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#14 (tie)   Hardy Shadow AWS   9 foot #8  $389.95

Hardy Shadow AWS
Hardy Zephrus AWS 8 weight fly rod
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George’s Notes:

This is another new rod from Hardy with the same good looks and craftsmanship as we found in the Zephrus AWS, but at a much lower price.  This rod has a slower action than the Zephrus, with a slightly stiffer tip.  It’s nice and light in hand, but doesn’t have the same kind of power to deliver the goods at long range as does the Zephrus AWS.  The Shadow was a pleasant rod to cast, and felt light in my hand, with both light overall and swing weights.  The components are not quite up to the Zephrus’ standards, but in line with the lower price.

This rod is finished the color of a fine burgundy wine, with black wraps trimmed in red on the butt section.  I think this is one of the better-looking rods in our Shootout. The cork grip is a full wells design, but slightly smaller in diameter through the swell than most.  The quality of the cork itself was excellent.  A black anodized double uplocking seat is used.  A layer of nylon on the upside of the rings helped to provide a solid lock up on the reel.  The fine knurling on the rings did made them harder to grip than the best rings we found on the Helios 3F or Scott Meridian.  A short fighting butt of composite cork is used, but not as wide in diameter as on the best rods.  For guides, Hardy uses two standard SiC stripping guides followed up with dark hard chrome one -foot guides, but these are not the good flexible ones we found on the Zephrus.  The single-foot guides used on the Shadow were a little small too, especially for saltwater use. Like the Zephrus, this rod is designed in England but produced in Korea.

Performance at 35 feet:  19 points out of 20

I was getting pretty good feel combined with good accuracy. The Zephrus was better in close.

Performance at 60 feet:  19 points out of 20

Nice smooth loops and decent accuracy, but The Zephrus, SKY and BVK were definitely better.

Performance at 80 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

The lack of guts now becomes apparent. The Zephrus was a lot better out long.

Performance at 100 feet:  18 points out of 20

I had trouble hitting 100 feet.  The DXF and Motive were a lot better at extreme long range.

8. (tie) Hardy Shadow AWS 9’#8 4pc $389.95

Hardy Shadow AWS best inexpensive streamer rod
Hardy Shadow AWS best inexpensive streamer rod
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James’ Notes: 

The Hardy Shadow was one of the bigger surprises of the Shootout.  The Shadow is not new to Hardy, but the Shadow AWS, constructed with their new SINTRIX® 220 nano resin is. 

Like the Zephrus, everyone loved the smoothness of the Shadow.  Although it was better in close than at long distance, the Shadow had enough beans to get it done at 80 feet.  I especially like the price when you consider the performance you are getting.

I do wish this rod had larger guides.  Like the Hardy Wraith, the small single-foot guides present a problem when it comes to line tangles.  If you fish this rod for bonefish, eventually you are going to get burned by these guides.  When you do, hopefully it is not the biggest bonefish you have ever hooked, although that’s usually how Murphy’s Law works.  Hardy should consider building a Shadow SWS with larger guides. If they did, they would have a great mid-priced bonefish rod locked down at $60 less than the Orvis Recon.

I’m looking forward to casting this rod in the 5, 6, and 7-weight models.  I suspect they will give Douglas a run for the money when it comes to the best mid-priced freshwater rods. 

1st impressions:  The gorgeous dark ruby color helps it stand out from the other 8-weights.  This rod has a thin grip, and the single-foot guides are tiny for an 8-weight.   Excellent feel for a rod under $400.

Performance at 35 feet: 19.5 points out of 20

Excellent feel with very good accuracy.  Although it is not as light as the top rods, it feels light enough, especially for the money. Feels like a poor man’s Orvis Helios 3F.

Performance at 60 feet: 19 points out of 20

Very smooth, even delightful.  I really wish this rod had larger “saltwater” guides, but as is it’s a killer streamer rod here on the Yellowstone.

Performance at 80 feet: 18.5 points out of 20

Easy enough to get the distance, but I’m not nearly as accurate as with other rods. Still, not a bad performer, especially considering the price.

Performance at 100 feet: 18 points out of 20

No problem!   Surprisingly I could hit 100 feet more easily than with the Zephrus.

#9. (tie)  Hardy Shadow    $389.95

Hardy Shadow AWS best inexpensive streamer rod
Hardy Shadow AWS best inexpensive streamer rod
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Logan’s Notes:

The Hardy Shadow is not a new rod from Hardy, but the upgrades they made to it make it so.  The Shadow is an absolute outstanding mid-priced rod.  Hardy is now using SINTRIX® 220, greatly reducing the weight and increasing the strength of the Shadow.  Because of the single footed guides, (as opposed to snake guides), I would pick the Shadow for my favorite mid-priced freshwater 8-weight, as opposed to the Recon, which would be my top saltwater pick.

Performance at 35 feet: 19.5 out of 20

The Hardy Shadow was a great rod at closer distances.  It was light in hand and had a perfect amount of feel.

Performance at 60 feet: 19.5 out of 20

At 60 feet the Hardy Shadow was an amazing rod.   If you based performance scores just on 35 and 60 feet, the Hardy Shadow would be in my top 6, ranking right next to the G. Loomis NRX.

Performance at 80 feet: 18 out of 20

While I still liked the Shadow at 80 feet, it just didn’t perform nearly as well as some of the top rods.

9. (tie)  Hardy Shadow  57.5/60    $389.95

Hardy Shadow AWS best inexpensive streamer rod
Hardy Shadow AWS best inexpensive streamer rod
Buy Now

JG’s Notes:

This rendition of the Shadow by Hardy is the first time that they’ve used their Sintrix Nano resin in the rod’s construction.  It features a blank with less stiffness than a lot of other rods in the Shootout, making it a great choice for beginners.  While I really liked the way it cast, I still think the Shadow is a little on the soft side, especially for an 8wt bound for the saltwater.

Performance at 35 feet:  20

The Shadow is a great rod for making short-range casts. Accuracy, feel, and presentation quality are way up with this rod.

Performance at 60 feet:  19

I like the Shadow a lot at 60 ft. also.  I was able to get very good accuracy and feel from the rod, although going past 60 feet it started to fall off.  It didn’t like casting in the wind, but did really well in calm conditions. I knocked its score down here because despite the accuracy, I didn’t think the Shadow handles this distance nearly as well as the better rods. 

Performance at 80 feet:  18.5

My feelings at 60 ft. are pretty similar to how I felt at 80 ft.  It’s a good feeling rod but it just doesn’t produce the power that the other rods have, making it feel a little under-gunned.  I can hit this distance, but it just doesn’t feel like a good 8 wt. to me.  And if the wind picks up you are going to have problems.

Performance at 100 feet:

This was one of the rods that I just couldn’t get to reach out to 100 feet.