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Fishing small streams is one of the absolute joys of angling. Often characterized by surface-oriented fish and easy wading, a day spent on small water is made even better with a specialized small-water fly rod. Luckily, there are lots of great options for small stream fly rods, each with unique strengths and weaknesses. Keep reading to learn about our favorite small stream fly rods of 2024, and decide which one is the best for your creeking adventures!

Orvis Superfine Glass 7’6” 3wt

Although the Superfine Glass has been around for a couple of years now, it's still one of the most enjoyable and effective small stream rods available in 2024. With the Superfine, Orvis took design elements from the Helios series to create a modern fiberglass rod that feels smooth and playful with an elegant finish. This rod makes small fish feel bigger, yet isn’t a complete noodle like some glass rods. Compared to the old Superfine Glass, the newest model features more power and upgraded premium componentry. It's as fun to look at as it is to fish! From bluelining brookie streams to popping for smallmouths, the Orvis Superfine Glass is a pleasure to cast and looks beautiful.

Price: $498.00

Pros

  • Excellent componentry
  • USA-built craftsmanship
  • More range than most glass rods

Cons

  • Pricey compared to other fiberglass rods on the market
  • Some may find it a touch too fast for glass

Winston Pure 7’6” 3wt

The Winston Pure is another rod that’s been around for several years now, but its performance as a versatile creek rod still lands it a spot on the list. For anglers who love small, technical water that requires some longer, delicate casts, the Pure is a phenomenal choice. Think spooky spring creek trout that demand a stealthy approach from downstream. Unlike many dry fly specialists, the Pure maintains plenty of power at medium and longer distances but is still playful and extremely light. And like any Winston, the Pure features the classic green blank and premium componentry from cork to tip. Overall, the Pure remains a solid choice for technical small-stream applications for anglers who can swallow the high price tag. 

Price: $975.00

Pros

  • Insanely light swing weight
  • Accurate even at a distance
  • Versatile for a dry fly specialist

Cons

  • Not the best close-range option
  • Expensive

Scott F Series 6’6” 3wt

If you like backpacking into small creeks that are no wider than a sidewalk, the Scott F Series rod is the perfect tool for the job. Scott created the F Series fiberglass rod to do one thing: load deep into the blank with minimal line out. This is a close-range specialist that fully embodies the feel of a soft, slower-action rod. Thanks to its deep-bending blank, tippet protection is unparalleled with the F Series, making it a solid choice for small spring creeks or any situation that requires extra light tippets. Another perk of the F Series is its 4-piece design, which saves space for backpacking or traveling anglers. Lastly, the F Series features an elegant orange-colored blank that pays homage to the fiberglass rods of yesteryear. Overall, the F Series is a blast to fish in small water and is one of the finest premium fiberglass rods available in 2024. 

Price: $695.00

Pros

  • Close-range specialist
  • Excellent tippet protection
  • Elegant design with premium componentry

Cons

  • Not ideal for long or even medium distances
  • Expensive for glass

Hardy Ultralite NSX SR 7’ 3wt

The Hardy Ultralight NSX SR is the small stream specialist from Hardy, delivering outstanding performance and modern technology for hardcore creek junkies. As its name implies, the SR is very lightweight and would make a great backpacking companion when every ounce matters. The action of the SR is medium-fast; it feels snappy at all distances but offers enough flex and feel to load dry flies at close range. Additionally, you’ll get top-end componentry on the NSX SR, featuring titanium stripping guides, Recoil snake guides, and a thoughtful asymmetrical reel seat to boot. Overall, the Hardy Ultralight NSX SR is a premium jack-of-all-trades creek rod that remains a top contender for the best small stream fly rod of 2024.

Price: $825.00

Pros

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Very versatile at all distances
  • Premium componentry

Cons

  • Will not offer the same tippet protection as a fiberglass rod
  • Premium rod = premium pricing

Thomas & Thomas Paradigm 8’4” 4wt

Thomas and Thomas designed the Paradigm to be their finesse presentation rod, and it has certainly lived up to the hype. Since its introduction in 2020, we’ve had lots of time to fish the Paradigm and become familiar with its intricacies. This is a rod that demands to be thrown with a slow, methodical casting stroke. If you apply too much power your loop will likely fall apart. But if you can dial in the timing of your casting stroke, it's a buttery smooth weapon that makes casting a single dry fly an absolute joy. This should be the rod you reach for when you need very delicate shots and great tippet protection, but you want a little more backbone than a fiberglass rod. Aesthetically, the Paradigm is stunningly beautiful, featuring T&T’s hallmark deep blue blank and premium componentry from top to bottom. For creek anglers with a slower casting stroke, the Thomas and Thomas Paradigm is a fantastic premium graphite option.

Price: $965.00

Pros

  • Beautiful USA craftsmanship
  • Excellent feel with lots of feedback

Cons

  • A little finicky - slow down your casting stroke!
  • Not the lightest creek rod available

Douglas Upstream 7’ 3wt

The Douglas Upstream is a small-stream specialist that pays homage to classic cane fly rods with its elegant appearance and slow-action performance. Here in New England, we love fishing the Douglas Upstream on small Brook Trout creeks where accuracy and delicacy at close range are important. This is a tool that will give you tons of feel and “soul” for fishing dry flies within 20 feet of the rod tip. You might be asking yourself: why go for the Upstream instead of a fiberglass rod? The answer is weight. The Upstream is a very lightweight rod that you’ll have no problem fishing all day without fatigue. Overall, the Douglas Upstream is still one of the best small stream rods available today, and at a reasonable price of under $550.

Price: $519.00

Pros

  • Under $550
  • Lightweight!
  • Traditional aesthetics

Cons

  • Limited to close-range fishing

Echo River Glass 7’6” 4wt

We always like to include a budget option in our “best of” series, and Echo is certainly known for making excellent budget freshwater rods. The Echo River Glass lives up to this ethos, featuring a playful glass feel in some fun color options. This is the perfect rod for beginners and intermediate casters who need a forgiving glass rod for small creek fishing. Like most fiberglass rods, the River Glass will bend deep into the blank on close-range casts, giving the angler ample feel and feedback. Even a small Brook Trout will put a big bend in the rod, making every catch more enjoyable. Additionally, Echo chose some wild colors for the River Glass, which will appeal to younger anglers especially. For budget-oriented anglers, the Echo River Glass is a fun rod that will perform solidly on small streams and creeks!

Price: $249.99

Pros

  • Beginner friendly!
  • Affordable price
  • Lots of feel and great tippet protection

Cons

  • “Loud” colors won’t appeal to everyone
  • Lacks power at mid-distance and beyond

FAQ

What species can be targeted in small streams?

Small streams are typically associated with Trout, but depending on your region you could find Bass, Shad, Carp, Salmon, or a multitude of other species.

What’s the difference between Graphite and Fiberglass fly rods?

Graphite and Fiberglass are different materials that both have advantages and disadvantages. Fiberglass rods tend to be slower in action and offer less casting power but are great at making delicate presentations and are generally easier to cast for beginners. Fiberglass rods are also typically more affordable and are harder to break since glass can bend more before snapping. Graphite rods are generally lighter and more powerful, offering a faster action, but usually at the expense of a higher cost. Deciding between graphite rods and fiberglass rods depends on factors such as your fishery, target species, casting stroke, and budget.

What fly line should I choose for my small stream fly rod?

Choosing the right fly line depends on many factors such as target species, the size of fly you’ll be fishing, and the water temperature. For lots of specific information about picking the right fly line, check out our Blog.

How do I choose between a faster action or slower action small stream rod?

Fast-action rods are generally stiffer rods that offer more power and line speed but at the expense of feel or “flex”. Typically, fast-action rods are best for windy conditions, casting bigger flies, and casting heavier fly lines. On the other hand, slower action rods flex deeper into the rod blank, offering more “feel” and increased finesse, but at the expense of power. Most small stream anglers prefer slow to medium action rods for their finesse and overall gentler presentation, especially for spooky fish. Generally, slow and medium-action rods are more beginner-friendly to cast, whereas a fast-action rod might take more practice to get the timing just right.

What are the key differences between premium and budget-friendly small stream fly rods?

We are very lucky these days to have many budget-friendly fly rods which still perform quite well. That being said, there are some distinct differences between premium rods and their economic counterparts. Primarily, the materials used in premium rods will be of higher quality than those found in budget rods. Some of these materials, like the graphite used in the blank, can greatly affect the performance of the rod. Other materials, like the reel seat insert and the paint finish, are more cosmetic and subjective. Additionally, warranties may differ between premium and budget small stream fly rods. Premium rods tend to have a more substantial warranty, but you should check with the manufacturer for each specific model’s warranty.