After winning the award for best saltwater fly rod at the 2015 IFTD event with its Meridian series, the Scott Rod Company didn’t spend the year complacently resting—it’s back with another attractive stick that was impressing everyone at IFTD who had a chance to test the rod on the casting ponds. Scott President Jim Bartschi says the Flex ($475) is a fast-action rod but “forgiving” for those who might not be able to generate the high line speed or tight loops thrown by expert casters. Plus, despite its attractive price point, the rod includes some design elements and components found on higher-end rods like the Radian. Rods break down to four pieces, and are available in 3-weight to 8-weight models.
Watch Scott president Jim Bartschi talk about the Flex series rods below or by clicking HERE.
If you attend enough IFTD shows, year after year, you can sometimes notice a few trends. This year, some companies stepped away from four-piece rods to six- or eight-piece rods, or regressed back toward two-piece, one-piece, or even one-and-a-half-piece sticks—at least that’s how St. Croix’s Jeff Schluter described the company’s new Sole ($340 to $360) lineup. The idea was to offer anglers one-piece performance with two-piece mobility. The result is a 6½-foot blank with a tip just under two feet long. Each rod comes with a dual-ply mesh sack, not a tube, so if you’re afraid you’ll break the rod without a tube, don’t be—St. Croix includes two tips with each rod and a 15-year transferable warranty. The Sole is available in 4-weight to 12-weight fresh- and saltwater models.
With new owners and a new vision, the Diamondback Rod Company announced it was coming back strong in 2015, and it continued that mantra in its second straight IFTD appearance. For the upcoming season, look for 8-foot, 5-weight and 8½-foot, 6-weight additions to its Meeker ($300) fiberglass rod lineup, and two 7-foot-6-inch, 6- and 8-weight “streamer rods” joining its popular Flex ($300) family.
On the other end of the spectrum, Hardy shrank the rod tube footprint slightly with its new Demon Smuggler ($650), a six-piece rod available in 8- to 9½-foot lengths, in 4- to 8-weight, and 10-weight models. The company built those medium-fast sticks using its Sinitrix 330 technology, so the lineup represents a good option for anyone who’s wanted to cast something with the Hardy name at a reasonable price. Additionally, to help pack it around, Hardy included a carabiner attachment to the end of the included aluminum rod tube. For those who love to cast glass, Hardy also created the Sirrus Glass ($400). According to the company, the three-piece rods have a light-tan finish, load deep and have a smooth casting bend, and are available from 6 to 8feet long, in 2- through 6-weights.
In a rundown of the company’s new rods, famed casting expert and ECHO owner, Tim Rajeff, said one of its recent goals was to create a series of rods that were easier to backpack into distant water. The Trip ($280) is a compact, eight-piece rod available in 5-weight through 8-weight versions, and fits in a tube Rajeff said is compact enough to fit in a briefcase, behind a truck seat, or anywhere else you might want to stash a rod for “emergencies.” Its small footprint also saves precious backpack space for DIY adventures.
After the request of Mike Dawes of World Class Anglers, Orvis revamped its 9-foot, 5-weight and 8-weight blanks from its popular Helios 2 lineup and created the Helios 2 Covert ($895) rod series. Dawes, a renowned permit angler, liked the original Helios series, but felt that if the blanks had less “flash” coming off the gloss, he might spook fewer permit, so the Covert series has a matte black blank, black wraps, and an overall “stealth” look to it. If you think it’s overkill, don’t tell Dawes—he won the 2016 March Merkin Tournament with one of the reworked rods.
It should come as no surprise that Sage also upped the ante for 2017, and while the company’s innovations over the years are branded with clever monikers, the latest series is known simply as the X ($895 to $1,095). According to the company, the key design element is the rod’s taper—stiff enough in the lower section to really drive a cast, coupled with a soft tip for tighter loops. Those who cast the X at IFTD were so impressed, they voted it best saltwater rod, best freshwater rod, and best of show. Sage is also leaning on the growing popularity of European-style nymphing with the new ESN ($895). The four rods in this lineup all have a medium action for increased sensitivity for long- and short-line techniques. The X is available in four-piece 3- to 10-weight models, and the ESN in four-piece 2- to 4-weights.
R.L. Winston Rod Co.
Also working toward a lighter, more sensitive rod, Winston’s says its new AIR ($945) rods are the lightest medium-fast-action rods the company has ever created with its Boron III and Supersilica resin system. The rods are the same dark Winston green color many anglers have come to love, and feature a nickel silver with burled wood reel insert. They are available in four-piece 3- to 6-weight models.
Another interesting series of rods making its debut was the result of a partnership between two companies—G. Loomis and Shimano. Champion caster and rod designer Steve Rajeff was able to leverage Shimano’s proprietary Spiral X process to create Loomis’s new lineup, though to get your hands on an Asquith ($1,000 to $1,200) rod, you may have to dig a little deep in your pockets. But the end product is a light, fast-action rod intended for situations where high line speed and precision are a must. Asquith rods are available in four-piece 4- to 12-weight models.
A rod maker that continues to impress the IFTD audience is Douglas Outdoors. This year the company did it again with the SKY ($695) rod series, which the manufacturer says it built from the ground up, using carbon matrix materials. Moreover, rod designer Fred Contaoi incorporated different actions in the blanks depending on the rod’s purpose and line weights; so, for example, a 3-weight has a slower action that the 5-weight, and the 5-weight a slower action than the 10-weight. Rods vary from 9 to 11 feet long, are all four-piece models available in 3- to 12-weights.
Much as they did when getting acquainted with European nymphing techniqes and fiberlass rods,anglers are discovering that light-action two-handed rods present just one more unique, fun way to catch trout. That’s why Redington decided to build on last year’s successful launch of its Hydrogen lineup and created the Hydrogen Trout Spey ($350), three two-handed trout rods that are between 11 and 11½ feet long, in 2- to 4-weight sizes. But the company didn’t forget the fans of heavy-duty rods and big predatory fish. For them, it designed the Predator ($300) series—fast-action blanks tailored for big flies and big fish. The core of the lineup are four-piece 5- to 12-weight rods, though there is a 7-foot-10-inch-long 8-weight and dedicated pike and muskie models, and each rod carries a lifetime warranty.
Thomas & Thomas
Lastly, noted rod maker Thomas & Thomas said that its proprietary StratoTherm Resin process has proved so strong and vibration resistant, it convinced the company to approach freshwater rod design in a new way. The result is its Avantt ($825) lineup, a string of 8½-foot- to 10-foot-long, 3- to 7-weight rods the company says are perfect for when fishing conditions demand a rod with both a crisp action and a delicate touch.