It’s a fact, 8 wt fly rods get overlooked. Too often we read articles or get into conversations at the fly shop about different fly rod weights and which situations each is best suited for, and the 8wt never seems to match up with angler’s idea of the ideal weight for specific species. It always tends to be one size too large or one size too small. Because of this, we wanted to take a look at 8 Weight Fly Rods Uses.
It’s a shame because this size of fly rod is incredibly versatile but often underutilized. It’s never in the Goldilocks zone, but we would rather have a rod that can cover a lot of different applications, especially if we don’t have the resources to splurge on five different rods.
We explain below some of the uses and situations when these fly rods can be beneficial, and we’ve listed out a couple of our favorite 8 wt fly rods that are on the market, such as the Orvis Encounter.
8 Weight Fly Rod Uses
Uses and Benefits of an 8wt fly rod
Below is a quick list of some popular game fish that you can easily chase after and land with an 8wt fly rod:
- Large Trout (Or average trout using big streamers)
And again, you might find some people that prefer a rod a step up or down in weight, but the point is that an 8wt gives you a versatile rod that can work a lot of different fish.
With 8wt line, you can work with the heavier flies, often weighted, that get down in the water column quickly such as buggers and Clousers. These rods have the power and stiffness to turn over heavier sinking line but still sensitive enough for more delicate presentation with lighter flies if that is what’s needed.
Some models will be better suited for heavy casting versus light presentation, but 8wt rods are not so far up or down in weight that one or the other is not achievable.
You might also notice several saltwater species in the list above. Fishing for saltwater game is often synonymous with windy conditions. While it may differ from one model to the next, most 8wt rods are often moderate-fast to very-fast action which allows them to load fast and cut through the wind. That said, if you’re chucking heavy flies, especially in wind, wear sunglasses for eye protection!
The main point, and what we want to get across, is that an 8wt rod might not fit every application perfectly, but they’re versatile enough to cover a lot of different fishing scenarios and deserve a spot in your outfit. The crew here at FlyRods.com each have an 8 wt in our quiver, and we always enjoy using them.
Key components of a quality 8wt fly rod
Number of pieces
For a long time, it was thought that the more pieces a fly rod had, the less efficient the rod was regarding action and power throughout the rod.
The leaps in fly rod manufacturing and materials have allowed better tapering and ferrule design on the pieces which helps it retain the correct action and power throughout the length of the rod.
Someone really in tune with fly rods is going to be able to tell the difference between the same model in a two piece versus a four piece, but for most people, the difference between the two won’t be noticeable.
The main advantage of more pieces as compared to less is better portability.
Modern rods are almost always carbon fiber graphite or fiberglass. Both can catch fish. Fiberglass is often more in the slow to moderate action while graphite is usually in the fast action range. Action discussed more below.
You will also see a lot of nano-resin materials now being used in conjunction with graphite which increases the strength of the rod without adding a lot of weight.
Handle and grip
Cork is going to be the go-to material when it comes to fly rods. Cork is often given a specific grade ranging from A to AAA with the latter being the highest grade. Some synthetic grips are appearing on the market, but their popularity has not quite taken off.
Most 8wt rods are still only going to have single handgrip though there are 8wt Spey style grips, which we’ll save for another article.
You will also find some rods of this weight with fighting butts. These butts are great if you’re planning on getting into some bigger fish and allow you to take a lot of the pressure off your wrist when trying to get leverage.
A fly rods action refers to where the rod bends when pressure is applied. The three main specifications for action are slow (bend more in the bottom third of the rod), moderate (bend in the middle to top half of the rod), and fast (bend in the top third of the rod).
Like any of these components, there is no right or wrong decision when it comes to a fly rod. Slow, mid, or fast action rods can all catch fish. Orvis has a helpful article on it.
There are several ways you can go with action for 8wt rods. Fast action rods are generally stiffer and let you load up quicker and get more line speed, distance, and the ability to cut through the wind.
The downside is that you get less accuracy at short ranges and there is less protection for light tippet, meaning if you hook a big fish you might snap it off.
With a moderate action rod, you get a slower load which can make wider loops trying to lob out heavy flies easier and make casting a bit more manageable for those still working on their technique.
They also are more manageable at short ranges you might run into while bass fishing around structures. You also get a little bit more finesse in your presentations.
The power of a rod refers to how much pressure it takes to make the rod bend. For decent 8wt rods, the power ratings are going to fall anywhere from medium to heavy power.
While it depends on the fish, you are going to want the rod to have some resistance to get leverage on larger fish. A moderate-heavy to heavy power rating is our recommendation. See this guide on rod power by TFO.
Power, action, and stiffness don’t have a clear definition or standard across all of the different manufacturers. In the video below, you can get a better visualization of what these different terms mean.
Our top 8wt fly rods
Fenwick, in general, is an anomaly when it comes to quality rods at retail store prices. Most fly rods you pick up in this price range are similar to wet noodles when casting but the Fenwick brand surprised us with their rod quality, and the graphite HMG remains true to this trend.
While the HMG won’t fish like the high-end rods itis incredibly affordable, and its performance on the water is not going to dissuade beginners or frustrate more experienced anglers.
The Fenwick HMG 8wt has a single model option with a length of 9 feet and a weight of 4.2oz and four piece setup. We also like the dot alignment system on the ferrules that helps you align all of the guides and keep your casting at its optimum.
The HMG doesn’t use the highest quality cork, but that’s one part of the rod design that helps drop the price down. The handle is a kind of hybrid Full Wells design, but the rod handles easily in your hands.
The double up-locking reel seat is easy to turn and get a nice tight lock on your reel. There is also a small cork fighting butt on this rod
Casting and Wrangling
The Fenwick HMG feels pretty good casting. You’re going to be able to cast it proficiently on the water and are going to be able to catch fish. It’s a moderate fast action taper which makes it a little more user-friendly to beginners, but it might not give the performance someone out on the flats dealing with wind might want.
With its action, tip performance, and large stripping guides this rod shoots line well and is pretty decent at roll casting. Unlike the other 8wt fly rods, this rod does a lot better at short range than it does at 80+feet. It’s a great rod for fishing lake banks for bass.
This graphite rod from Fenwick is another excellent 8 weight option for those who want a rod that is going to perform well on the water, including casting and handling fish, without having the steep price tag.
The Eagle uses a four section blank so it’s also a great rod to bring on trips with you where there might be an opportunity to work some water.
This rod features two stripping guides along with the remaining snake guides. All eleven guides are chrome and do well at reducing friction of line leaving the rod and distributing pressure along the rod’s length. The guides, along with the light olive finish on the blanks and cork handles give it a pleasant look.
We like the reel seat on the Eagle as well. It uses a carbon spacer and a two aluminum up locking mechanism that keeps your reel locked and secure.
Handling and Wrangling
The Eagle uses pretty good quality cork for its hand grip, and it has an excellent reel seat. The handle also has a fairly large cork fighting butt for an 8 weight fly rod. The fighting butt along with the full wells cork handle gives you a comfortable setup to work large bass.
It’s a pretty stiff tip, and with its action, you can get quick hook sets, but it’s enough to snap light tippet. That comes with just about any fly rod and not a knock on the Eagle. We just wanted to mention it. This rod is great at picking up subtle takes and is pretty sensitive overall.
The power of this rod is categorized as Fly by the manufacturer. This is usually in the medium to sometimes medium heavy range. That’s more than enough for any bass you might be chasing. That power rating with the handle and fighting butt make this a great big bass rod or streamer rod for large browns. This rod utilizes IM-8 reinforced graphite, so it’s got some durability.
This is a medium fast action rod, but we think the tip is a little stiff and feels more like a fast action rod when casting. It’s not really a concern, and it is subtle. If you bought the rod wanting that action, you probably wouldn’t even notice. The Eagle picks up line well off of the water and loads quickly to get those large flies back into the strike zone.
This stiffness of the tip helps this rod load line pretty well, and you can get a couple dozen feet of line loaded with a lighter fly tied on. Medium range casts between 30 and 45 feet are where this rod really shines in line management and accuracy. You can get more distance if you’re not throwing a huge weighted fly, but anything past 50’ get’s tough to manage.
We don’t live under a rock, and we realize that not everyone who wants to purchase a new fly rod has a spare 800 dollars lying around to throw towards a new rod. We like the BVK from Temple Fork Outfitters because it is high quality and provides a performance more akin to the high dollar fly rods without the price.
These rods feature a full wells grip design and a short fighting butt. The cork is decent quality, it’s not the top of the line stuff, but it’s not going to degrade after a few trips either.
The rod uses an anodized aluminum reel seat with a double uplocking mechanism that is the only issue with the rod. I have used this rod on a lot of smallmouth bass, and there have been several times I have had to pull out the pliers to loosen them as they tend to slip the threading. It doesn’t really affect fishing, but it can be the breaking point when the fishing hasn’t turned out as you hoped.
Casting and Wrangling
These are moderately fast action rods and pretty heavy in the power department even though they are relatively lightweight for an 8wt rod. They are not the most accurate rods at short range, but they can turn over a lot of line quickly and accurately.
G Loomis is easily one of the top manufacturers of high-quality fly rods. They are usually the end goal for most fly anglers when it comes to lifetime fly rods. They carry a steep price tag, but the quality of these rods are second to none in most experts opinions.
The NRX Saltwater 8wt model is a 4-piece blank that has incredible strength but is only available in a 9’ rod length. These are graphite rods but utilize the nano-resin technology making them light and strong.
The rod uses a full wells cork grip, though the front end of the grip is a bit wider than the back end with the intention of giving you better control on long casts. The up-locking rings on the reel seat are easy to use and give a stable and secure lock on your reel.
Casting and Wrangling
These rods have a very fast taper which is the same as fast action, but they do not have stiff rod tips. This gives the NRX pretty great casting under 40 feet which is usually the weak point for 8wt rods. As far as casting out to 75 and even 100 feet, the NRX can give you tight loops, high line speeds, and accuracy with heavier lures. We also like how well this rod shoots line.
The recon has several 8wt models available with different lengths. 7’11”, 9’, and 10’ lengths and those options are a big plus in our eyes because it allows you to match the rod with your main casting style.
The reel seat uses a double up-locking mechanism to secure the reel, but it runs into the same problems as the TFO BVK rod. But hey, when that is the biggest concern on a fly rod, it’s a pretty dang good rod.
It has an excellent full wells cork grip and also a short fighting butt with a rubber stopper. With its handle and heavy power rating, the recon can provide a lot of leverage on larger fish.
Casting and Wrangling
This is a mid-priced rod, and we only bring that up because its performance is much closer to that of the high-end rods. Like most 8wt rods, the Recon has a fast action taper. This rod has plenty of power, but the stiffness of the rod in hurts the accuracy slightly at ranges within 35 feet. And that is relative to the perfect fly rod.
Compared to a lot of rods out there, it’s a stretch for us to complain about accuracy. You’re not going to have an issue getting heavy buggers or zonkers out past 60 feet. As the length of the rod increases, the power and accuracy you get at longer ranges increases, but the performance up close declines slightly.
An 8wt fly rod is a versatile tool that can be utilized in multiple fishing applications. Perhaps more so than any other weight of fly rod. There are a lot of excellent options out there for 8wt fly rods with almost every major fly rod manufacturer presenting several models. We recommend checking out the TFO BVK, which is a good mix of price vs performance.
We hope this short article explained some 8 weight fly rod uses, some key attributes of quality 8wt rods, and has given you some rod options to consider before your next trip to the water.
Have a favorite 8 weight? Have a good or bad experience with any of the rods we covered? Let us know below in the comments. Like, share, and comment below!