The 9ft five-weight remains the best-selling fly-rod in the world. Advances in technology have improved the performance of four-weight rods in recent years, but the five-weight is still the preferred rod for many river trout fishers in the UK, Europe and the US. Its blend of delicacy and accuracy, combined with surprising power, makes it suitable for a variety of game fish worldwide from delivering tiny shrimp flies on light lines for bonefish to pinging poppers for largemouth bass. It will also handle most average-sized freshwater fish, and that’s the secret to its popularity: the five-weight is not always the perfect tool in each situation, but it will get the job done — the Swiss Army knife of fly rods.

Increasingly, stillwater trout anglers have discovered its advantages when they use light lines. Whether stalking and nymph fishing on small lakes or casting dry-flies on large reservoirs from bank or boat, its ability to present flies quickly and delicately has resigned many six- and seven-weight rods to the corners of the garage.

While the stillwater trend has led to more powerful rods, able to tackle bigger fish and make longer casts, a first-rate five-weight should still display all the advantages of lightness and precision that have traditionally made it popular.

A pretty stretch of the River Wye in Derbyshire’s Peak District gave our testers, Andrew and Don, a chance to put models from 13 brands through their paces against a stiff downstream wind. Each rod was cast with two five-weight lines with different tapers. The Superflo Ridge 2 Universal Taper from Airflo is a fast-loading all-rounder with a short 8ft front taper and 39ft overall head, while the Rio Elite Tactical Trout has a longer front taper integral to its 52ft head, designed for a more delicate presentation.

Our testers have described each rod’s characteristics, noting perceived performance strengths and weaknesses, but only you can decide which will match your fishing needs, dictated by the waters you fish and the methods you favour; therefore, we strongly recommend visiting your nearest tackle dealer for a cast in advance of purchase.


Airflo Super Stik II

9ft, 5/6wt, 4pc

Airflo Super Stik II rod

The Airflo is one of two rods in the test rated 5/6-weight and was consequently more powerful and able to lift and cast a lot of line. Accurate but with less tip stability than the best rods, it provided our testers with surprisingly good feedback, and the addition of a six-weight line, while not our test goal, would deepen the action and enable the rod to load better at close range.

While it lacked the finesse needed on smaller streams, it would be happy on larger rivers and would be a good choice for small and medium-sized stillwaters when a lighter line is required but you don’t want to sacrifice much distance or power.

“A good choice for small and medium-sized stillwaters”

For Airflo stockists 01874 618 518;


CND Gravity

9ft, 5wt, 4pc

CND Gravity rod

A rod with a fast, accurate tip but with reserves of power in its softer butt section. It felt a little heavier and less delicate in the hand than some other rods in the test but produced wonderful loops, further stabilised by the Rio line’s longer front taper. The softer butt gave our testers plenty of time and flexibility to achieve curve and slack-line casts. They felt the Gravity would excel on bigger rivers where it would have the power to cast further, turn over bulkier flies if necessary and fight powerful fish. The fittings are first-rate and the excellent finish will please many UK anglers.

“Would excel on bigger rivers where it would have the power to turn over bulkier flies”

For CND stockists


D-Flex Hyperlite RLX

9ft, 5/6wt, 4pc

D-Flex Hyperlite RLX rod TS recommends

A new brand introducing interesting technology to the rod market. The D-Flex felt feather-light, predominantly due to its unique Reuleaux triangular blank, which we are told not only increases strength and directional stability, but also requires less material to produce — think of a triangle inside a circle and the reduced area. You could mistake it for a four- rather than a five-weight. The blank felt responsive and spring-like, delivering tight, wind-efficient loops and accuracy with little effort. Its progressive action made it feel softer and more delicate, closer to the LPX than the Orvis or Mackenzie but with no less control. It handled both line tapers easily, and as its rating suggests, it
will cast a six-weight line if required, making it highly versatile.

“The blank felt responsive and spring-like”

Contact D-Flex Rods 07971 381 442;


Douglas Sky G

9ft, 5wt, 4pc

Douglas Sky G rod

With its crisp action and stable tip producing wind-beating loops, the Sky G is a highly fishable trout rod. Distance and feedback were also good, although it was less progressive and intuitive than some of the other rods, needing a little more thought from the caster to obtain similar results. However, it did everything we asked of it, and is an all-rounder capable of coping with large and small waters and a variety of fishing techniques. High-quality fixtures and finish include a comfortable reverse half-wells grip and a skeleton reel seat with an attractive burled wood inset.

“An all-rounder capable of coping with large and small waters”

For Douglas stockists, contact Wading Water


Greys Lance

9ft, 5wt, 4pc

Greys Lance rod

The Lance was a crisp rod, stable and accurate at close and medium range. It struggled a little at distance and with long roll casts but was powerful enough to cope with a downstream wind yet gentle enough to feel like a true five-weight. Its forgiving action will suit most anglers; the feedback it provided was further improved by the Rio’s longer taper. While there were better all-rounders in the test, the Lance is a lot of rod for the money and an excellent entry-level choice.

“A lot of rod for the money and an excellent
entry-level choice”

For Greys stockists 01665 602 771;


Guideline LPX Tactical

9ft, 5wt, 4pc

Guideline LPX Tactical rod TS recommends

Even for a five-weight, the LPX felt light in the hand. It was crisp and responsive, providing excellent feedback and producing lovely loops that cut through a downstream wind. Deadly accurate from up close to maximum range, its roll-casting matched its overhead prowess. With a little jump to create momentum, roll casts of up to 40ft were comfortably achieved. It was more delicate than the Orvis or Mackenzie, and both testers agreed it was a rod that delivered precision and control, one that would be a pleasure to fish with on most rivers and streams.

“A rod that delivered precision and control”

For Guideline stockists 07973 291 367;


Mackenzie FX2

9ft, 5wt, 4pc

Mackenzie FX2 rod TS recommends

A highly responsive rod, effective at all ranges. Smooth and accurate, it was a true all-rounder, one our testers felt they could do anything with. It has plenty of power, should it be needed, and our testers believe it would cope with a wide variety of waters (perfect for larger rivers and stillwaters) and weather conditions. It dealt well with both lines and roll cast as effectively as any rod in the test. Don and Andrew said, “It’s the best Mackenzie trout rod we’ve ever tested. We’d be happy to fish with it anywhere.” If you were travelling abroad, this would be a reliable all-rounder.

“A true all-rounder, one our testers felt they could do anything

For Mackenzie stockists 07771 330



9ft, 5wt, 4pc

Nam rod

Possibly the fastest-actioned rod in the test, the NAM gave our testers a little less feedback; good timing was critical to get the best from it. The tip was very stable, able to create high line speed and wind-efficient loops, whether for long distance or delivering the fly accurately into tight spots. With the Rio’s longer taper requiring more line outside the rod tip, it loaded the blank a little deeper, improving the feedback. The NAM is a high-performance rod capable of tackling rivers and stillwaters, but it needs a competent caster to harness its power.

“Good timing was critical to get the best
from it”

For NAM stockists


Orvis Helios X4 F

9ft, 5wt, 4pc

Orvis Helios X4 F rod TS recommends

The new Helios X4 is Orvis’s biggest rod launch for many years and it didn’t disappoint. The tip is a delight, providing pin-point accuracy, tight loops and the sort of control that puts the caster firmly in the driving seat. Our testers said, “It just feels so effortless that you want to keep playing with it to see what it’s ultimately capable of.”

It worked equally well with fast and slow casting strokes and with both lines — it’s really for the angler to decide what combination they prefer. Worth noting is that while the F in the name of the rod stands for Finesse, something it certainly has, its action is by no means slow. This is a true all-rounder with a balance of precision and power with which to tackle waters big and small.

“A true all-rounder with a balance of precision and power”

For Orvis stockists 0333 400


Primal Raw

9ft, 5wt, 4pc

Primal Raw rod

A powerful rod for which distance was no problem with either overhead or roll casts. This did mean it sacrificed a little delicacy and accuracy at closer range, but it delivered both lines equally well. Primal is a New Zealand brand new to the UK market and its rod was well finished with a matt black blank, gloss whippings and a skeleton reel seat with a burled wood inset. Its reserves of power make it a rod for bigger rivers or stillwaters when you don’t want to feel under-gunned.

“Distance was no problem with either overhead or roll casts”

For Primal stockists 07772 235


Redington Wrangler

9ft, 5wt, 4pc

Redington Wrangler rod

For a five-weight, the Wrangler felt chunky, probably a consequence of its thicker blank and grip. This resulted in slightly less feedback than other rods. Its accuracy and distance were good, even into the wind, and matched with the Rio line, which loaded the blank deeper, it was among the better roll-casters. Another rod with no shortage of power to handle bigger fish on larger rivers and stillwaters.

“Slightly less feedback than other rods [but] its accuracy and distance were good”

For Redington stockists 01977 681



from £450
9ft, 5wt, 4pc

Simba rod

A rod for those who prefer a softer, more traditional action, the Simba still had the power to lift ample line, and when our testers applied a slower stroke and no haul, it cast a long distance. Among the best for roll-casting, its extra weight carried the power stroke forward, almost working itself. While not the most accurate, its tip was stable and produced perfectly acceptable results at normal river-fishing distances. Surprisingly, the shorter-headed line sharpened its action, suggesting it needs less line to load it than most. Its through action would make it a pleasurable rod on which to play fish, while protecting light tippets. The only custom-made rod in the test.

“A pleasurable rod on which to play fish”

Contact Simon Barnes at Simba Rods 07976 591


Snowbee Spectre-Pro

9ft, 5wt, 4pc

Snowbee Spectre-Pro rod

Easy to cast with a forgiving action, the Snowbee delivered both lines well, but it performed better all round with the Airflo. Although not the best roll-caster in the test, its tip was fast to recover, making it accurate at all ranges, and it had the power to command plenty of water and deal with adverse conditions. While it didn’t respond well when extra force was applied, it didn’t need it to deliver flies accurately. Our testers said, “It was a rod that took no effort yet exceeded
our expectations.”

“Easy to cast with a forgiving action”

For Snowbee stockists 01752 334