This is what we fish with, season after season . . .

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This gear list has been updated to include favorites from the Troutbitten crew — that’s Austin, Bill, Matt, Trevor and Josh. These are the guys you hear on the Troutbitten Podcast. You can find their short bios on the Contributors Page.

This is all gear that we’ve used extensively and believe in. This is what we fish with, season after season.

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There are four guides among the Troutbitten Crew. We guide hundreds of days a year, so we see a lot of fly fishing gear. All of us are teaching guides. And inevitably, we spend some time with the client’s rod in our own hands, demonstrating casting and drifting techniques.

There’s an impressive field of rods on the market today. And the ones listed below are the most outstanding to us.

A dedicated angler forms a deep attachment with a good fly rod. “I don’t know,” he’ll say, “It just feels right.” Exactly! These preferences and devotions to rods and reels are personal. And what may be perfect for one of us, may not be for you.

We value versatility on the water. It’s often a primary factor in how we choose a fly rod for the day. And most of these choices below reflect that.

Every one of these rods handles dry flies beautifully — yes, even the “specialized” nymph rods. For us, the real test is how a fly rod handles a little weight on the end of the line. Can it do that with finesse? These rods can.

We hope you connect with one of these rods. And when you do form that bond . . . you’ll know it.

Hardy Ultralite LL

(Dom, Bill, Trevor)

We do a lot of things on the river with one rod. And this is one of our favorite tools for doing everything. It has the perfect tip for tight lining with a Mono Rig — small flies and large, light and heavy. The Ultralite suits our tuck casting style well. This rod also has enough stiffness in the tip to push around an indy or to perform jerks and jigs on streamers while still maintaining excellent contact. We like it best in the 9’9″ four weight and the 10′ three weight. This is an extremely versatile rod, and I’m happy to recommend it as our favorite.

READ: For Tight Line Nymphing and the Mono Rig, What’s a Good Fly Rod?

Orvis H3F

(Dom, Austin, Josh)

This is the most sensitive rod we’ve ever owned. Fishing underneath, you can paint the bottom with it. Up top, the H3 launches flies further than you can reasonably fish. It’s another rod that just feels right. We suggest the H3F, because the H3D is too stiff for what I like to do. We like the 10 footers in four and five weight. And the 10’6″ three weight is a great tight liner’s stick. The full H3 range is impressively tailored to each application. Another favorite is the 8 foot 4 weight for a very versatile small stream rod.

READ: Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #12 — Use a versatile and general fly rod

Thomas & Thomas Contact 2 Fly Rod


This is a perfect rod for tight lining nymphs. That said, the three and four weights are also quite versatile sticks. Even the three weight has no trouble casting medium streamers on the Mono Rig. The extra eight inches over ten feet makes it a little long to be called versatile, but if hitting the river to tight line nymphs is your primary goal, here’s your tool.

READ: One Great Nymphing Trick

Winston Super 10


A true all-around fly rod, with delicacy for tiny dry flies and power for big fish on big waters, nymphing with and without indicators. The 10′ four weight Winston is the perfect choice for the fishing the Troutbitten Mono Rig in all its variations.

READ: For Tight Line Nymphing and the Mono Rig, What’s a Good Fly Rod?

Orvis Recon Fly Rod


Like the H3, Orvis offers a full range with the Recon series, to match whatever kind of angler you are. If you aren’t willing to spend half a month’s mortgage on a fly rod, here’s the best rod in the mid-price range. We like the 10′ four weight.

READ: Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #39 — Look Upstream to Find the Seams

Sage ESN

(Dom, Bill)

Here’s another excellent tight-liner’s tool. The tip of the ESN is slightly softer than the T&T Contact, but it has plenty of power and a very quick recovery. It is crisp but soft. We like that. For many of our clients, this is their favorite rod of all the ones that we put in their hands.

READ: Nymphing — The Top Down Approach

Temple Fork Outfitters Blue Ribbon


Here’s a great lower-cost fly rod that handles everything. The medium-fast Blue Ribbon is a work horse, without some of the fancy appointments that raise the cost on other fly rods. This rod has a great feel in the hand. It’s a good rod to build your skills around.

READ: Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #39 — Look Upstream to Find the Seams

Cortland Nymph Fly Rod


With this rod, Cortland offers the best tool for tight line anglers available at this price point. “I bought this for my sons, and we use it a lot” (Dom). The feel and recovery of the tip is impressive. If your budget is under $300, here’s your nymphing rod.

READ: Fifty Fly Fishing Tips: #39 — Look Upstream to Find the Seams



Some trout anglers think the fly reel is just a place to hold the line and that a world-class drag doesn’t mean much.

We’ll grant the part about the drag. Although a smooth and powerful one, with a startup like butter is nice, it isn’t necessary.

“I landed my largest wild trout ever on a second-hand, no-name reel that lacked a counterbalance across from the handle. As the twenty-six inch beast took off downstream, I thought the reel was exploding in my hands. (I was young.) But ya know what? I palmed the spool on that click-and-pawl setup, got my wits about me and landed the fish. And it was fun.” — Dom

Although we don’t need it, a well-built fly reel (like the rod) is something to personally connect with. Likewise, tight line anglers have a few special considerations in a reel.

These are our favorites.

Sage ESN Reel

(Dom, Trevor)

This is a full cage reel, built for tight line anglers, but perfect for everything we do out there. Thin mono leader can sometimes slip between the spool and the frame. We call it the mono pull through. And with a full cage reel, it doesn’t happen. The ESN features a variable weight system for balancing the reel with any rod. This has become one of our go-to reels. Like the Sage TROUT, it’s super solid, with a great drag and perfect clicker.

READ: Stop the Mono Pull Through on the fly Reel

Sage TROUT Reel

(Dom, Trevor)

This is a full frame (full cage) reel, but it’s sized for trout rods. That’s a key consideration for us long liners, because the thin mono leader can unexpectedly slip between the spool and the frame. We call it the mono pull through. And with a full cage reel, it simply can’t happen. This has become one of our go-to reels. It’s super solid, the sealed drag is perfect and I love the click sound (sometimes the nuances matter). The 4/5/6 balances with all of our rods.

READ: How  to pick a fly reel, and why I choose the Sage TROUT

Orvis Hydros II Euro Fly Reel


This is a another great reel, if you’re  looking to get away from the slippage of thin lines and leaders through a standard fly reels. The full cage design eliminates any chance of the long leader butt section slipping out and causing you to lose that whiskey.

READ: Habits — Keep It On the Reel

Galvan Euro Nymph G.E.N


Another great reel well suited for all tactics and specializing in managing mono rigs. The large arbor on these kinds of reels also allows for less line coiling.

READ: Tight Line Tips — Stop the Mono Pull-Through on the Fly Reel

Sage Click


The second generation Click not only has a gorgeous look but a sound to match. Does that matter? Sure it does. If you’re buying a reel with no drag, then the aesthetics of things are probably important to you. For me, a basic click-and-pawl reel adds another element to the game, saying, “Disc drag? No thanks, I’ll do it myself.” This is also a good one for the angler who wants a reel as light as possible.

READ: Obsessions

Bauer RVR Euro


Super smooth, built like a tank and pretty to look at. The Bauer RVR is specifically designed, like many of our other favorite reels, with tight line anglers in mind. The full cage and large arbor design keeps line management easy. And the RVR works for every other application we throw at it.

READ: Tight Line Tips — Stop the Mono Pull-Through on the Fly Reel

Waterworks-Lamson Remix


Some of us used a Lamson Konic for many years. Lamson replaced the Konic with the Remix. It’s only slightly more expensive but more durable. This is a great reel with a bulletproof drag for a low cost. It’ll serve you well for many years to come.

READ: Missing the Mornings

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