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Hardy ZEPHRUS  8’6” #4 $679.00

Hardy Zephrus fly rod
Hardy Zephrus best 4-weight fly rod
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George’s Comments: 

Hardy has given us another magical rod that produced an absolutely stunning performance to blow away all the contenders.  When you read everyone’s comments on the Zephrus, you will see that we all agreed that this is a very special rod, for a variety of reasons.

Howard Croston, Hardy’s rod design genius in England, has given us another outstanding rod that performs extremely well at all distances.   I’ve fished with Howard here, on our Montana Spring Creeks, and better understand how and why he came up with these designs. Howard is a great angler and knew just what he wanted for the perfect 4-weight.  

To improve on the previous Zenith, which won our original 4-weight Shootout, Howard gave the Zephrus a slightly stronger butt and mid section as well as a softer tip.  

He wanted another 4-weight that was very accurate and delicate, yet one that had more power in the butt and mid-section.  If you look at the deflection chart, you’ll see that the Zehprus has one of the stiffest butt and midsections, yet then it progresses to a nice soft tip.  

Zephrus vs Zenith deflection

I’ve fished this Zephrus myself for the past two years, and it has been my go-to rod when I’m fishing small dries, emergers and spinners in the surface film.  Nothing I’ve cast yet is better in terms of feel and accuracy from in close right out to 40 feet.  This rod gives me the confidence that I can place the fly just where I want it, and do it with a delicate presentation.  But when I need to reach out and make casts at 60-70 feet, as I often do fishing bigger rivers like the Missouri, the Zephrus has tons of power on tap to get the job done.

When you pick up this rod, you’ll first notice how light it is in swing weight.  Part of the light swing weight can be attributed to the use of the superb REC nickel/titanium single-foot guides.  These are very light, and will flex but never break.  In all the rods of any manufacture we’ve sold with these guides, we have yet to see one break!

One SiC style stripping guide is used as well as a hook keeper.  Hardy uses a comfortable half wells, western style handle and the quality of the cork is superb.  The color of this rod is an attractive olive, with the guides wrapped in dark brown.  An attractive X-pattern graphite wrap is used on the butt, behind the logo.  The epoxy coatings on the guides are top notch.  I also like the alignment dots.  The reel seat is a double uplocking skeleton seat in anodized gold, with a pretty wood burl insert using green and brown highlights to complement the blank.  The overall craftsmanship is excellent.       

The perfect line:  SA Amplitude Smooth Infinity in WF-4-F

George’s casting notes:

Performance at 25 feet:  20 points out of 20

I love the light swing weight.  The nice soft tip allows me to cast off the tip of the rod with a flick of my wrist.  Both the feel and accuracy were outstanding.  I was hitting the plate almost every time. 

Performance at 40 feet:  20 points out of 20

I’m getting effortless tight loops, and I had complete confidence on where the fly was going on every cast.  The light swing weight made casting effortless, and I’m getting excellent accuracy combined with delicate presentations.  Nothing beats this rod at 40 feet.

Performance at 60 feet:  9.3 points out of 10

The ability of this rod to track precisely combined with its ability to form beautiful tight loops allowed it to perform almost as well as the best rods at long range.

Hardy Zephrus
Hardy Zephrus best 4-weight fly rod
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James’ Comments

I thought the Zephrus steamrolled the other rods in terms of being the best all-around 4-weight.  No other rod was remotely close at doing everything well – that is to say – casting accurately (and delicately) in close off the tip of the rod, having lots of feel at all distances, and having plenty of reserve power for handling windy days and playing larger trout.  It is one of the few rods in the Shootout that excels at casting a size 24 midge on 7X tippet, yet still has the ability to chuck a size #6 lead eye streamer on 2X tippet. 

Take a look at the deflection board if you want a hint of the secret to Hardy’s success.  The butt and mid-section are among the stiffest in the test, yet the tip is one of the fastest, (softest) tips.  This fast action deflection blueprint, along with Hardy’s high-modulus graphite and Sintrix Nano resins allow the Zephrus to perform well and feel great at all distances. 

For those of you wondering if the Hardy Zephrus is different from its predecessor, the Hardy Zenith: It is.  The Zephrus has an even stiffer butt and midsection with a softer tip than the Zenith.  In our opinion, this upgrade makes the Zephrus an even better all-around 4-weight rod than the Zenith.  Props to rod designer Howard Croston, it may be a long time before someone dethrones this new 4-weight king.

James’ casting notes:  

1st impressions:  Sweetest all-around 4-weight rod here.  Great feel, power, accuracy, and a light swing weight. Tiny single-foot guides, very light in hand with the perfect blend of power and feel. Unbeatable performance, this rod deserves the win.

Performance at 25 feet: 20 points out of 20

Smooth, light in hand, excellent accuracy and feel.  I have the utmost confidence in using this rod with very light tippets to fool large spring creek trout. 

Performance at 40 feet:  20 points out of 20

An absolute dream to cast.  Effortless, delightful, accurate, and FUN.  Good reserve power in the wind, perfect blend of power and feel for a 4-weight rod.   

Performance at 60 feet:  9.3 points out of 10

Still very doable – excellent in fact!  This goes to show what a rod with a softer tip and stiff butt section can do.  Accuracy isn’t quite as good as the strongest rods, but I’m surprised how well it hangs in there. 

Hardy Zephrus 8'6"#4-weight
hardy zephrus 8'6"#4
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Logan’s Casting Notes: 49 out of 50

The Hardy Zephrus is still the best all around 4 weight made.  In my performance scores, it was nearly as good as the Pure at 25 feet.  Both were perfect at 40 feet, and then the Zephrus was better at 60 feet.  Year after year the Zephrus manages to maintain its top position.  The Pure has it beat for me, but if you are looking for the best all around rod, look no further. 

Performance at 25 feet: 19.5 out of 20

The Zephrus is giving me great presentations at 25 feet.  I am surprised at how well it performed at closer distances considering how much power it has on tap.

Performance at 40 feet: 20 out of 20

At 45 feet the Zephrus is a champ.  This and the Pure were the only two rods I scored a perfect 20 out of 20 at 45 feet.

Performance at 60 feet: 9.5 out of 10

At 60 feet the Zephrus was still performing extremely well.  I enjoyed the amount of reserve power it has, and I was making great casts at the longer distances.

Hardy Zephrus
Hardy Zephrus best 4-weight fly rod
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Francis’ Comments:

It’s the Hardy Zephrus for the win!  Picking up this rod, I’m immediately impressed by its light weight and responsiveness.  The Zephrus makes me a more accurate and efficient caster.  The Zephrus has that perfect balance between power and sensitivity; it’s easy to control but has the ability to turn it up a level when reaching out to longer distances or when conditions require a bit more “oomph”.

The softer tip on the Zephrus will protect the lightest tippets.  I found the Zephrus to be a really versatile, do-it-all 4-weight!   Aesthetically it wasn’t my favorite, but I appreciated the high quality components, guides and finish work. 

Performance at 25 feet: 20/20

Very nice! For me, this rod loaded up very quickly and efficiently, while still delivering a delicate and accurate presentation on every cast. The Zephrus was able to turn over our 12-foot hand-tied leaders with ease.

Performance at 40 feet: 20/20

Awesome!  The Zephrus feels great to cast at 40 feet.  This rod really excels at short to mid range distances.  Incredibly accurate and capable of delivering the fly exactly where it needs to go, even when dealing with a moderate breeze.

Performance at 60 feet: 9.5/10

This rod has the gusto to launch it out to 60’ and then some!  You know it has power when the rod almost effortlessly shoots line.  The S.A. Amplitude Smooth Infinity line made every cast feel like a 75-yard Young to Rice TD!

Hardy Zephrus
Hardy Zephrus best 4-weight fly rod
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Chloe’s Comments:

The clear winner in this year’s Shootout, the Zephrus brought power, feel, and accuracy to the table and left no detail untouched.  A beautiful rod to begin with, this Hardy is as elegant as is it high performing.  It is comfortable to cast all day and versatile enough to throw anything from small dries to heavier nymphs or small streamers.  This rod is a must in any angler’s quiver.

Performance at 25 feet: 20 out of 20

        Beautiful presentation with terrific accuracy. Did not feel overpowered, and loaded quickly. Formed nice loops and was consistently accurate. Perfect.

Performance at 40 feet: 19.8 out of 20

         No loss of accuracy, power or feel here.  Same consistent, smooth action and presentation.

Performance at 60 feet: 9 out of 10  

         Even with the Livingston wind, the Zephrus outdid itself at this distance. For an 8’6’’ rod, the Zephrus packs a punch and can deliver casts out to 60 feet as easily as it can at 25 or 40.