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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Gear Review: Backpacking 3-weight Fly Rods

Hit the trail, and the streams, with these backpacker-friendly, 3-weight fly rods.

by: Mike J. Donley (Photos and Text )

PAGE 1 2 3 4 5
A rainbow trout on the Roaring Fork River.
A rainbow trout on the Roaring Fork River.
TFO Lefty Kreh Professional 7' 6'' rod & 1 reel
TFO Lefty Kreh Professional 7' 6'' rod & 1 reel
Orvis Frequent Flyer 8' 6'' Rod & Orvis Battenkill Mid-Arbor II Reel
Orvis Frequent Flyer 8' 6'' Rod & Orvis Battenkill Mid-Arbor II Reel
Sage Vantage 7' 0'' rod & 1830 reel
Sage Vantage 7' 0'' rod & 1830 reel
Ross Essence FC 8' 6
Ross Essence FC 8' 6" rod & Airius reel

In a twist of fate, I was born with a fly rod jutting out of my hand. Quite unfortunate for my dear mother, but fortuitous for me. I grew up fishing on the mighty Deschutes in Oregon and while working for Backpacker Magazine, I put my experience to good use, testing fly fishing gear best suited for your next overnight. I focused on 3-weight fly fishing rods because of their ability to make short casts accurately, handle light tackle, and pack down into a tight little package. Also, you can get great quality at a respectable price with 3-weights. Here, the cream-of-the-testing crop, with setups ranging from super light to best all-around caster.

All setups weighed on BP scales with rod, reel, line, and backing.

READ ON FOR THE SETUPS


PAGE 1 2 3 4 5

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READERS COMMENTS

thereelmccabe@comcast.net
Mar 24, 2011

I invented the Patronpole hiking staff that carries your 2-piecs fly rod inside and protects your fly rod while hiking. It makes hiking safer! It is aluminum constructed, poweder coted, has exchangable tips, and a cotten sheath to protect it on the inside. patronpole.com

mike
Nov 08, 2010

hey what fly line is that?

Scout Leader Howard
Jul 29, 2010


For lightweight fly-fishing, the Cabelas Stowaway rods work fine, even the 8 1/2 ft. 3 wt.! Cabelas reels are very heavy and overweight(unbalance) the rod, esp. shorter rods. Find a Crystal River Caddis reel (about $13, and less than 4 ozs.)and stay with WF lines in order to get all of the line on the spool! Rainshadow has nice blanks in 4-pc., 6 1/2 ft. which I make up for Scouts. They list as 2 -wt. but are really 3 wt. L.L. Bean has an 8 pc., 8 1/2 ft. so-called 4 wt. (but really a 3!)--a very nice rod (I have one!) but is $175. The Rainshadow rods can be made up for $70 and rod-building is a great craft-project for the kids! Scout Shops have the Fly-Fishing Merit Badge booklets--look for the 2006 Edition which is better than the last release which is a "lazy" job for teaching fly-fishing! The booklet is $3.50 and explains it all for adults and kids. I try to keep outfits for kids around $100 so parents are not overinvesting in an activity which may not be available often for the kids. The kids who like fly-fishing will become addicted and will graduate to higher-quality stuff as they can afford it. Oh, Cabelas also sells the Stowaway blanks for rod-building at very good prices. Keeping is small,light, and simple is one of the beauties of fly-fishing. And that is a pretty Rainbow in your first picture--I catch these frequently (and release--single, barbless hooks--be nice to the fishies!)

Kurt
Jul 27, 2010

I have the cabelas stowaway 4wt rod with a Scientific Angler reel. It has great action for high mountain creek fishing. I pack the rod next to my rei quarter dome tent poles on the side of my pack. Seems to work great.

Russ Bogardus
Jul 27, 2010

There are technologies other than the traditional fly rod and reel that should be considered from a cost, weight, ease of setup and ease of use for light weight backpacking. One of these is the Tenkara fly rod. I would suggest an interested reader visit www.tenkarausa.com and www.backpackinglight.com web (fishing forum) sites for more information before making a decision.

EdK
Jul 27, 2010

PVC Schedule 125 makes a great lightweight rugged rigid rod case.

On a 3 weight you almost never need a disk drag, especially in the high country. Click and pawl is fine.

Cabela's Stowaways at one end of the spectrum are great rods, as are Winston 5 pc LT rods.

The selections are all fine, if a bit heavy in the reel department.

Slainte'
Ed

Tim
Jul 27, 2010

I have the cabelas stowaway 4 wt and cheap but functional small reel that holds my floating line with attached sinking 15 foot extension for nymphs..which necessitates switching back and forth between dry and wet choices but enables me to carry only one reel. I ship my rod in suitcase with cardboard tube but keep my rod in a cloth rod case which I roll in my sleeping pad carefully on the top of my backpack. So far so good if I'm careful when I set my pack down.

Kevin
Jul 27, 2010

LOL That looks like a Brown Trout. DOH.

Jack Chiles
Jun 08, 2010

Actually, I think the pics are nice, but I wish he had written an article about tenkara fishing. Very light, simple and compact, not to mention way less expensive.

Colin
Jun 06, 2010

Advising making a rod is not practical in the context of a backpacking mag. Pflueger 1492 is 4.2 oz. Uncle Buck’s reel does not seem available anymore. I don't know where Charlie can get a second fly line, a furled leader, tippet material, and a small selection of just six flies for another $20. Clarification would, perhaps, be appreciated.

Charlie
May 31, 2010

What I object to in the article is that he pays more for a rod than he needs to, and he typically puts up with heavier reels than he needs to. Also, he doesn’t look for the most compact rods there are.

My recommendation, as one reader suggested, would be a Cabelas Stowaway (7’6”, #4 wt, $129). That’s one line size heavier than the focus of the article. But that creates a better price point and a more compact package (16.5” per section, versus 21” for the rods he suggests).

For a reel, I suggest a TFO I (as he does in one pairing) or an Orvis BBS I (both at $119 and 3.2 oz), or a Forbes Magnesium (2.2 oz) if one could be found on eBay at half price.

But for truly light-weight and cheap, I’d use an Uncle Buck’s reel ($5 and 1-3/4 oz), or a Dennison (2.4 oz and $50), and then build a 6’10”, 3/4wt rod with the top six sections of a 7-piece, 8’ blank (about $75 for the blank and all components). A seconds fly line (DT or WF) would be $10-15. A furled leader, tippet material, and a small selection of just six flies would be another $20. So the whole outfit could be bought for under $125, or less than two-thirds of just the price of any rod he mentions.

Good-enough gear doesn't have to be expensive.

Charlie

Charlie
May 31, 2010

What I object to in the article is that he pays more for a rod than he needs to, and he typically puts up with heavier reels than he needs to. Also, he doesn’t look for the most compact rods there are.

My recommendation, as one reader suggested, would be a Cabelas Stowaway (7’6”, #4 wt, $129). That’s one line size heavier than the focus of the article. But that creates a better price point and a more compact package (16.5” per section, versus 21” for the rods he suggests).

For a reel, I suggest a TFO I (as he does in one pairing) or an Orvis BBS I (both at $119 and 3.2 oz), or a Forbes Magnesium (2.2 oz) if one could be found on eBay at half price.

But for truly light-weight and cheap, I’d use an Uncle Buck’s reel ($5 and 1-3/4 oz), or a Dennison (2.4 oz and $50), and then build a 6’10”, 3/4wt rod with the top six sections of a 7-piece, 8’ blank (about $75 for the blank and all components). A seconds fly line (DT or WF) would be $10-15. A furled leader, tippet material, and a small selection of just six flies would be another $20. So the whole outfit could be bought for under $125, or less than two-thirds of just the price of any rod he mentions.

Good-enough gear doesn't have to be expensive.

Charlie

KD
May 26, 2010

Great analysis of the rods- easy to understand and to the point. Now, which one would suit me best. Thanks.

Nick
May 26, 2010

If you don't want to put too much money into backcountry fly fishing and still get a great rod/reel/line/case combo package try this out:
http://bit.ly/botnny

I made a carrying case for it out of a thick cardboard paper tube and tape for waterproofing, 19" long and very light. I keep the reel in the top of my pack.

alex
May 26, 2010

this post is making me hungry!

Kathy
May 26, 2010

This is a gorgeous photo!

mike
May 26, 2010


great trout pic!!!

mike
May 26, 2010


great trout pic!!!

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