As a gear junkie, I fish and review a dozen rods – or more – every year. From the big-name brands to sticks put together by local builders hoping to make it big, I’ve had my hands on more fly rods than I can remember.
Douglas rods are among the best I’ve found.
They’re priced well, perform outstandingly well, and their current flagship rod – the Sky G – is my favorite production 5wt on the market. Douglas is still up-and-coming in most fly angling circles, though, and their rod catalog isn’t as well-known.
So, today we’ll take an in-depth look at each rod family in the Douglas catalog. Hopefully, this buying guide helps you narrow down your options and find a new rod that’s perfect for what you’re looking for.
Douglas LRS – Starting at $249 (view here)
The LRS is Douglas’ lowest-priced rod, but it goes toe-to-toe with other rods of similar value. It’s just as good as the updated Orvis Clearwater, the new Redington TRACE, and even the Sage Foundation.
The LRS is a fast-action stick, with a gorgeous blue finish that glints in the sunlight. The cork isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s soft and comfortable. Honestly, the build quality on Douglas rods is among some of the best in the industry, and there’s not a noticeable difference in the attention to detail between the LRS and their top-of-the-line Sky G.
The LRS has a heavier swing weight than I’d like, and the tip section isn’t as strong as what you’ll find in other rod families. But that doesn’t make it any less of a great rod. For $250, you’d be hard-pressed to find something that performs at the level of the LRS.
The LRS is available in 2 and 4-piece models. The 2-piece models were built for ocean fishing, while the 4-piece models are geared more towards trout. They’re available in weights 4-10, and Douglas even offers a 13’8” spey version of the LRS.
This is one of the best budget picks if you’re on the lookout for a new fly rod, but don’t want to shell out too much money.
Douglas Upstream – Starting at $389 (view here)
The Upstream is the rod that first turned me on to Douglas. These rods are built to be ultra-precise dry-fly fishing tools – and they accomplish that task wonderfully.
The Upstream is stupid light, with the heaviest model – an 8’8” 4wt – clocking in at 1.72 oz. The all-cork reel seat and grip reduces on weight and gives the rod a vintage look. Pair that with the bamboo-colored graphite blank, and the Upstream looks like an instant classic.
It fishes like one, too. If you’re in love with chasing trout in small water, this is the rod for you. Douglas even branched out to include three different 6-piece models for increased packability. When I head into the Uinta or Wind River Mountains, the 6-piece Upstream is one of the first rods I reach for. It fits in my backpack without a problem, and handles all the fish I catch in those places with ease.
For a purpose-specific rod, the Upstream is priced surprisingly well, and I guarantee you’ll fall in love with its moderate action when you lawn cast one.
Douglas DXF – Starting at $395 (view here)
The DXF is the do-it-all, mid-priced rod that most anglers will likely gravitate towards. It has a moderate-fast action that lends itself well to fishing a variety of rigs, including heavy nymphs, a dry-dropper setup, and streamers. The tip section is soft enough to protect light tippet, but the blank has enough reserve power to punch flies out at distance, or against the wind.
There’s nothing to really pinpoint about the DXF as a negative. It’s just a great rod that goes out and gets the job done. I love the attention to detail Douglas gave this rod, adding a real wood reel seat, and upgrading the cork quality a bit from the LRS.
The DXF is available in a variety of models, just like all of Douglas’ rods. For freshwater fishing, you have weights 4-6. Weights 7-12 are designed for fishing saltwater, and they’ve even built two switch models.
Of note, though, are the Euro nymphing models. I own an 11’ 3wt DXF, and it’s one of the sweetest nymphing sticks I’ve ever fished. The butt section turns over heavy flies, handles big fish, and doesn’t wear my arm out. The tip is plenty soft for smaller tippet, too. In a pinch, you could even make it work as a dry-fly rod. The DXF is offered in weights 3-5 in 10 and 11-foot lengths for Euro nymphing applications.
Douglas Upstream Plus – Starting at $495 (view here)
The original Upstream was such a hit that Douglas decided to refine it further. That ended up giving us an entirely new rod family – the Upstream Plus. This rod series is still dedicated to giving anglers the ultimate presentation tool for finicky trout, but the Plus packs more power and backbone than the regular Upstream.
This helps if you’re fishing bigger water, or throwing against wind. Available in weights 4-6, it’s not as light as the Upstream, but it has just a bit more versatility. The same bamboo-colored blank and all-cork grip and reel seat combine to give this rod light weight and a classic, timeless look. If you’re a trout angler looking for a go-to rod when the hatch is on, it’s probably hard to find something better than the Upstream Plus.
Douglas Sky G – Starting at $795 (view here)
The Sky G is Douglas’ flagship rod, and it’s truly one of the best fly rods I’ve ever fished. As far as production rods go, it’s the best 5wt on the market right now. The Sky G combines almost no swing weight with unbelievable power. That power delivers flies accurately anywhere from 10-60 feet, and does so with just the right amount of subtlety. The Sky G is an absolute pleasure to cast, and I’ve yet to find a fishing situation where it hasn’t outkicked its coverage.
The 9’ 5wt version weighs 2.7 ounces, and it won the most recent 5-weight Yellowstone Angler Shootout. That’s a hefty award, and even more notable considering the folks at Yellowstone Angler have consistently picked Loomis rods for the top spot in their shootouts.
If I had to pick just one rod to buy and own for the rest of my trout fishing career, it’d be this 5wt Sky G. It’s just that good.
Words by Spencer Durrant
Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, guide, and bamboo rod builder from Utah. He’s the News Editor for MidCurrent, and a regular contributor to Hatch Magazine. Connect with him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.