3 weight fly rod uses
Fly Rods

3 Weight Fly Rod Uses – A Practical Guide

Fly fishermen are known to obsess over equipment. They want the best waders, the coolest nets, the sleekest most waterproof packs. Their fly boxes are full of every insect, crustacean, and baitfish, all meticulously organized. Their clothing has enough SPF to reverse the effects of ultraviolet radiation.

And they love their fly rods.

Often times though, fly fishermen start their rod collections at a 5 weight and go up. The 5 weight is the most common and versatile fly rod, and going up from there can provide advantages in certain fishing situations.

But don’t be fooled, going down to smaller rods can be advantageous as well. And damn fun.

So, we’re going to talk 3 weight fly rod uses, and by the end I bet you’ll be heading down to your local fly shop to do a little shopping.

Small stream fishing

The most common use for a 3 weight fly rod is fishing for trout in small streams.

These small streams are usually tight quarters- there are bushes, trees, logs, and boulders all crowding the water. With all of these obstacles behind and in front of you, long casts are often impossible.

3 weight fly rods will make fighting these fish feel like you’re fighting a 20-inch fish on your 5 weight.

In these situations you’ll be using roll casts, bow and arrow casts, high sticking, dapping, and any other method you can utilize to get your fly to the fish. These techniques don’t require heavy rod weights to make the casts. In fact, a 3 weight will be more efficient than a 5 or even a 4.

Furthermore, navigating around these cramped quarters is a struggle by itself. Having a big long rod will cause you more headaches as you try to keep it out of all the foliage. A shorter 3 weight will be less of a burden.

But the advantages of small stream fishing with a 3 weight don’t stop there.

Fish have a tendency to match the size of the water they’re living in. It is not always the case, but small streams tend to contain mostly small fish. In small trout streams that means that the fish will usually be between 6 and 14 inches.

In fact, a 3 weight will be more efficient than a 5 or even a 4.

3 weight fly rods will make fighting these fish feel like you’re fighting a 28-inch rainbow on your 5 weight. The rod will be bent over, the headshakes will send shockwaves down your arms, and you won’t be able to just horse the fish all the way in. You have to finesse it a bit. It’s more fun.

But if you do manage to hookup with a 28-inch ‘bow while you’re fishing with your 3 weight, you’ll still be able to land the fish safely. So don’t worry.

Backpacking fishing

3 weight fly rods also make the perfect rod for fishing during backpacking trips.

The first weekend I moved to Utah from Alabama I went on a backpacking trip in the Uintas Mountains. I wasn’t used to the altitude at all, so the 7 miles up to the meadow we planned on camping in was difficult enough on its own. When I strapped on my 50-pound pack, it made the trek nearly un-survivable.

But, I knew there were fish up there, so I packed my 5-weight and a few (too many) boxes of flies.  On the way up there, I dreaded every extra ounce I added to my back, and I held special disdain for the bulk and oversized rod case that I brought with me that didn’t even fit in my pack.

If I had done my research, I would’ve quickly realized that taking my heavy, long 5 weight was just adding unnecessary pain to my torture. A 6 piece 3 weight would’ve been perfect.

The perfect rod for flyfishing during backpacking trips is the Reddington Classic Trout Rod in the 6-piece, 8’ model. This rod is ultra lightweight, which is perfect both for hiking up with a heavy pack, and it breaks down into 6 pieces, making it easily packable into your bag that’s already stuffed with liquor and toilet paper.

Nymphing with 3 weight fly rods

If you’re new to fly fishing, that title may not surprise you. But if you’ve been around a while, it may have you confused.

Why would anyone nymph with a 3 weight?

A 3 weight fly rod can be killer for nymphing, especially high sticking, euro nymphing, and Czech nymphing. The light weight of the rod makes holding it in the air for hours less stressful on your shoulders and also provides extra sensitivity. A subtle nymph take may not be felt with heavier rods, but with ultra sensitive 3 weight fly rods, even a nibble feels like a hit.

One popular model is the Reddington Hydrogen & Trout Spey Fly Rod. It’s available in an 11 foot 3 weight that will make nymphing a dream and even give you something to work on your spey casting with. 

This rod is incredibly light weight, has a smooth medium action, and features a lifetime warranty.

Catching pan fish

3 weight fly rods aren’t relegated exclusively to cold water. If you do decide to purchase a 3 weight you can have a blast with it fishing for small bass, panfish, bream, sunfish, or whatever other term you use for these things where you’re from.

The 3 weight rod will be perfect for casting dry flies during summer mayfly hatches, or small poppers in early morning and evening hours. Casting it for hours won’t leave you sore the next day and if you manage to hook up with a big panfish on a 3 weight it’s going to feel like the fish of a lifetime.

3 weight fly rod uses – conclusion

The 3 weight fly rod isn’t the most common. It is often overlooked, avoided, and forgotten, but I hope you now see that this is wrong. There are plenty of uses for a 3 weight fly rod and it can even be the best rod choice in certain situations.

Let us know in the comments below if you found this article to be helpful for learning more about 3 weight fly rods!

And if share it with your fishing buddies- they need to learn more about 3 weights too.

2 Comments

  1. I can’t agree enough with this article. I started with a 5 wt. added an 8 wt for Salmon and Steelhead but eventually realized I needed something more efficient for the tight area along many of the small trout streams and added a 3 wt. I have to admit the 5 wt hasn’t seen action in 2 years, and the 8 wt gets broken out 1-2 weeks a year, everything else my 3 wt Diamond Back View handles easily.

    • Ha, that’s awesome. Yeah, I find myself using smaller rods more and more often. Partly to avoid the crowds, I fish smaller water quite often. Thanks for the comment!

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