When the water you’re fishing allows you to use a 3-weight fly rod, you’re in for a fun day. Three-weight rods fit in exceptionally well on small water that requires some more finesse style fishing. Spooky fish, light flies and a day full of patience is at your fingertips. With so many different 3-weight rods on the market, it’s difficult to know which one is best. The following eight rods should give you a good idea of one that would best fit you.
Best 3 Weight Rods: Quick Picks
The best overall 3-weight rod is the Scott F-Series. This high-performance fiberglass rod is light, sensitive, and extremely accurate. Combine that with the high-quality guides, handle, and reel seat and you have the perfect 3-weight fly rod.
The best budget 3-weight rod is the Orvis Clearwater. The Clearwater is less than $300 and it fishes like it's worth twice that much. It's forgiving for beginners but can do everything a more experienced angler would need.
Best 3-Weight Fly Fishing Rods: Full Reviews
Anglers could spend hours and hours researching the best 3-weight fly rods on the market, but we’ve narrowed down what we believe to be some of the best rods you can find.
Anglers familiar with the Scott brand are not surprised that these rods are included in some of the best 3-weight fly rods available. The F-Series model is a fiberglass rod specifically designed for casts under 20 feet. This is an extremely light rod, and it gives anglers a feeling of full control.
If you're fishing in tight conditions where roll casts and small movements are required, the F-series model is for you. The 3-weight model comes in three different lengths: 5'8". 6'6", and 7'2", so there's a rod length that fits your needs. At less than $700 and a lifetime warranty, you're getting the ideal high-performance rod.
- Medium action
- This 5-piece rod comes in an 18-inch tube
- Full flex profile
The Sage Dart is one of the more unique small water fly rods on the market. This fiberglass rod was designed with Sage's KonneticHD materials that allow anglers to quickly move lines and create the exact loops they need without sacrificing the delicacy required on tight water. If you know you want to fish dries for those picky trout in gin-clear, obstacle-ridden streams, this is your rod.
It is the lightest and most accurate 3-weight fly rod on the market. Plus, there's a 6'6" option if you know you're spending your time in those ultra-challenging conditions. At around $800, you're going to be spending a large amount of money to get this rod, but it's guaranteed to perform.
- Weighs 2 1/16 oz
- Sapling green blank color
- Full ceramic guides
The Orvis Recon 2 has continually flown under the radar since it's been updated. The Recon 2 is a high-performance rod at a mid-level rod price. For less than $600, you'll find yourself with one of the strongest feeling carbon fiber 3-weights on the market. While they're a light and precise rod, many anglers are shocked by how much power they possess.
The backbone gives anglers confidence that the rod is going to do the work. You can spend more time focusing on the presentation and less time worrying about the effort it takes to get your fly to the correct spot. It's ideal for challenging conditions where some added power is required and accuracy can't be sacrificed.
- Fast Action
- Comes in 7'6" and 8'4" models
- Matte olive and charcoal-colored rod blanks
While Orvis fly rods have been scrutinized for a variety of reasons over its history, one thing most anglers will agree on is how high quality the Orvis Clearwater is. Whether you're tight line nymphing, throwing dries, or swinging streamers, there are few fly rods like the Clearwater. This budget fly rod is a do-it-all type of rod. The 3-weight model fits in well on tight water. It can stay as tight and compact as many high-performance fly rods for a fraction of the price. The rod is extremely dependable and can do anything you ask of it. Whether you're an experienced veteran or a novice, the less than $300 Clearwater is guaranteed to fill your needs.
- Medium Action
- Carbon Fiber
- Can be purchased with a matching Clearwater Reel
For some anglers, affordability is just as important as many of the other features on a fly rod. This is where the Snowbee Classic fits in the picture. This is one of the best fly rods you can buy for under $200. The 6' 2/3 weight or the 7' 3/4 weight is exactly what you need if you're new to creek fishing or just need a backup rod. I've used the Classic as a backup rod for years, and I absolutely love it.
The rod tip allows me to drop my dry flies exactly where I need them on the tight water. Plus, it works great as a nymphing rod. The sensitivity makes you feel as if you're in touch with your fly at all times. The mends are easy, and the casting feels great as well. The overall quality and feel of the rod make it seem far more expensive than $150.
- Fast Action
- Carbon Fiber
- A-grade cork handle
Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) is one of those companies that's been able to stay around due to the high quality of their products. The Pro III model is close to a perfect fly rod. New and intermediate fly fishermen from all over the world swear by the quality of this rod. It was created to give anglers a better feel of when they're making high-quality and low-quality casts. It has a great feel and gives those new to small-water fishing a perfect introduction.
The Pro III model will never leave you feeling like you're fishing better than the rod is performing. It's well-balanced, can throw all types of flies, and feels right at home with spooky fish and challenging conditions. The 7'6" model is just about perfect in every way. Plus, at $23o, it's extremely affordable.
- Moderate action
- Carbon fiber
- Weighs 2.6 oz
Redington has continually flown under the radar as a fly fishing brand. However, the development of the Vice model of fly rods has allowed them to enter the world of affordable fly fishing gear. The multi-modulus blanks give anglers an easy recovery and a great chance to make accurate casts. The 7'6" and 8'6" models can operate well in the midst of overhanging branches, vegetation, and tight casting lanes.
It's a rod specifically designed to keep your line off the water and let the fly do the work. As a result, it thrives in pocket water and faster-moving currents. While it doesn't have the features of a Euro nymphing rod, it can play the part well. For around $220, you're going to get a great fly rod that can satisfy all levels of anglers.
- Fast Action
- Carbon Fiber
- Anodized aluminum reel seat
Last but not least, the Scott G Series. The Scott G Series rods are loved by diehard fly anglers. They're created with a hollow internal ferrule that allows them to be both strong and lighter. Plus, it's the best in its class at giving anglers all of the flex they would ever need and staying balanced in the process. The rods also allow anglers to get decent line speeds without having to do minimal back casts.
You can throw 6x tippet and size 22 dries or a size 6 streamer in some windy conditions and not notice any drop-off in performance. Anglers can find the 3-weight G Series rods in 7'7", 8'4" as well as 8'8". Take this fly rod to your favorite trout stream and watch it work its magic. You'll feel like the rod is an extension of your arm. The $900 price tag is an investment, but the lifetime warranty allows you to fish it as hard as you would like without having to worry about having to replace it.
- Medium Action
- Key feature 3
Three Weight Rod Buyers’ Guide
Since 3-weight fly rods are a more precision rod, anglers need to be particular about the rod and the features it has. 3-weight rods serve a specific purpose and are most often used for small water, so make sure you’re aware of your style and what you want in your 3-weight. Some anglers prefer more of a fast action setup for the power and ability to quickly move line and others want a slower action rod that lets them feel every single part of the casting process. Regardless of what you would like in your rod, there is something available for you.
Material Choice: Fiberglass or Carbon Fiber?
Anglers go back and forth on whether or not carbon fiber and fiberglass are better, but it has quite a bit to do with your preference and your style of fishing. However, in tight conditions, fiberglass rods will thrive.
For years, fiberglass rods have been known as some of the most durable and inexpensive rods you can purchase. Plus, fiberglass rods are known to have a large amount of flex, so you take away some of that pressure on the line as well as the hook. For trout anglers, this can be extremely beneficial. Trout have soft mouths, and consistent strong pulling can easily rip the hook through their lips.
If you like to fish in smaller water with nymphs and other bottom-bouncing flies, then a fiberglass rod is a great option. Generally, fiberglass rods are going to have a slower stip and give the fly a more smooth presentation through the water.
When you’re casting, the fiberglass rod isn’t going to create an overly tight loop. As a result, it’s likely going to require some more false casting, but most anglers don’t mind because of how smooth and comfortable it feels. When you get a fiberglass rod in a good rhythm, it’s a beautiful thing. It has plenty of power, but it thrives in tight conditions. Since it’s a slower process, you can be more delicate and precise with your presentation.
In terms of overall control, fiberglass rods are hard to beat. You can easily make mends, roll casts and control your fly extremely well. It doesn’t require much effort to fix your fly and get it to the exact location that you would like.
Carbon fiber rods are the new kid in school that immediately becomes popular. The love for carbon fiber rods is well deserved. They’re a bit more rigid and stiff and allow anglers the chance to power through challenging conditions while not sacrificing the sensitivity needed on the smaller water. The rod keeps its shape, and it requires some effort on your part to put the fly where you would like. The rigidity of the rod takes some getting used to, but the high-quality materials and power are hard not to love.
The first thing many anglers notice when they’re casting a carbon fiber rod is how accurate it is. A properly balanced carbon fiber rod will let you put your fly exactly where you would like regardless of the distance of the cast. Everything is sharp and crisp, so you’re able to move your line exactly where you would like as soon as your fly hits the water. Plus, when the wind is blowing, carbon fiber rods get you where you need.
The carbon fiber rods take some getting used to when you’re wanting to control your fly on the water. You don’t have the rod movement that you get from a fiberglass rod, but the sensitivity allows you to make small flicks of your wrist to get the fly in the right place. It takes time to get to know your rod and how it operates, but once you do, you’ll appreciate how it works.
Carbon fiber rods are quick to respond, so beware.
Fly Rod Action
When you’re purchasing a 3-weight fly rod, there are two actions you’ll find. A medium action as well as fast action.
A medium-action rod is usually very versatile and great for all the different types of flies you would like to throw. They’re generally made of fiberglass, so they’ll have a bit more bend in the rod. If you want power and sensitivity, then a medium-action rod is perfect. These rods work great on smaller water where power isn’t an absolute necessity. The feel makes up for what you may lose in power.
A fast-action rod will flex mostly at the tip and be stiffer around the handle of the rod. These rods have plenty of power, but can still offer a nice amount of sensitivity as long as you’re familiar with your rod. They’re a bit more challenging for new anglers to learn, but they can function well on small water due to the power they offer.
Generally, 3-weight rods are used on small water that has a bit tighter conditions. As a result, you don’t want an extremely long rod that’s going to get hung up in branches or vegetation. Plus, a longer rod is going to prevent you from getting into certain casting lanes that otherwise would be possible.
You’ll want to use a 3-weight rod that’s somewhere between 6 and 8 feet long. Anything longer than this can make fishing with all types of flies more challenging. However, if nymph fishing is the primary goal, then a 9′ or 10′ rod is perfect.
A lifetime warranty on a 3-weight rod is important. These smaller rods generally get hung up more, and one strong pull can snap them. So, make sure you’re aware of the type of warranty you’re getting when purchasing your 3-weight.
Value for Money
At the end of the day, many of us want the best deal we can get on a fly rod. Reputable brands like Sage, Scott, Orvis, TFO, Snowbee, and Redington are going to give you rods that are worth what you pay for them. Trust the reviews and those more well-known brands. You’ll be pleased with the performance of your rod.