Fly fishing, like most outdoor sports and activities where equipment is involved, can bring a pretty steep price tag when getting into the sport.
For a beginner, it’s incredibly daunting to try and navigate the waters of pairing the right pieces of equipment to suit your needs. Luckily, there are fly rod/reel combos that a lot of the major manufacturers and we are going to look at the best fly fishing combo under $200.
While combos are often great options for beginners in the world of fly fishing, they are also great options for more experienced anglers who might be looking for a backup rod and reel.
In this article, we are going to look at some criteria to keep in mind when trying to find a quality combo as well as take a brief look at some of our favorite fly fishing combos under $200.
Best Fly Fishing Combo Under $200
Qualities of the best fly fishing combos under $200
The qualities that you are looking for in a fly fishing combo are the same qualities you would look for when purchasing any fly rod, reel, or fly line.
Luckily, the combos we are going to list already takes care of pairing the right sized reel and rod together, so that takes some of the research and decisions out of the equation. Even so, you want to be sure that they balance well together which makes casting much smoother, less fatiguing, and most importantly, more enjoyable.
Depending on the type of fishing you have in mind, you need to pick the right weight combo. Below is a general guideline for the weight you should pick given the type of fishing you have in mind:
- 0-4wt for small streams and trout. Also a good pick for panfish.
- 4-6wt for general trout fishing purposes
- 5-8wt for large and smallmouth bass
- 8-10wt for large freshwater species such as salmon and steelhead
- 10-12wt for muskie
- 8-10wt for saltwater species such as redfish, bonefish, and striped bass
- 10-12wt for big saltwater species such as tarpon and golden dorado
- 12+ for marlin and sailfish
When choosing a combo or sometimes known as an outfit, you need to put some consideration in the type of line being used. The vast majority of combos available are going to have floating line rather than sinking line as it is just used more often for trout fishing.
Fly line is also available in different tapering designs. For beginners, which a lot of these combos are catered to, you are going to find a weight forward taper. This taper is generally easier for learning to cast.
As we mentioned earlier, the correct reel size and rod pairing are already taken care of, but you should still pay attention to some of the specifics of the reel. Mainly, we are interested in the drag.
Having a smooth and reliable drag is essential to working fish efficiently regardless if it is a click and pawl system or a disc drag system.
Landing a big Brown is much easier when you can easily adjust the drag in the middle of a fight. A smooth drag is also going to protect your tippet on the take and when fish change directions suddenly to make another big run.
You also would like to have very controlled changes in drag pressure when you adjust the drag knob from the low to high end of the range.
Rod Action and Power
Rod action and rod power are important factors to think about when picking out a fly fishing combo.
A fly rods action refers to where the rod bends when pressure is applied. The three main specifications for action are slow (bend in the bottom third of the rod), moderate (bend in the middle to the top half of the rod), and fast (bend in the top third of the rod). There are also intermediates such as moderate-fast and even very fast.
A lot of combo outfits are going to be in the moderate range with action. The reason is that moderate action tends to be a little more forgiving on casting for beginners and they can be used in a lot of different fishing situations where a slow or fast action might not be suited.
Basically, moderate action is a good versatile action and doesn’t limit you to certain fishing styles and techniques.
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.
While action refers to where on the rod bending occurs, the power indicates how much force it takes to make the rod bend. Most combos are going to have rods in the medium power range. Again, this is a good middle ground for those looking to get into fishing.
In the video below, you can see the various pieces of equipment that you will have to consider when picking out a fly fishing combo.
Best fly fishing combo under $200
Orvis is one of the larger names in fly fishing, and it has been for several decades. That type of longevity only comes with quality products and is a big reason to consider their Encounter Outfit. Overall, this is one of the more affordable yet high-quality outfits that are available.
There are several outfits available:
- 5wt 8’6”
- 5wt 9’
- 6wt 8’6”
- 6wt 9’
- 7wt 10’ (Over $200)
- 8wt 9’
All of these rods are paired with a large arbor Orvis Encounter reel to match the rod size. You also get an entry-level weight forward fly line with backing and leader.
These rods are somewhere in the moderate to moderate-fast action range. It’s pretty stiff but can handle basic casting with ease and has decent line control from 20-60ft with that range increasing as the rod length and weight increases. The cork grip and reel seat are pleasantly high quality and comfortable.
The reel has a smooth drag at the lower settings, but the change in drag resistance is a little jumpy, especially when getting up into the high-end of the range. Again, there is plenty of drag to slow running fish, but be careful adjusting as you can get a lot more drag than you intend with a few clicks of the dial.
One of the best features of the NightHawk combo is the number of options you have for line weights and rod lengths. You can really key in on the weight and length that fits your fishing style.
- 3wt 7’
- 4wt 8’
- 5wt 9’
- 6wt 9’
- 8wt 9’
- 8wt 9’6”
All of these models have four blank pieces and come with a pre-spooled Pflueger Monarch reel with a floating WF fly line, backing, and a tapered leader. Overall, we really like the balance between this rod and reel and think that it helps beginners master the basic casts.
The NightHawk rod is listed a medium-fast action rod, but we think it sways a little more to the moderate side. It’s not a con, and we think it makes the rod a little more forgiving for new casters trying to load line during a cast.
The cork handle isn’t top quality but the half wells design fits the hand well, and we like the carbon reel seat and uplocking mechanism. This rod is a lot more responsive than you might think just holding it, and it can handle delicate presentations at short to medium range. It falters a little in the long-range department until you get up to the 8wt models.
There are two different Pflueger reels that you can get depending on the model size. For the 3,4, 5, and 6wt model options you get a classic click and pawl drag design. On the two 8wt models, the reel uses a disc drag system.
There’s something addicting about the sound of a click and pawl drag with a fish making a run, but the downside is that you really cant make useful adjustments to the drag with this style of reel. You really have to employ the palming technique if you want to put a lot of resistance on the fish.
Temple Fork Outfitters have made there name in high performing gear that keeps some extra cash in the bank when purchasing them. The same goes for their NXT rod and reel outfit.
The NXT combo is available in several different models:
- 4/5wt 8’6”
- 5/6wt 9’
- 8/9wt 9’
All of these models come with the NXT LA (large arbor) reel and is loaded with the proper amount of backing and WF floating line.
The NXT rod has a medium-fast action taper which is a good action for lots of versatility in casting and presentation. The rod feels a little loose when trying to load a lot of line, especially the two smaller models. This attribute does give the rod the ability to take on really light presentations.
The NXT LA reel is a lightweight anodized aluminum reel that can stand up to some abuse. It is heavily ported which helps cut some weight and allows line deeper in the spool to dry quicker. The drag on the NXT reel is pretty good for a fly rod/reel outfit. The drag adjustments are smooth with audible clicks, and you can really dial in the drag.
Yes, they named this fly rod after everyone’s favorite Star Wars movie. The Echo Base is one of those rare rods that is affordable for just about everybody while still bringing excellent performance to the water. Beginners are not going to get frustrated with it, and more experienced anglers are going to be pleasantly surprised by how well it handles on the water.
The Echo Base combo has several options regarding line weights and rod lengths:
- 4wt 8’
- 5wt 9’
- 6wt 9’
- 8wt 9’
All four options have four blanks, come with a Base reel, and are loaded with backing and WF floating line. The combo also comes with a padded case to hold all of the gear.
The Base graphite rod is a moderate fast action and has a medium power rating. Both of these specifications make it a very versatile rod that can cover a wide array of fishing applications from gentle presentations to loading a lot of line for long casts. The rod is a bit stiff, and you can feel it in the cast, but it’s light and has a very comfortable western style grip. The Echo Base is a steal for the price.
The Base reel is a basic setup and is made from a carbon composite material. It’s not a top of the line reel, but that’s not really what these combos are supposed to offer. It gets line in quickly with its large arbor, and it has a decent disc drag system. It’s not the finest adjustments, but you’re going to be able to put some resistance on the fish, and it’s smooth enough to not snap off light tippet when you have it set correctly.
Recent years have seen a pretty significant increase in the popularity of fly fishing and fishing in general. .
Unlike ten years ago, there are much better options for people looking to get into the sport regarding affordable gear. Fly fishing combos or outfits are great starting points for beginners or even experienced anglers who might want a setup they can pack behind the car seat for those chance moments when you cross a stream or lake that you know is holding fish.
We took a look at the best fly fishing combos under $200 dollars and hope that our selections and advice for picking out a decent combo will help all of you looking to start a wonderful, frustrating, and fulfilling journey in fly fishing.
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