The 5 wt is commonly considered to be the most versatile rod in a fly angler’s arsenal. For the vast majority of flyrodders out there, a 5wt was probably your first rod or was at least recommended to you while you were getting into the sport. Whether that’s because the 5wt falls towards the middle of the size range of mainstream (that's a good pun) fly rods, or because 5wt-favoring trout guys dominate the industry, or truely because a 5wt is the best all-around rod out there; I do not know. That’s not my job to determine that; fortunately for me, my job is to fish a bunch of rods in a bunch of situations and share my experiences, and fortunately for you, that includes taking some 5wts out and testing their limits!
Freshwater fishing (especially trout fishing) is the 5wt’s wheelhouse; there’s no arguments against that. A 5wt is the base, most quintessential trout rod; it’s light enough to protect a light tippet to present a dry fly precisely and delicately, while still having enough backbone to throw heavier nymphs and streamers in heavy current. Just like any rod, you can expand on the versatility with experimenting with different actions. If you need a 5wt to throw small, delicate flies at spooky trout, you might want a rod with a little more touch and slower action. If you want to toss heavier flies or fish in heavier current, a fast action rod is what you should look for. These different options within the realm of 5wts is a common theme within this article, and will let you dial in your setup that much more. Moving away from the trout world, I think a 5wt is a great rod for warm water fishing, specifically Bass. While a 6wt is probably ideal, a faster 5 wt is more than capable of throwing heavier, more wind resistant flies for both largemouth and smallmouth. A 5wt can eat up anything from small baitfish imitations to gurglers, which is just about all you need for a successful day out on the pond, lake, or river.
Now it's time to push the boundaries a bit. A 5wt is most definitely NOT a saltwater rod; let me make that clear. With that said though there are a few select situations where a 5wt is actually a damn good tool for the job. Being a New England guy, my personal favorite revolves around estuaries and Striped Bass. I have a few places where I know I can find piles of small schoolies stacked up in estuaries; and a light rod and a handful of deceivers and small closures can be intense amounts of fun! I also know of people using rods as light as 5wts for sight casting to small, ultra-spooky fish like bonefish, and Reds in super shallow water. This is definitely a stretch but I have done similar things with Stripers up here and I can confirm the ultra-light presentation of a flatwing and a 5wt is deadly. Just make sure your rod has enough backbone and the reel you have paired with it is capable of stopping whatever you decide to go after.
At the end of the day we all just want to get out on the water and have some fun, and if that means stretching your gear out to its limits, I’m here for it as long. As long as we’re being responsible and respectful with the fish, I see no issues with a little 5wt rodeo every once and awhile. If you are looking to pick up a new 5wt for yourself, the 5wt Gray Series is a great all-around stick. It’s a true 5wt that really can do it all, but if you are looking to be a bit more adventurous with your new stick and maybe chase around some meaner fish, the Black Series offers that extra backbone needed to put up a fight. So, get out there let’s see some serious 5wt fish.
Written by Nate Holmes
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