Model: Clearwater & Encounter II
A backcountry fly-fishing setup should be low in bulk and weight for easy packability, and this system delivers at a wallet-friendly price. But performance is still solid: The medium-action rod (the rod flexes most in the center) casted beautifully over Cascade brush and Columbia Basin reeds in light to moderate wind. The Encounter II reel is ultralight (it’s made of a plastic composite), dirt cheap, and surprisingly bombproof. According to our Colorado tester, the reel “handles big, fat trout like a champ.” Credit its large arbor (or diameter), which ensures fewer line tangles and makes reeling in the Big One quick and easy.
Tip:Leave the included rod case behind, pick up a fluorescent light tube cover at the hardware store, and trim to length. Add bubble wrap inside to minimize rattling, and save a whopping 20 ounces. Rod (as tested, 9’, 4-piece, 5 weight): $198; 3.2 oz.; Reel:$49; 4.7 oz. w/line; orvis.com