Gear review: St. Croix Rio Santo Fly Rod

A while back, I purchased a St. Croix Rio Santo Fly fishing outfit on Ebay for a ridiculously small sum. It came with a 4pc, 4wt rod, reel, WF4F line, and a case. If you were to buy the entire outfit new, you would probably spend right around $200 - if you read nothing else, it's worth it.

Initial impressions
I am not going to lie, with what I paid for this outfit I expected a pile of garbage. When I received it, I was somewhat surprised. The case is pretty nice and allows you to keep the reel mounted to the butt section while stored.

Once I opened the case, the first thing that I noticed was the reel. Generally, it's a pretty generic/cheap looking reel and you almost want to get rid of it, instantly. If you take it to your local stream, the reel will be a dead giveaway that you have a very inexpensive outfit and are probably a new fly fisherman. If you look beyond that, though, you will notice that it is mounted on an aluminum reel seat instead of the plastic that you might expect.

Once I got over the cheap reel, I took the rest of the rod out and I soon started to feel good about my purchase. I loved the look of this rod. It has a muted sage green finish with tasteful gold'ish wraps holding down the stainless steel snake guides and the aluminum oxide stripper guides. A+ in the looks department!

Short term impressions
This rod is labeled as a moderate fast action rod and once you cast it, you are bound to agree. You may even say it's a hair slower than that. With that said, it is unbelievably smooth. You can feel every single second of the rod progressively loading and telling you exactly when to start your forward cast. I was shocked at how easy it was to cast and maintain a decent loop at 40'; even with a slight breeze. Even though I still hated the reel that it came with, it's sole job was to hold the line and it did that just fine.

I was fortunate enough to be able to test it's fish fighting ability on my first outing when a giant 14" crappie fell for the old woolly bugger. The rod seemed to have enough backbone and enough sensitivity to feel every thump along the way.

Long term
I have been casting this rod for about 6 months now and it is one of my favorites. It has accompanied me on several work trips and the case has survived the rigors of the TSA with flying colors. The reel has been upgraded along with the line. I tried to over line it and I would actually recommend not doing that on this rod. If anything, an under line would be more appropriate.

I have caught many fish on this set up including large mouth, smallies, blue gill, and rainbows - it has handled them with ease.

My only complaint about the rod itself is the cork. St. Croix claims it is a premium grade of cork, but I would classify it as a decent-at-best. It's really starting to pit and show the holes where a filler was used. Not a huge deal to me, just something to note.

The rod itself is a clear winner. Buy it, use it, love it.

While I would recommend buying the rod itself, I would not buy the whole outfit. You can buy the rod by itself for right around $100 and use the rest of the money to buy a better reel and line.


  1. My first graphite was St. Croix. If you never get into rod collecting, you could do a whole lot worse than fishing this as long as you fish. They make a great product that you will find hard to beat at that price.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Howard. I think it will be impossible not to get into rod collecting, though. Even still, I will probably hang on to this set up for quite some time!

  2. Great review! I love my St.Croix. I am a St.Croix fan for life. Price wise and quality wise you just can't beat it. Thanks for sharing. Tight LInes.

    1. I agree..I really do. I have a few of there conventional rods as well and I absolutely love them. They are tough as nails, sensitive, and really stand by their product.

  3. Brook
    I have looked at this sometime back and couldn't make my mind up about it. Is this rod a 9 ft.? That was the length I am interested in. Ebay is a great place to find fly deals every once in while. Glad you was able to get a great deal on the Rio. I have added your blog to my blog roll, and hope you do the same with Fishing Through Life. Thanks for joining up with FTL.

    1. Hey Bill,

      My particular rod is a 4pc 4wt and is only 8'. I think they only have the 9' 4wt in 2pc and I wanted the 4 for traveling.

      Thanks for the blog roll add - I now have you on mine as well!

  4. I have a Rio Santo, I have had it for years. The first time it broke was due to a loose fitting in the middle connection, so it broke while I was casting. St. Croix replaced a piece of it ($35 s&h). The second time it broke for the same reason, St. Croix replaced the entire rod ($35 s&h). I was fishing yesterday, I watch for a loose connection and I use plenty of wax. It broke again in the same place. I bought it about three years ago, but I do fish alot since I bought it. Still, it breaks too often. I believe it has a fundamental manufacturer's defect - the pieces do not fit together correctly and it will always break. To me there is no doubt - it is fundamentally flawed. I could only be more convinced if I used scientific equipment to measure it.

    They have an upgrade program - I do not see the reason for it. It may be a logical fallacy but if one is bad then they all are bad (the all or nothing fallacy). St. Croix advertises made in America, but this rod was built in Mexico. I know not how they can blame Mexico, the flaw is in the design - and it was designed in the U.S.A. as advertised as far as I know.

    As an unemployed renter spending my 401k, I am not happy with the upgrade idea for that reason either. I'm tired of being thought of as rich both by the public and the manufacturers and salesmen out in the midwest - those who do nothing to change it!

    I bought a rod at Roses department store. It doesn't bend like St. Croix, but I guess if it stays together while I'm casting its better than the St. Croix, and it cost very little in comparison. Naturally, they'll be insinuating that I'm a foreigner next, the same way they blame Mexico for the rod's flaws. How typical! I'm not!

    So while they are on their knees praying to their phony God, I'm telling you this rod is a pass it by model.

  5. Can you change handedness of the reel?

    1. You know I never actually tried it, but I am almost certain it is. It's a pretty simple click and pawl reel

  6. Brookfield Angler,

    What reel did you end up going with? I just purchased a Rio Santo 6 wt, 4 pc and am looking for a reel to go with it. I am new to fly fishing, but have wanted to for sometime.



    1. Hi Jordan, I'd recommend the Allen Trout II reel. Would be a great match!!


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