A rundown of the latest and greatest fly fishing products from the industry’s leading manufacturers.
[by Ben Romans]
We are fly anglers, and we love our gear. Without quality rods, precisely tapered fly lines, and high performance reels, we wouldn’t be able to throw those tight, magical loops on the water. (Or at least believe we can throw those tight, magical loops on the water.) Thankfully, there’s a string of top notch fly fishing manufacturers helping us keep those dreams alive, and each year, they gather, along with other fly fishing pros, personalities, and media, to unveil their latest and greatest innovations. It’s the sport’s first look at what will become the new standards within the sport. To help get you geared up (pun intended) for what’s to come in 2018, here’s a quick overview of the rods, reels, lines, apparel, and other accouterment you can expect to see in your favorite fly shop.
For decades, the Scott G series has been one of the rod maker’s most popular lineups. In 1976, the original G series broke the mold and included features, like a hollow internal ferule, unseen before. Then, in 2006, Scott raised the bar again with the G2 models. For 2018, they’re replacing the G2 with what they’re simply calling the G Series ($845), 12, 2- through 6-weight medium-action rods the company says are more flexible, stronger, 20 percent lighter, and have a faster recovery than any previous G-branded rod. The end result is a stick Scott says has the power to cast with pinpoint accuracy and the bend to protect delicate 7X tippets.
Ever since the re-energized Diamondback Rod Company made it’s grand return to the fly fishing scene a few years ago, their rods have continued to regain a following among anglers and those that simply appreciate a company willing to think outside the box. Rather than rework their formula for 2018, the company decided to create a high-rend rod at a budget price that attracts new anglers to the Diamondback name. The end result is the View ($155 to $165), 9 different 3- through 9-weight, medium-fast action models the company says are designed “for everyday use.” What’s more, each one is covered by Diamondback’s lifetime original owner warranty.
Like Diamondback, L.L. Bean is continuing its long tradition of building quality rods that don’t break an angler’s budget. The company’s new Streamlight Ultra II ($150 to $200) rod series includes 4- through 9-weight single handed versions, as well as 7- to 9-weight two-handed versions, though all break down to four pieces. There are alignment dots on the ferrules for easy pairing, the saltwater models have anodized aluminum reel seats, and anglers can choose between a pearl green or ice blue pearl finish.
In 2014, fly rod icon Sage delivered the Salt, a rod lineup specifically suited for oceangoing anglers. It was so popular IFTD attendees voted it best new saltwater rod, and best of show. For 2018, Sage reworked some components, improved the blank’s performance with their proprietary KonneticHD Technology, and rebranded the collection as the Salt HD ($950). The end result is a selection of 6- to 16-weight models Sage says allow anglers to cast farther, quicker, and more delicately than they could with the original Salt. The visitors at the 2017 IFTD show agreed, and voted it best new saltwater rod.
To create its latest fast-action rod, the CRUX ($400), Redington says its rod designers spent a lot of time perfecting the taper for the best short- and medium-range delivery possible. The blank itself has a fine diameter for less resistance, but a stiff tip for better strength and turnover. Available in 3- through 10-weight models covered with a lifetime guarantee, all the handles are fashioned with the company’s Angled Key Grip, which is a dense, pre-compressed cork that reportedly reduces hand fatigue. Also worth noting is the Redington’s reworked, introductory level rod, the Minnow combo ($150). Paired with a Mainstream reel, 5-weight line, and rod tube, it’s a great kit for newbie anglers.
Expanding on its popular Zephrus rod lineup, England’s fly fishing powerhouse Hardy unveiled its new Zephrus Ultralite ($680 to $770), which is built with the maker’s propriety Sinitrix 440 material, to cover a small range of sizes, just 2- through 5-weight. Product manager Howard Croston said Hardy steered every thought going into the rod’s design to minimize weight. Moreover, a few of the blanks stretch well over nine feet for those that are fans of European (long line) nymphing techniques.
The first two iterations of Orvis’s popularHelios rods became one of the company’s best selling sticks, and even spawned a version specifically tailored for permit fishing. But for good reason— the idea was to create something light and strong that allowed anglers to have more control over their casts. For their latest Helios rendition, the Helios 3 ($850 to $900), the company elected to tackle another casting fundamental that troubles some anglers— accuracy. Using new materials and a new construction process, the company says there are 25 models available in 3- through 12-weight, with either an “F” designation, for moderate action, or “3D” for longer, pinpoint accurate, albeit delicate, casts.
Another company leveraging on the success of past rods is St. Croix. Though it’s been a successful model for a decade or so, the company upgraded its Imperial USA ($230 to $320) lineup with a redesigned reel seat, handle, blank color, and line guide configuration—all hand built in Wisconsin and covered by a 15-year transferable warranty. The new series includes 28 different versions, from 2- through 10-weight, with four switch rods in the mix.
For a while, G. Loomis has been using its IMX-PRO Matrix material to fashion conventional rods targeted for tournament bass anglers and the like. Now it’s adapting the same material and engineering into a series of fly rods simply called the IMXPRO ($495 to $575). What’s unique about their latest series is that in addition to the eight trout-sized outfits, they’re also producing two one-piece streamer rods for 7- and 8-weight lines, and five short Spey sticks that stretch almost 12-feet long.
Since its inception, acclaimed rod maker Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) has had no problem attracting some of fly fishing most respected icons to its pro staff—names like Kreh, Pallot, Clouser, Popovics, and Dahlberg. It’s helped them become a household name (talk to any fly angler, and there’s a solid chance he or she owns at least one TFO rod). Recently, they unveiled a new rod called the Drift ($400), designed under the tutelage of their latest pro staff addition, American Angler contributor Jason Randall, to help meet the needs of anglers using tight-line Czech, Polish, or French nymphing techniques.
To that point, you can easily extend this 9- foot, 3-weight to 10-, 11-, or just over 12-feet long on the water—the guide and ferule configuration don’t require removing a fly or restringing the rod. There’s also an attachable 3-inch long lower cork grip if you’re interested in the new micro Spey lines and similar techniques. Last May, after a disastrous fire consumed the tools, materials, and structure that housed Winston Rod Company’s bamboo division, the company vowed to “double down” it’s rod-building efforts and rebuild. That fortitude carried over into other facets of Winston’s business and rod designers were happy to unveil the Nimbus ($650 to $750) and Kairos ($475 to $575) rod lineups for 2018. Built on the same graphite composite as the maker’s Boron lineup, designers tried to create a rod with a powerful, progressive action throughout the freshwater, saltwater, and Spey models. The Kairos is the latest offering for those that like the Winston rod feel, but don’t want to break the bank. It has a modern, fast action suited for any number of freshwater or saltwater applications.
Because so many anglers hold its high-end, lavish bamboo rods in such high regard, the new Lotic ($595), a fiberglass offering from Thomas & Thomas, had heads turning at IFTD. Available in only 3- to 5-weight models, the company says the lightweight blanks have a progressive, deep loading flex fiberglass anglers love, that generates surprisingly fast line speed and power.
Capitalizing on the recent popularity of European nymphing styles, Cortland Line Company has created the MKII Nymph ($675) rod series—a 2- and 3-weight rod available in either 10- or 11-foot lengths. To be sure the new rods were up to snuff, Cortland was able to test them during the 2016 World Fly Fishing Championships in Vail, Colorado. Cortland also says it designed the tip section to be light and crisp, yet soft enough to protect light tippets, and the blank dampens quickly so anglers can sense more strikes. In tandem, Cortland also created a stick suited for lake fishing called the MKII Lake Series ($675).
For those that are shopping for a new rod and reel outfit, or those that simply like the idea of buying a line, rod, and reel already coupled together, consider Cabela’s Synch Combo ($150). These packages replace the company’s popular RLS+ combo and include a high-modulus graphite rod, disc-drag reel, backing, fly line, and hard-sided case. It’s a quality option for a starter rod, or an affordable backup to keep in the boat or behind the truck seat.