7 Best Steelhead Fly Rods Of 2024: Recommended By River Guides

Best Steelhead Fly Rods
One of my clients fly casting a local steelhead river.

As a river guide, I have probably used dozens of different fly rods for steelhead. I recommend fly rods to my clients all the time. There are certain things I look for in a fly rod when it comes to fly rods suitable for steelhead fishing.

The ideal steelhead fly rod for you will depend on a few things. Here are my quick recommendations:

Rod Length and Type Weight Suitable For
10 Foot 7-Weight Single Hand 7 Nymphing most small to mid-sized Great Lakes steelhead rivers
9 Foot 7-Weight Single Hand 7 Casting/streamers or combo streamer/nymphing for Great Lakes rivers
10 Foot 8-Weight Single Hand 8 Nymphing most West Coast rivers or large Great Lakes rivers
9 Foot 8-Weight Single Hand 8 Streamer fishing West Coast Steelhead
12 to 14 foot 7 weight Spey/Switch 7 Great Lakes steelhead rivers
12 to 14 foot 8 weight Spey/Switch 8 West Coast Steelhead

There are many reasons why there are different fly rods for Great Lakes steelhead and different fly rods for West Coast steelhead. The method, the size of the river, and the steelhead itself are all reasons.

What To Consider When Buying A Steelhead Fly Rod

A 10 foot rod on a 50 foot wide steelhead river
This is one of my clients using a 10 foot fly rod on a 50 foot wide steelhead river.

Many of the Great Lakes steelhead rivers are small in comparison to the much bigger West Coast steelhead rivers, and therefore, these rivers require different fly rods.

When choosing the right steelhead rod for you, consider these factors.

  • Size Of Fish: West Coast steelhead tend to average slightly larger than Great lakes steelhead. However, despite what other anglers say, the size of the fish is not a significant reason for choosing a fly rod. See below why.
  • Tippet Size: If you are nymphing and need lighter tippet for line shy steelhead, use a lighter seven weight rod. If you use a heavier tippet for streamers or swinging flies, use a heavier rod that you can apply all the extra backbone without breaking the fish off.
  • Method: Nymphing requires lighter rods of size seven weight; streamer fishing or swinging flies with heavier tippets can handle eight weight rods or 9 weight rods.
  • Wind: If you fish windy open rivers, a heavier rod of eight or nine weight is best.
  • Distance: A heavier 8 or 9 weight is better if casting distance is required.
  • River Size and Velocity: Larger faster rivers often require heavier tippets to get big fish in. Therefore, a heavier 8 or 9-weight rod is best.

I always try to use the lightest rod possible. On smaller rivers that can be easily walked along the bank to chase a big steelhead up or down the river, I prefer lighter siz or even weight rods.

The Best Length For Great Lakes Steelhead Fly Rod

You could use an 8’6″ or a 9-foot fly rod for all your steelhead fishing, but I find that length to be too short if you are nymphing.

The best length for nymphing steelhead fly rod is 10 feet to 10’6″ long because the longer rod allows you to cast further and easier, mend easier, and the added length helps to protect lighter tippets that are often needed when steelhead fishing.

If you want a steelhead fly rod for primarily casting streamers then a 9-weight rod is a good option.

5 Best Steelhead Fly Rods

Redington Path Fly Rod

The Redington Path 2 Fly Rod is the best 10-foot 7-weight “economy fly rod” that is suitable for great lakes and light west coast steelhead fishing.

Known as an all-purpose rod, the 10-footer gives you the length and the moderate fast action will help you flip indicators over as well as improve your mending.

I have seen this rod sell from $114.00 to $159.00

Best Fly Rod under 400 dollars

Echo Ion XL Fly Rod

I have recently tested out the Echo Ion XL fly rod. This is a highly rated rod targeted to beginner and intermediate anglers.

River guides will also love this rod because it’s easy to use and teach with. The 10 foot 7 weight and 8 weight are good choices for most steelhead rivers.

Check Alternative Prices and Stock

The Echo Ion XL is a good rod for under $200 in some stores, and a rod that I have no problems using as a guide rod or fishing with for fun. I have used and tested plenty of Echo rods in the past and find they get better every year. The Echo rods often fish and feel as good as rods that would cost you $200 or $300 dollars more.

The other great thing is I used to be a dealer of Echo rods when I owned my tackle store, so I know that their customer service and warranty are excellent.

For steelhead fishing around the Great Lakes, I recommend the 10 foot 7-weight or eight weight for all methods typically used.

Best Steelhead Fly Rod Douglas LRS Fly Rod 10 foot 7 weight
Best Steelhead Fly Rod Douglas LRS Fly Rod 10 foot 7 weight

Douglas LRS Fly Rod

This is another good rod for under $225 for Great Lakes steelhead and West Coast steelhead.

Check Alternative Price and Stock

The Douglas LRS Fly Rod is a good rod that I would recommend for both Great Lakes steelhead and West Coast steelhead if you are an angler who is looking for a steelhead fly rod under $225.00 or if you fish large rivers.

The Douglas LRS fly Rod rod is meant for bigger fish and has been a pleasure to use when fishing for steelhead with methods like nymphing with indicators or single-hand swinging flies and streamer use.

The Douglas LRS fly Rod comes in sizes for big and small rivers and will fit your budget. It gets great reviews, and the guys that use them really like them. The sizes of this fly rod range from 10 foot 7 weight, 10 foot 8 weight, and 10 foot 9 weight.

I would use the 10 foot 9 weight only on very large rivers and west coast rivers.

This single-hand rod is suitable for nymphing or casting streamers.

Guides Choice Steelhead Fly Rods

See the Jeff Blood Fly Rod in action
Click on the picture to see the Jeff Blood Fly Rod in action

Jeff Blood Premium Fly Rod

Designed by a long-time Great lakes Steelhead guide for the purpose of steelhead fishing.

The Jeff Blood Fly Rod was built for fly fishing for Great Lakes Steelhead and was really designed for nymphing. It is designed and made by a long-time Great Lakes Steelhead River guide, Jeff Blood. I would have no issues nymph fishing for steelhead on small to mid sizes west coast rivers with this rod.

The Jeff Blood Fly Rod was made to be balanced in your hand and handle all kinds of steelhead fishing, which makes this one of my top choices for a Great Lakes steelhead fly rod.

This premium steelhead fly rod is great for casting and presenting the fly with or without an indicator. It has just the right flex and power for good hook sets and for fighting and landing steelhead of all sizes.

I like the extra 10’3 length in the 7-weight model, but the 8-weight is pretty nice for those anglers that might want to use it for some Great Lakes salmon fishing in the fall or when steelhead fishing on the West Coast rivers.

The Jeff Blood steelhead fly rod is made of all high-quality components and is a pleasure to fish with.

St. Croix Imperial USA Switch Fly Rod is good for nymphing for steelhead

St. Croix Imperial Fly Rod

I used to sell this rod in my tackle store and I used to guide with one. 10 foot 7 weight Fly Rod

Check Alternative Price and Stock

The 10 foot 7 weight St Croix Imperial fly rod is a good mid-priced fly rod for fishing for Great Lakes Steelhead. The 10 foot 8 weight should handle West Coast steelhead and also Great Lakes salmon and is a good choice of rod in this price range.

I found this rod to be a bit softer than some other rods which protects light tippets and can help when flipping over indicator rigs. The 7-weight fly rod that I guided with for a couple of years handled the hundreds of steelhead that my clients hooked with it.

This is one of the best steelhead fly rods in this price range.

St Croix Imperial Switch Rod

Another great steelhead rod in the St Croix Imperial rod lineup and one that I guided with a really enjoyed fishing is the St. Croix Imperial Switch Fly Rod. This is what I would consider a light switch rod that was fun to nymph with and fun to swing flies with.

The 11 foot 7 weight was a great rod on all the great lakes and rivers that I guide and fish on and would be suitable on just about every great lakes steelhead river. The added length and power in this rod made casting big indicator rigs, weight, and multiple flies easy and it also made mending super easy.

This is a great choice for anglers that like the extra length and size for the bigger rivers and bigger fish.

The only downside to this rod is the extra weight on the arms and shoulders at the end of the day which is to be expected from a switch rod.

fly fishing

Orvis Helios 3F Fly Rod

A great high-end steelhead fly rod for great lakes and west coast steelhead.

Check Alternative Sale Price and Stock

Another great rod from the well-known fly fishing company Orvis. I have had a dozen clients or more come out and fish with this rod and it is an excellent high-end rod for anglers that want one of the best steelhead fly rods available.

This rod in the 10 foot 7 weight or 8 weight would be great on any great lakes steelhead river and the 8 weight would be suitable for west coast steelhead.

It comes with all high-end components and is a pleasure to fish with. It makes indicator fish, mending, and fighting big steelhead so much better.

Other great steelhead fly rods are:

  • G. Loomis NRX+ Freshwater Fly Rod – 10 foot 7 weight and eight weight – Check Price and Stock

Tight Lines


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  1. Curious what guides recommended the rods you mention for west coast steelhead? The rods you suggest are not being used by anyone I’m aware of here on the west coast.

    1. Hey Rob,

      River guides will use different rods in different regions depending on availability as well as what their local stores sell or recommend.

      Guides will also use different rods depending on where they can get the best prices. If a company like Sage or Scott or Orvis is targeting guides in your area and those brands are providing good guide discounts, chances are that’s what the guides you see or you use are all going to be using. That doesn’t necessarily mean those fly rods are better or worse rods.

      Different areas and different guides will use and recommend different rods so if your guide recommends a fly rod to you, go with it.

      Keep this in mind. I can think of 4 local guides that I know and they all use different steelhead rod brands. Two of those brands I wouldn’t use even if the company gave them to me for free. But those guides use those rods and recommend them simply because they did get them for free from those companies. I think this happens a lot. I am not affiliated with any company (by my choice) so I recommend what I know works.

      Good luck,


  2. Great series of articles! Since the TFO Pro II is discontinued and I don’t seem to be able to find a St Croix Imperial (my first choice) available, IS there another affordable solution other than the Douglas?

    1. Hey Alan,

      Yes, unfortunately, I’m still seeing manufacturing issues and delays so some rods are hard to get or are being discontinued. I’ve updated the page to include other great rods like the Echo Ion XL and the Redington Path Fly Rod. The Redington is a decent option if you are on a tight budget.

  3. Hi I love the blog! Thank you for all you do. I try to buy through your links whenever I can so I can help support the site. I spoke to an old guy while fishing for steelhead in Rocky River , Ohio. He mentioned that he likes using a 10′ 5 wt rod because it’s the best “Swiss army knife” setup for versatility. Do you have any thoughts on that? I know first hand that a 9′ 5 wt is not really good for a steelhead’s health.

    1. Hi Chris,

      Thanks for all your support.

      You make a good point about the 5-Weight not being good for the steelhead’s health, it’s generally better to get them in quickly. I think a 5-weight is a bit light for most steelhead, however with a 5 weight rod, you could still use the 6 to 8 pound tippets and horse them in by just applying a lot more bend in the rod. That is probably what he is doing. But, there’s a reason you don’t see steelhead guides using 5 weights for steelhead, and that’s simply because the heavier rods handle fish better and are better for fishing and line control.

      For most great lake rivers, 6 to 8 weight rods are best, with the 7-weight being a good middle ground, and the 8-weight, well, save it for the bigger rivers.

      Best Of Luck,


  4. Great article! Just found this site and lots of great info. Not new to fly fishing but am new to targeting steelhead. A few of questions…

    1. You mentioned that at least at one time you used Hardy rods. Any experience with and thoughts regarding the Ultralite 10′ 7 wt? Worth the extra $ over some of the lower priced rods mentioned?

    2. In terms of the Echo Ion XL, how’s the swing weight (listed weight is 5.8 oz)? Love the price and Echo rods generally seem pretty durable, just thinking it may not be the most pleasant rod if high sticking.

    3. What line(s) do you like on the St. Croix? Can it handle a SA Anadro?

    1. Hi Ed,

      The Hardy Ultralight is one of the nicest rods I have used for trout fishing, however I have not used the 10 foot 7 weight rod. Based on my experience with the lighter trout versions is that this would be a great high end rod for steelhead.

      I don’t pay much attention to swing weight when it comes to steelhead rods primarily because I rarely make traditional fly casts, and if I do it’s with streamer line or lines with a heavy head so it’s hard to tell the actual rods swing weight. The way I steelhead fish, everything is lob, flip, and mend, which the Echo Ion XL does well. With many lower priced rods like this one they tend to be slightly heavier.

      I have only used Airflo and Rio lines on the the St Croix Imperial so I can’t say for sure and I have not looked into other lines. What I found with my Imperial was that it loaded well with the right amount of line out (spey casting) and with the right grain weight. This is not as powerful as a full spey rod, so you do not want to overload it.

      Good luck


        1. Hey Ed,

          If you are only going to nymph, go with a 10’foot single hand rod and but based on whatever your budget allows. If you think you also want to swing flies and cast with spey casts then the St Croix Switch rod is a good option, but if you are not swinging or spey casting, it is heavy for nymphing all day when compared to a rod like the Hardy Ultra Light 10 foot 7 weight. I personally prefer to have two rods, one single hand for nymphing, and one for spey casting.

          Good luck.


  5. Hello-

    Would I be able to euronymph for Great Lakes Steelhead with a 10-foot 6 or 7 wt Douglas LRS rod? I do a lot of euronymphing for trout with a 3-weight and am comfortable with the technique. Last year I used my 9-foot Loomis 7wt and did ok, but I want a longer rod. I fish for steelhead in Pennsylvania and New York.

    I only get up steelhead fishing once or twice a year so I can’t justify breaking the bank for a rod and the Douglas looked like a good choice, but I wanted to know your thoughts.

    Thanks for all the great info!

    1. Hey Jonathan,

      Absolutely yes. A 6 or 7 weight ten foot rod will be good for Euro nymphing those PA tribs. If it was me, and I was primarily fishing PA and Ohio tribs, I’d go with the 6 weight, but i like lighter rods for fishing and fighting fish.

      Good Luck,