will be able to try all these methods with the Encounter outfit.

The Encounter is usually what I recommend to newbies who want to give fly fishing a try. Orvis backs all of their products with a 25 year guarantee, so you can’t go wrong. I wish it was a full lifetime warranty, but 25 years is still decent.