Small Stream Fly Rods

Many fly fishers would gladly give up massive rivers for the plunge pools of mountain streams or the gentle braids of spring creeks. Whether the choice to fish these waters comes from preference or necessity, it is undeniable that small streams are loved.

Angling in these waters might seem simple. Anyone who has spent days, years, or decades chasing trout can tell you that simple only scratches the surface. While success might come quick, mastery takes time, energy, and effort. Equipment doesn’t negate the need for any of those. At the same time, having good gear never hurts. No piece of gear is more important than the fly rod. You can catch trout with pretty much anything, but some rods will help significantly.

Below are some rod models that I recommend. For the purposes of this page, “small stream rods” are 8 feet long and under and 5 weight and under. There are a few exceptions, but those are my general criteria. Of course, any rod is only as good as the fly fisher casts the rod and enjoys the rod. Reviewing a fly rod is mostly subjective, but I hope the following is helpful.

Here are an article and a podcast, each detailing how length, weight, and action all matter in finding your perfect small stream fly rod.

Douglas – Upstream

The Upstream is an incredible, unique fly rod. It is graphite, but it doesn’t feel like any other graphite you’ve fished. Still, it doesn’t feel like glass or bamboo, either. It is a smooth, yet responsive, casting tool. With most models coming in at under 1.5 ounces, it is also the lightest rod you can find from a major manufacturer. Small fish will put a bend in the rod, but it can still cast with surprising strength.

  • Material: Graphite
  • Action: Slow
  • Small Stream Models: 8′ – 2wt / 6’6″ – 3wt / 7′ – 3wt / 7’3″ – 3wt / 7’6″ – 3wt / 8′ – 3wt / 8’3″ – 3wt / 8’8″ – 4wt
  • Price Range: $389-$469
  • Perfect For:  a traditional feel, with exceptional modern technology – &  a choice from 6 3wt models!
  • Casting Across Review

Redington – Butter Stick

The Butter Stick might be the best representation of a solid fiberglass rod from the first time glass was cool. It isn’t slow for novelty or just for the sake of doubling over when hooking into a fish. The rod will flex on a cast or the tugs of a big trout, but has the backbone for a diverse range of applications. This also makes the Butter Stick a great gateway rod for anglers interested in fishing glass.

  • Material: Fiberglass
  • Action: Slow
  • Small Stream Models: 5’9″ – 1wt / 6′ – 2wt / 7′ – 3wt / 7’6″ – 4wt / 8′ – 5wt
  • Price Range: $249
  • Perfect For: smooth glass casting and fishing, with a little more power from contemporary engineering
  • Casting Across Review

Sage – DART

The DART might be the most premium small stream rod on the market. Casting it, you should feel why. The only thing about the DART that says light is the weight. It casts and handles line with the accuracy, power, and precision of a 5- or 6-weight rod. Yet, is it incredibly delicate. Most of all, this rod casts beautifully at distance. The DART is a true joy to fish.

  • Material: Graphite
  • Action: Fast
  • Small Stream Models: 7’6″ – 0wt / 7’6″ – 1wt / 7’6″ – 2wt / 6’6″ – 3wt / 7’6″ – 3wt / 7’6″ – 4wt
  • Price Range: $700
  • Perfect For: spring creeks where delicate, pinpoint presentations need to be made… even from far away
  • Casting Across Review

St. Croix – Mojo Trout

in the 1990s, the Avid series was my introduction to small stream fly rods. The Mojo picks up where the Avid left off. The rod is listed as medium fast, and has a rhythm that most anglers can pick up quickly. One of the best things about the Mojo is the price: the small stream models all retail for under $200.

  • Material: Graphite
  • Action: Medium-Fast
  • Small Stream Models:  6′ – 2wt / 6’6″ – 3wt / 7′ – 3wt / 7’9″ – 3wt  / 8′ – 4wt / 8’6″ – 4wt
  • Price Range: $180-$190
  • Perfect For: learning and perfecting mountain trout fishing tactics

Have a favorite small stream fly rod that you think I should check out? Let me know here.