Best Salmon Fly Rod of 2024 – Buyer’s Guide

Last updated on January 17th, 2024.

Leonard Schoenberger
Latest posts by Leonard Schoenberger (see all)

Many anglers around the globe consider catching salmon the pinnacle of fly fishing.

The Atlantic Salmon is often termed the “King of Fish”. For centuries it has attracted fly fishermen and women to travel to remote rivers in search of the mighty silver bars. The wild rivers of Scotland such as the Tay, the Spey or the Dee where the spey technique (fishing with two handed rods) originated have attracted British upper class to hunt this elusive species.

They didn’t stop there but started to explore other countries famous for Atlantic Salmon such as Norway, Iceland or Canada to name only a few. To catch an Atlantic Salmon you need endurance most of all. It can take days or even weeks to convince a fish to take your fly. Why they can occasionally be fooled is still not known. Some assume they go for a fly out of a reflex or territorial behavior. Others think they can get annoyed by a fly swinging by them when they are holding in a pool on their exhausting journey up the mighty rivers to spawn.

Big Norwegian River Evening
A wide Norwegian salmon river

Another appeal of fly fishing for salmon certainly is the amazing landscape the fishing takes place in. Envision remote places in Northern Scandinavia, Canada or amongst the vulcanos of Iceland. The same holds true for other sought after types of salmon, such as Pacific salmon or King salmon. The one thing all these beautiful fish have in common in their strength. They won’t give up without a fight once you’ve managed to hook into one of them. Hence you need a strong rod and reel that can handle their power. In order to make it easier for you to pick a rod that will suit you, we’ve compiled this big guide of the best salmon fly rod.

To facilitate your decision making, we have broken this guide down into three sections: first we’ll take a look at some of the best double-handed fly rods for salmon on the market. Next up will be a comparison of some of the best single-hand rods for salmon and last but not least we’ll take a look at fly rod combos for salmon. These are the best choice if you are a little inexperienced in picking the right equipment and want to make sure you’re rod and reel will work together properly.

Salmon Fly Rods on Car Rack
Salmon Fly Rods on a car rack

Overview of Salmon Fly Rods

A salmon setup can get a little complicated when you’re just starting out. To make it easier for you, here is the essential difference between fishing for salmon with one two handed-rods vs. single-handed rods.

Double-Handed Rods: Spey Casting

Fishing with double-handed rods originated on the big rivers of Scotland such as the river Spey (hence the name spey casting). The idea behind it was the to cover a lot of water by swinging flies for salmon. This means you cast your line across and a little downstream and then let the current do the rest. This way the fly swings by the salmon holding in the river and ideally prompts them to strike.

Spey casting is done using double-handed rods in the 12ft to 15ft range using shooting heads. Compared to a single-handed rods where a lot of casting is done overhead (apart from the roll cast) , double-handed techniques use waterborne casts a lot. In this review we’ll focus on travel fly rods for salmon that most often come in 6 pieces as double handed ones. We have grown fond of these rods since they can pack into a big suitcase and hence make travelling a lot easier than having to bring a rod case as an extra piece of luggage.

Loop ZT salmon fly rod with Abel Rove
The Loop ZT paired with the new Abel Rove reel

Single Hand Rods

The other type of fly rod that is commonly used to catch salmon on a fly is a single hand rod in the #9 range. This means it’s a strong rod that can handle fish of 25+ lbs. A single hand rod is a good choice if the river you’re fishing is smaller and you don’t have to cast too far. Another use case for these rods is fishing from a boat or canoe for example. The rods are fished with integrated fly lines or even shooting heads, depending on your preference.

Now that you know the basic differences between double-handed and single-handed rods for salmon fishing, we can dive right into the review of the best salmon fly rod of 2024.

Notice: We use affiliate marketing in this article. This means we might earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you click on one of the links provided in this article and end up purchasing a rod. We never get paid for a review and only recommend products we use and are convinced of ourselves. Thanks!

Hardy Ultralite Fly Ród
A single hand rod in the #8-#10 range is a good choice for salmon – Photo: Leonard Schoenberger © The Wading List 2024

Best Fly Rods for Salmon Fishing

Loop ZT Travel

Loop ZT Travel
Loop ZT Travel

For years Loop has been one of the crowd’s favorites when it comes to salmon fly rods. During the pandemic when global travel came to a halt, the brand used the slow down to create a new salmon fly rod series focused on travelling once it would be possible again. The result is the Loop ZT Travel, a series of multi-piece rods that perfectly matches strength and lightness. With its blue design details it also stands out amongst more traditional salmon fly rods.

Loop ZT Travel
Loop ZT Travel – Photo: Leonard Schoenberger © The Wading List 2024

The Loop ZT Travel is available in five unique models that are truly a showstopper, exceling each other which makes it hard to choose from all of them. The lineup starts with a 12’2″ #6 which is the way to good if you are looking for a delicate presentation and mostly fish smaller rivers and grilse runs for example. The 13’2″ #8 is a great allrounder that we used on bigger Norwegian rivers and had no problems with covering big distances. If you are looking for the strongest rod to catch the biggest salmon, go for the 15’0″ version as this one will take on any challenge.

GET IT AT LOOP

GET IT AT HOOKÉ

GET IT AT ZEFIX (if you’re in Europe)

Guideline LPX Chrome T pack

Guideline LPX Chrome T pack
Guideline LPX Chrome T pack

The Guideline LPX Chrome T pack is another great and very versatile salmon travel fly rod that comes in six pieces and different weight and line class options. If you’ve fished in Scandinavia before, you surely have come across Guideline. The brand has garnered many fans amongst fly fishermen and women across the continent for their high quality products and a good price point.

Salmon fishing is ingrained in Guideline’s DNA and the new Guideline LPX Chrome T pack is a masterpiece when it comes to salmon fly rods. We got our hands on the 12’9″ #8/9 version and loved its power combined with a very smooth taper design. If you are looking for an allrounder that can handle basically any situation you’ll face when out salmon fishing, you can’t go wrong with the Guideline LPX Chrome T pack. Just like the Loop ZT Travel, the Guideline comes in various different sizing options ranging from a 12’3″ #6/7 for smaller rivers and flies all the way up to a 14’9″ if you plan on fishing the biggest and widest salmon rivers of Norway such as the Alta for example.

GET IT AT GUIDELINE

GET IT AT SERIOUS FISHING

Hardy Ultralite NSX Spey

Hardy Ultralite NSX Spey
Hardy Ultralite NSX Spey

The Hardy Ultralite NSX Spey works perfectly under a two handed set up as it truly fits “two hands are better than one” perfectly. The traditional brand from the UK has acquired many fans amongst the salmon community and also steelheaders are liking the Hardy Ultralite NSX Spey.

Just as with the Loop and Guideline rods, you can choose from a variety of different lengths and weight classes if you go for the Hardy Ultralite NSX Spey. A highlight of their lineup certainly is the #10/11 that measures in at a mighty 16ft. This is the go to rod if you know the salmon river you’re fishing is wide and holds the biggest of fish. If you’re looking for a good allrounder, go for the 13’6″ as a #8/9.

Two handed spey

Medium to fast speed action

Suitable for all kinds of rivers

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT AT HARDY

Thomas and Thomas Spey

Thomas and Thomas Spey
Thomas and Thomas Spey

If you’re looking for a high-end spey rod to take on Atlantic and Pacific Salmon around the globe, make sure to check out the Thomas and Thomas Spey. The American manufacturer has made a name for itself to build some of the finest and most reliable fly rods on the planet. The Thomas and Thomas Spey is no exception to this rule.

Available in multiple sizes ranging from a #5 (great for sea run brown trout and smaller steelhead rivers as well) all the way up to a #10 (15ft), the lineup includes the right double handed fly rod for salmon for any fly fisherman or woman. Made from the best components such as Fuji stripping guides, Aluminum reel seats and rod tubes, the Thomas and Thomas Spey provides everything you looking for in a high end salmon rod. Comes with a lifetime warranty.

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT AT TACKLE DIRECT

Sage Igniter Spey

Sage Ingniter Spey
Sage Igniter Spey

An extra fast-action rod made in the USA: introducing the Sage Igniter Spey. These rods have incredible loading power, making them the perfect companion for any kind of double-handed fishing, no matter if it’s happening in freshwater or in saltwater. Made from the best components, the Sage Igniter Spey features the brand’s KonnecticHD technology that ensures a great energy transfer throughout the entire cast.

You’ll have a hard time finding a Spey Rod that can cast tighter loops and create more line speed. Weight options ranging from #5 to #10. Just like the Thomas and Thomas, the Sage Igniter Spey comes with a lifetime warranty for the original owner.

Powder Coated Aluminum Rod Tube

Lifetime Warranty

KonneticHD Technology

Downlocking with Gunmetal Anodized Aluminum

Ultra-Light Hard Chromed Snake Guides

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT AT VAIL VALLEY ANGLERS

Echo Full Spey

Echo Full Spey
Echo Full Spey

Rajeff Sports have released an allrounder, versatile series that are jaw dropping and absolutely fantastic. Introducing the Echo Full Spey series that have three unique models – a 13’ 6wt, 13’ 7wt, and a 13’ 8wt. A rod of 13′ is a great allrounder that will be able to cover almost any fishing situation you might encounter.

Just like its more expensive competitors, the Echo Full Spey features high-end components such as a reel seat made from anodised aluminum. The lightweight rods are a delight to cast and are a great choice for fly fishermen looking for solid performance at half the price of many of the premium manufacturers.

Lightweight High-Modulus Blank

SiC Stripping Guides

Anodized Aluminum

Fabric-Covered Rod Tube

Medium rod action

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT AT VAIL VALLEY ANGLERS

Orvis Mission Spey

Orvis Mission Spey
Orvis Mission Spey

The Orvis Mission Spey is designed especially for beginners as these rods are well made and highly versatile in its usage. Built with Helios 3 Technology, Orvis Mission rods present a medium-fast action blank and cater to a variety of casting styles. Its features include:

Type III Anodized Aluminum with Double Downlocking Component

Aluminum Rod Tube

25-year guarantee

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT AT ORVIS

Single Hand Salmon Fly Rods

If you have never fished with a two-handed rod or are intimated by the thought of swinging a fly rod of 13′ or more, don’t worry, you can surely catch your first salmon on a single-handed rod. Here are a few options to choose from.

Atlas Signature

Atlas Signature Series
Atlas Signature Series Fly Rod

Key features:

– #8, #9 and #10 available, all in 9ft

– Highend rod at an affordable price

– 3 year warranty

Why we picked it:

The Atlas Signature series (read our in-depth review here) is a newcomer on the salmon rod market. Created by Ben Freeman of Trident Fly Fishing, Atlas aims at offering premium performance at a mid-level price. We were quite impressed by this rod’s punch and precision. Since it comes as an #8, #9 and #10 rod, the Signature is an excellent choice for salmon fishing (and pike fishing as well for example).

The Atlas has plenty of backbone to cast long distances and to fight strong predators like King, Chinook or also Atlantic salmon. Besides its inner qualities I also really liked its subtle, yet elegant look that portrays its premium ambition featuring a beautiful dark grey/blue blank. A three year warranty is a great offer as well. In my eyes, this is the perfect single hand salmon rod for anybody who wants premium performance at a moderate price ($499). If you can live without the prestige of big brands such as Sage, G. Loomis or T&T, the Atlas Signature is for you.

PROS:

  • Great accuracy and precision
  • Subtle and modern looks
  • Three year warranty is included

CONS:

  • The only little weak spot we found on this rod is at short distance

GET IT AT ATLAS

GET IT AT TRIDENT

Winston Air Salt

Winston Saltwater Air
Winston Air Salt

Key features:

– Graphite rod tube

– Stunning, dark green blank color

– Lifetime guarantee

Why we picked it:

The Winston Air Salt (read our in-depth review here) is an excellent premium salmon fly rod that combines the understated elegance of Winston with a lot of punch and casting stability. I’ve found that the Air salt can handle all sorts of situations you’ll encounter in salmon fishing. One of its weaker spots is the fact that it does thrive on casting big streamers, hence salmon fishing is a great environment when you often fish streamers of smaller sizes. Great thing about the Winston is the fact that it also shines in saltwater environments and is corrosion proof.

In the Saltwater Air, the Montana manufacturer employs its well-established Boron technology that makes these fly rods 25% stronger than other graphite rods, a crucial feature if you put your rod to the ultimate test of strong species such as salmon. What sets the Saltwater Air apart in my eyes are the details, with the rod tube matching the color of the fly rod’s blank. The beige-coloured rod sock with the Winston logo further adds to the premium feel of the Winston. A rod that casts and looks exceptionally well.

PROS:

  • Fast action rod that feels more like a medium fast in real life
  • Shines at mid-range (great for salmon fishing)
  • Most beautiful blank color in the game

CONS:

  • The fighting butt it a bit clunky (at least on the #7)

GET IT AT THE RIVER’S EDGE

GET IT AT VAIL VALLEY ANGLERS

GET IT ON AMAZON

Winston Air Salt - Best 7wt Fly Rod
The Winston Air Salt during our test. Photo: Leonard Schoenberger

Douglas Era

Douglas Era
Douglas Era

The pocket friendly Douglas Era is a great single-handed fly rod for salmon if you are just getting started with this exciting species. Great thing is that you can use it for other big predators such as pike, carp or musky as well. The NY-based brand has made a name for itself with its already legendary Sky G series that is considered by many to be one of the best trout fly rods on the planet.

The Douglas Era is quite light weight yet delivers quite a fast action parallel to its reliable precision and accuracy. At only $169, the Douglas Era even come with a lifetime warranty. A great entry-level rod that also makes for a great fly fishing gift.

Graphite Blank

Cordura rod tube with an integrated rod sleeve

Best for: Dry flies, Wet flies, Streamers and Nymphs

Fast Action

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT ON AMAZON

Salmon Fly Rods and Reels

Picking the right setup for salmon fishing can be a little intimidating at times. If you want to make sure your rod and reel work together nicely, you can opt for a salmon fly rod combo. These sets consisting of salmon fly rods and reels have been put together by expert anglers and will certainly work the way you want them to.

Penn Battle

Penn Battle Fly Rod Outfit
Penn Battle Fly Rod Outfit

Key features:

– #8 or #10 available, both measuring 9ft (in 4 pieces)

– Rod, reel, line and backing included in the set

– Large arbor reel for quick line pickup

Why we picked it:

The Penn Battle Fly Rod Outfit (read our in-depth review here) is a great salmon fly rod combo at a decent price. You can choose between an #8 which is great for targeting salmon in smaller rivers or estuaries. If you’re after bigger ones such as Atlantics, go for a #10. The Penn Battle Fly Rod combo comes in a nice cordura rod and reel case which makes it easy to bring the set on any salmon fishing trip.

The rod in this set features a nice, slightly old school blank design. The darker blank color helps when fishing in brighter conditions since it won’t reflect sun rays as much. The reel sits nicely in the real seat and features a large arbor design (which is crucial in salmon fishing since these fish often make fast runs at you). The reel also sports a solid drag, which, again, is crucial in salmon fishing. Included in the set is a weight forward line that is a great allrounder. If you need to get down deep for salmon holding in pools, you can always exchange it for an intermediate or even full sinker.

All in all, this is a great salmon fly rod combo for beginners and intermediates alike.

PROS:

  • Nicely balanced reel and rod combo with enough backbone to cast big streamers
  • Rod and reel case included
  • Retro design gives it a cool touch

CONS:

  • If we could pick a wish, it would be a slight upgrade to the casting performance of the rod

GET IT ON AMAZON

GET IT AT BASS PRO SHOPS

GET IT AT CABELAS

Penn Battle Fly Rod Combo
The Penn Battle Fly Rod combo in action during our test week. Photo: Leonard Schoenberger

Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit

Orvis Clearwater Outfit
Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit

As an #8, the Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit makes for an excellent entry level rod if you want to try salmon fishing. It has enough power and backbone to stop even bigger fish. Chrome snake and stripping guides are the feature of a high-end rod. This set comes with a Clearwater II reel and fly line and Dacron backing.

All you have to do is pick the leader of your choice and the desired fly. Comes with Orvis’ 25 year guarantee in case something should break.

Clearwater fly rod

Clearwater II reel

Clearwater fly line

75 yds. 20-lb. Dacron backing

Rod tube

GET IT AT TRIDENT

GET IT ON AMAZON

Conclusion on the Best Salmon Fly Rod

All in all, these are the top picks of the best fly rods for salmon 2024. All you have to do is make up your mind in terms of whether you want to give salmon fishing a try with a single-handed rod or if you want to get into spey casting using a double handed rod.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between double-handed and single-handed salmon fly rods?

Double-handed (spey) fly rods are longer rods, typically 12 to 15 feet, designed for two-handed casting techniques used in larger rivers. Single-handed fly rods are shorter, ranging from 8.5 to 10 feet, and are used for one-handed casting in various fishing environments.

Which type of salmon fly rod is best for me, double-handed or single-handed?

Choosing between double-handed and single-handed rods depends on factors like fishing location, casting style, and personal preference. Double-handed rods are advantageous for covering large waters, while single-handed rods offer versatility for smaller rivers and different fishing techniques.

What rod weight should I choose for salmon fishing?

For double-handed rods, a common weight range is 7 to 10, while single-handed rods usually range from 7 to 9. The appropriate weight depends on the size of the salmon species you’re targeting and the fishing conditions.

What action (fast, medium, slow) should I consider for salmon fly rods?

Medium to fast action rods are generally preferred for salmon fishing, as they provide the power needed for casting larger flies and handling the fight of strong salmon.

Can I use a double-handed rod for single-handed casting or vice versa?

While it’s possible to use a double-handed rod for single-handed casting by using the bottom grip, it may not provide the best balance or casting experience. Single-handed rods, on the other hand, aren’t designed for two-handed casting techniques like spey casting.

What are the advantages of using a double-handed salmon rod?

Double-handed rods excel in situations where long casts and efficient line management are crucial. They’re ideal for covering large rivers, making mends, and managing heavy lines for various casting techniques.

Can I use a salmon fly rod for other types of fishing?

Salmon fly rods can be versatile and used for other species and fishing scenarios, provided they’re appropriately sized and weighted. However, keep in mind that their specific design might not be optimal for certain techniques.

Are there different line types recommended for double-handed and single-handed salmon rods?

Yes, the line selection for double-handed and single-handed rods can differ. Double-handed rods often use specialized spey lines, while single-handed rods use traditional weight-forward or specialty lines based on the rod’s weight and action.

What about rod length? How does it affect casting and fishing?

Rod length impacts casting distance and line control. Longer rods, like double-handed spey rods, excel at longer casts and mending, making them suitable for larger rivers. Shorter single-handed rods offer more accuracy and versatility for various fishing environments.

What other factors should I consider when choosing a salmon fly rod?

Consider the type of water you’ll be fishing, the size of salmon species, the casting techniques you prefer, and the overall balance and feel of the rod. Testing different rods before purchasing can help you find the one that suits your preferences and fishing style.

Notice: We use affiliate marketing in this article. This means we might earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you click on one of the links provided in this article and end up purchasing a rod. We never get paid for a review and only recommend products we use and are convinced of ourselves. Thanks!