Review: Douglas Outdoors DXF fly rod

Douglas' all-around performer offers real value
douglas outdoors dxf fly rod
Photo: Spencer Durrant

Potentially lost in the shuffle among many new, mid-priced offerings from household-name rod makers is Douglas Outdoors’ DXF rod lineup. Based out of upstate New York, near the east coast’s Salmon River, Douglas Outdoors is a small rod company which just happens to be making some of the best rods I’ve fished during the better part of the last decade which I've spent, amongst other things, reviewing fishing gear (and mostly fly rods, at that) for a living.

The DXF rods – of which I’ve fished the 8’6” 4wt, 9’5wt, and 11’ 3wt – impressed me with their attention to detail, especially given their price tag. It’s likely you won’t be wowed by the components or the build quality but, when you fish it, I wager you’lll be impressed.

What Works

Crisp action
The DXF 9’5wt fits your classic do-it-all mold anglers have come to expect from 5wt rods. It’s not a terribly fast rod, but regardless, the DXF feels crisp in-hand when throwing streamers, dries, nymph rigs, or whatever else you tie on during a day’s worth of fishing. It’s forgiving enough that novice casters won’t have a hard time getting their flies where they want them, while experienced anglers can really make the DXF work.

Soft tip
One of my good fishing buddies grabbed the 9’5wt DXF from my quiver on a recent trip to Oregon. Late-season BWOs were coming off pretty well, but low water and wary fish necessitated 7x tippet. My buddy landed multiple 18-20 inch browns without breaking off the tippet.

A lot of that is how you play the fish, but a soft tip that absorbs big runs and violent head shakes sure helps.

The softer tips helps fly presentation, as well. It’s not a precision dry-fly tool like their Upstream Plus series, but for a do-it-all 5wt, the DXF does a decent job. I didn’t have a problem laying down line softly, nor did the rod suffer when turning over long dry-fly leaders.

Build quality
The DXF family of rods isn’t the flagship for Douglas, but it’s representative of everything else they have to offer. Matte green blanks, hard chrome snake guides, SiC stripping guides, and matching dark green thread wraps complement a surprisingly nice cork grip with a gorgeous burled wood reel seat insert. Double uplocking rings – built of lightweight aluminum – keep your reel secure.

douglas outdoors dxf fly rod
Photo: Spencer Durrant

What Doesn’t

Swing weight
Most any mid-priced rod has a lot of swing weight, and the DXF is no exception. When loading the 9’5wt with a heavier streamer, the swing weight was especially notable.

Your arm won’t fall off after a day of fishing the DXF, but you’ll feel the weight as your casts get sloppy towards the end of an all-day session on the river.

Torsional stability
The soft tip is great for playing bigger fish on light tippets, and for delicate presentations. However, there’s enough oscillation in the tip that you really have to work for accuracy when casting at distance. A competent caster can get the DXF to put flies down accurately out to 50 feet. Past that, you’ll notice the tip wobble affecting fly placement.

Final Word

The 9’5wt DXF is one of the more impressive mid-priced rods I’ve fished. The blanks are rolled in Korea and quality is on par with other mid-priced rods, even some that produce their blanks domestically. It has the backbone necessary to play and fight large fish, but a soft-enough tip to avoid breaking off light tippets. If you prefer slower rods or are looking for a rod for delicate presentations of tiny dry flies, you’ll likely find better choices elsewhere. But as a do-it-all performer, the DXF makes a worthy addition to a rod collection.

In fact, few rods fish as well as the DXF without compromising quality or demanding a price tag similar to my mortgage payment. At $349, the DXF is a steal of a deal.