Best Steelhead Fly Rods of 2020 – Complete Buyer’s Guide

Steelhead fishing is a milestone that many passionate anglers wish to achieve. It is exasperating but also gratifying. An angler may spend long hours in harsh weather conditions just to bag one steelhead. Having the right gear can make a huge difference. Here we bring you the best fly rods and everything that you need to know prior to buying one.

Comparison Chart of the Best Steelhead Fly Rods

PRODUCTDETAILS
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Temple Fork Outfitters TFO BVK Series

  • Lightweight but still strong and durable
  • Comfortable Flor-grade handle grips
  • Stainless steel frame for better durability in fresh and saltwater
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Fenwicks Aetos Fly Rod

  • Graphite blank gives a fast-action feel
  • Cork handle offers a great casting motion
  • Anodized aluminum reel seat is made to last
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Redington VICE Fly Fishing Rod

  • Best for the Money
  • Durable with built-in rod dividers
  • Easy-casting and fast action
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Sage Fly Fishing

  • Unique technology ensures power and durability
  • Provides fast-action performance and connected feel
  • Works well from freshwater to saltwater
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Zone Thomas & Thomas Fly Rod

  • Very accurate and loads quickly
  • Impressive craftmanship that will last long
  • Anodized premium aluminum hardware
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What Size of Fly Rod Do I Need For Steelhead?

Fly rods come in various sizes and weights, and if you don’t specifically know what you want, choosing the right one can seem a bit intimidating. Although each weight and length is designed to suit specific situations, if you are looking for a one-size-fits-all fly rod for steelheads, then we recommend a 7-8 weight rod of 10-11 feet in length.

An 8 weight rod will support the heavy flies to be cast in the direction you want them and also be able to feel the slightest tugs and bites. Furthermore, it’s just the right weight as it will not be too heavy so as to snap the line if you manage to catch a steelhead.

The long length of the rod will come in handy to cast extensive distances and can also prove helpful to make suitable line mends.

How to Choose a Steelhead Fly Rod

A fly rod comes in various shapes, sizes, and designs. Each has been fashioned to fit your unique fishing style, but choosing from an array of products can seem overwhelming. Therefore, it is imperative to know what your requirements are and which specifications best suit your taste.

Design 

Fly rods come in three main designs: traditional single-handed rods, Spey rods, and switch rods.

The traditional single-handed rod can be used by beginners without having to learn a new casting style. Moreover, since it provides a simple casting motion, it allows for higher accuracy. However, the one thing it lacks is the ability to cast at longer distances, but it is important to highlight here that steelheads are mostly found near the shore. Therefore, longer casting distances are not typically required.

Spey rods are the trendiest piece of equipment to catch steelheads. It is a two-handed rod with a somewhat complicated casting technique and can be considered a bit weighty. However, it is ideal if you want to cover large areas of water. As this is a forward motion rod, it also doesn’t require a lot of backcasting space.

If you want somewhat of a hybrid of a single-handed rod and a Spey rod, then a switch rod is the answer. It allows for both short and long casting distances and various techniques. You can tread large amounts of water with the two-handed function and also have the accuracy to do a one-handed cast.

Topography 

Where you live, and the type of waters you will be fishing in are two of the most important factors that need consideration. If you are going to be fishing in a large river, then a lightweight rod will be unable to keep with the area you wish to cover. Therefore, we advise a switch or a Spey rod in such conditions. Similarly, if you are targeting steelhead in tributaries, then a simple single-handed rod will do.

Butt Selection

This is mostly a matter of preference; however, having a fighting butt does have its benefits. If you are lucky enough to hook a steelhead or salmon, then it will provide you with good leverage, and you wouldn’t have to work as hard, so there’s the added advantage of comfort. Moreover, it will prevent your rod from damage due to consistent use.

Quick Take | Best Steelhead Fly Rods

Just looking for the top three best steelhead fly rods? Here they are:

  1. Temple Fork Outfitters TFO BVK Series
  2. Fenwicks Aetos Fly Rod
  3. Redington VICE Fly Fishing Rod

Review of the Best Steelhead Fly Rods

Now that we have covered what to look for in a fly rod, you are probably wondering what are some good options when it comes to buying one. Don’t worry, we have got you covered there as well. Below are some of the best fly rods currently trending in the market.

Temple Fork Outfitters TFO BVK Series Fly Fishing Rods

PROS

  • Easy to cast with spectacular line speeds
  • High power and strength at a lighter weight
  • Strong and enough backbone to hook a big catch
  • Extremely good-looking and exceptional presentation
  • Comes with a hard-chromium infused anodized steel stripping guides

CONS

  • Not suitable for beginners
  • Lacks real line sensitivity so not a great all-round rod
  • Lower weight models might have a tendency to break

What Recent Buyers Report

Most customers have been extremely satisfied with this rod. They claim that the features it offers are rather attractive at the price at which it comes. In fact, some have even reported that the rod makes them out to be better anglers than they really are.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Its excellent performance, sturdiness, and high power at a low weight are what make this rod outstanding for us. It has been consistently bagging stellar reviews, and its vogue worthy look is just something we could not ignore. This is most definitely a rod that deserves to be the best overall on our list.

Who Will Use This Most

This fly rod is best suited for anglers who have been in this game for a while and have mastered their technique. They will get the best use out of this rod and take advantage of all it has to offer. Plus, it can handle heavy weighted and tricky species in large water bodies.

Bottom Line

Conclusively, this is an excellent purchase, which will greatly improve your fly fishing experience. Catching a steelhead can be a fatigue-filled experience, but having the right equipment and bagging your catch can make the fatigue fade, and for that, we strongly recommend this model.

Fenwicks AETOS Fly Rod

PROS

  • It has a high durability
  • It’s affordable and budget-friendly
  • Gives commendable accuracy up till 50 feet
  • Suited to be used in freshwater and saltwater
  • Versatile as it can catch larger species like salmon, large bass and even steelheads

CONS

  • Cork is of lower quality in comparison to others
  • Some reported instances of ineffective customer service
  • Reel seat might not align perfectly with the stripper guides

What Recent Buyers Report

Most customers have given this fly rod a high rating and have reported being satisfied with its performance. It has been successful in being able to deliver to its promises. However, there have been reported instances of receiving a faulty product where the customer service did not pull through.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The most outstanding feature of this rod is its fast action. It can work very well with fish that are difficult to catch and can put up a fight against all the tugging. It has high accuracy and allows for greater casting distances. The stylish look and feel are just an added bonus.

Who Will Use This Most

Anglers that are looking for a fast action fly rod but do not desire to compromise on accuracy and casting distances will find this rod to their liking. Its multiple weight setting, coupled with its guides and corks, make it perfect to hook on steelheads and other fish of its kind.

Bottom Line

The final verdict on this rod would be that it is a commendable product with high accuracy, casting distance, and of course, its fast action. Not many fast action rods can provide the accuracy and performance of this rod; hence, we highly recommend this one.

Redington VICE Fly Fishing Rod w/ Tube

PROS

  • Highly sensitive and nimble tip
  • Comes with a lifetime warranty
  • Can be used in harsh winter conditions
  • Excellent performance with affordability
  • Suitable to be used all day as balanced feel and weight

CONS

  • Some might find it too weighty
  • Could have had a faster recovery speed
  • Not too accurate but only at shorter distances

What Recent Buyers Report

This rod has managed to bag high ratings from almost all of its raters. Reviewers have reported it to work like magic and are extremely satisfied with their purchase. Its fantastic performance and stellar accuracy have been lauded by its users consistently.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The exceptional accuracy of this rod, along with its ability to withstand harsh weather conditions, especially strong winds, has made this rod a unique favorite for us. It allows you long casting distances and provides versatility. It is very well deserved to be on this exclusive list.

Who Will Use This Most

This rod is a must-try for anglers who are interested in winter steelhead or like to fish during winters. Its carbon fiber blank has a fast yet manageable action. It is well suited for beginners and experienced anglers alike.

Bottom Line

Overall, this is a superb fly rod that will leave you thoroughly satisfied. Its high accuracy, long casting distances, and ability to survive winds that take your fishing game to the next level, making it a very justified purchase. It definitely delivers on its promises, and it’s hard to find flaws in it.

Sage Fly Fishing - PULSE Fly Rod

PROS

  • Has a beautiful feel and balance
  • Casts impeccably with accuracy and power
  • Comes with an unconditional lifetime warranty
  • Graphite blank gives durability, fast action, and accuracy
  • Features an excellent cork handle with a fighting butt to easily fight steelheads

CONS

  • Some can find it to be heavy near the tip
  • Lacks a few high-tech features usually present in high-end rods
  • Claims to be a fast action rod but is more towards medium-fast

What Recent Buyers Report

This rod has been successful in satisfying its users widely. Customers have especially taken a liking to its beautiful craftsmanship and love the aesthetic look. One customer even reported that it casts just like a dream with a fast action but an absolute workhorse. Generally, it has received very high ratings from its reviewers.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The attractive design and impeccable performance of this rod have helped this rod make a place on this list. One thing that most reviewers have complimented is that despite being a fast-action rod, when it came to playing fish, the blank was pretty giving and has a progressive action.

Who Will Use This Most

This is one of the few rods that, due to its versatility, is suitable to be used in almost all sorts of waters and has been tested all around the world. Its strong built and fighting butt allows you to catch larger species as well as the ones that put up a fight.

Bottom Line

All in all, this is a justified purchase, and you will definitely not regret it as we believe it will please a lot of anglers. Having an accurate rod that can fulfill its advertisement claims is always a delight, and this rod is just that.

Zone Thomas & Thomas Fly Rod (9' 6wt)

PROS

  • True medium-fast action rod
  • High-quality product which is well worth the money
  • Features anodized aluminum hardware and reel seat
  • Separate models for freshwater and saltwater so specialized
  • All models are handcrafted and come with quality aluminum rod tubes

CONS

  • Not the most aesthetic looking rod
  • Some might consider it to be a tad pricey
  • A little heavier compared to some other products

What Recent Buyers Report

Although this is not the best-looking rod, anglers claim that it works like a fly fishing genie and would use it even if it came in neon pink with rainbow polka dots on it. It has managed to bag more than a few positive reviews from anglers who take fishing pretty seriously. All in all, users have been extremely happy with this fly rod.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The excellent performance of this rod at this price makes it unique and distinct. It provides amazing accuracy, and an experienced angler can cast beyond 80 feet as well. It comes with a lifetime warranty from a well-reputed brand, which always adds reliability to the product.

Who Will Use This Most

This fly rod was built by T&T to target a larger audience by introducing a more budget-friendly model. It is to be used by anglers who do it out of passion but won’t win you any competitions. Casting beyond 60 feet is not something that everyone will be able to manage with a rod; however, an experienced angler can do that too.

Bottom Line

If you are looking for a quality tool built for medium-to-long-distance bonefish on the flats, then this rod is just for you. It will not impress your fashion-conscious friends, but if you are an angler who likes to get the job done and are serious about your fishing game, then you will absolutely love using this.

Advantages of Investing in a Quality Fly Rod

If you are new to the fly fishing game and are just starting out, then you might feel that spending so much on a fly rod is not worth it. However, a good quality model can greatly transform your experience and make you fall in love with this beautiful hobby. Below are some of the reasons why investing in a top-quality product is the right idea:

Increased Durability

Buying a quality fly rod means it has been tested on various occasions and is built from high-quality components. For example, the resin that holds the rod together after countless catches and casts is UV resistant, sturdy, and present in just the right amount, not too heavy yet can hold glass fibers or graphite together.

Performance

How well you do out in the ocean, or the lake largely depends on the kind of fly rod you use. Steelhead fishing is quite challenging and is often quoted to be the ‘fish of a thousand casts.’ However, having the right gear can make that experience not only successful but enjoyable as well, and a good quality rod will do just that.

Longer Lifespan 

Most top quality fly rods come with a lifetime or a substantial warranty. This is a huge factor as any malfunctioning due to manufacturing defaults can be taken care of by the company. This greatly adds to the customers’ satisfaction and the probability of buying the rod.

How to Fly Fish For Steelhead

Going fly fishing for the first steelhead can seem challenging at the beginning; hence we bring you a guide on how to use a fly rod. There are essentially two techniques when it comes to fly fishing-whether you use a single-handed, spey, or a switch rod: Nymphing and Swinging.

For the nymphing technique, you need some equipment beforehand. We have broken down the entire process and the gear you will need below.

  1. You require an 8 weight and 9-10 foot single-handed rod. A weight forward line can work for single-handed rods while the Skagit line would work for a switch rod. The leader has to be double the depth of the water. 

  2. Then you set up the nymphing by using an indicator over your fly with a split shot. Make sure this is located 18 inches over the position of your fly. 

  3. The most recommended pattern is the ‘Go-bug’ pattern; however, stoneflies or others can also be used.

  4. You want to achieve a dead drift or a natural float downstream with the water’s current. 

  5. As the line flows downstream, feed your slack to lengthen the run, and when the line becomes taut under you, stand up for yet another cast up into the slot.

  6. Next, you search for any seam lines the chase. Steelhead is generally found near the shore or in areas where they are able to break things.

Swinging is another technique and is usually considered to be easier than nymphing

  • Firstly, you cast the fly rod
  • Then you give it a little mend
  • You need to make sure that the tip is near the water
  • Finally, you wait for a pull or a tug, signaling a catch

We have added a video for your assistance as a visual guide can prove to be very helpful in providing instructions and solving queries.

Conclusion

While catching steelhead or fly fishing may seem daunting, mastering the art or just catching one is well worth the effort and patience. We have tried to make your experience smoother by educating you on all that you need to know before purchasing the right rod and going fishing. We hope this was helpful. Happy fishing!

People Also Ask

We understand how challenging a task catching steelhead or larger species can be and how your head might be popping with questions. We have tried to answer all your queries beforehand so that you are satisfied and well-informed.

What Weight Fly Rod For Steelhead?

Choosing a fly rod that has the right weight is an extremely important feature that needs consideration. Typically, each type of fly rod, whether it is single-handed, Spey rod, or a switch rod, requires distinct weights. However, a 7-8 weight rod seems to work in most rods and in almost all conditions.

What Size Fly Rod For Steelhead?

What size fly rod you want largely depends on where you intend to fish and what you are looking for, but generally, a 10-11 foot rod proves to be suitable for most anglers. It allows for high casting distances and can make proper line mends.

Does Steelhead Taste Like Salmon?

At first, it may be difficult to distinguish between the tastes of the two, but gradually you will be able to tell the difference. They are similar, but the steelhead has a milder salmon flavor, somewhere between a salmon and a trout. Wild steelhead has a stronger salmon flavor than farmed steelhead.

What is the Best Bait to Catch Steelhead?

Using a natural bait rather than lures is preferred by most anglers mostly because fish have a strong sense of smell, and while the natural bait checks that box, the lure doesn’t work too well in that area. Eggs, Shiners/Minnows, Nightcrawlers, Prawns/Shrimps, or Pink Worms are some of the baits that work effectively.