#FlyGearTopPick: Orvis Clearwater 9-Foot 4-Weight Fly Rod Review
Updated: Mar 31
The popular Orvis Clearwater rod series has been around for quite some time now and has been a popular option for folks not looking to drop a huge wad of cash on a new fly rod. While I never got around to fishing a rod from the last generation of Clearwaters, at first glance the new series looked extremely promising. Undergoing a major overhaul for 2019, Orvis has changed things like cosmetics, grip styles, actions, reel seats, and blank materials while still keeping the price within reach of many budgets. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a factory-fresh 9-foot 4-weight Clearwater, so let's check out what this sub-$200 rod is made of!
Line Weight: 4
Measured Weight: Approx 3.4 ounces
Stripping Guide: Hard chrome with ceramic insert
Snake Guides: Hard chrome
Reel Seat: Anodized Aluminum
Rod Tube/Sock: Divided tube only
If you're familiar with the now-discontinued last generation of Clearwater rods, you'll immediately notice the distinct styling changes of the new series. You'll probably also notice that the handle/logo areas now bear a resemblance to the much pricier Helios 3 rods—which in my opinion is a good thing. It's a very upscale, modern look but perhaps a little less polarizing compared to the H3 sticks.
Starting at the bottom, the modified full-wells cork grip has a fair amount of filler visible, but it's real smooth with a bright, clean appearance. Orvis kept the reel seat simple and went with a full aluminum one in a black-nickel color. It sports a single yet chunky up-locking ring (it looks like 2 rings from a distance) that even has a gasket at the top so it cinches down with excellent feel. There's also a long serial number of sorts on the seat, but it's directly inline with the top reel hood so it's fully hidden when a reel is attached.
The large logo is reminiscent of the Helios 3 design with large lettering and the rod designation presented vertically adjacent to the main logo. The background of the main logo is a gunmetal-type color, but the rest of the rod is black-chrome with interesting coffee-ish colored wraps. My 4-weight tester has a single stainless-framed stripping guide that is on the larger side, while chrome snake guides finish out the remaining guide set. There's easy-to-see white alignment dots at each ferrule joint, however there's curiously NO hook keeper to be found which is a bummer on a light-duty rod like this one.
Build quality of my Clearwater tester was excellent and I'd go so far as to say above average. It looks like some real care was put into the craftsmanship here, and as a whole the rod doesn't look budget-conscious at all. The different colors used throughout all work really well together and the whole package is just super attractive....in my humble opinion!
Unlike many fly rods, new Clearwater Rods aren't designated with a single action across the board. Instead, they are each individually tuned with an appropriate action ranging anywhere from Medium to Fast. Although Orvis doesn't specifically state what action this 4-weight has on the website (unless I'm totally missing it), I did get to see a chart of the new rods which indicates this one is a medium-fast action. After fishing it, I definitely agree with that rating.
I threw this rod with a matching Orvis Clearwater WF4F fly line which weighs 131 grains at 30 feet, making it just a hair heavier than AFFTA 4-weight standards. Technical line stuff aside, the rod performed VERY well. It's simply just really smooth and easy to cast overall.
The tip is on the softer side so I had very good feel even when making really close presentations, but there was no disappointment when casting out a bit further at more typical fishing distances of, say, 30-50 feet. This rod didn't feel real gutsy to me when going long so I wasn't overly confident there, but for your everyday trout or pond fishing it's really a joy to use and casts like a pricier stick. I used it for tossing small baitfish streamers which it had little trouble with, but for trout bums I can see this being an outstanding choice for everything from small dries to lighter nymphing. Orvis really nailed it here and produced a really versatile, fun rod.
This Clearwater feels on the lighter side while casting, and the nice thin grip is comfortable to hold for long periods. It's a super rod to spend the day with and doesn't require perfect timing or form like some of the faster rods on the market.
Sometimes, a rod looks much nicer than it actually fishes. That's not the case here. This new Clearwater fly rod has not just a sharp appearance, but performance and a fun-to-fish factor that truly surprised me. As someone who typically fishes fast rods, hitting the local bass waters with a rod that's a little more forgiving is always a nice change of pace. Carrying a price tag of just $198, the Clearwater 9-foot 4-weight is going to be really tough to beat even by more costlier rods. Also included is a gray rod tube and Orvis' famous 25-year guarantee.
*The Clearwater 9-foot 4-weight is our newest #FlyGearTopPick in the Fly Rod Category.
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