This $280 telescopic, lightweight fly rod is perfect for those who like to travel and fish - I take it on bikepacking trips and long hikes
- Since I'm an avid bikepacker and hiker, I like a fly rod I can sling in a backpack and unfold in a minute to access a whole range of new fishing experiences.
- With the REYR First Cast Fly Rod ($279), I don't have to choose between portability and fishing experience. I can hike all day and disappear into the sounds and sights of the riverbank for a few hours at night.
I grew up fishing with my dad, first learning to cast on lakes and ponds before graduating to rivers and streams. For us, fishing was always as much about being outside as catching fish, so we preferred the more secluded spots that were a long hike from where we parked our car. Fly rods aren't heavy, but they can be cumbersome, and these hikes would often be made more challenging by trying to wrangle several rods through the wet mud of Northern England.
I have tried rods from Orvis, Sage, Winston, and many other brands in many years of owning and renting rods and tackle on various trips. When I first became aware of Tenkara folding fly rods, I thought they'd be perfect for the way I like to fish. But the collapsible design had its flaws, notably the absence of a reel. I tried a few different Tenkaras, and I watched a lot of YouTube videos, but I never really fell in love. I want fishing to feel effortless, like it does with a high-quality full-size rod, and I could never find that with a collapsible rod before.
When REYR contacted me about their telescopic First Cast Travel Fly Rrod, which uses a reel, I was skeptical about whether it would be small enough, or fish well enough, to allow me to bring it along on backpacking trips. But I was ready to be proven wrong, and I'm glad I took the bait. The REYR rod is everything I want from a rod absent anything I don't.
With the REYR First Cast rod, I don't have to choose between portability and fishing experience. I can hike all day and disappear into the sounds and sights of the riverbank for a few hours at night. Or I can pop the rod in my bikepacking bag and ride along riverside trails until I need a break, then take a rest by letting the gentle motion of casting help me relax and enjoy the outdoors. If I get lucky, I can also avoid yet another boil-in-the-bag dehydrated meal by catching something for dinner.
The rod is sold as a combo, and REYR doesn't really intend for you to change lines and reels, which is fine because I never had any issue. I could put a sinker tip on if I needed one, and obviously I could change flies (and store a few in the included tiny fly box). The rod itself is graphite, 6wt, and runs the line internally. In practice, this means it feels a bit more like an 8w. The reel is aluminum, with smooth and dependable carbon drag and a proprietary line attached that is designed to work with the unique rod.
When stored, the rod is just 17 inches, but it extends to 8 feet, 6 inches. At 9 ounces for the rod/reel/line and a another 2 ounces for the case, this is an incredibly light set-up.
The fishing experience
As for the fishing experience, I expected more line drag with the REYR, but for an interlined rod that is so small, it is surprisingly easy to cast with. The casting might not be as light or precise as a high-end graphite or glass rod, but it isn't supposed to be. The First Cast is plenty precise enough to not distract from the fishing experience, and at $279, it's not so expensive that you'll feel bad about always leaving it in your car for those days when the river is calling and rush-hour traffic is not.
The rod comes fully rigged, and once you have your fly tied on, all you have to do is take the fly off the keeper, unravel the line, and pull out the tip of the rod, followed by pulling through a few feet of line and extending the rod. All in all, it's about 30 seconds of set-up from pulling the rod out of your pack to getting a fly out on the water.
It did take a minute to get used to setting up the rod the first time, but once I was familiar with how many sections it has, the set-up was no issue at all. This video shows the process. This quick set-up and similarly fast breakdown makes the REYR great for hopping between spots or just spur-of-the-moment fishing on a summer evening on the way home from work.
The First Cast is great for experienced fishermen, but it also makes a good choice for beginners. It cuts down considerably on the amount of knot tying, mechanical tinkering, and equipment choice required. You have a rod, a line, and a reel; all you need is to work out what you're going to use to tempt the trou, and you're ready to fish.
The length of the rod is about in the middle of fly rod standards and should be fine for almost everyone. One tester at the Aspen Daily News said, "I was able to hand it to a friend who could simply extend and start casting and even caught a fish the first day." This makes the First Cast a great rod to keep for guests and people learning to fly-cast for the first time as well as for your own travel.
The bottom line
This might not be the rod for everyone, but if you're frustrated with the inability to fly-cast on a Tenkara rod, or the time-consuming and bothersome set-up of conventional rods, the REYR First Cast might be the rod for you. I haven't had a fly rod in my house for years, and I don't like spending a lot of time and money setting up rods and tackle that I won't use very often, but the simplicity and size of the First Cast has made it a fixture in my backpack for months. Or it was, until I decided to make the sacrifice and give my review model to my dad who shared what fishing felt like with me all those years ago. I figured that after years of untying my knots, and me hooking him as much as I hooked any fish, he deserved a few relaxing afternoons by the river.
Pros: No fuss set-up, small, light, easy to rig
Cons: Doesn't cast as far as a conventional rod
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