One of the industry’s most well received new rods is the Meridian ($865) from the Scott Fly Rod Company. Not only did it have the distinguished honor of winning the award for best saltwater fl y rod at IFTD, it took home the Best of Show title. President Jim Bartschi says the Meridian includes the company’s ReAct and X-Core Technology introduced in the Radian lineup, simply “upscaled” for saltwater applications. The result is a rod that’s light, with a forgiving tip, that allows fishermen to make quick, precise casts, especially at close range. Rod sizes range from 6-weight through 15-weight, in two-, three-, or four-piece options.
Switch rods aren’t just for steelhead and salmon anymore. Capitalizing on the recent popularity of these sticks for fish like trout, Aleka created the X1 ($250 to $270), a fast-action, budgetfriendly rod great for either single- or two-handed casting styles. But an especially unique rod in this lineup is the X1 Evolve-5. It includes a 6-inch extension so you can convert the rod from an 11-foot rod to an 11-foot, 6-inch rod, without having to restring the fl y line. Each model breaks down to four pieces and is available in 5- through 8-weight models.
If you’ve been in the sport long enough, you likely remember Diamondback Rods. Well, they’re back with new (young and energetic) owners, and what could quite possibly be the most eye-catching break from traditional fl y rod design, the Clout ($425). The ruby-red blank and silver accents are striking, but the rod’s signature feature is Diamondback’s LINK Gripa series of cork nodules spaced apart reportedly to help improve sensitivity, increase gripping power, and reduce hand and wrist fatigue. According to Diamondback’s rod designers, the idea is to let anglers “cast the blank, not the cork,” and put anglers closer in touch with the rod’s internal action. That said, if you’re a fan of the Diamondback name but want something more conventional, check out the Flex ($275 to $295) series, available in both freshwater and saltwater models.
While Scott took home the IFTD award honors in the saltwater category, Sage claimed the award in the freshwater division with its new MOD ($850) lineup of freshwater rods. Rod designer Jerry Siem says he coined the name because he considers the rods to have a moderate-action compared to some of the rigid, fast-action rods the company has created in recent years. Available in 2- through 6-weight models, it’s intended to be a trout rod, but again, considering the popularity of two-handed trout rods, Sage also created the MOD Spey ($1,050), 13-foot long, two-handed versions in 6- and 7-weight models. This doesn’t mean Sage ignored its fast-action reputation in 2016. High-line speed aficionados should check out the BOLT ($650) and PULSE ($450) rods.
New to the scene last year was Douglas Outdoors; however, they’ve wasted no time adding another rod series to their lineup. SKY ($695) rods are four-piece sticks available in both freshwater and saltwater weights, including a few 10- and 11-foot light rods for Czech nymphing. In addition, the company also added three models to its popular Upstream ($425) lineup – multiplepiece, lightweight rods intended for pack trips. The additions are all 3-weight, but available in 7-, 7 -, and 8-foot lengths.
St. Croix took some cues from the success of one of its best selling conventional rods and created the Mojo Bass ($150). Available in just three weight sizes, these 7-foot, 11- inch long rods are designed to throw big, air-resistant flies to warmwater species like bass and pike. Built on St. Croix’s light, SCII graphite two-piece blanks, St. Croix designed the series to have the same black-cherry metallic finish and premium components as its bait-casting cousins, and backs each one with a 5-year warranty.
Thomas & Thomas
Thomas & Thomas has two new rods with completely different actions. The Spire ($785 to $825) is a fast-action, freshwater rod with 19 different weight and size combinations in the series, including a few 10-foot long sticks for long-line nymph fishermen. On the other end of the spectrum is the Aeros ($795), 3-, 4-, and 5-weight rods with a slow to medium action for a soft delivery when fishing something like small dry flies.
Like using two-handed rods for trout, fiberglass rods are still striking a chord in certain angling circles. One of the oldest names in fiberglass, Fenwick, is keeping up with the demand by updating and rereleasing its Fenglass ($200 to $250) series with an improved construction process the company calls S2. The rods continue to have a traditional, smooth, fiberglass look, but are reportedly lighter and more responsive than its predecessors. But Fenwick is still keeping one foot in modernrod design. The World Class ($300 to $350) is built on a high-performance blank the company says is 23 percent more powerful and 30 percent lighter than similar-sized rods.
Another heirloom name with something new in 2016 is Hardy, which has been hard at work designing their new marquee rod, the Wraith ($850 to $900), to replace their Zenith lineup. Hardy says it designed the rod to be “very fast” and the strongest, lightest blank produced using the company’s proprietary Sinitrix technology. For anglers who still want a rod with the Hardy name but are working with a smaller budget, there’s the Zephrus ($650 to $750), a medium-fast action rod created with the same Sinitrix process, which the company claims helps makes this model 60 percent stronger than rods made with traditional graphite fibers.
Another proprietary rod-building process seeing growth in 2016 is Winston’s Boron-infused string of rods. The latest, the Boron III+ ($855 to $895), comes in a freshwater, saltwater, and a unique “jungle” size with burlier blanks and components for fighting fish like golden dorado or peacock bass. Aside from changes to the blank design, Winston is also pointing out the rods include new wide, open-loop guides it says allow line to shoot farther and hang up less.
Redington is introducing two new rods this year, one for trout fishing, the Hydrogen ($300), and another for two-handed rod fans, the Chromer ($400). Redington says the Hydrogen is a light, medium-fast action rod with an anodized reel seat for added weight reduction. There are eight models in the lineup, and three “nymph models” designed with a softer tip to make casting heavy nymphs easier. The Chromer is built on a fastaction blank, but the handle’s polymer pinch grips on the top and bottom for added comfort, are the attractive feature. There are three switch and five Spey models to choose from.
ECHO rods owner and designer Tim Rajeff says the company’s Carbon and ION rod series were it’s best selling rod series last year. For 2016, ECHO added more rods to both lineups called the Carbon XL ($140) and ION XL ($160), abbreviations Rajeff says stand for “extra light” since he was able to shave the weight of the rod using new technologies and tapers. The ION XL has a medium-fast action and is available in 6- through 10-weight models with saltwater-ready components. The Carbon XL rods are lighter, ranging from 2- to 6-weight, and geared more for small freshwater situations. Both are great for anglers looking to enter the sport on a tight budget.
The G. Loomis NRX rod series has been one of the company’s best performing rods for the last few years. This year, the company used what it learned about that rod series to create a new “light presentation,” less expensive rod called the PRO4x LP ($350 to $375). Designer Steve Rajeff says the intent was to build something tailored for “fishing range” casts between 20 and 40 feet, or small fly, smart fish, delicate presentation situations. The company also expanded its popular PRO4x ShortStix ($400) roster with a 7/8-weight rod intended for light-duty saltwater action on schoolie-sized stripers, bluefish, or snook, or as a freshwater rod for buckemouths and bronzebacks.