Published Aug 10, 2022 12:31 PM
Fly fishing combos for beginners are a great way to cut the learning curve and save a few dollars. In today’s market, there is a combo for anything from powerful saltwater species to finicky trout. Rather than wondering what reel fits what rod or what line you need, combos come ready to fish. My first rod was a combo, and ever since, I’ve recommended a combo to anyone interested in fly fishing. An affordable combo allows new anglers to determine what they want out of a fly rod and reel without breaking the bank. Down the road, you can upgrade to something that better matches your style. To find the best combo for you, take into account what type of fishing you want to do, your budget, and any warranty the rod might come with. To help get you on the water fast here are the best fly fishing combos for beginners.
Things to Consider Before Buying
The unfortunate truth is not all fly rods are created equal and the same holds true for combos. Some companies use cheap reels or rod blanks to draw customers in for a lower up-front cost. Don’t let this fool you because you’ll be paying again when the combo fails. With that in mind, looking carefully at the construction of the rod, reel, and warranty can help narrow down the decision.
An easy way to tell rod quality is to look at the rod’s components. Cheaply made rods won’t have high-end reel seats, good quality cork, or sighting dots between rod sections. Besides components, I like to look at the rod blank and its action. For beginners, a good medium or medium-fast rod is a forgiving and powerful rod to learn to cast on. While fast action rods are great, if you’ve never cast a fly rod it can be tricky to load the rod between false casts. Another great option can be fiberglass rods, these rods have a slow action but are very forgiving when fighting a fish and more durable than their carbon counterparts.
Quality reels can be tough to come by on beginner combos. For smaller trout where you rarely use the drag this is not as much of an issue. However, saltwater guys can expect to be into the backing on just about any sizeable fish. To find a good reel I look at construction. There are two types of fly reels—cast reels and machined reels. Cast reels are poured from a mold to save costs while machined reels are cut from a block of aluminum. I prefer a well-machined reel but there are some bulletproof cast reels on the market. No matter what type of reel you decide to go with, play with the drag before you buy it. See how smooth it is, how adjustable it is, and if it is sealed to prevent water from getting in.
Chances are if you’re new to fly fishing you’ll eventually break a rod. I do it all the time. Accidents happen and having an option to replace a broken rod is nice to have. You may pay a little more upfront for a combo with a warranty but it’s worth it in the long run. Companies like Orvis offer a 25-year, no questions asked warranty and will repair or replace your rod if it breaks. Especially for new anglers, having this option available is great to get back to fishing quickly without another hit to your wallet.
- Line weight: 5 wt
- Rod Length: 9 ft
- Warranty: 25-year warranty
Why It Made the Cut: An all-around trout setup that fishes like a top-of-the-line rod at a friendly price.
- No questions asked 25-year warranty
- Available in 5 different configurations
- Comes fully rigged
- Costs a little more upfront than others
Several years ago, Orvis set out to redesign the Clearwater series of rods and they did so in a big way. I can’t remember an entry-level rod that has seen as much hype as the new Clearwater and the combo is no exception. The rod itself has a faster action than other intro-level fly rods. It is ideal for punching flies through the wind or getting a firm hook set when a fish eats further away than you’d like. Orvis created the Clearwater reel to go along with the rod and it balances perfectly. The large arbor design has room for plenty of backing in case you hook a drag screaming fish. Above all, this setup comes with a 25-year no questions asked warranty. I’ve broken more rods than I care to admit, so trust me when I say it’s truly no questions asked. The lineup offers rods up to an 8 wt for larger fish and even comes in a 10 ft 3 wt for euro nymphing. For new anglers looking for a setup they can learn on and grow with, there is no better option.
- Line weight: 5 wt
- Rod Length: 9 ft
- Warranty: Lifetime warranty on the rod
Why It Made the Cut? A purposefully built rod and reel combo with a medium-fast action rod that is perfect for beginners that are learning to cast.
- Easy to cast
- Smooth reel and drag system
- Reasonably priced
- No specialty models in the lineup
The Redington Path is a forgiving rod and reel setup that is perfect for anglers learning to cast. The rod is built on a medium-fast action blank that loads easily. I find this rod has a great action for beginners learning to cast. It forces you to slow down your casting stroke slightly and focus on the line loading on the back cast. Despite its medium-fast action, this setup is plenty powerful for any trout fishing situation. It punches flies well through windy conditions, makes accurate casts, and has plenty of power in the butt section to set the hook. Redington paired this rod with a Crosswater reel that features a large arbor design and smooth drag system. The combo comes with a RIO Mainstream weight forward fly line so all you need is a leader and some flies to get started.
- Line weight: 8 wt
- Rod Length: 9 ft
- Warranty: Lifetime rod and reel warranty
Why It Made the Cut? Redington’s legendary behemoth reel balances out the field kit rod to tame the blistering runs of saltwater fish.
- Powerful drag system
- Comes spooled with an aggressively tapered RIO Bonefish line
- The aluminum reel seat protects against corrosion
- The combo weighs in on the heavier side
Saltwater fly fishing presents a completely different set of challenges for anglers. Making long casts, fighting powerful fish, and battling the salt are all part of the equation. Redington’s Tropical Field Kit combines a powerful rod with the legendary Behemoth reel for anglers looking to get into saltwater fishing. The Behemoth reel is well renowned in the fly-fishing community as an affordable and bulletproof reel made to stop big fish. It combines a best-in-class carbon drag system with a V-cut large arbor spool. This design is capable of holding hundreds of yards of backing. Redington benefits from the trickle-down technology of its sister company, Sage, which is known for making great rod blanks. The 8-wt rod is forgiving and powerful for anglers learning to fish the salt. The aggressively tapered RIO Bonefish Quickshooter line helps load the rod, especially when fishing bigger flies. Best of all, both the rod and reel come with a lifetime warranty in case the salt gets the best of you.
- Line weight: 3 wt
- Rod Length: 10 ft
Why It Made the Cut: A well-balanced and fully setup euro nymph combo that takes all the guesswork out of leaders, lines, and balancing a long rod setup.
- Everything is ready to go out of the box
- The reel balances the rod well
- Extremely sensitive to detect faint takes
- Only offered in two configurations at the moment
From the outside, euro nymphing can seem over technical and hard to learn but that is far from the truth. Euro nymphing in itself is simple, the casts are short, the flies are basic, and the rod detects subtle bites. The hard part is getting the right gear to do it. The Greys Fin Euro Nymph Combo takes out all the guesswork with a ready-to-fish setup. Available in a 10-ft or 11-ft rod, you can effectively fish pockets where trout might be hiding. I prefer the 10-ft rod to effectively fish smaller streams and the 11-ft for bigger water. The Fin reel balances the rod well and the down locking reel seat moves the weight further back. This is what you want to comfortably high stick all day while minimizing arm fatigue. Greys put together a complete package even down to the level fly line and built-in sighter material. Simply add tippet and flies onto the end of the line and it’s ready to go.
- Line weight: 5 wt
- Rod Length: 9 ft
- Warranty: 1-year warranty
Why It Made the Cut: An affordable rod and reel setup that fishes well. It even includes the tools and accessories you’ll use most on the river.
- Includes all basic equipment you need to get started
- Made with quality components
- Several rod weights for different species
- Only comes with a 1-year warranty
- Reel isn’t sealed
The Prestige Fly Outfit is Cabela’s answer to a daunting and expensive industry. Available in 4, 5, 6, and 8-weight rods, there is a setup for trout, bass, and any other freshwater fish you are chasing. Unfortunately, the reel is not sealed so it’s best to avoid salt water. The rod blank features a moderate action that helps delicately land flies on the water. Moderate action rods are also great for roll casting in tight quarters. The large arbor reel features a carbon drag system with a wide range of adjustments to fine-tune the drag. If you are fortunate enough to hook a bigger fish, the drag is smooth to protect light tippets. For first-time anglers, a well-balanced combo that is ready to go can cut down the learning curve. The Prestige outfit takes this one step further with a complete set of tools and gear holders. All you need is some flies and some patience to start catching fish.
As a former fly shop employee and avid fly fisherman, I’ve seen a fair share of setups. My favorite setups are well-balanced to cast comfortably all day. Buying a combo is a sure way to find a setup that feels good in your hands and save a few bucks. Whatever fish you are targeting, select a comfortable combo in your budget with a good warranty behind it. To help narrow down the field, this is the criteria I used to evaluate my picks:
- Components: Are there quality components like reel seats, guides, and cork in the rod?
- Rod action: What action does the rod have and is it right for new anglers?
- Available weights: What rod weights does the combo come in?
- Balance: Do the rod and reel balance well?
- Warranty: What kind of warranty comes with the rod?
- Drag system: How smooth is the drag system for bigger fish?
Q: What weight fly rod should I use?
Matching the weight of the fly rod to the species you plan on targeting is the best way to choose a combo. For trout anglers, four, five, and six-weight fly rods are a good bet. For smaller streams, four and five-weight rods are best to make precise and delicate casts. On larger tailwaters where you need to cast further distances, a six-weight is a better bet. For anglers who prefer to fish for warm water species like bass and take an occasional saltwater trip, an eight-weight is a great option. These heavier rods can punch through the wind and deliver larger flies where they need to go.
Q: What size fly rod is best for beginners?
New anglers should look for a good five-weight combo as an all-around workhorse. These rods can delicately place a dry fly to a rising fish while throwing small streamers just as easily. With a perfect balance of power and precision, every angler should have at least one five weight. I prefer a 9-foot rod. It is a good length to make further casts and still be able to fish smaller tight quarter streams.
Q: Does the color of the fly line matter?
Fly line color can be an important matter, especially in technical fisheries. I tend to stay away from neon fly lines which can send fish into hiding. There are plenty of fly lines available in muted colors like moss green to help hide them on the water. While they may not be as visible, the extra fish you catch make it more than worth it. If you are using a bright-colored fly line, fishing a leader 9 feet or longer can help trick more fish.
Q: What is the difference between WF and DT fly lines?
WF stands for weighing forward fly lines. This refers to the taper of the line. On a weight forward fly line, the bulk of the taper is in the front of the line. This helps the line roll over between false casts and is great for distance casting. A DT line stands for double taper, this line has an even taper throughout the belly of the line. At each end, the line slightly tapers off to a thinner diameter. It’s an easy line to cast but does not cast as far. That being said, the longer belly lines make it easier to roll cast. You can even flip the line around and double the lifespan of a line when the front half begins to wear out.
The right combo can help new anglers cut down the learning curve and set you up for years to come. Carefully picking a combo can help weed out the bad from the good. The best fly fishing combos for beginners feature high-end components, are reasonably priced, and have a good feel in your hands.