There are two things you need to know about the fly rod market. First, in terms of total sales volume, most rod companies sell a lot more low and mid-priced rods than they do fancy, premium rods. “Helios” might be Orvis’ flagship, image-defining rod, but Recon and Clearwater are the workhorses. Most anglers don’t have a grand to drop on a fly rod, and frankly, when it comes to just getting out there and going fishing, most anglers can’t feel or appreciate the difference–at least not by perceptible leaps and bounds–between top-line rods and rods that are perfectly suited to just go fishing. This is a vital sales channel, and the companies know that and pay attention accordingly. There’s no such thing as an “afterthought,” mid-priced fly rod.
Second, when it comes to fly rod “evolution,” the tapers and designs are refined over time, but they’re still pointy at one end and thicker at the other. What facilitates how that taper performs, how much the rod casts, how resistant it is to breakage and so on, are the materials, like graphite and resins, and components, like guides and reel seats, that are used to build them. Many of those things are born of the aerospace industry, where “lighter matched with tougher” is always valued. The thing is, those materials are constantly evolving, and what was breakthrough science 10 years ago, is often commonplace today. Accordingly, that rod that was the bee’s knees, game-changer a decade ago, is pretty similar to the mid-road, blue-collar rod that’s hauling the load for the rod companies today. None of those companies will come right out and say it, but there’s a lot of fly rod DNA from 2012 market icons in the 2024 market bell cows.
So, we live in a good time for fly rod selection, and you can find a very good rod these days for about half the money it costs to buy the most hyped stuff.
That’s no more manifest than with the Orvis Recon series of fly rods. Weighing only three ounces, built in America, featuring fine accents like a premium cork grip, they’re attractive, functional, accurate and track well, load with authority, versatile and dependable. In fact, Orvis upgraded and redesigned the Recon family four years ago, so the series itself has managed to evolve with the times.
Orvis says of their line of Recon fly rods:
“With Recon, you get high-performance feel, lightness in hand, close-in loading ability, and the power for longer reach, and–thanks to H3 construction techniques–improved accuracy. And you get it all at an affordable price.”
“The 905-4 is a rod that can handle big trout, bass and panfish from coast to coast. This length/weight rod is the number one selling configuration. Its length and mid-range line weight give it great versatility for dry-fly fishing, streamer fishing, perfect for a drift boat and nymphing mid-to-light/heavy rigs. When you want to cover water, throw everything from an Adams to a deer-hair popper, the Recon 905-4 is an exceptional choice for all-around versatility in a mid-price fly rod with premium performance built in.”
By way of performance, I took a few “high-end” models (circa 2012) from different rod companies to an alpine lake, along with Recon, to fish from a belly boat. Mixing dries with droppers, then switching to small Woolly Buggers, I played around with overhead casts, roll casts and such, and Recon felt pretty much like the others. I then fished it from the drift boat, and pulled on some decent trout and the all-around “feel” was better than satisfactory. Perhaps most importantly, I had a canine mishap where my dog jumped over the gunwales of my dory and landed smack-dab on three rods I had set down between the seats…two rods snapped, and Recon did not.