Fly Fishing Rod and Reel

The Best 9wt Fly Rod (2022 Buyer’s Guide)

Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.

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Do you have a once in a lifetime fly fishing trip planned? Are you in the market for a fly rod that can be used on big freshwater fish? 

This article covers everything you need to know about a 9-weight fly fishing rod. I detail what a 9-weight rod is used for and what to look for when buying one.

I give a rundown of my five best 9wt fly rods on the market.

I also cast my view over some affordable alternatives from the same manufacturers for the budget conscious angler looking to catch those big fish.

If you’re looking for your next fly reel saltwater solution, and an in-depth guide on rods; casts, line, flies and fish – keep on reading. 

The Best From The Review

Editor’s Choice

G Loomis NRX+

Offers incredible performance with durability. The new NRX+ took this to an all-new level.

G Loomis NRX+

It offered incredible performance with durability. The new NRX+ took this to an all-new level.

For those familiar with the previous NRX, the new version has a subtler appearance where G Loomis has left out the bright blue thread wraps on the line guides. Instead, they have opted for more subtle accent wraps in the same color.

The Best Fly Rods

In this section, we look at high performance fly rod manufacturers and their top models in their line.

We examine affordable options from the same manufacturers, which are excellent fly reels saltwater alternatives, and could save you a considerable amount of cash. 

The premium options in a line are generally lighter, are better suited to a fast cast action, and come with premium finishes and components. 

Sage X

The X is constructed using Sage’s KonneticHD technology, which significantly reduces mass and improves blank recovery.

Sage X

Sage makes two saltwater specific fly rods. While these options, namely the Sage Salt HD and the Sage Igniter, are exceptional, one of my favorite 9-weight rods is the Sage X. Sage classifies it as an all-water or multi-application fish rod.

Build

The X is constructed using Sage’s KonneticHD technology, which significantly reduces mass and improves blank recovery. 

The grip is made from Flor grade cork, and the fish fighting butt a combination of EVA foam and cork. The black anodized reel seat incorporates a hidden hook keep. The Sage X is hand-built in Bainbridge Island, WA.

Verdict

The Sage X might not be ideally suited to the hard-core saltwater angler. In this case, a specific saltwater fly rod is more suitable. I recommend the X to the angler who fishes for bonefish and triggerfish a couple of times a year, but needs an excellent fishing tool for big freshwater fish such as golden dorado, salmon, and bass.

Specs

  • Cast Action: Fast
  • Length: 9-foot
  • Mass: 3.69 ounces which is incredibly light for a 9
  • Color: Black Spruce
  • Warranty: Lifetime warranty for the original owner

More affordable option: Sage Foundation

If you would like to own a Sage rod but can’t justify the price, the Sage Foundation might be a viable option. It is constructed using Sage’s Graphite IIIe technology and comes in at a price point that can’t be ignored.

  • Cast Action: Fast
  • Length: 9-foot
  • Mass: 3.94 ounces which is lighter than many premium options
  • Color: Stealth Black
  • Warranty: Lifetime owner to the original rod owner

Orvis Helios 3D

The corrosion-resistant components are perfectly suited to the saltwater environment, which means that you’ll be using the rod for many years to come.

Orvis Helios 3D

The Helios 3D is Orvis’ premium and best saltwater fly rod offering. It replaced the Helios 2 by making the blank lighter, improving recovery speed, and fine tuning cast accuracy. These performance advancements could help the angler make minimal false casts and to cast flies exactly where they need to be to entice a take from fish.

Build

The corrosion-resistant components are perfectly suited to the saltwater environment, which means that you’ll be using the rod for many years to come.

The matte black blank reduces rod glare coming in very handy when targeting skinny water bonefish or weary yellow margin triggerfish. Recoil line guides that bounce back after being bent adds to the durability of the rod.

Options

Orvis also offers the Helios 3D rod in a complete outfit. This outfit includes the Helios 3D rod, Mirage V reel, Orvis Pro Saltwater All-rounder line, 250 yards of 30lb Dacron backing, and an aluminum rod tube.

Downside

The only negative point about the rod is the cosmetic finish. Some fly anglers might not appreciate the modern white finish present just in front of the cork grip. It all boils down to personal preference.

Warranty

The Helios 3D is hand-built in Manchester, VT, and comes with a 25-year warranty to the original owner.

Specs

  • Cast Action: Fast
  • Length: 9-foot
  • Mass: Not disclosed, but it is considerably lighter than the previous Helios 2
  • Color: Matte midnight black
  • Warranty: 25 year Orvis warranty

More affordable option: Orvis Recon

The Orvis Recon is a solid alternative to the Helios 3D. It is made in the same US facility and comes with the same dependable warranty. I would not hesitate to use the Orvis Recon as either a primary or backup rod to once-in-a-lifetime destinations.

  • Cast Action: Fast
  • Length: 9-foot
  • Mass: Not disclosed
  • Color: Matte blue
  • Warranty: 25 year Orvis warranty

Thomas and Thomas Exocett SS

The 9-weight is ultra-light yet has incredible pulling power and this rod performs incredibly well in fighting big fish, even on tougher species such as milkfish.

Thomas and Thomas Exocett SS

The Thomas and Thomas Exocett is a premium and high-performance rod.

The 9-weight is ultra-light yet has incredible pulling power and this rod performs incredibly well to fight heavy fish, even on tougher species such as milkfish.

Options

The rod is available with either Ceramic Titanium Frame or recoil line guides. Both these options are corrosion resistant, where the recoil guides have a slight edge on reliability and durability.

Build

Thomas and Thomas use their StratoTherm Resin system to construct the blanks making the rod extremely strong. The full-wells grip utilizes ultra-premium grade cork and the adequately sized fighting but a combination of cork and rubberized cork.

As with all the Thomas and Thomas products, the Exocett is handcrafted in Greenfield, MA.

Specs

  • Cast Action: Fast
  • Length: 8′ 8"
  • Mass: Not disclosed, but having fished it myself, I would rate it as one of the lighter options on the market
  • Color: Matte Thomas and Thomas blue
  • Warranty: Warranty against any defects in materials or workmanship for the duration of the original owner’s life.

More affordable option: Thomas and Thomas Zone

If the Exocett is slightly out of reach for your budget, the Thomas and Thomas Zone might be perfect for you. The Zone has a somewhat softer tip making super accurate casts at distances under 50-feet possible. 

The components are well selected for the saltwater fishing environment and put together in the same Greenfield, MA, facility. The rod also comes with a lifetime warranty to the original owner.

  • Cast Action: Fast
  • Length: 9-foot
  • Mass: Not disclosed
  • Color: Natural carbon appearance
  • Warranty: Lifetime warranty on the materials and workmanship

Editor’s Choice

G Loomis NRX+

Offers incredible performance with durability. The new NRX+ took this to an all-new level.

G Loomis NRX+

As an ex-saltwater fly fishing guide in Seychelles, the rod that stood out most to me is the old G Loomis NRX. 

It offered incredible performance with durability. The new NRX+ took this to an all-new level.

For those familiar with the previous NRX, the new version has a subtler appearance where G Loomis has left out the bright blue thread wraps on the line guides. Instead, they have opted for more subtle accent wraps in the same color.

Compared to other premium rods in the same price range; the NRX+ has one very stout butt section. However, with the new high-modulus material, this does not add mass but only improves fish fighting ability. If I could choose one rod from our entire list, the NRX+ would be it. Ultimately, it is more than a rod meant for great casts. It is a tool that could catch you many big fish day after day. That’s basically all you need. 

Specs

  • Cast Action: Fast
  • Length: 9-foot
  • Mass: Not disclosed, but it weighs much lighter than it looks
  • Color: Black
  • Warranty: G Loomis warrants the NRX+ for a lifetime of service against defects in workmanship and materials. The warranty must be registered within the first 30 days of purchase.

More affordable option: G Loomis Crosscurrent GLX

Although the CrossCurrent GLX might not be much more affordable than the NRX+. I know many guides and experienced anglers that prefer the CrossCurrent GLX. They are notoriously durable and can pull like a truck. As far as premium and high performance rods go, the GLX is one of the finest options out there. Simply put, it is a rod that will catch you big fish for many years to come. 

  • Cast Action: Fast
  • Length: 9-foot
  • Mass: Not disclosed
  • Color: Brown/Amber color
  • Warranty: Lifetime repairing warranty to the original owner of the rod

Hardy Zephrus

For the angler who is in the market for a premium fly rod, the Hardy Zephrus offers exceptional value. The performance and legendary Hardy durability can be had for much less than the cost of the premium range.

Hardy Zephrus

For the angler who is in the market for a premium fly rod, the Hardy Zephrus offers exceptional value. The performance and legendary Hardy durability can be had for much less than the cost of the premium range.

Build

Hardy uses their Sintrix 440 technology in the blank construction. I think that the metallic blue finish suits the saltwater theme of the rod well. Black recoil line guides do not deform when crushed, making the rod perfect for skiffs. The rod features a high-quality full-wells cork grip and a combination of cork and EVA in the fighting butt.

The Zephrus rod is hand-built in the UK, so having it repaired if you stay in the states will take more time than US-based manufacturers.

Specs

  • Cast Action: Fast
  • Length: 9-foot
  • Mass: 4.5 ounces
  • Color: Metallic blue
  • Warranty: Lifetime warranty to the original owner that must be activated within 60 days after purchase

More affordable option: Hardy Demon

The Hardy Demon comes in at a lower price than the Zephrus. It is constructed in the same UK facility and uses a slightly lower modulus carbon-fiber technology known as Sintrix 330.

  • Cast Action: Fast
  • Length: 9-foot
  • Mass: 4.2 ounces which is lighter than the more expensive Zephrus model
  • Color: Metallic olive
  • Warranty: Lifetime Warranty to the original owner 

What is a 9-weight Rod?

Before we head into what a 9-weight rod is and how it relates to your fly fishing ability, let’s look at the technical details. 

Regardless of any build characteristics and cosmetics, manufacturers design the fly fishing rod for a 9-weight line. 

Is there an approved specification?

According to the approved AFFTA specifications, the first 30 feet of a 9-weight fly line should weigh between 230 and 250 grains

Most ultra-fast modern fly fishing rods are more than capable of casting one, or even two, fly line sizes up – It all boils down to personal preference and intended use.

Now, with the technical jargon out of the way, let’s discuss fish, rods and where they shine.

Target Fish Species

In my opinion, a 9-weight rod is the most versatile rod weight for the salt environment

It is to the saltwater fish what the 5 is to freshwater fish. I’ve seen a 9-weight catch many fish species, including permit, bonefish, various trevally (including Giant Trevally), and triggerfish. 

An Orange Spotted Trevally in the Reefs
An Orange Spotted Trevally (1)

If you’re looking for a rod that can pull hard on fish, casts relatively big flies with ease, but still can look after a 16-pound tippet, the 9-weight is for you – just look at how well it handles a milkfish.

Does a 9-weight Rod Perform in Freshwater?

Yes, a 9-weight rod performs in freshwater environments as well. 

Use the same rod that caught your once-in-a-lifetime permit for big fish species such as golden dorado, salmon, and tigerfish. In these environments it casts aggressive tapered leader lines well, making it possible to deliver larger flies where other options could have struggled. 

Why Not an 8 or 10?

Any angler that frequently travels to remote destinations will know the limitation of packing space. 

Small Cessna planes and overcrowded 12-hour long bus rides could limit your carrying capacity. So taking a rod to suit each scenario and fish isn’t an option.

When I go on any saltwater fishing trip with a strict limit to luggage size, I first pack my 9-weight outfit. It is light in hand, casts heavy flies, and could easily manage big fish.

Basically, it can do everything an 8- or 10-weight can do.

What to Consider When Buying a 9-weight Rod?

You walk into a fly fishing shop, and there are a dozen different options on the rod rack, all with varying line potential – How do you choose weight rods suited to your needs? 

Fly Rod on a drift wood
A Fly Fishing Rod

This section covers what I believe are the most important considerations you need to keep in mind before you fish. 

With this information, you will make an informed decision that won’t let you down somewhere down the line (pardon the pun).

Price

Your budget could play the most significant role when selecting a 9-weight rod. 

If you don’t have an existing outfit, you need to purchase a suitable saltwater fly reel, backing, and weight fly line.

NOTE

I would like to mention that there are many excellent affordable options on the market.

Don’t feel that you need the most expensive rod to catch big fish such as permit and bonefish. I’ve caught bonefish on both a Scott Meridian and a TFO BVK; the fish don’t know the difference.

Casting Style

The second point that will dictate your choice is your casting style. Do you prefer an ultra-fast, fast, or medium-fast action? 

Here are some high-level differences between the three.

NOTE

A rod’s action does not determine its power. 

A fast action rod won’t necessarily have more pulling performance on fish than their medium actioned alternatives. 

Medium-Fast Action

A medium-fast action will suit most anglers, especially beginners.

Man Casting His Rod
Man Casting His Fly Rod

It provides ample feedback during the casting stroke, which allows the caster to feel it loading. However it cannot produce the higher line speeds that faster action alternatives do.

This characteristic makes it less popular for the salt flats scenario. However, it could work perfectly well in freshwater applications.

Fast Action

Fast action is ideal for the saltwater environment

The high line speeds allow the angler to present giant flies and help the line cut through windy conditions better. 

The downside is that it provides less feel, making it more suitable for the experienced caster with perfect timing and double-haul.

TIP

The high line speeds allow the angler to present massive flies and help the line cut into the wind better. 

The last big tarpon fish I caught (weighing in excess of 150lb) was on a fiberglass 12wt. I managed to land it in less time than big fish that were caught on a fast action carbon rod. For tarpon anglers, in case you want fly rods for tarpon, check out my Best Tarpon Fly Rod review.

Ultra-fast Action

Ultra-fast rods take fast action one step further and enable the angler to gain even more line speed and narrow down loop size. 

These are only for the most experienced caster.

I regularly refer to an ultra-fast action rod as a broomstick, as they prove very little to no casting feedback. Although it is tough to get used to an ultra-fast stick, the high line speed makes it possible to deliver large flies.

Watch these video to know the basics of Fly Casting:

Fly Casting Basics

Segments/Pieces

Most modern 9-weight’s are 9-foot in length and broken up into four sections. 

A rigid tube stores these sections and is of an ideal size to transport in a suitcase or in the back of your car.

Some manufacturers build a single piece variation as well. This configuration is ideal if you are a guide or outfitter that needs a dependable rod and never takes it apart.

In my experience, I find a single piece casts beautifully. The absence of ferrules helps to create a smooth and even power delivery. It is also a pleasure to catch fish in a single piece as the pulling force is exerted and distributed throughout the entire blank.

Corrosion Resistance

If your 9-weight spends no time in the salt environment, this topic could be of less importance to you. 

However, corrosion resistance is one of the most critical design aspects of saltwater fly rods. Ensure that the components are selected to suit the environment.

It is good practice to get in the habit of cleaning both your fly rod and reel with fresh water after every day’s use. Once a week, take it apart and clean the reel seat, ferrules, and line guides thoroughly. 

NOTE

This routine will help to keep it performing as it should for many years to come.

After Sales Service and Warranty

The nature of the destinations we choose to fish and the species we target could put a toll on gear. 

NOTE

Fly rods break. It happens. 

You either break a rod tip while you catch a trophy bonefish on a DIY trip in Belize or step on the mid-section of your new Sage while on a skiff (been there, done that, got the T-shirt). 

It helps to have the peace of mind that you can have your rod repaired should you suffer from this misfortune.

Screw Driver and Warranty Seal
Screw Driver and Warranty Seal (2)

The options featured in the 9-Weight Rods below come with dependable after-sales service and a top-notch warranty. If you’re looking at buying any other make or model, do your research well before the time.

Which rod in the list would I choose? 

I hope that you found this article insightful. At the end of the day, choosing a 9-weight to fish with is a personal choice. However, with the information shared with you, I am sure that you’ll be able to make a more informed decision.

In my personal opinion, the best 9wt fly rod on our list is the NRX+. Due to the remoteness of the destinations you could travel to. For that you’re going to need a reliable line.

Please share this article with friends who fish and leave me a line or questions at the bottom of the page. I would love to hear what your best 9wt fly rod is and where you use it.


(1) “Orange-spotted Trevally – Carangoides bajad” by zsispeo is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

(2) “Warranty Void if Seal Broken” by eirikso is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.
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