If you are an avid fly fisherman, you’ve probably considered a fly rod roof rack. You are probably used to throwing your fishing gear in the car, and carefully placing your rods through your trunk, and resting them on the dash. Maybe you have to rig them up and tear them down everytime you fish, or maybe you have created a fancy DIY rod carrier for inside your car.
We have taken the time to review the Riversmith River Quiver, one of the premier fly rod roof rack systems. We’ve put it to the test on long road trips, tough dirt and rock roads, and taken it to remote destinations in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Here’s everything you need to know to determine if a fly fishing roof rod rack system is worth it.
We took the Riversmith system across thousands of miles of Colorado highways, dirt roads, up to Colorado 14er trailheads, and loaded it up with all of our rods. We installed the system ourselves (pretty simple), and have tested how it affects gas mileage on our vehicle, how easy it is to use, and have attempted to test it in every scenario possible so we could help answer any questions you had on these systems.
Update: We have now owned our Riversmith for 2.5 years, live in Utah, and still use it every day. This article has been updated to reflect long term use age of this system.
In addition to taking information from our own use, our fellow writer Paul Brastrom also shared his thoughts on the system to help compile this review. Two members of our team have had this rack and used it daily for years.
Where To Purchase
You can purchase Riversmith fly rod roof rack and accessories at the following:
Riversmith is a Boulder, Colorado based company made up of avid fly anglers, engineers, and fly fishing guides. Their experience as engineers, and anglers both recreationally, and commercially as guides has given them substantial experience to design and build a system that will the reliably satisfy the needs of anglers across the nation and world.
About The Rod Rack System
Once receiving the River Quiver, it becomes evident very quickly just how well made and well designed it is. From the packaging, to the materials, to the attention to detail, and assembly process, this product is well engineered, and clearly made of durable materials that will keep your rods safe in all types of conditions. With the versatility to have 2 or 4 rods, longer 10 foot rods (longer with extended version), 11 weight reels, and a simple locking mechanism, there is a lot to love about this product.
|Tube Material||Single anodized aluminum extrusions|
|Tube Lining||River Quivers Are Lined With Top Grade Poly Propelene|
|Weight||2 Banger (22 Pounds) | 4 Banger (44 Pounds)|
|Box Material||AES Styrene based polymer. This polymer is weather resistant and temperature resistant to maintain box integrity and security.|
Free Standard Shipping
Riversmith offers free standard shipping. The package will arrive in a large and well packed box that would be easier to move to your assembly location with two people.
Returns & Warranty
As long as your RiverSmith was purchased from RiverSmith, or an authorized dealer, you have a manufacturer’s defect warranty. This can be seen here.
Of course, this is the most important part of this review, so we broke this down into a few sections.
The smooth tubes enable the rods to very easily slide into the tubes. The tube is made of materials that should protect your rods during the sliding process, and we have encountered no issues with this. By simply taking one hand on the handle, and one hand stretched out towards the rod tip, to guide the tip into the tube, inserting the rods is super simple.
Locking Mechanism & Door
The locking mechanism operates with a simple key system with a push button to open the door. This works very well, and is easy to use. If you are often driving quickly from one section of river to another, and you don’t feel like locking up with the key, the box also closes shut without the key, making for easy access when returning back to your car, or quickly transporting to a new location (make sure you lock if any rods are in there). The keys themselves are small, so it is easy to have one in your sling, or just on your keychain.
The door holds itself open, which is a must have feature when inserting a rod into the tube by yourself. Overall the entire lock box and door system functions smoothly, and is designed well. In addition, it is secure enough to prevent anyone from simply opening the box and taking rods. You can read more about how they compare their lockbox to other rod rack makers here.
Moving To Another Vehicle or Adjusting On Current Vehicle
The ratchet system Riversmith provides within the box makes taking this system off a vehicle a surprisingly quick process. In 25 minutes, you’d be able to take it off, adjust the rack system, place it on another vehicle, and secure it. This same ratchet system also makes it easy to adjust on your own vehicle. We simply keep this tool in our car in case we ever need to remove the system, move it, or tighten it up.
Rod Rack Vs. Placing In Your Car
Inevitably, most folks considering purchasing a rod rack system are weighing the pros and cons of this against a DIY solution, or simply just laying rods in your vehicle. For the past 10 years, at Hiking & Fishing, we have been simply laying our rods from the trunk to the front of the car. This makes them go right in between the driver and passenger, and also takes up the middle back seat. There are DIY solutions as well, but inevitably, all of them take up a fair amount of internal space in your vehicle, and also put your rods at risk of breaking via doors, other gear, and people (trust us on this one).
Pros of the rack system over DIY:
- Safer for the rods
- Save internal vehicle space
- More comfortable and safe driving conditions (rods do get in the way)
- Flies will definitely get stuck in your seat, or in people. It happens all the time with the fabric of seats and other gear in the car.
Cons of the rack system over DIY:
- Reduced gas mileage (discussed below)
- Depending on your vehicle, it may be a couple seconds slower than opening the trunk and laying the rods in.
- Driving, you simply need to be more aware of trees and overhanging brush when driving on overgrown roads or off-road.
For the first 10 years of not having a roof rod rack system, and only utilizing them a few times from fellow anglers and guides, we used to think that the pros didn’t really make up for the cost of a system like this. It took about 12 hours of utilizing the rack to realize we made a mistake by not purchasing the system sooner.
If you fish a couple times a month or more, and consistently have to take down your rods, or remove them for people or items entering your car, this is a highly recommended investment. Over the course of a few years, the system is probably going to save you a broken rod (some saved money right there), but is also just going to make the functionality of your vehicle so much better.
This rod will fit on any vehicle with any roof rack system. This will work fine on hatchbacks as well.
This is simply the best looking rod rack on the market. Especially with black or green color choice. It simply looks good on just about any vehicle.
We were very curious on this one. After running the math on 1,000 miles pre-rack, and 1,000 miles post rack, we lost about 1 mpg. This was better than we expected. This is from putting a roof rod rack on a 2017 Subaru Crosstrek with another Thule rack on it. These numbers may differ for your situation, but we were surprised by the aerodynamics of the system.
Our test also included tons of highway miles, where the gas mileage will be effected the most by the maximum wind resistance, therefore, if you infrequently drive highways, then this will likely be even less. You may also be happy to hear that even at 80 mph, the system stays pretty quiet on the roof. With a cross breeze, you may sometimes hear a very light whistle, but for the most part, the rack is extremely quiet.
Of course, this system is more expensive than DIY solutions. Riversmith’s solution is comparable to most other roof rod rack systems on the market. More expensive than some, and cheaper than others. When compared to others in the market, it is our opinion based on design, looks, functionality, materials, and cost, that this is the best value rack system on the market.
If you are an avid fly fisherman, and consistently use your vehicle to get to fishing destinations, this system certainly has the value.
After several years of heavy use, the system operates exactly as it did day one. We only have the Riversmith logo starting to peel. That’s it. I’d say this is extremely durable, and we anticipate having this for our lifetime.
Ease Of Installation
The directions are clear, the tools included work great, and are easy to use. It tooks us between 35-45 minutes to unpackage the box, pull out the instructions, and put together the rod rack on our floor, carry to the car, and secure on top. The assembly is easy with one person, two will help on a couple points. For placing on the vehicle, we recommend having a second person help position and hold while it is tightened.
Here is the manual for installation. This will give you an idea of the simplicity of installation.
Recommendation And Overall Thoughts:
Of course, the Riversmith fly rod roof rack has an upfront cost that is a barrier to those with lower budgets. While a rack system isn’t a complete necessity, it does add safety, functionality, and some seriously good fishing vibes to your vehicle. Therefore, we recommend this system for those that fish at least a couple times per month. If you are fishing that frequently, Riversmith is going to make your experience simpler and better. See below for a few pictures of some of our awesome trips that resulted in many fish surrounded by stunning scenery.
Have any questions about the rack system? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us or the Riversmith team.
Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about