Wow – It is hard to believe that this mid-priced Hardy finished up with the top rods! But there are a lot of good reasons. First, it is very light in swing weight and the fast action is a lot like the Zephrus in that it has a stronger butt and much softer tip than most of the other rods. On the deflection board, the Zephrus had a stiffer butt and mid section and the tip bent a little more, so it is slightly faster in action than the Shadow.
Hardy uses their Sintrix 220 in this rod, a lower modulus graphite than the Sintrix 440 used in the Zephrus, but it provides easy loading yet a sharp recovery. Surprisingly, even using this lower modulus graphite that should be heavier, the overall weight and swing weight are very good compared to our other top 4-weight rods.
Since this is a softer rod than the Zephrus, we settled on using the lighter Trout line but this rod had the power to handle the heavier Infinity nearly as well. I loved the punch and power I was getting with the Shadow and only at long range did it suffer.
There is no question that the Shadow is our best “Mid Priced” 4-weight rod. For the price, it can’t be beat.
This is a sharp looking rod. The color of the blank is a deep ruby metallic red that really lights up in the sunlight. Wraps are a darker red, (almost black), trimmed in brighter red on the butt. Hardy’s half wells cork handle is used, similar to the Zephrus. The quality of the cork is superb. A black anodized double uplocking seat is used with an attractive wood burl insert. The guides start out with a small hook keeper, then a single SiC stripper, followed with black, hard chrome single-foot guides.
The perfect line: SA Amplitude Smooth Trout in WF-4-F
George’s casting notes:
Performance at 25 feet: 19.5 points out of 20
I’m amazed that I can cast off the tip nearly as well as the Zephrus. The feel is perhaps not quite as good, but the accuracy is excellent. Even better than the Helios 3F.
Performance at 40 feet: 19.2 points out of 20
This rod gives me a nice light feel in hand, and I’m getting good loop control combined with plenty of power and good accuracy. Feels equal to the Avantt and Recon at mid distances.
Performance at 60 feet: 8.0 points out of 10
Only out long did I feel at a disadvantage to the best rods and I think part of this was due to the lighter Trout line. With the Infinity it cast better long, and I would have scored it closer to 9 at long range.
The Hardy Shadow is the true sleeper of the Shootout. Match it with the less expensive Galvan Rush reel, and you will save $434.05 for a rod and reel combo that performs nearly as well as our winning Ultimate 4-weight outfit, the Hardy Zephrus and Galvan Torque. Now that’s a smart buy!
The Hardy Shadow doesn’t have as stiff a butt or mid-section as the Zephrus, which means it doesn’t have the same kind of magnificent reserve power. But its fast action is powerful enough, exceptionally smooth, much like the Zephrus, making it one of the best mid-priced rods in our Shootout. I think beginners and experts alike will enjoy the Shadow’s smooth blend of feel and power.
The components are very good. The cork handle quality is excellent, as is the attractive wood burl insert in their double uplocking reel seat. Kudos to Hardy for giving us such a high-end fly rod at a very reasonable price.
Feels light in hand, with a softer midsection and deeper flex than the Zephrus. This is one of the smoother rods in the shootout. Same size single foot guides as Zephrus but these are the non-flexible black chrome versions. Nice metallic garnet color blank with black wraps. Nice grip shape and quality cork. The double uplocking reel seat is nice for the price, with an attractive burled wood insert.
Performance at 25 feet: 19.5 points out of 20
Really quite good! Superb feel, with accuracy nearly as good as the Zephrus and Pure. The best in close performance from a less expensive rod I’ve seen yet.
Performance at 40 feet: 19 points out of 20
Very smooth and delicate. I’d like just a little more power as I had with the Zephrus and Pure. Still, an impressive performance.
Performance at 60 feet: 7.8 points out of 10
Super smooth and very good when the wind isn’t blowing! Difficult to punch this rod without a tailing loop, timing is key, and requires more concentration than others at long range.
Logan’s Comments: 46.5 out of 50
The Hardy Shadow is my other pick for the best mid-priced rod in this year’s 4-weight Shootout. It was very light in hand with one of the lighter overall and swing weight totals in the Shootout. It was also a great looking rod. I liked the deep glossy wine color, nice skeleton uplocking reel seat with an attractive wood insert, and the dark colored guides.
Light in hand, it felt, looked, and performed much more like an $800 rod than a rod that sells for $350.
Performance at 25 feet: 19.5 out of 20
The Hardy Shadow was very impressive at closer distances. It gave me accurate presentations, that were also delicate.
Performance at 40 feet: 19 out of 20
At 40 feet the Hardy Shadow was again extremely accurate. It felt almost effortless to make good casts at 40 feet.
Performance at 60 feet: 8 out of 10
60 feet wasn’t the Hardy Shadow’s best distance. It didn’t have as much reserve power as its counterpart, the Hardy Zephrus.
Hardy’s new Shadow series is a quality rod at a very affordable price. A little heavier than the Zephrus, but the Shadow was still very accurate and a top contender in my shootout at short to medium distances. The light action Shadow felt perfect when paired with the lighter Trout series fly line.
I enjoyed the smooth casting, medium-fast action this rod. I loved the good looks of this rod, and especially that red/burgundy colored blank. For the money, the craftsmanship was excellent.
Performance at 25 feet: 19/20
I found that close distance was where this rod really performed best for me.
Performance at 40 feet: 19/20
A pleasant rod to cast at mid distances. I was getting nice presentations with good accuracy.
Performance at 60 feet: 8.5/10
Just didn’t have the power the Zephrus did at long range.
With its more well known counterpart, the Zephrus, winning our Shootout, it’s hard to not have high expectations for the less expensive Hardy Shadow. Overall I thought it gave me nice light presentations, and would be an excellent spring creek companion. If you are fishing small streams, with small flies and making short casts, this is a fantastic rod. The Shadow, and the Recon are our best mid-priced rods.
Performance at 25 feet: 18 out of 20
A nice soft tip and midsection make for a pleasant and delicate presentations in close.
Performance at 40 feet: 17.8 out of 20
I liked the way the Shadow cast slightly better at 25 feet than 40. That being said, it was still giving me very good performance at mid-range distances.
Performance at 60 feet: 7 out of 10
The Shadow held up decently at 60 feet, but the softer midsection made long casts a little less consistent than with the better rods.