3 Dynamite 4 Weight Rods for Small Stream Fly-Fishing

12 comments / Posted on / by

Louis Cahill Photography

By Louis Cahill

Spring is right around the corner and that means trout fishing on small streams, but what’s the best fly rod for the job?

It’s been a really wet winter here in the Southeast and it shows no sign of drying up any time soon. That’s ok, I’ll always take the rain and, while the bigger rivers are all blown out, the small headwater streams are fishing their best. This time of year a little hiking can put you on some great fishing but small streams require a different approach and maybe a different fly rod.

Sure, you can get the job done with your 9 foot 5 weight most of the time, but if you are going to do a lot of small stream fishing it makes sense to have a rod thats built for the job. Depending on the stream, I’ll fish rods as light as a 2 weight on tiny creeks and will often break out a bamboo rod for the occasion, but if I had to pick one rod for all of my small stream fishing, it would be a short 4 weight.

The 4 weight is light enough to make a really soft presentation with a dry fly, but should still have the backbone to fish heavier nymph setups when needed. A shorter rod, in the 7 1/2-8 1/2 foot range, is easier to get through the brush. It’s also easy to make a tight loop with a shorter rod, as the tip tends to stay on a straighter path. This is helpful for putting the fly in tight spots under vegetation and also for keeping your backcast out of the trees.

There are a lot of short 4 weight fly rods on the market, and this is not going to be a shootout style review. There may be rods you love that I don’t talk about. I encourage you to list them in the comments. What I am going to do is tell you about 3 of my favorites. If you bump into me on a small stream this season, I will likely have one of these rods in my hand.

Winston Air 8’ 4 weight

I have liked the Winston Air since it was introduced. Its a classic medium action trout rod and has all the look and feel of great Winston fly rods of the past, but is more current in it’s design. Lighter weight than the B series rods with a faster recovery rate. Groovy in the mid section but not wimpy in the tip. The Air has some serious punch and delivers the best distance, not that that matters in this case, highest line speed and accuracy of any Winston rod. I like every Air I have cast.

The 8 foot 4 weight is especially sweet. The shorter length really brings the short game to life in this rod. The loop control and accuracy are dead nuts. The rod is effortless to cast, light in the hand and handles light tippet very nicely. The classic Winston green is a great stealth color on our eastern mountain streams.

Scott G Series 8’ 4” 4 weight

The Scott G is probably the most technical 4 weight rod on the market. A real precision tool for the small stream angler. At 8’4” its the longest rod in this review. It is a joy to cast and to fight a fish with. For many small stream anglers this is the end of the conversation.

From My 2017 Review

Read full review

“The new G-Series flexes deep and really talks to the caster, by which I mean you know exactly what your line is doing by the feel of the rod. The recovery rate, however, is completely unexpected. This rod will stand up at whatever pace you cast it. If you like a slow, relaxed stroke, no problem. The G is right there. If the wind picks up and you need to step up the pace, boom! It’s right there with you.

The G-2 was a delicate technical rod that made lovely presentations, out to about fifty feet. After that, well you seldom need to cast fifty feet to a trout anyway. The new G-Series rod makes that same lovely presentation for me consistently at eighty feet. Not that you need the distance, but that extra power can be used in a couple of other ways. Like a hard stop-and-drop presentation, for example.”

Orvis Superfine Glass 7’ 6” 4 weight

Glass Glass Baby! I love fishing fiberglass on small streams. Not only do I love the action of a glass rod, but there are real benefits. A good fiberglass rod, and this one is very good, doesn’t need the weight of the line to load. The material itself has enough weight to create a sweet parabolic action with just the leader out of the tip. That’s a huge plus in really tight spots. 

The 7 1/2 foot length is awesome for small streams but don’t underestimate the power of this rod. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Fiberglass is also tough as hell, which is nice when you’re crashing through heavy brush or setting the hook under low cover. It’s also worth mentioning that its roughly half the price of the competition. Fiberglass is a great choice for anglers on a budget.

From My 2014 Review:

Read full review

“I’ve spent most of the colder months fishing my new Orvis 7’6″ 4 weight, Superfine Glass. This little gem has all the feel and delicacy of presentation that I expect in a great fiberglass rod, and something I didn’t. Enough ass to throw a tandem nymph rig with split shot and a Thingamabobber.

That means the Superfine Glass is a year-round rod. That’s a huge plus for me. I fish a lot of small streams in the colder months and a 7 1/2′ 4wt is perfect. Now I get the fun of fishing fiberglass on those days too.

When the bugs do come out the Superfine can not be matched for delicate dry fly presentation. It drops a fly as soft as a whisper and has surprising range. The slow pace of the cast makes reach casting a dream and the deep bend of the rod means great roll casting. It’s all around a veritable, precision fly fishing machine.”

As always, when it choosing a fly rod its always best to cast before you buy. These three rods have very different feel and the only way to know which is right for you is to cast it for yourself. Hopefully this info will get you started on the right track and help you find a small stream rod you’ll love.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!

Follow Gink & Gasoline on Facebook:

12 thoughts on “3 Dynamite 4 Weight Rods for Small Stream Fly-Fishing

  1. Big fan of short glass rods on small streams. I’ve not tried the first two recommendations, but the 4wt superfine glass is my go to.
    I’ve been toying with a long rod for shortline nymphong of small streams over the winter and I’m just not getting the feel for it yet. I plan on continuing to work on it, But with that sweet glass rod just sitting there, it’s going to be hard to do.
    I’m just glad spring is here.

  2. The Redington Classic Trout is a great small stream stick you can pick up for the price of a very nice fly line, especially in 3 and 4 weights. It’s a nice, moderate caster too. Easily the best thing Redington has in the line up, unless we get into glass or two handers.

  3. Great post, Love my 8’ #4 3 pc Winston WT for the small streams in the Driftless. Not to be confused with the 2 pc TMF, the rod has what Winston termed med-fast action. Nice snappy action with tons of feel.

  4. My first “real” fly rod was a 7 1/2 foot Fenwick fiberglass, which threw a five or six weight line. It was a beauty (even had a plaid flannel sleeve and rod case) so I bit the bullet and paid the $22 price.
    I bought it to fish the East Tennessee tailwaters near my home. But it was also perfect for casting small poppers to smallmouth on middle Tennessee streams when I visited my in-laws in Nashville and fished with my father-in-law.
    Wish I still had it.

    • I bought a used Voyageur Fenwick, 4pc 7’6″ for 6wt line, it is a perfect travel trout rod, can throw little midges or big buggers, caught a pike on it too.. lovely rods.

      Also built a 8′ 4wt from a cheap chinese glass blank, surprisingly pleasant rod, but it can’t handle the winds as a 6wt can.. see link from my name for review..

  5. There are many more miles of small trout streams than big-volume, big-name rivers like the Yellowstone and Deschutes. If you don’t have a shorter rod for more intimate waters, you’re a dillitante.

    I built an original G Scott 8′ 4″ 4-weight for small streams and alpine lakes. Its five pieces fit easily in almost any backpack or luggage. So it’s seen service from the Cascades to New Zealand.

  6. I have just received my Tom Morgan Favorite (TMF) rod from Winston. It’s the rod Tom loved….8′ 4wt in WT graphite. Today I was out for the first time and I must say…Wow! It is such a pleasure to cast. Relaxed casting with superb accuracy is there. The Air is a nice rod (have one in 9′ 5wt) and the Pure I’m sure must be nice. But, the TMF is special.

  7. For the tiny streams that I frequent in pursuit of west slope cutthroat trout, I prefer a Wright and McGill Eagle Claw Featherlight rod. I lament that they are no longer made in Denver, Colorado but for around 30 bucks you don’t cry if disaster from a slip damages the rod.

    Bill Love
    Sandpoint, Idaho

  8. 7 1/2 ft Winston BX2-3 wt rod is my go to stream rod . Its a 4 piece rod and I use it to throw dries on small streams. I love it !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Captcha loading...