Best 5 Weight Fly Rods for 2024 - 5 wt Showdown

Written by: John Baltes
Last Updated:
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Fly anglers in the market for an excellent 5 wt rod are spoiled for choices.

Often considered “all-arounders,” 5 wt rods are a great option for minimalists as well as anyone who wants a rod that’s capable in the vast majority of situations. Trout, panfish, smallmouth bass, and even largemouth and other similarly-sized species can be landed on a 5 wt, and though they may be heavier than ideal for euro nymphing, they’ll accomplish most of what an angler needs.

If you’re looking for a new 5 wt fly rod, keep reading. Below, you’ll find reviews of some of our favorites, as well as a complete buying guide.

Quick glance at the best 5 w fly rods:

Related:

Best 5 Weight Fly Rods Reviewed

Sage Trout LL - Best 5 wt Dry-Fly Rod

Sage Fly Fishing - 590-4 Trout LL Rod - 5 Weight, 9'0' Fly Rod

Amazon 

Material: graphite/resin KonneticHD

Action: medium

Length: 8’ 6”

Weight: 5 wt

Pieces: 4

Almost forgotten in the wake of the popularity of euro nymphing, a true dry-fly rod like the Sage Trout LL will remind you of why a perfectly-executed medium action is a thing of beauty. Armed with the latest blank technology and sporting a refined taper that’s nothing short of magical, this just may be the perfect 5 wt dry fly rod.

While Sage offers a 9-foot variant of the Trout LL, it’s hard to argue with a shorter rod that almost disappears in your hand while casting the tightest loops you’ve ever seen. Overhanging vegetation has met its match with this rod, and within 50 feet or so, I doubt any rod can drop a dry fly on the surface with a better presentation or greater accuracy.

Yes, it’s that good.

Truly a dream to cast, whether you’re just getting started or are a veteran of cold streams, this Sage casts dry flies and droppers to the absolute limit of your ability - and then some. 

The taper on this rod is a masterclass for other manufacturers, and from surprising backbone near the handle to easy timing, fighting and false casts feel like nothing you’ve fished before.

Expect a Fuji ceramic stripper guide, perfectly executed ferrules, a beautiful reel seat, and in-hand feel that rivals any rod on the market. If you’re in search of an amazing 5 wt to target rising trout, panfish, and smallmouth bass, I’m confident that you’ll be delighted with the Sage Trout LL.

Pros: 

  • Awesome blank technology delivers amazing casting and presentation
  • Ultra-light in-hand weight
  • Forgiving medium-fast action
  • Top-end components and excellent aesthetics

Cons:

  • Not a euro nymphing rod

Winston AIR 2 - Best 5 wt All-Around Fly Rod

Winston AIR 2 Fly Rod S21-5wt 9'0' 4pc

Amazon 

Material: graphite/resin composite

Action: medium-fast

Length: 9’

Weight: 5 wt

Pieces: 4

There’s no question about the effectiveness of euro nymphing, but speciality rods designed just for this application suffer as all-arounders.

Enter the Winston AIR 2.

Equipped with a 9-foot composite blank with a medium-fast taper and a stiff tip, the AIR 2 excels in tight line techniques and can launch nymphs capably to medium distances. Streamers are no less effectively lofted by this rod, and dry flies and droppers land effortlessly, too. While not the perfection for dry flies that the Sage Trout LL has proven itself to be, the Winston AIR 2 is a better one rod to rule them all, especially if you’ve already mastered the fundamentals.

Extremely light in hand, the AIR 2 is a very capable wet fly rod, perfect for soft hackle flies, indicators, and heavier nymphs. Capable of greater range than the Trout LL, it’s probably better in a hard fight, too, as the backbone feels stouter.

The cigar handles, stripper guides, ferrules, and reel seat are masterfully crafted, and this rod’s aesthetics are wonderful.

If you need a high-end all-arounder, the Winston AIR 2 may just be the best there is.

Pros: 

  • Awesome blank technology delivers amazing casting and presentation
  • Ultra-light in-hand weight
  • Stiffer action allows for tight line techniques, wet fly presentation, droppers, and indicators
  • Top-end components and excellent aesthetics

Cons:

  • Not as good with dry flies as the Sage Trout LL

Thomas and Thomas Zone - Best Mid-Range 5 wt Fly Rod

Thomas & Thomas Zone Fly Rod - 9' 5wt

Amazon 

Material: graphite/resin composite with StratoTherm Resin technology

Action: medium-fast

Length: 9’

Weight: 5 wt

Pieces: 4

Thomas and Thomas are known for their uncompromising high-end rods, but the Zone demonstrates that with the right know-how and design philosophy, a medium-range rod can match the performance of options beyond the price range of many anglers.

The Zone’s blank sports the same tech that the Avantt and Exocett employ, and you can feel that on your first cast. A true medium-fast action that offers excellent feel, it casts ably to about 60 feet, and as you’d expect from a 9-foot rod, offers delicate presentations in close to about 20 feet.

The Zone is probably at its best with dry flies, though streamers and soft-hackled flies aren’t beyond its capabilities. It’s very light in hand, and the half-wells grip is comfortable and fatigue reducing.

Its blank offers plenty of fight for big fish, and I’d feel confident playing a big brown trout in a strong current. 

Expect really well-executed components, like a ceramic/titanium stripper guide and solid reel seat. 

If there’s one criticism of the Zone - and you may have heard this before - it’s aesthetic. The blue theme doesn’t please the eye as it should, and there’s no competition with the Trout LL and AIR 2 in terms of looks.

That said, there’s no beating the price-to-performance ratio of the Zone, and if you’re in the market for a capable all-arounder that won’t leave your wallet empty, this rod deserves a closer look.

Pros: 

  • Great price-to-performance ratio
  • Awesome high-end blank technology delivers amazing casting and presentation
  • Ultra-light in-hand weight
  • Excellent moderate-fast action 

Cons:

  • Not as good with dry flies as the Sage Trout LL
  • Not as good with nymphs and streamers as the Winston AIR 2

Sage Foundation Fly Outfit - Best 5 wt Fly-Fishing Combo

Bass Pro

Material: graphite

Action: fast

Length: 9’

Weight: 5 wt

Pieces: 4

If you watch two fly anglers making false casts, mending, or flipping a long leader - and one of them struggles while the other makes everything look like child’s play - that difference is the result of the better angler having perfected foundational skills.

And while there are many excellent fly-fishing outfits out there, none in our view surpass Sage’s Foundation for anglers who already have a solid base of skills.

The Foundation’s blank is very stiff, and the graphite is tapered to create fast action that’s perfect for experienced anglers who switch between dry and wet flies. Especially if you need an all-arounder that’s capable of tight line techniques like nymphing, the Foundation is as close to perfect as you’ll find.

Medium-range casts are wind-bucking, accurate, and easy to manage for an angler with the requisite skill, but of course the fast action makes short-range casting more challenging. With that in mind, however, anglers with years on the water will be able to launch streamers and other wet flies respectable distances or loft nymphs up stream before working them back down the current.

Dry fly casting is acceptable, too, but that stiff, fast action is more suited to nymphing than gentle presentation.

Expect well-executed guides and a comfortable, fatigue-reducing handle.

Sage pairs these rods with their outstanding Spectrum C Fly Reel. Known for its reliable drag system and capacious arbor, it’s a great reel in its own right and a fantastic addition to this outfit.

Sage’s Foundation is an exceptional outfit for experienced anglers and a more than capable backup to speciality rods.

Pros:

  • Excellent fast blank
  • High-quality components
  • Casts well at all but short distances
  • Versatile range of weights available
  • The 8 wt is a monster tamer
  • Paired with the excellent Spectrum C reel

Cons:

  • The action is better suited to experienced anglers than those trying to build skills

Echo Trip - Best 5 wt Travel Fly Rod

Material: graphite

Action: medium-fast

Length: 9’

Weight: 5wt

Pieces: 8

If you’ve ever been traveling and passed the perfect trout stream, you know exactly why a compact, capable travel rod is such an amazing idea. The Echo Trip is among our favorites, and the 5 wt makes an ideal companion when you’re not sure what you’ll come up against.

All-arounders really shine on the road, where the conditions favor versatility over hyper-specialization, and the Trip is good enough that you’ll forget it’s actually a travel rod.

In hand, the Trip feels slower than medium-fast, and it flexes to very near the handle when casting. Anglers newer to the water will find the Trip supports skill building, allowing plenty of feel and easier timing than a faster blank. It loads and casts dry flies really well, allowing delicate presentations and covering short- as well as medium-range casting.

The 5 wt demonstrates plenty of backbone close to the handle, and the soft action works well to cushion fragile tippet and leader. Indeed, I really like the Trip for hard-fighting smallmouth, tossing a variety of poppers, dry flies, and streamers to them in quiet eddys and vodka-clear pools.

Expect an anodized aluminum reel seat and stainless guides, with fit and finish being uniformly very good.

But while the Trip excels with a variety of wet and dry flies, it’s not going to be a good choice for euro nymphing, where a fast action and a stiff rod tip are essential. That said, it’s a capable jack of all trades that won’t let you down on your adventures far from home.

Pros:

  • Packs down really small
  • Excellent blanks with a medium action perfect for experienced as well as novice fy anglers
  • Excellent casting with dry and wet flies
  • Plenty of fight-winning backbone

Cons:

  • Not an excellent choice for euro nymphing, as the action is too soft for tight-line techniques

Temple Fork Outfitters NXT Black Label - Best 5 wt. Fly Rod for Beginners

5 wt. 9'0' 4 pc. NXT Black Label Rod

Amazon 

Material: ?

Length: 9’

Weight: 5 wt.

Action: medium-fast

Temple Fork Outfitters is incredibly invested in the sport through education programs. Backing schools that teach novice anglers the ins and outs of fly fishing, their long-term experience with people who’ve never held a fly rod before really shines through in the NXT Black Label.

Described as “the gold standard for fly fishing schools and educational programs across the United States,” the 5 wt NXT Black Label has a strong claim to be the best novice fly rod, hands down.

TFO knows that fundamentals are everything. They also understand that while euro nymphing is amazingly effective, the stiff rods that are required for tight lines techniques make casting and other basic skills very difficult for novices. 

That’s why you’ll find that the 5 wt NXT Black Label sports a medium-fast blank that transmits plenty of feel to your hand. You'll really know when the rod loads on the back cast, making it easier to learn to time your casts. It drops flies on to the water with finesse, offering delicate presentations rather than unsubtle plops. And it loads deeply, allowing long casts even on breezy days.

As a medium- to short-range dry fly rod, the NXT Black Label really excels, delivering better casting performance than it should in the hands of someone who’s just learning their way around a fly rod. And when put through its paces by a pro, expect gentle presentations, plenty of range, and startling accuracy.

Dry flies, streamers, droppers: this rod can do it all, and do it all well.

Obviously, this is a great rod for learning the fundamentals of the sport, but it’s sufficiently excellent that it may be a long while until you outgrow its performance. 

And if that weren’t enough, it’s also affordably priced.

Pros: 

  • Affordable price!
  • Forgiving medium-fast action
  • Outstanding performance for the money
  • Casts well, even into the wind

Cons:

  • Not a euro nymphing rod

Buying Guide: What To Look for in a 5 wt Rod

Why 5 wt? Versatility

5 wt rods are the daily drivers of fly angling, offering reliable performance with a wide range of flies and techniques, and holding their own in fights with everything from panfish to largemouth bass.

As such, manufacturers tend to shy away from specialty 5 wt rods, reserving true euro nymphing rods for the 3 and 4 wts and stout, hard-fighting blanks for the 6 wts and heavier.

Versatility is the watchword for 5 wts, though like the unbeatable Sage Trout LL, they may still be better at some applications than others, while allowing you to work gin-clear streams and lily-choked ponds with one rod.

Material

Graphite and graphite/resin composites are the dominant materials in 5 wt blanks.

5 wt rods are uniformly manufactured from graphite and graphite/resin composites.

Typically very light in hand, graphite and graphite composites offer unrivaled stiffness and strength, while translating energy to your hand directly. Excellent feel, predictable loading, and amazing casting are the hallmarks of good blank tech, and 5 wt rods push these materials to their limits.

Length

All other things being equal, longer rods cast further and make tight line techniques easier to execute. Shorter rods tend to be more accurate, and overall better at shorter ranges.

Long rods are right at home on wide-open rivers and streams.

Typically, if you fish small streams with overhanging vegetation, a shorter rod - under 9 feet - will serve you better. But if maximum distance is necessary, and there are no obstacles overhead, a long rod is the best choice.

Action

The predominance of euro nymphing and tight line techniques has led manufacturers to push blank action toward the fast end of the spectrum, meaning that the rod will bend closer to the tip than the grip.

Faster rods cast nymphs longer distances, and they’re perfect for feeling every bump and bounce through a tight line connected to your nymph. But they’re difficult to cast for beginners, and it’s important to truly master the fundamentals to get the most from them.

By contrast, medium action blanks load easily and deeply, allowing ideal presentations for dry flies. That deeper bend also translates into more feel and easier timing, making them a better choice if you’re new to the sport.

Final Thoughts

Veterans an beginners alike will welcome the range of excellent 5 wt rods currently available, and whether you’re looking for a new outfit to get you started, a dedicated 5 wt dry fly rod, or an outstanding all-arounder, our shortlist is sure to please.

We hope that this article has helped you find the right 5 wt fly rod for your needs and budget, and we’d love to hear from you if it has.

Please leave a comment below!

About The Author
John Baltes
Chief Editor & Contributor
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.
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