Best 3 Weight Fly Rods in 2021

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Did you know the number of fly fishers in the United States grew up to 7 million between 2018 and 2019? And according to a market research, this number has increased tremendously since the pandemic. People are looking for new challenges and fly fishing has benefited greatly from that. Now, the fly fishing industry has an estimated worth of a whopping $750 million according to a RBFF special report on fishing 2020. 

However, there are a few things an angler finds more confusing than purchasing a fly rod. There are many variables to consider. Like rod weight, length, and more.  In an attempt to break this confusion, I have prepared a detailed guide to help you understand all there is to know about fly rods and fly fishing in general. Then, I will review the three best 3-weight fly rods for the money. 

Vital Tips When Buying 3-Weight Fly Rods 

Different 3-weight fly rods come with different features in terms of material, action, and length. For the best results, keep these vital tips in mind before purchasing a fly rod:

Ensure the Weight of the Rod Match the Weight of the Line 

I usually use this general formula when matching my fly rod with fly line and weight: Fly rod weight = fly line weight= fly reel weight. In this case, choose a 3-weight rod, a 3-weight line, and 3-weight reel. That way, you will find it easier to cast. Wrong line, reel, rod combination can make your fly fishing experience uncomfortable. 

Buy Affordable Fly Rods 

You don’t need a $900 fly rod, especially if you are new to this hobby. The hobby may fail to impress you as much as you hoped it would, and you end up regretting buying a super expensive rod. However, that does not mean you should buy low-quality rods just because they are cheap. Some cheap fly rods are poorly constructed, and they quickly prove unsatisfying. Buy something classy but don’t pour all your money on it. Ideally, the price of your fly rod should be twice or thrice the price of the reel. 

3-Weight Fly Rods Uses

3-weight fly rods are usually thin, versatile, and sensitive. They are lightweight and not very strong. For that reason, they are used for the following functions. 

Small Stream Fishing 

Most people use 3-weight fly rods for fishing in smaller streams that are not filled with large fish that can break the rod. Furthermore, smaller streams are usually filled with vegetation, and for that reason, long casts are almost impossible. What is needed is accuracy. 

A 3-weight fly rod will provide you with the accuracy required. It is also lightweight. You can hold it all day without feeling too tired. The sensitivity of 3-weight fly rods is also vital since you will be catching smaller fish. The rod needs to be as sensitive as possible. That way, you can feel even the slightest bites. 

Backpacking Fishing 

Most 3-weight fly rods are ideal for backpacking fishing. They are lightweight, and you can travel with them easily, especially if the rod can be disassembled into pieces. You will not feel tired carrying the rod during your hike. 

Catching Panfish 

3-weight fly rods are sensitive. This makes them ideal for smaller fish like panfish because you can feel even the slightest nibbles. Still, if you catch a larger panfish, a 3-weight fly rod is strong enough, and it won’t break while retrieving your catch. They are also ideal for trout fishing. 

Nymphing 

Nymphing with 3-weight fly rods is much easier and less stressful. The low weight of the rod makes it easy for you to hold it for extended periods without feeling uncomfortable on your shoulders. They also offer extra sensitivity, which is vital in nymphing. You may not feel a subtle nymph take if you use a heavier rod. 

Best 3-Weight Fly Rods: Reviews 

Now that we’ve covered almost everything about fly fishing rods allow me to review the best value 3-weight fly rods. 

Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod 

Orvis is a well-known tackle and rod manufacturer, and they have done it again with this super lightweight 3-weight fly rod. It is excellent for short casts, ranging from 25-50 feet. It is a high-quality rod, and it comes with a 25-year guarantee. To help you understand why this rod stands out among thousands of 3-weight fly rods, here are the features that come with it. 

Medium Action 

With medium action, you can be assured of a versatile rod that you can use in rivers and streams. 

Excellent Build Quality 

The quality of this fly rod from Orvis is just impressive. The snake guides make it easy for the line to pass through it. The cork handles are comfortable, and they provide a firm grip when battling hard-fighting fish. The black chrome color makes the rod blank look beautiful.  Furthermore, the fly rod absorbs scratches, so it will always seem new even days after using it. 

Lightweight

The Orvis Clearwater is not terribly light, but it is light enough to use it all day without feeling too tired. It feels good on your hand, and the tip is as responsive as you can expect from such a high-quality fly rod. Still, the rod is quite strong despite being lightweight. 

4-Piece Fly Rod 

Orvis Clearwater Fly Rod comes in four pieces, which means you disassemble it in four pieces whenever you want. This makes it easy to pack when traveling, making it a perfect fly rod for backpacking fishing. 

10ft Fly Rod 

Orvis Clearwater is long enough to provide accurate casts of up to 50 feet.

Pros

  • Lightweight and comfortable in the arm 
  • 25 years guarantee
  • Easy to pack since it comes in a four pieces 
  • A perfect rod for nymphing 
  • Super sensitive even with the slightest nibbles. 

Cons

  • The cork handles feel a bit of overkill to some anglers. 
  • It does not come with a hook keeper

All in all, the Orvis Clearwater fly rod is a high-quality product that I can recommend to all anglers. It feels comfortable, and it comes with a 25-year manufacturer’s warranty. You can be sure it is a durable fly rod. 

Redington Butter Stick Fly Rod

The Redington Butter Stick is a surprisingly versatile fly rod that you can use in small streams and rivers. Its appearance is admirable, and so is the responsiveness and performance. Like other 3-weight rods, it is lightweight. Here are the features that come with it. 

T-Glass Construction 

Far Bank Enterprises (the manufacturer) has done a great job making a lightweight but very durable fly rod. Built on their Heritage Taper, the fly rod provides a classic glass feel and makes the rod appear high-end despite being quite affordable. It is strong enough to retrieve anything you will catch in the streams. 

Cork Handles 

Typically, cork handles are considered the best handles for fishing rods. They are comfortable, and they provide a strong grip when battling a fish. The cork handles with Redington Butter Stick don’t disappoint. Many users have been impressed by their usability, terming them as one of the rod’s strong suits. 

Slow Action 

Unlike most 3-weight fly rods that come with fast and medium actions, this one comes with slow action. This makes it easier to cast, even over longer distances. Furthermore, it provides an incredibly satisfying feeling when battling a fish. Still, it is quite responsive despite being a slow-action rod. 

Lifetime Warranty 

The Redington Butter Stick Fly rod comes with a lifetime warranty. This means you can always return it if it develops a manufacturer’s fault, and it will be repaired or replaced. The warranty does not cover breaks and tears, though.

Pros

  • Beautiful appearance
  • Durable
  • Versatile and easier to cast
  • Provides an incredible feeling when battling a fish

Cons

  • Line slap problems

The Redington Butter Stick Fly rod is quite versatile and beginner-friendly. It has a beautiful design and it comes with a lifetime warranty. Therefore, you can expect a 3-weight rod that lasts for the longest time. I recommend it to all anglers. 

Sage ESN Fly Rod 

Sage reinvented their ESN series to come up with improved fly rods perfect for nymphing. The Sage ESN 3-weight fly rod provides sensitivity, accuracy, and the latest technology, making it perfect for any angler looking for a high-quality fly rod. It is 10ft long, and it is ideal for various nymphing techniques, including European and tight line techniques. Here are the features that come with it:

Lightweight 

The 3-weight Sage ESN fly rod is quite lightweight, and it feels good in your hands. It is 10ft long, and the KonneticHD technology makes it a joy to use compared to most fly rods. 

High-Quality Build 

Sage Company has invested its time and resources to design a fantastic fly rod. It is eye-catching to start with. The fuji ceramic guides are very smooth, and they don’t wear down the fly line while casting or retrieving. The reel seat is made of anodized aluminum, one of the best materials for the job. 

Medium Action 

The Sage ESN 3-weight fly rod comes with medium action, making it sensitive for smaller fish, strong for slightly larger fish, and it can also cast for a fairly long distance. 

Lifetime Warranty 

Like other Sage products, the Sage ESN 3-weight fly rod comes with a lifetime warranty. Should your rod become unusable due to a manufacturer’s defect, you can return it, and Sage will repair or replace it. The warranty only applies to the original owners. Second-hand buyers are not covered.

Pros 

  • An excellent fly rod for beginners
  • Super responsive. 
  • Beautiful design
  • Exceptional performance in all waters  

Cons

  • Sage ESN 3-weight fly rod is quite expensive.

Despite being expensive, the Sage ESN fly rod is worth every buck. I recommend it to fly fishing anglers of all skill levels.

Taking Care of Your 3-Weight Fly Rods 

Like other fishing tools, your 3-weight fly rod requires care and maintenance. You took your time taking everything into consideration when choosing a perfect 3-weight fly rod. Therefore, make sure it lasts for a long time. The only way to do that is by taking proper care of it. Here are a few tips to help you out:

Rinse the Rod after Every Fishing Trip 

After your fishing trip, use water at low pressure and rinse your fly rod. I often recommend using a hosepipe and slowly rinse the rod. Don’t immerse the rod into the water, though. You can use warm water to rinse the rod whenever possible. 

Clean the Guides 

Over time, salt, dirt, and other debris can build up on the rod guides. When this happens, the guides become rougher, increasing the friction between the fly line and the inserts. This action reduces the durability of your fly line and increases the risk of it breaking when retrieving fish. Clean your rod guides regularly to reduce this risk. Use a small soft brush or Q-tip to clean the guides. Ideally, use warm water and your favorite rod cleaner for this task. 

Clean the Handle 

The best way to clean the handles is by using a soft clean piece of cloth and alcohol. If you do so, the rod handles will remain clean and appear new every time. 

Store the Rod Properly 

After cleaning the rod, leave it out a few minutes to dry before storing it. After it is dry, store it in the tube that came with it when you purchased it. If you don’t plan to use the rod for some time, leave the caps off so that the rod can “breathe.” Make sure that the rod is away from extreme temperatures. Also, don’t bend the rod when storing it. Bending it can cause a permanent change in shape. 

Prevent Breakage 

Rod breakage is probably the most common problem faced by anglers. Fortunately, you can prevent this problem by practicing a few precautions. These precautions include: 

  • When your fly rod gets snagged on a rock or tree, don’t try to pull it out immediately. Instead, lay down the rod such that no one can step on it and carefully pull on the line until you get rid of the snag. 
  • Avoid trying the crane lift. Many people are tempted to lift out a fish and straight into their hands. While this is fun, it increases the risk of breaking the rod tip when the fish is fighting to get off the hook. 
  • Don’t move your hand from the handle when handling a hard-fighting fish. Placing your hand elsewhere on the rod increases the risk of the rod snapping on the position you’ve placed the hand. 

Tips for Fly Fishing 

Just because you’ve got yourself a high-quality fly rod, it does not mean you will find it easy while fly fishing. You need to be patient because casting fly rods is not always easy, even for experienced anglers. Here are a few tips to help you make the most out of your fishing trip. 

  • Research a little to know where you can find the best flies for the job. You can ask experienced anglers to help you out. 
  • Walk softly and avoid making noise. Some fish like trouts are sensitive to noise, and you might end up scaring them off, limiting your chances of catching anything. 
  • If you are fishing in freshwater, the closer to the water you cast, the higher the chances of catching more fish. 
  • During high water, fish usually settle in warmer areas such as near the banks. Fish around these warmer areas. 
  • Study the fish to identify when they arise and what they usually feed on. That way, you can put the exact fly and increase your chances of catching something. 
  • When nymphing, extend your rod and keep as much line from the water as possible. If you can, ensure only the leader line is touching the water. 
  • Occasionally, check the sharpness of your hooks. The sharper the hooks, the higher the chance of catching more fish. 

FAQs 

What is a 3-Weight Fly Rod Good For?

3-weight fly rods are ideal for nymphing and casting dry flies. They are perfect for smaller fish such as trout and panfish. Casting a 3-weight fly for hours will not leave you sore since they are lightweight and come with comfortable handles. 

What is the Best 3-Weight Fly Rod? 

The best 3-weight fly rod for you will depend on your taste and preferences. However, if I have to choose one, I will choose the Sage ESN Fly Rod. It is classy, durable, excellent in all waters, and it comes with a lifetime warranty. 

What Weight Fly Rod Should I Use for Small Streams?

The most common weight fly rods for small streams range from 2-4. That said, 3-weight fly rods are often the most used. 3-weight rods cast excellently, and they are strong enough to land 12-14 inch fish should you encounter some in the streams. 

Wrapping Up 

Hopefully, the above information will help you choose the best 3-weight fly rod for the money. You can always try the Sage ESN fly rod, Orvis Clearwater, or Redington Butter Stick Fly rod. They are all of the highest quality. My top choice is the Sage ESN fly rod, though. 

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