Best Backpacking Fly Rods
Fly fishing at its finest is usually found as far from civilization as you can get. Here the fish are wild, people are scarce and the landscape is truly amazing. But what do you bring with you to such remote places? Choosing what gear to trek with is a big decision and we want to help make that easier for you. In this review, we go over travel-friendly fly rod options which are aimed for backpacking. This includes a range of price points and styles of rods.
This photo shows a spectrum of standard and travel rods stored and ready to hit the trails. We will review these options in more detail below.
We begin with the standard fly rod, as these rods work well and follow a recipe that anglers know and trust but may or may not be the best for backpacking. The standard fly rod is usually 9ft long, comes in 4 pieces, and the rod travels at ~28” in its case. This large size rarely fits into any proper backpacking pack and instead tends to get strapped to the outside of bags and duffels - certainly not ideal for on the trail or headed through the security line at the airport.
Full kits (rod, reel, line) from $150 - $1500
Full kit travel weight (with case): ~20 - 34oz
Budget Example and Higher End Example
There are also 6, 7 and 8 piece rods that break down smaller for travel. They fit in much smaller cases and can be strapped to the outside of your backpack or even in it depending on how you want to travel. The upside of this style is that they travel small at 16-20” but the downside is that putting together the sections takes a bit more time and finesse in lining up all the guides and snugging each section - keeping you away from the nice spot you picked out. Typically, this style of rod does not come as a kit, so you will likely need to purchase each piece separately to get fully set up.
Full kits (rod, reel, line) from $300 - $1000
Full kit travel weight (with case): ~14 - 18 oz
Examle 8 Piece (rod only)
Next up, the tenkara style rods, a new and common option. This syle does not use a reel and comes in a variety of lengths, between 8 - 14ft. The rods are telescoping and collapse to 18” - 22”. An additional feature is they set up much quicker than a traditional rod. Something unique is the line is secured to the end of the rod which gives you a fixed line length. The benefit here is simplicity, and you manage casting and control of the fly with your rod tip on these longer rods. The noticeable downside of this rod is that you don’t have a reel that would help you change casting distance and wrestle in a fish more efficiently. For example, if you hook a larger fish then you would either need to chase the fish as it goes downstream or become proficient with the rod to bring the fish in quickly without breaking your line.
Full kit (rod, line, no reel) from $175 - $300
Full kit travel weight (with case): ~10 - 14oz
Example full tenkara kit & Our Tenkara Kit
REYR Gear has come out with another option, the First Cast fly rod. This style combines all of the above features and performance to find what we believe is the best middle ground. The First Cast rod collapses like a tenkara to a small 19-19” depending on the model to easily store in your backpack. Another benefit is you can leave your fly tied on during storage so that it is always rigged and ready for action. This rod sets up much faster than other rods and can be ready to cast in about 30 seconds – ideal for backpacking allowing you to check the river along the route or set up easily once you get to camp. In addition to quicker set up time, you also have the benefit of a reel in the kit, so you can vary casting distance and fight that backcountry monster you are hoping for.
Full Kit (rod, reel, line) Cost $279
Full Kit travel weight (with case): 8.5oz - 11oz depending on model
The chart below is a performance comparison of all of the above options rated 1-5 of each category.
This photo lays out a 7 piece travel rod with case on the top, and the REYR Gear rod with case on the bottom.
This video demonstrates a setup comparison between a 7-piece travel rod and the First Cast fly rod:
Another thing to consider is how all of these rods are stored. While preparing for a backpacking trip, every ounce matters! When it comes to hitting the trail, we are all weight weenies, analyzing the weight and performance of everything we would bring. I have tried to leave the case for a traditional fly rod at home to save weight and instead ended up with a broken rod resulting in no fishing on that trip- disappointing to say the least! Thankfully, the way the tenkara style and REYR Gear options collapse protects the rod because the tip and fine sections retract inside the strongest section of the rod. A benefit of this is you can travel without the case and save the weight.
Obviously, as this review is written by REYR Gear, we wanted to lay out the range of rod styles you can choose for backpacking and travel with the intention of highlighting how perfectly designed our rod is for this function. In fact, this idea is the inspiration for founding the company and we truly believe our rod travels better than any other rod on the market does. But you don't just have to take our word for it, be sure to check out these reviews from the outdoor industry.
Have fun planning those adventures out there!
Take your rod, fish along the way, and find those mountain beauties!
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