Best Fly Rod For Nymphing (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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Nymph fishing is an exceptionally productive way to fish for trout but in order to take your success rates to the max, you’re going to need a nymphing fly rod. 

A nymphing rod provides you with extra sensitivity for strike detection and also allows you to cover more water with a longer leader in order to trick wily spooky trout. 

Which rod is best? That’s what we are here to find out. 

The Best From The Review

Here are some of the best nymphing fly rods from this article:

Top Pick

TFO Drift Rod

It’s made from a quality graphite blank that is durable and overall gives you a great balance and feel for effortless but forgiving casting.

TFO Drift Rod

If I had to pick a rod from the review to do it all with, it would have to be the TFO Drift. 

You literally get 4 rods in one with this set-up and you can use it for every kind of fishing style from nymphs to dries. 

It’s the ideal weight and you can pick your length for each situation, so you’re always covered. It’s pretty affordable, durable, and comes with a no-fault lifetime warranty. 

Best Value

Echo Carbon XL

They come with a medium-fast action that provides delicate presentation so you don’t spook fish, and great sensitivity for feeling every bite.

Echo Carbon XL

The top rod for those on a budget or looking for value would have to be the Echo Carbon XL. 

You get a durable, well-performing set-up that is the ideal length and weight for every kind of nymph style. You might not get the same performance as an expensive rod, but it’s not a big deal if you’re only fishing 30 days in a year. 

Editor’s Choice

Sage ESN

The Sage ESN rods are made to euro-nymph with but also work well for any nymph fishing style that takes your fancy.

Sage ESN

In a situation where the money is no object, I’d pick the Sage ESN. 

It is the most expensive by a long way, by a few hundred dollars, but it also performs better than any of the others

The blank, the castability, and the weight are all designed to give you incredible accuracy and sensitivity so you can put every cast where it needs to be, and feel every bite that comes from them, to take your success to the next level.

Our Top Fly Rods For Nymphing

Top Pick

TFO Drift Rod

It’s made from a quality graphite blank that is durable and overall gives you a great balance and feel for effortless but forgiving casting.

TFO Drift Rod

Length and Material

The TFO Drift rods are special as they can be converted to multiple different lengths with its 6 pieces to give you 9′,10′,11′, 12’6″ for any kind of style that suits the moment. 

RECOMMENDATION

You can stick with 9 ft to fish a dry fly, and up it to start to nymph, making it ready for any situation.

It’s made from a quality graphite blank that is durable and overall gives you a great balance and feel for effortless but forgiving casting. 

Sensitivity

The end is sensitive for feeling every subtle bite, and it provides tippet protection to make sure your leader lasts a long time and doesn’t snap when you hook up on a big 4lbs fish. 

Casting and Weight

It comes with a removable butt section, that lets you balance the rod at differing weights, ensuring you get the most delicate and accurate casts possible whether you’re fishing a nymph or a dry fly. 

Being a 3 weight, it’s the ideal weight for days of constant casting on the water, plus you’ll feel the fun in the fight of every size fish from 1lb and up. 

Downside

The only annoying thing about the TFO Drift is carrying the case and other sections around with you the whole time to adjust the lengths as you go. The case is quite large to slot into your backpack too. 

TIP

You can get around this by carrying a smaller tube for the extra pieces that you’re not using that slots into your backpack with ease. 

Specs

  • Model: TF03906D
  • Weight: 3wt
  • Length: 9′,10′,11′, 12’6"
  • Line: 3/4 wt
  • Action: Medium
  • Pieces: 4/5/6
  • Rod Tube: Yes

Pros

  • 4-rod lengths in one package
  • Ideal for all styles of nymph fly fishing
  • Well balanced and forgiving to cast with
  • Ultra-sensitive tip for detecting every bite
  • Light for tireless fishing days
  • Removable butt section
  • Accurate and subtle
  • No-fault lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Have to carry the rod tube to extend or shorten
  • Rod case is hard to slip into your backpack

Editor’s Choice

Sage ESN

The Sage ESN rods are made to euro-nymph with but also work well for any nymph fishing style that takes your fancy.

Sage ESN

The Sage ESN rods are made to euro-nymph with but also work well for any nymph fishing style that takes your fancy. 

The combination of a 3 weight with the long 10’6″ length makes it perfect for reaching the right water with just your leader and keeping the rod high enough to ensure you have a direct connection between the fly and the rod. 

NOTE

It’s made from a high-quality graphite blank that includes Sage’s KonneticHD Technology

This allows the rod to recover quickly after bending by reducing lateral and medial movement and vibrations to give you accurate and efficient presentation, upping your casting considerably. 

This rod is also exceptionally light…

This rod is also exceptionally light so you can cast all day long without any aches, and has a sensitive tip for feeling every bite thanks to the fast action. 

The ESN rods come with top quality reel seats and guides, plus a lifetime warranty. So, while they are expensive, you get a rod for life. 

Specs

  • Model: 3106-4
  • Weight: 3wt
  • Length: 10’6"
  • Line: 3/4 wt
  • Action: Medium
  • Pieces: 4
  • Rod Tube: Yes

Pros

  • Good length for extra reach
  • Light for tireless fishing days
  • Top-quality KonnecticHD Technology graphite blank
  • Great for accurate casts
  • Sensitive for noticing the subtlest bites
  • Top draw reel seat and guides
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Expensive

Orvis Clearwater

Rods are made from durable high-performance graphite blanks with a composite top piece of extra durability. The composite top piece is made from a mixture of graphite and fiberglass that makes it very bendy but much harder to snap

Orvis Clearwater

The Orvis Clearwater comes in every weight and length from 2-12wt and is Orvis’s solution to providing a quality rod series at an affordable price

NOTE

They even included a 10ft 3 weight just for fishing nymphs. 

Material and Length

These rods are made from durable high-performance graphite blanks with a composite top piece of extra durability. The composite top piece is made from a mixture of graphite and fiberglass that makes it very bendy but much harder to snap. 

The length is ideal for all styles of nymph fishing and it’s light and sensitive for tireless but successful days on the water. 

Casting

The rods cast nicely, are pretty accurate, and are forgiving for every ability of fisherman. They aren’t as high-performing as more expensive rods. 

Overall

It’s an excellent series of quality rods for the money that comes with good reel-seats, guides, and a 25-year guarantee. Some complain that there isn’t a hook keeper but these days most people keep their hooks on the guides. 

Specs

  • Model: 103-4
  • Weight: 3 wt
  • Length: 10 ft
  • Line: 3/4 wt
  • Action: Fast
  • Pieces: 4
  • Rod Tube: Yes

Pros

  • Good length euro-nymphing rod
  • Sensitive for strike detection
  • Durable high-performance graphite blank
  • Composite tip for extra durability
  • Good for accurate casts
  • Great price
  • 25-year guarantee

Cons

  • No hook keeper included
  • Not as well performing as more expensive rods

Best Value

Echo Carbon XL

They come with a medium-fast action that provides delicate presentation so you don’t spook fish, and great sensitivity for feeling every bite.

Echo Carbon XL

Another series of affordable quality rods is Echo’s Carbon XL range. 

Material

These rods are made from a durable lightweight carbon fiber blank to give your arm a break for those long days on the water. 

Casting and Action

The rods are nice to fish with and provide great casting accuracy for those short-range river casts of 40ft and below you’ll be doing while fishing nymphs. 

They come with a medium-fast action that provides delicate presentation so you don’t spook fish, and great sensitivity for feeling every bite

Length

Being a 10ft 3 weight, it’s the ideal length and weight for all styles of nymph fishing and suits every kind of water too. It’s light for a sensitive feel and is long enough to euro-nymph with or nymph with or without a strike indicator. 

Inclusions

The rods come with an anodized aluminum reel seat and great guides that’ll last a long time without any worry of corrosion or failure. Echo even added a 20-inch fish mark so you can quickly see the size of the trout you’ve landed without taking the fish out of the water. 

The rods also include a lifetime warranty against any manufacturer defects so they should last a lifetime with care. 

Downside

The only downside to the rods is that they aren’t as high-performing as more affordable options, but this won’t be too obvious, and if you’re looking to save a bit of cash the Echo Carbon XL is a great choice.

Specs

  • Model: XL103-4
  • Weight: 3 wt
  • Length: 10 ft
  • Line: 3/4 wt
  • Action: Medium-fast
  • Pieces: 4
  • Rod Tube: Yes

Pros

  • 20-inch fish mark for measuring your catch
  • High performing durable carbon fiber blank
  • Excellent reel seat and guides
  • Great length euro-nymphing rod
  • Great for mid-range 40 ft accurate casts
  • Affordable price
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Not as well performing as more expensive rods

Redington Hydrogen

Made from a quality graphite blank that is not only tough but provides pinpoint accuracy thanks to its excellent tracking and tuned medium-fast action construction.

Redington Hydrogen

The Redington Hydrogen rod is one that takes things to the next level in terms of low weight. It’s the lightest rod in its class. If you love to fish long and hard on the water, this might be the one rod that’ll make sure your arm can keep up. 

Material

It’s made from a quality graphite blank that is not only tough but provides pinpoint accuracy thanks to its excellent tracking and tuned medium-fast action construction

Casting

With this rod, you can put a seriously accurate cast anywhere on the water within around 40ft, which is all you need when fishing a nymph.

Length and Weight

The model I have chosen below is one for you technical nymphers – It’s 11ft 2 weight, so is the longest and lightest rods to fish with from the review. 

This combination makes it ideal for tactical, delicate, nymphing where subtlety is of the utmost importance. You’ll be able to fish a longer leader and cast more delicately in order not to scare any trout. 

NOTE

The rod is even matt-finished to stop any glare reflecting on the water and spooking any fish. 

Drawback

The only downside for some are the hook holder and that it’s a little too tailored to tactical situations.

It’s more of a rod you have in your quiver for a certain time rather than a one rod meets all nymphing situations kind of set up. 

Specs

  • Model: 211-4
  • Weight: 2 wt
  • Length: 11 ft
  • Line: 2 wt
  • Action: Medium-fast
  • Pieces: 4
  • Rod Tube: Yes

Pros

  • Lightest rod for fatigue-less fishing
  • Exceptionally sensitive to every bite
  • Awesome length euro-nymphing rod
  • Great accuracy over short-mid distances of up to 40ft
  • Awesome reach for subtle casting of longer leaders
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons

  • No hook holder included
  • Only for very tactical situations

What Is Nymph Fly Fishing/Nymphing? 

Hand Casting with Both Hands
Man Casting a Fly Rod

If you are new to fly fishing or haven’t gotten into the nymphing game yet, you might not know what it is. 

Nymphing fishing is a type of fly fishing that you do in rivers, streams, and lakes with a trout rod using flies known as nymphs. 

What’s a Nymph Fly? 

In nature, a nymph is an insect larva that is in its aquatic nymphal stage. This means it lives underwater.

If you go to a river or lake and turn over a rock, you’re likely to see little black insects scurrying around and they are most often nymphs.

These are one the first stages of insect growth that eventually turn into the flies you see flying around the water surface. 

A nymph fly is made to replicate what a natural nymph looks like underwater. They range in colors and/or sizes, to match whatever is around at the time and often come with a weighted head to help them sink. 

How To Fish A Nymph 

When nymph fishing you’ll need to try and place the nymph in front of a trout without it noticing. This involves casting your nymph upstream and letting it sink and come down with the current into the feeding zone of the trout you’re trying to catch. 

TIP

You’ll have to work out the sink rates in order to make sure the nymph is at the right depth for the trout to see it. 

If the trout does eat your nymph, the bite can be hard to notice – you should strike if you see your line stop or move upstream in any way. 

There are a lot of different types of nymph fishing styles, some involve the basic approach above, others use strike indicators for bite detection, some people high stick, and then there is euro-nymphing. 

Here’s a video to learn more about Nymphing.

How To fly fish Nymphs or Nymphing

Strike Indicator Nymph Method

This method involves putting a strike indicator on your leader so you can see every subtle fish bite. 

NOTE

The indicator acts as a float and is brightly colored so you can see it. 

Once you have cast your line out it’ll bob downstream and tell you when you have a bite by being pulled underwater. This is your cue to strike and hook the fish. 

You can adjust where you put the strike indicator on your leader so you can fish varying depths too.

What’s Euro Nymphing?

Euro nymphing is derived from competition fly fishing where strike indicators are not allowed and the nymph angler has to feel every bite without one. 

This forced anglers to find new and more productive ways to fish a nymph in order to up their strike detection. 

Euro nymphing is done by casting upstream with a heavy nymph that sinks quickly. You then let it drift downstream while holding all your fly lines off the water by keeping your rod high. 

NOTE

By euro-nymphing you get a direct connection between your rod tip, leader, and the fly, so you can feel a bite instead of having to see it on a strike indicator or when your line moves.

It’s this that makes euro-nymphing so effective, you feel every bite and can fish water very intensely as you’re only making short casts. 

You can only do it properly with euro-nymphing rods. 

Do You Need A Special Rod For Nymphing?

You can use any fly rods from the fly shop as nymphing rods. 

For example, your standard 5 wt at 9ft long will do the job

However, having the right weight rod and the right length nymphing rod will make your life on the water more successful.

Rod for Fly fishing
Holding A Fly Fishing Rod

A light rod, like a 3 weight fly rod combined with some extra length, to around 10ft or more, is the ideal nymph fishing rod set-up. 

A lighter weight rod makes it more sensitive to bites in the tip section and you’ll be able to cast more delicately so as not to spook any fish.

The extra length gives you more reach for casting a long leader, which is key in euro nymphing rods as you’re trying not to use any fly line at all, and it gives better fly line control on the drift when you do need to use it.

What Makes The Top Nymph Fishing Rod?

The ideal nymph fishing rods are 3 weight or 4 weight fly fishing rods that are 10-12 ft long with a sensitive rod tip that provides tippet protection. 

This makes them light for fatigue-less fishing, sensitive to every bite, and ensures your tippet is looked after so when you hook that trophy fish It’s not going to snap from being in the tip all day long. 

The extra length means you can reach more water….

The extra length means you can reach more water with just your leader (critical in euro nymphing rods) without using your fly lines that can spook fish if they see it.

It also lets you mend (control your fly lines) better on the drift, as the extra length gives you more leverage to move your fly lines around. 

What To Consider When Looking For A Nymphing Rod?

Weight 

The weight of a rod describes how thick and powerful the rod is, and when looking for a nymphing rod you want a low, lightweight rod between a 2 and 4 wt. 

This is because the trout you’re targeting will be small, on average around 1-2lbs, so you don’t need a heavy rod to catch them, and having a light rod makes it more fun.

Also, a light rod makes casting far more delicate and increases the rod’s sensitivity so you can feel every subtle bite when it comes along. 

Length 

You need some extra length in your rod to fish a nymph more effectively and you’ll want a longer rod between the 10-12 foot range instead of the average 9ft. 

Man With Fly Rod
Man Checking His Fly Rod

The increased length lets you have a longer reach for casting with just a leader and gives you better control of your line when you need to mend it on your drift to make your nymph look as natural as possible. 

Action 

You’ll want a medium to fast action rod when fishing with a nymph. 

The faster action lets you turn over shorter casts without catching anything behind you and make your nymphing rods more sensitive to bites. 

Casting Distance 

When you’re fishing with a nymph, 90% of the time you’re not going to be casting any further than 45 ft. Therefore, you’re not looking for a set-up that punches 90ft like in salt water. 

TIP

You’re going to want to look for a delicate presentation with pinpoint accuracy over a short distance. This allows you to bring the overall weight of the rig down. 

You don’t need the power you get from a heavyweight for that extra distance. 

Winding Up 

Hopefully by now, you should have an idea of what a rod for fishing nymphs should look like, and maybe you have picked your perfect rod for you from the review? I hope so. 

If you haven’t quite made a decision, then there is a little bit more advice I can pass over, as making the right choice is never as clear as it needs to be. 

How often do you go out to fish?

Around 40 days a year?

If you’re an angler who fishes often, around 40 plus days a year, and likes to be ready for any trout situation with every fishing style available, then the TFO Drift is right up your street.

You have 4 rods in a 6 piece outfit that comes delivered in a nice shiny case for you to take up the river. You can fish a dry fly in the first pool and then add a section to fish a nymph in the next.

If you can’t reach the water you want, add another section to give you some extra reach. The options are endless. 

30 days a year or less? 

If that sounds like you then you don’t need to be spending too much on your nymph set-up, but you’ll still want a rig that gets the job done. 

The Echo Carbon XL is a high-quality durable, light, and sensitive outfit that’s very affordable and great to fish with. You’ll be able to nymph your way around any waters you feel like for a good price. 

More than 60 Days a Year?

To those of you who fish 60 plus days a year and know that performance is key, you also know you’re going to have to spend some dollars to get it. 

The Sage ESN is the only choice in the review that matches up to these expectations. 

Its high-performance build delivers the most in terms of accuracy, presentation, and sensitivity while being the right weight and length for all your nymph fly fishing needs.

You’ll put every cast where you want it, feel every bite, and hopefully catch every fish that comes your way with the ESN. 

From the Editor

I really hope you have enjoyed this review and it’s either confirmed somethings you knew already or opened the doors to some you hadn’t heard of yet.

Please share it with anyone you think might find it useful too. Fishing a nymph is all about keeping the nymph in the fishes feeding zone without scaring it. It’s a lot of repeated short casts and drifts over and over until you get a bite.

My advice is to fish hard and enjoy your breaks by the river so you can fish it hard again.

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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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