Tried and Tested: Epic Reference Packlight Fly Rod Combo

Leonard Schoenberger

Most fly rod combos are made from carbon fiber. If you want something off the beaten path, take a look at the Epic Reference Packlight.

Specs and features:

Weight class: 4wt

Length: 7’6″

Price: $980

Action: Medium

Blank Material: Fiberglass

5 piece rod

Rod tube length: 19.5″

Reel: #3/4, adjustable drag

Fly line: 4wt DT (double-taper)

Warranty: Lifetime

Handmade in New Zealand

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Unlike any other: The Epic Reference Packlight

Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit travel case
The Epic Reference Packlight fly rod combo is a featherweight (the rod only weighs 2.54 oz (72 gr) and comes in 5 pieces. © The Wading List 2024

Fly rod combos have become very popular in recent years. Not only beginners appreciate the fact that you’re buying a set where you’re guaranteed that all the pieces will work together nicely and smoothly. When you’re just getting starting with fly fishing the amount of fly rod and reel specifications out there can be intimidating. Most fly rod outfits come in the #5 or #8 weight range since the majority of fly anglers will most likely target trout (#5) or predators like big bass or pike in freshwater or smaller saltwater predators such as striped bass (#8).

For this gear review we strayed from the beaten path by picking the Epic Reference 476 Packlight fly rod combo. This fly outfit is a great choice for small creeks and light tippets. Here is why.

Design and Build

Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit closeup
The Reference Packlight features a 7’6″ fiberglass rod, a sealed drag fly reel and a #4 DT fly line. © The Wading List

I first got in touch with Epic fly rods a few years ago during a Covid lockdown. I reached out to Founder Carl McNeill to inquire about their fly rod building kit. I thought the time had come to build my own fly rod (with plenty of time at hand) and it turned out much easier and less intimidating than expected (for someone with absolutely no rodbuilding experience). One thing I loved about the Epic rod building kit back then just as well as in the new Reference Packlight fly rod combo is the company’s attention to detail. You can tell that this is a family run business that wants to impress their customers.

When you unbox the rod and reel you can immediately tell that every piece of the combo has been crafted with love and care. Sure, you could say what else would you expect from a fly rod set that comes in just shy of $1,000 but let me tell you there are $1,000 reels out there that come in really ugly pouches. The Reference Packlight also proves that Epic loves a straightfoward, minimal design. Pitch black reel seet, bright cork and a beautiful grass green blank color – well done, guys!

Rigging the Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit
The rod on the Epic Reference Packlight fly rod combo comes with a grass green blank color. © The Wading List

Use Case

Fiberglass fly rods have seen a resurgence in recent years and Epic certainly is one of the reasons for that. Many (older) fly anglers still associate glass fly rods with slow action “sticks” that don’t perform as well as carbon fiber rods. If you’re one of those, get your hands on a modern glass rod and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There’s a reason we’re seeing many brands jump on the glass train (again), smaller ones as Blue Halo just as well as bigger ones such as Orvis or Redington.

Epic however really has cemented their position as the leading glass fly rod maker. They make glass rods to target the biggest saltwater predators but also delicate gems such as the Reference Packlight. Since the Packlight comes as a short 7’6″ rod it naturally lends itself to smaller creeks. Don’t be fooled though, this small stick has a lot of power and it’s medium action paired with the lovely DT #4 fly line is a great setup for smaller rivers that hold big trout. The reason for that is that the slightly softer action of the glass rod will protect even the finest tippets against the power of aggressive trout.

Rigging the Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit
The Reference Packlight easily fits into any backpack. © The Wading List

What’s great about the Reference is the fact that it comes paired with Epic’s Backcountry reel. Its smooth drag will further protect any tippet against a running fish. I also like the fact that the set includes a #4 DT line. DT stands for double-taper which means this fly line has a longer, more gentle head (compared to most modern-day WF lines). The best thing about it is the fact that you can simply take the line off your reel once the head’s worn out a little and put it back on with the other end towards your tippet and fish it for another season. That’s real sustainability.

Casting the Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit
Testing the Epic Reference Packlight on a backpacking trip. © The Wading List


As the name suggests, this fly rod combo is not only great for any kind of small stream scenario but it really shines if you are headed for a packpacking trip to a remote location. The rod packs down to less than 20″ and the rod tube is really light as well. The Backcountry reel in this combo is a #3/4 that weighs only 4 oz (115gr). It’s made from aluminum, features a sealed drag and boasts a large arbor (for quick line pickup). Its sealed drag means you can safely used it in saltwater as well and I see this reel being a great option for light saltwater fishing for example when chasing cutthroats in estuaries.

The Backwater fly reel on the Epic Reference Packlight Fly Rod Combo features an adjustable drag.
The Backcountry fly reel on the Epic Reference Packlight Fly Rod Combo features an adjustable drag and weighs only 115gr (4oz). Photo: Leonard Schoenberger © The Wading List
Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod Outfit closeup
The Backcountry Reel comes prespooled with a double taper fly line. © The Wading List

Who’s the Epic Reference for?

You can tell from my words that this fly rod combo is unlike any other. Incredibly packable, very light, made from glass and featuring a sealed drag fly reel. The components of this set are top-notch and although $980 are a hefty price tag, I think it’s justified considering the quality of the rod and reel. Plus, what you pay for is not only a premium fly rod combo but also an excellent customer service. Break a piece of the rod (which can happen as I know from experience)? No problem, Epic will replace it in no time.

And think about the reel you get with this set. It can easily become your go to light saltwater reel besides working nicely with the 476 Reference rod. So all in all I really think this is one of the coolest and best performing fly rod outfits out there. And last but not least you can be sure that not too many other fly fishermen will catch a trout next to you with the same rod and reel.



Epic Reference Packlight Fly Rod Combo
The Reference Packlight fly rod combo from Epic. Photo: Leonard Schoenberger © The Wading List

FAQs: Epic Reference Packlight Fly Rod Combo

What is included in the Epic Reference 476 Packlight Fly Rod Combo?

The combo includes the Epic Reference 476 Packlight Fly Rod, the Backwater fly reel (#3/4), a double-taper fly line, and a protective rod tube.

Can the rod handle different fly fishing scenarios?

This rod is built for some small streams and creeks. It can however handle even big trout since its glass blank and the smooth drag of the reel can protect even delicate tippets.

What makes the Epic Reference 476 Packlight Fly Rod stand out?

The Reference Packlight has two standout features in my eyes: it’s made from fiberglass and since it’s a 5 piece rod it packs down to only 19.5″.

Is the Epic Reference Packlight Fly Rod Combo suitable for travel?

Yes, the Packlight design of this combo is ideal for travel. The rod breaks down into multiple sections, and the protective rod tube allows for easy transportation, making it convenient for anglers on the go.

Why You Should Trust Us

Leonard Schoenberger and his team spend plenty of days out fishing. Their goal is to test and review products for you so you can make a solid purchase decision and improve your fly fishing game. We always express our honest opinions, never get paid for reviews and are proud of our editorial independence.