Best Saltwater Fly Rod – 2021 Buyer’s Guide

// By Leonard Schoenberger

With the amount of fly rods in the market, it can be increasingly overwhelming to select the best saltwater fly rod.

Not to mention, this is a pretty broad topic. That’s essentially why we’re going to discuss how you should select the best fly rods considering all the features and elements to make an informed decision. 

However, when it specifically comes to saltwater fishing, one of the most important factors you must always consider is buying new fishing tools and gear that can withstand the elements. Saltwater is quite corrosive, which means if you don’t get a fly rod that features anti-corrosion materials, you’ll soon be in the market for a new rod. And no, you can’t use freshwater fishing gear for saltwater fishing. Hence, it’s vital to go for a fly rod that explicitly features anti-corrosion properties to ensure your gear always remains in excellent condition. 

Apart from that there’s one other important factor that you shouldn’t overlook or neglect. Because you’ll be fishing in saltwater, except to target heavier fish species. This means you should opt for a fly rod with higher drag power because you’ll be catching fishes such as redfish, tarpon, bonefish, etc. 

Table of contents:

Best Saltwater Fly Rods Quick Answer List

Things to consider before buying a saltwater fly rod

Best Entry Level Fly Rods for Saltwater

Best Mid-Range Fly Fishing Rods for Saltwater

Best High-End Rods

Best Fly Rod and Reel Combos for Saltwater

Conclusion

FAQs

Best Saltwater Fly Rods Quick Answer List

1. Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod

2. St. Croix imperial saltwater fly rod

3. Thomas and Thomas Zane Fly Rod

4. SAGE Maverick Saltwater Fly Fishing Rod

5. G. Loomis NRX+ Saltwater

6. Epic Boca Grande Fly Rod

7. L.L.Bean Streamlight Ultra II Saltwater

8. Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit : 9’0″ 8wt

9. Redington Field Kit Fly Rod Tropical

10. Sage Salt HD Fly Water Outfit

A small crab on a salt water fly rod setup - Photo: Casey Holley
A small crab on a salt water fly rod setup – Photo: Casey Holley

Rinsing and Cleaning your Saltwater Fly Rod 

Experienced and avid fisherman and anglers know the importance of rinsing and spraying their fly rods with freshwater after fishing in saltwater. But people often forget to clean their rods too. This is why you should always make a mental note to clean your fly rod as soon as you come back from the trip. 

Cleaning the rod is simple, you can hose it down with freshwater, generously apply some soap, and rinse it again. To be thorough you can always take your fly rod apart and wash every component individually making sure there is no salt accumulation or build-up left. After washing everything, use a microfiber cloth to wipe everything down. 

Top Features to Look for When Buying a Saltwater Fly Rod

When choosing the best saltwater fly rods, it’s critical to first understand and decide the type of fishing you would like to do. While there are a different types of rods available, keep in mind that every fly rod is uniquely designed to suit different fishing styles and types. There aren’t any fly rods made to suit all types of fishing. This is why a fly rod for saltwater can’t be used for freshwater fishing and vice versa. 

However, selecting a fly rod will also depend on various features that you would like to have in it. Some basic features you should consider when buying a saltwater fly rod include:

The Right Weight

It’s important to go for the right fly rod weight. Buying a light rod line will cause frustrating problems in drag control and precision, especially if you’re targeting heavy saltwater fish such as tarpon, redfish, etc. Saltwater fly rods come in different weight categories – labelled 1 to 15. It’s better to opt for a fly line in 8 weight category as they’re designed for catching larger fish. 

The Right Length 

You need to make a note of the amount of length you require. Fly rods come in different lengths, designed for different fishing landscapes. However, for saltwater fishing, it’s recommended to stick with an 8.5-ft rod length. For longer casting in windy conditions or bigger river streams, go for a 9-ft rod. 

The Right Rod Action

The right flexibility and durability of the fly rod is also an important factor. That’s because there are fly rods designed to bend right at the top while some can bend throughout the rod. There are essentially three categories of fly rod action – fast, medium, and slow-action. Fast action is suitable for when you’re fishing in windy conditions or if you want to cast longer lines. Medium action rods provide overall flexibility for all types of fishing conditions. Lastly, slow action rods are best for learning how to cast. For saltwater fishing, it’s best to go for a medium action rod. 

The Right Material

Fly rods are made with a myriad of materials such as fiberglass, bamboo, graphite, etc. If you want an all-purpose fly rod, go for ones made from graphite. They’re more durable, lightweight, and flexible. For freshwater fishing, it’s better to go for fiberglass rods as they’re softer and offer more flexibility. Bamboo rods are durable but are quite pricey. 

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Best Entry Level Saltwater Fly Rods

Considering the above mentioned features, let’s dive into the best types of saltwater fly fish rods in terms of price and features. 

Orvis Clearwater

Orvis has completely re-modeled their Clearwater range, making them stronger with a modern look and feel. The fly rods come in an olive wrap and subtle dark grey theme – providing premium aesthetics. The Orvis Clearwater are designed to perform – especially at long distances. At 20 to 60 feet, the rod provides superior precision and handling. It gives out tighter loops and excellent tracking. Go for the 5 or 7-weight category if you’re looking to target freshwater fish. The Clearwater provides a high degree of versatility especially if you’re out to catch bass, catfish, trout, or perch. 

Moreover, the Orvis Clearwater edition is quite accurate with good durability, great handling, and excellent balance. You’ll also quickly feel that it provides ideal control and balance, especially when you start casting your line, perfect example for targeting cutthroat trout in saltwater

The Orvis Clearwater is made with industry-grade graphite, offering much more durability. Plus, graphite rods don’t require a lot of maintenance, so it’s a win-win. So, no matter what condition you use it in, you can expect it to perform and last. Moreover, Orvis has also significantly improved the cork handle, which means the fly rod is more comfortable to handle and use for extended periods of time. Cork quality has definitely improved compared to Orvis’ earlier models. 

Pros

New design and technology

Great value for money 

Individually tailored – offers medium to fast rod action

Good durability and strength 

Cons

Lacks high-end flexibility

Manual reel loading

Not for experience anglers

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St. Croix imperial saltwater

The St. Croix imperial saltwater is specifically designed for durability, precision, and balance, especially for rough saltwater fishing. It is perfect for when you want to just head out and catch some beautiful fish no matter what the tide looks like. The saltwater fly rod features fast action, which is going to help you easily win when catching heavy fish like tarpon and redfish. Moreove, the St. Croix provides impeccable fly casting (no matter what the size of the fly is). 

But perhaps one of the best features of the St. Croix imperial saltwater is that it’s made with strong, highly durable graphite fiber. Plus, the fly rod is also integrated with the company’s patented and highly innovative IPC (integrated poly curve) technology. This makes the rod extremely lightweight and easy to handle, enhancing your reaction time without compromising rod strength or flexibility. The fly rod comes in a beautiful Deep Aquamarine texture and light blue finishing with a silver trim. What’s more, this saltwater rod comes with a machined-aluminum reel seat that provides ultra-protection against the oxidation. It really is a durable and well-designed saltwater fly rod. 

Pros

IPC Mandarin technology for high-end durability and flexibility

Stripping guides are PVD coated for saltwater resistance

Made with high-strain graphite

Good flexibility

Cons

Sightly pricier

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Best Mid-Range Saltwater Rods

Thomas and Thomas Zone

The Thomas and Thomas Zane is a high-end saltwater fly rod featuring medium action and is designed with accurate line casting. The saltwater rod is made with a durable blank for topnotch performance in various types of angling situations. The fly rod is built with high-quality Strother Resin technology guaranteeing high responsiveness and recovery speeds. Plus, the rod also has vibration and shock absorbing characteristics, perfect for angling and catching heavy saltwater fish. 

With an impeccable, natural finish, the Thomas and Thomas Zane’s blank capabilities automatically translates into longer and more precision-based casting no matter the distance. And because the rod has a natural finish, it provides durability and topnotch performance. 

For heavier Thomas Zone models, the rods come with E-coating, which adds more durability to the rod as well as making them completely anti-corrosive. The reel seat of the rod is made with blue fiber, which keeps everything simple but highly functional. The smaller saltwater fly rods come with carbon fiber reel seats with anodized aluminum uplocking parts. This makes the rods even more flexible and lightweight.

Pros

Zirconium inserts

Titanium stripping guides

Snakes guides are made with chrome

E-coating for durability

Natural finish

Strother Resin Technology

Cons

Expensive

For veteran anglers

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SAGE Maverick Saltwater

The SAGE Maverick comes with a durable frame and provides faster line shooting and enhanced lifting strength. If you’re targeting saltwater fish like Stripers or Redfish, the Maverick is the best option to go for. The saltwater fly rod also comes in smaller models, which are specifically designed for catching feisty fish such as Bonefish. 

The SAGE Maverick comes with Konnectic blank technology, incorporating quality materials such as high-strain carbon or resin. The rod is built-in with enhanced modulus materials making it durable but lightweight. This can be a pretty sweet combination. Moreover, Konnectic tech is renowned for providing balanced rod wobbling, boosting line casting precision for straighter and accurate tracking. 

The stripping guides are made with Fuji ceramic, allowing both rookie and experienced fishermen to effortlessly cast their lines. Plus, the ceramic built also allows for enhanced durability while also providing powerful anti-corrosive capabilities. Moreover, the SAGE Maverick has a durable handle designed with topnotch ultra-grade cork – providing you enhanced comfortability. 

Pros

Fuji ceramic stripping guides

Chromed snake guides

Blank infused with Konnectic technology

Lightweight and durable

Anodized aluminum reel seat

Cons

Expensive

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Best High-End Saltwater Fly Rods

G. Loomis NRX+ Saltwater

If you want a fly rod that guarantees speed, precision, durability, and sheer power, then there’s nothing better than the G. Loomis NRX+. Rated as one of the best saltwater fly rods on the market, the NRX is made for flexibility and versatility. One of the best things about this rod is the fact they’re specifically designed with Dynamic Recovery Technology allowing anglers to quickly cast lines and reel in their catch effortlessly and with precision. 

The DRT tech incorporates the company’s new fly rod innovation along with Mega Modulus, high-strain graphite matrix. Plus, the G. Loomis NRX+ is also built with industry-grade GL8 resin to give you a powerful blank with streamlined accuracy and fantastic smoothness. Moreover, the Loomis also comes with an innovative taper build to make the fly rod durable, versatile, and extremely anti-corrosive. The blank on the rod is pretty lightweight and provides unmatched recovery speeds. 

The stripping guides on the G. Loomis NRX+ are made with Titanium SIC, which means that it effectively dissipates friction and boosts performance. With lightweight guides, you’ll have increased rigidity and durability – all in one package.

Pros

Single foot recoil guides are made with titanium and nickel

Titanium SIC guides 

Dynamic Recovery Technology 

Made with industry-grade resin

Taper build construction

Lightweight and extremely durable

High-end anti-corrosion qualities

Cons

Very pricey

For veteran anglers

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Epic Boca Grande

Epic Boca Grande: One of the best saltwater fly rods out there
Epic Boca Grande: One of the best saltwater fly rods

When it comes to sheer class, performance, durability, and precision, nothing can beat the Epic Boca Grande. It’s a powerhouse of a rod that provides comfortability with performance. The Boca Grande is a 12-weight rod (although heavier rods tend to perform sluggishly), the Boca on the other hand, offers enjoyable and accurate casting. Made from high-strain glass fiber, the rod can take some serious weight without compromising its structural integrity. The Boca can handle 24-lbs of pull, effortlessly. 

The blank on the Epic Boca Grande is an unmatched piece of intelligent and innovative engineering. The construction focuses on reducing the weight of the rod while enhancing recovery speeds. The Boca Grande is made with S2 FastGlass for unidirectional strength and durability. 

The Epic Boca Grande comes with titanium stripping guides that are integrated with SIC inserts (Japanese quality). The remaining blank is coated with Snake Brand nickel – offering superior corrosion resistance. Moreover, the Boca Grande features a comfortable and high-quality Full Wells cork grip. It’ll feel as if you’re holding feathers in your hand. 

Pros

Blank made with S2 FastGlass technology

Reinforced ferrule 

Titanium stripper guides

Rust proof and anti-corrosive

Fiberglass rod tube

High-quality cork handle grip

Black titanium finishing

Cons

Expensive

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The Best Saltwater Fly Rod Combos

Now that you’ve been introduced to some of the best saltwater fly rods on the market, we’ll also take a closer look into fly rod and reel combos for saltwater. These sets are a great choice for fly fishermen who want to make sure their setup is going to work. The great things about these fly rod combos for saltwater is the fact that they have been put together by the brand’s experts and hence you can rest assured that the saltwater fly reel and rod will work together perfectly. These fly rod and reel combos for saltwater also make for a fantastic gift.

L.L. Bean Streamlight Ultra II Saltwater Outfit

The L.L. Bean Streamlight Ultra II Saltwater Outfit features a beautiful finish and is built with a medium-action blank. A versatile and durable fly rod combo, the Ultra II offers high-quality durability and versatility – both are important factors when targeting heavy saltwater fish species like the Tarpon and Redfish. The saltwater fly rod combo comes in three weight categories (7-weight, 8-weight, 9-weight). 

Moreover, the fly rod also comes with a durable reel that features top-grade construction and comes with an excellent drag system. Also, the outfit comes with a Dacron backing along with a fly line (weight-forward). For travelling, you can also order the L.L. Bean Kennebec’s travel case

The rod blank is made with high-strain graphite for enhanced durability. The rod is also lightweight and comes with a topnotch cork handle for superior comfortability. You can use the rod for extended periods of time without any fatigue. The L.L. Bean Streamlight Ultra II Saltwater Outfit includes with backing, leader, reel-on-rod case, and weight-forward floating – easily making it one of the best combos out there. 

Pros

Lightweight 

Graphite rod construction

Cork handles made with premium materials

Two weight categories

In line rulon disc for powerful drag

Affordable price

Cons

Not for professional anglers

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Orvis Clearwater 908-4 Outfit

The Orvis Clearwater 908-4 Outfit comes with a 9-inch fly rod (8-weight), a fly reel (Clearwater IV), a cordura rod tube, Dacron backing, and a tapered leader. When you talk about an all-purpose fly rod combination, it doesn’t get any better than the Orvis Clearwater outfit. It’s perfect to fish for heavy species such as the Redfish, Steelhead, Bass, and the Bonefish.

But one of the best things about the Orvis Clearwater 908-4 Outfit is the fact that you can use it for both saltwater and freshwater fishing. The fly rod is designed for accuracy and streamlined handling – giving anglers high responsiveness and perfect balance with incredible line feel. Plus, the fly rod packs unmatched power. 

The Orvis Clearwater 08-4 Outfit is a complete facelift from the company’s previous models. Every Clearwater fly rod comes with a tapered design with fast-action handling for different types of fishing. 

Pros

Multi-purpose fly rod 

Rod blank is made with chrome 

Rod identifier 

Reel seats are made with nickel aluminum

Durable butt handle 

Cons

Expensive

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Redington Tropical Saltwater Field Kit

The Redington Field Kit features medium-fast action allowing anglers to effortlessly and accurately cast lines. The fly rod kit incorporates a powerful drag mechanism, thanks to the Behemoth reel. The carbon drag system quickly stops heavy tarpons and redfish dead in their track. The Redington field kit saltwater combo is a predator that will help you rule the waters!

The butt section of the rod is made with durable materials for increased power and performance, allowing you to effortlessly control stubborn fish. With the Redington, wrangling becomes easier and less exhausting. Moreover, The reel seat is made from anodized aluminum for extended durability and all-weather performance. 

The Behemoth reel features some interesting upgrades. For example, the reel comes with a deep V and considerably bigger arbor design, giving anglers double the capacity and highly responsive line retrievals. The Redington Field Kit easily has the most powerful drag mechanism in its class. 

Pros

Behemoth reel 

Large arbor design

Tropical anti-corrosive coating and heat dissipation

Short head for faster fly loading 

Resilient front taper

Easy rigging thanks to loop to loop connection

Cons

Expensive

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SAGE Salt HD 1191-4 Outfit

The SAGE Salt HD 1191-4 is ideal for fishing in rough and demanding conditions. No matter how windy the weather or rough the waters are, the HD fly rod outfit is going to help you cast longer lines thanks to its tapered high line design. Plus, it can carry an impressive amount of weight at longer distances with exceptional precision and performance. 

The SAGE Salt HD is designed with KonneticHD technology – which has made line casting an effortless function. The technology helps make an extra-light rod blank with a considerably thin diameter, providing anglers with high responsiveness, stronger flexibility, and ultra-precision. 

Moreover, the fly rod is built with intuitive technology that quickly transfers energy, completely eliminating that annoying bounce and vibration. 

Pros

KonneticHD Technology

Fuji ceramic stripper guides 

Chromed snakes guides

Line weight is laser etched

Available in multiple colors

Aluminum rod tube coated with powder coating

Uplocking reel seat made with anodized aluminum

Cons

Expensive

For professional anglers

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Conclusion on the Best Saltwater Fly Rods

So there you have it – a comprehensive buying guide to help you make an informed decision on the type of saltwater fly rod you should buy. But remember that your decision will always be based on preference. If you aren’t looking to spend a lot of money and are just getting into saltwater fishing, we recommend that you go for the Orvis Clearwater fly rod, it offers a great balance between durability and performance and offers great value for money. 

Best Saltwater Fly Rod: FAQs

Can I use a freshwater fly rod for saltwater?

Technically you can but corrosion is going to be a problem. Saltwater environments are much harsher, hence fly rods for saltwater need to be built tougher to withstand the elements. The reel seat, the stripping guides and other components of your fly rod are all exposed to the saltwater and hence endangered to rust. If you only fish in saltwater for a day with your freshwater rod, make sure to rinse it thoroughly after the use with freshwater.

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Building your own Fly Rod

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