Top 5 Best Backpacking Fly Rod (2021 Backpacker’s Buying Guide)

Backpacking is one of the most adventurous and fun ways to fly fish – The rewards are endless.

Not only do you get deep into nature and far from civilization.

It’s also one of the best ways to get to untouched water with larger fish that are less pressured and more likely to eat.

Your catch rate can skyrocket out in the backcountry but you’ll need to bring the right backpacking fishing tackle along with you to be successful,

The rod you choose is one of the most important factors.

Here is a quick look at the top three best backpacking rods on our list…

The Best From The Review

Top Pick

TFO Lefty Kreh Pro Series II

Lefty is one of the top fly fishermen in the world and his input into this rod’s design has made it one of the top all-rounders for any kind of fly fishing.

TFO Lefty Kreh Pro Series II

The top rod has to be the TFO Lefty Kreh Professional Series II.

It’s affordable, durable, packs down small, is a joy to cast with, and is the ideal choice in terms of versatility. It also has a weight range to cover most species and environments.

The only downside is that you’ll have to add a rod tube to your order.With that, you’re still getting an amazing deal.

Best Value

Redington Rod Reel Combo Kit

This rod reel combo is an ideal setup for beginners. The rod is durable, well-made but forgiving of any casting errors.

Redington Rod Reel Combo Kit

The top rod for anyone on a budget is the Redington Path II rod reel combo.

You get everything you need to get on the trail with this rod reel combo and it has the lowest price in the review.

The rod is portable, durable, casts well, and is forgiving for beginners too.

Editor’s Choice

G Loomis NRX+ Fly Rod

If you’re looking for something rugged and durable that’ll be with you for life, then the NRX is a solid choice.

G Loomis NRX+ Fly Rod

I always choose G. Loomis. I have been fishing an NRX for years which is why I would pick the NRX +.

Using a 4wt NRX I managed to land a 14lb seatrout in Iceland, any other 4wt would have broken- not this rod.

It’s the top-performing rod in the entire review and maybe, the world, with unmatched design, durability, and castability.

With a NRX+ in your hands, you truly know you’re fishing to the highest level you possibly can.

Our Top Backpacking Rods

Top Pick

TFO Lefty Kreh Professional Series II

Lefty is one of the top fly fishermen in the world and his input into this rod’s design has made it one of the top all-rounders for any kind of fly fishing.

TFO Lefty Kreh Professional Series II

TFO makes great rods and they took the advice of Left Kreh to help make the Pro Series II.

Design

Lefty is one of the top fly fishermen in the world and his input into this rod’s design has made it one of the top all-rounders for any kind of fly fishing.

The Pro Series II comes in weights ranging from 2-10wt, so you can pick whichever one is right for the species you’re after.

Beginner Friendly

It’s a forgiving rod that is great for beginners, casts well, and with awesome accuracy.

At this price range, you’re also getting a great deal, and in my eyes, the quality is worth more than what you’ll pay.

Build

The rod is made from a graphite blank for lightweight, durable performance. It comes with an anodized aluminum reel seat and guides that are strong and corrosion-resistant for life on a saltwater or freshwater trail.

The rod packs down into 4 pieces and comes with a travel sock making it portable and packable – You’ll need to find a protective case for it as it doesn’t come with one.

The model chosen below is a 5wt, the ideal all-round size for freshwater fishing in lakes and rivers.

Versatile

You can fish for most freshwater species with it, but you might want something heavier for largemouth bass.

You can up the line weight to a 6 weight line to fish some extra distance or to turn over larger flies more easily.

TFO’s warranty isn’t quite as good as other brands like Sage or G.Loomis.

They only cover manufacturer defects whereas Sage will fix your rod for free if it breaks by accident.

Specs

  • Model: TF05904P2
  • Weight: 5 wt
  • Length: 9 ft
  • Line: 5/6 wt
  • Action: medium-fast
  • Pieces: 4
  • Rod Tube: No

Pros

  • Packs down nice and small
  • Forgiving and ideal for fly fishing abilities
  • Affordable
  • Casts well and accurately
  • Comes with a great reel seat and guides
  • Made to be durable
  • Can be used in any environment
  • Comes with a no-fault lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a protective rod tube
  • Warranty isn’t as good as other manufacturers

Sage FOUNDATION Fly Rod

It’s ideal for use on bigger rivers and lakes as the extra weight will give you the casting distance you need. It is an expensive rod, but for the quality, it’s worth every penny.

Sage FOUNDATION Fly Rod

Sage is notorious in the fly fishing industry for making some of the top rods to ever hit the water, like the Sage Salt.

Design

The quality and design of their rods are impressive.

If it’s high-quality performance with excellent casting distance and accuracy you’re after, Sage is a great place to start.

The Foundation is all about performance.

Build

It’s made from Graphite IIIe Technology and comes with a fast action to give you effortless line control and casting distance.

It comes in a range of sizes from a 4wt-8wt, covering everything you need for freshwater and the lighter end of the salt too. An 8wt is the ideal size for chasing bonefish, redfish, and snook on the flats.

It comes with top quality Fuji ceramic guides that are ideal for frictionless casting and an anodized aluminum up-locking reel seat that keeps your rod and reel locked together at all times.

Model

The model below is a 6wt and it’s ideal for use on bigger rivers and lakes as the extra weight will give you the casting distance you need.

You can also use it for smaller streams, as it still performs brilliantly for short tight casts. It packs down into 4 pieces in the included rod tube making it safe and easy to take backpacking.

It is an expensive rod, but for the quality, it’s worth every penny. Plus you’re getting a rod with a lifetime warranty.

It might be a little unforgiving for beginners but after a while, it’ll improve your casting.

Specs

  • Model: 691-4
  • Weight: 6 wt
  • Length: 9 ft
  • Line: 6/7 wt
  • Action: Fast
  • Pieces: 4
  • Rod Tube: Yes

Pros

  • Comes with a tube for safe travels
  • Packs down small and is easy to collapse
  • Awesome quality and performance
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Made for use in salt and freshwater

Cons

  • A little expensive if you don’t fish often
  • Maybe a little stiff for beginners

Orvis Recon Fly Rod

Designed to fish any kind of freshwater in any way, and makes light work of it too.

Orvis Recon Fly Rod

The Orvis Recon Rod is made to be the freshwater all-round rod.

It has been designed to fish any kind of freshwater in any way, and makes light work of it too.

Price 

It is an expensive rod but these are the kinds of prices for rods of this quality.

It does come with a 25-year guarantee – so think of it as more of an investment.

Being a freshwater rod, it’s only available is 3-6wt options, so if you’re looking for a saltwater rod you can skip on down.

Build

The rod is made from graphite and comes with a nickel reel seat, silver snake and stripping guides.

All these together form a super-durable rod that performs excellently.

The reel seat keeps your reel in place, the guides reduce friction for casting and stripping, and the blank makes it cast like a dream.

Bear in mind, It might be a little stiff for beginners to use at first.

The Recon packs down into 4 pieces and comes with an aluminum rod tube for safe traveling. You can easily slot in down the side of your backpack without any worries.

Model

The model below is a 5wt and perfect for all kinds of freshwater fishing, especially trout fishing.

Specs

  • Model: Recon 865-4
  • Weight: 5 wt
  • Length: 8’6”
  • Line: 5/6 wt
  • Action: Fast
  • Pieces: 4
  • Rod Tube: Yes

Pros

  • Packs down small
  • Comes with a tube for safe travels
  • Versatile for use across multiple species
  • Made from a durable graphite blank
  • Excellent casting distance and accuracy
  • Can be used in fresh or saltwater
  • Comes with a 25-year guarantee

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not very forgiving
  • Beginners may struggle at first

Best Value

Redington Path Fly Rod Kit

This rod reel combo is an ideal setup for beginners. The rod is durable, well-made but forgiving of any casting errors.

Redington Path Fly Rod Kit

When looking for travel rods for fly fishing, you often find rod reel combo kits like this one from Redington.

It’s a handy way to get everything you need for a small price.

This rod reel combo includes a Path II rod, Crosswater reel, rod case, and a Rio fly line for an inexpensive amount of money.

Beginner Friendly

This rod reel combo comes with a line and is an ideal setup for beginners. The rod is durable, well-made but forgiving of any casting errors.

It’ll allow a novice to enjoy their time on the water without much frustration.

The rod packs down into 4 pieces for portability and comes with a rio fly line and a tube that has a compartment for the reel, making it even easier to pack into your backpack.

Weight

The combo only comes as a 5wt, the ideal weight for all-round freshwater fishing in lakes and rivers, so you can target a huge amount of species with this one rod.

Line and Reel

The included line is alright considering the price of the bundle

Unfortunately, the reel isn’t great and this is often the case with rod reel combos.

The reel should be fine for a while but you’ll want to upgrade it to a better reel quite quickly.

The reel could break when you’re days into a backpacking trip and leave you stranded, make sure you take a spare reel along with the included one.

Specs

  • Model: 590-4 Path II
  • Weight: 5 wt
  • Length: 9 ft
  • Line: 5/6 wt
  • Action: medium-fast
  • Pieces: 4
  • Rod Tube: Yes

Pros

  • Comes with a rod reel and Rio line
  • Great price
  • Casts nicely and accurately
  • Forgiving for use by beginners
  • Made from a tough & durable graphite blank
  • Lifetime warranty
  • The rod case has a reel compartment

Cons

  • The fly reel is of poor quality and may break quickly
  • Upgrade the line after a while

Editor’s Choice

G Loomis NRX+ Fly Rod

If you’re looking for something rugged and durable that’ll be with you for life, then the NRX is a solid choice.

G Loomis NRX+ Fly Rod

Once you fish a G. Loomis, you’ll never want to go back.

That’s what happened to me anyway. The only issue I have is affording them.

Quality

The NRX+ is one of their most famous rods because it simply doesn’t break while performing to the highest expectations.

If you’re looking for something rugged and durable that’ll be with you for life, then the NRX is a solid choice.

It’ll be your companion on hundreds of adventures and never let you down, no matter the size of the fish or the abuse it takes.

The NRX+ comes in every size from 2-14wt so you can pick one to match your needs perfectly.

Build

The rods are made from a proprietary resin that reduces their weight by 15% while making them more durable.They’re also incredibly accurate and well balanced to take your casting to the next level.

They cast long, short, here, there and everywhere with absolute precision.

Reel Seat

Not only are they like magic wands, they also come with incredible guides and a top-notch reel seat.

You can sit comfortably knowing your reel is safe and isn’t going anywhere, even if you bang your reel on rocks chasing a fish.

The model below is an 8wt. It’s ideal for flats fishing for bonefish, snook, redfish, small permit, and small tarpon.

It’s also a great weight for fishing larger fliers on big lakes for bass or musky.

Specs

  • Model: NRX+ 890-4
  • Weight: 8 wt
  • Length: 9 ft
  • Action: Fast
  • Pieces: 4
  • Rod Tube: Yes

Pros

  • Almost unbreakable design for putting pressure on fish
  • Packs down small into protective rod case
  • Increases your casting distance and accuracy
  • Light for easy carrying and casting
  • Use in fresh or saltwater
  • Ideal for larger species like tarpon and permit
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Very expensive

What Is A Backpacking Fly Rod? 

Bag and Fly Fishing Gear
Bag and Fly Fishing Gear

A backpacking fly fishing travel rod is a portable, collapsible fly rod.

You’ll have to carry it a long way for a long time, so it needs to fit into your backpack safely, conveniently, and not add too much extra weight.

To do this, the travel rod will need to be able to break down into several pieces, so you’re not walking around with a delicate pole tied on to your bag.

Are Collapsible Rods Better? 

Collapsible rods are much better to use as a travel rod simply for convenience.

It saves you carrying around a 9 ft rod.

It breaks down into 4 pieces to fit into a 3ft rod tube that can easily pack into your luggage.

If you want to know more about the pros and cons of telescopic rods, check out the video below

Are Telescopic Fishing Rods Okay to Use?

Transport

This’ll make transport easier such as, checking it in on a plane, and getting it everywhere safely.

In terms of performance, multiple piece rods are a little worse than an one-piece rod.

However, the difference is negligible and the benefits of portability far outweigh the slight drop in performance.

Do You Need A Backpacking Rod? 

In a word, yes.

If you want to go and fish all the amazing waters the world has to offer, you’re going to need a fly rod you can travel with.

It gives you access to some of the most remote fly fishing waters in every part of the world, from the upper reaches of your local river that no one hikes into, or to an unexplored atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

The Advantages Of Backpacking Rods

Fishing Backpack on Top of Logs
Fishing Backpack on Top of Logs

We have already discussed a few of them, but there are a few more advantages to travel rods. 

  • They give you access to fly fishing waters anywhere in the world
  • Pack down small to slip into your bag, check-in luggage, and carry on luggage
  • You can pick specs to suit where you’re going.
  • Comes with a protective tube to get from A to B safely
  • They perform excellently
  • Add a new level of fun and adventure to your fishing world
  • You can find and access waters in your backyard with easier and larger fish

What Makes The Best Backpacking Rod?

The best fly rod for backpacking will have a range of features that suits: travel, your fly fishing skill level, the fish species you’re after, and the environments they live in.

It’ll also be versatile enough to use across a range of species and environments too. 

You can use one rod for a lot of adventures rather than needing one for each of them. 

What To Look For in A Fly Fishing Backpacking Rod

What Species Are You Targeting? 

The first thing to think about is what species of fish you’re going after as this’ll indicate what kind of fly rod you can use. Is it a big saltwater fish, trout in lakes and/or streams, salmon, steelhead? 

Once you have the target fish figured out, you can pick the type of fly rod you want to take with you on your adventure. 

Type Of Fly Rods

To make this simple, we’re going to break it down into 3 types of fly rod.

 You can choose from:

  • A single-handed rod (the norm), 
  • A Spey rod, 
  • A Tenkara rod.

All of the above break down for easy backpacking. 

When choosing a rod your choice should be based on the species you’re after, and the environment they’re in.

I recommend the normal single-handed fly rod for versatility, you can do everything with them.

Single Handed Rod

Man Fly Fishing at a River.jpg
Man Fly Fishing at a River.jpg

A single-handed rod is your usual fly rod and can be used to target any species as long as you’ve the right weight rod to handle them.

They’re by far the best fly rods for versatile and can be used everywhere from lakes, streams, and big rivers- to the flats and offshore.

Spey Rod

Spey Casting on a River

Spey rods are a specific type of rod used for steelhead and salmon.

They’re longer than a single-handed fly rod and are designed for casting immense distances over 100ft across large rivers that salmon and steelhead migrate up every year to spawn in.

Spey casting is a special kind of casting, and if you don’t know how to do it, it’s better to stay clear of these – unless you’re planning to learn of course.

Tenkara Rod 

Man Fishing with a Tenkara Rod
Man Fishing with a Tenkara Rod

Tenkara rods are a Japanese style of fly fishing rod. 

They’re about 10ft long, pack down small, and require no fly reel. 

Instead of using a fly reel, they come with a small spool of line that gives you about 35 ft of casting distance. 

Having no reel does limit your casting distance as you’d get up to 100 ft with a Spey or normal fly rod, and if you hook a fish of 3lbs or over, you don’t have a reel to fight it on.

Not having to carry a reel does add an element of portability though. 

NOTE

They’re ideal for targeting small species like trout in small rivers and lakes where you only have to cast short distances, but this is all they’re good for as the lack of reel limits your options a lot.

Portability 

Whichever type of fly fishing rod you choose, they’ve to be portable to be suitable for backpacking – therefore need to be multiple piece rods.

As a general rule, you’ll need the type of multiple piece rods that collapses down into a minimum of 4 pieces.

This’ll make the stored length of the rod around 3ft making it easy to slot into your bag. 

Fly Rod Weight 

This defines how strong the rod is, what species it is suited for, and what weight line you can use with it

Fly rods come in a weight (wt) class ranging from 1-16wt:

  • 1-7 wt rods are great for freshwater species like trout and bass.
  • 8-12 wt rods are ideal for flats fishing and targeting redfish, bonefish, snook, permit, and tarpon.
  • 12-16 wt rods are for offshore fly fishing when you’re going for giants like sailfish, marlin, tuna, and more.

Pick The Right Weight For Your Chosen Species.

If you’re most likely going to be fishing for trout and other small species in lakes and streams, a 5wt will do it all.

If you want some versatility for flats fishing, I’d suggest a 9/10 wt that’ll cover everything you might see except for larger fish like big tarpon.

Fly Line

Fly Fishing Reel
Fly Fishing Reel

The weight (wt) line you need will be decided by the weight of the fly rods you choose – You must match the weights of the rod and line.

7 weight fly rods need a 7 weight line to balance them to cast effectively.

You can go one up and pair 7 weight fly fishing rods with an 8 weight line if you want a bit more distance and to punch into the wind.

Environment

You’ll also need to pick the right type of line for your environment.

There are quite a few to choose from but there are only three other things you need to get right other than matching the line with the weight of the rod.

  • Pick a freshwater line for freshwater
  • Pick a saltwater line for saltwater 
  • Pick a WF (weight forward) line to make casting easier

Tips 

Here are some tips for taking your fishing gear backpacking, and making sure you don’t miss anything.

  • Make sure your rod is in a protective rod tube.
    A tube that can fit both your rod and reel is ideal.
  • Pack the rod tube down the side of the backpack using the external straps and the water bottle pockets on the side.
    This makes it easy to access and saves space inside for other gear. 
  • Bring extras; A spare fly line, a spare rod tip, spare leader materials, a range of tippets from 4-8x, lots of flies.

The last thing you want is to get caught short after hiking for 3 days to some magical trout water. Things like an extra rod tip and fly line can save your bacon.

  • Have a day fly box and a stored fly box so you don’t have to carry everything while fishing.
  • Just pick a selection of the top flies for your day box and top up when you need to.
  • Pack all your fishing gear including your reel in a separate bag that goes into your backpack.
  • This’ll keep your fishing gear neat and tidy, and when you need to access it, it’s all in one place.

Packing Up 

Every rod is the review is a solid choice for backpacking. 

They’re all portable, easy to carry, and will fit into your backpack with ease – If you’re still struggling to decide, here is some advice.

Top Pick

For an all-round rod for any situation, pick the TFO Lefty Kreh Pro II. 

It’ll do everything you need it to whether you’re backpacking around the flats or the mountains.

It’s not worth spending more when this rod is around unless you’re looking for the highest possible performance.

Best Value

For a deal that gets you fishing on a budget, the Redington Path II combo is a great choice. 

The rod is portable, durable, casts well, and is great for all fly fishing abilities.

Plus it comes with a reel and line to get you on the water as soon as it gets delivered.

Editor’s Choice

For the pros out there who want the maximum from a rod, you know the NRX+ is the way to go.

It outperforms all the other rods and will get you fishing to the highest level possible.

Your casting distance and accuracy will break old boundaries with this fine-tuned portable rod that can take you anywhere.

Time To Get Going

I hope this has helped you find the fly rod for your next off-the-charts adventure.

Great fly fishing lives in the most pristine parts of the planet.

The experiences you have out there, the nature you experience, and the people you meet along the way are unforgettable. I can’t encourage traveling to fish enough.

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