2019 4-Weight Shootout

Comments by James Anderson

 

James Anderson

 

Our Fly Rod Shootouts are designed to help anglers choose the best rod for their needs in any given line weight.  In this Shootout, we put together what we feel are the best 4-weight rods we’ve found, and then given you our choices, hoping that this will help you in making your purchasing decision.  Our hope is that we can help you make the right choice.


Below you will see my finishing order and notes.  In general, I think everyone’s casting notes are among the most helpful parts of our Shootouts, in guiding you to zero in on what rods you might like to try or buy.  Don’t get too caught up on where rods actually finished in the Final Results.  How each rod actually performs is far more important.  We think most anglers are going to use a 4-weight rod at short to medium distances for fishing dry flies.  If this is how you will use the rod, concentrate on these scores and don’t worry much about how well a rod casts at long range.  But our thinking is that the very best 4-weight rods will perform well at all distances.  You might take along your 4-weight rod with the idea you’ll be fishing dry flies, but then conditions change and you’ll need it to fish nymphs or even some smaller streamers.  The best 4-weights will do it all.  

 

James Anderson  

 

James Performance Only



#1 Hardy ZEPHRUS 8’6”#4  $679

 

Hardy Zephrus Hardy Zephrus best 4-weight fly rod

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. 

  

 

#2 R.L.Winston PURE 8’#4  $850

 

R.L.Winston PURE 8'#4

 R.L.Winston PURE 8'#4

This year the Winston Pure won the best freshwater fly rod at IFTD (the International Fly Tackle Dealer show in Orlando), and I can see why.  Winston tells us there has been a dynamic discussion over which rod is better - the faster, (stiffer butt/softer tipped) 8’#4, or the smoother, (softer midsection/stiffer tipped) 8’6”#4.  All of us here at the Yellowstone Angler agreed that the 8’#4 was by far the better rod, so this was the only one included in our Shootout.  For me, at least in terms of accuracy, a great all-around action, a lighter swing weight, and being more fun to fish, the edge goes to the 8’#4.

Rod designer Annette McLean started with a clean slate with the Pure series, completely ignoring all previous designs and developed a rod series that is truly her own.  Annette continues to use Boron III in the Pure butt sections, a material that is 5 times stronger than steel, twice as stiff, and 25% stronger than all types of graphite.  What really makes this rod work however, is the combination of high modulus graphite and new nano-resin in the upper three sections.  The Pure is not the first Winston rod to incorporate both Boron and nano-resin, but in my opinion, it is the first rod to do it right.  As such, the 8’#4 Pure has plenty of backbone and reserve power, yet a nice soft tip that produces great feel and exceptional accuracy.  The light swing weight and softer tip is also a huge help in protecting light tippets.

On top of all this, the Winston Pure is a beautiful rod, handcrafted in Twin Bridges, Montana.   The attention to detail in this rod is second to none for a mass produced rod, (only Thomas & Thomas takes as much time to produce an equally perfect rod).  No one touches Winston in terms of the elegant appearance of the rod and its components. The emerald green blank looks dark in the shade but lights up like a gemstone in the sunlight.  While the Pure may not have taken the crown, it clearly is a symbol of richness and royalty. 

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:  Wow - this rod looks and feels terrific!  Extremely light in hand, nice tip flex, excellent blend of feel and power. Much fancier reel seat than others, with nickel/silver hardware, and that fancy Birdseye maple insert.  The attention to detail and craftsmanship is out of this world.  This rod’s stunning beauty blows everything else away.  We tried both lines on this rod, but the SA Smooth Trout made it feel lighter with equal accuracy.  Thin, non-flexible snake guides.

Performance at 25 feet: 20 points out of 20

Crisp, clean, and accurate, the 8-foot Pure is as accurate, in close, as any rod here.  Amazing feel, combined with dead-on accuracy makes this rod a joy to cast, and always brings a smile.

Performance at 40 feet:  19.8 points out of 20

Again, killer feel and accuracy, for the ultimate blend in power and feel.  Fun and effortless to cast.  I’m getting nice tight loops.  I would have scored it a perfect 20, but the 8’6” Zephrus was a little smoother. 

Performance at 60 feet:  8.6 points out of 10

Surprisingly, very good for an 8’ rod!  This rod has impressive reserve power in the butt, however I felt like I had better line control with the longer rods.  Another prime example of what a rod can do with a stiff butt section and a nice fast, soft tip.

 

 

#3 Orvis HELIOS 3F 8’6”#4  $849

Orvis HELIOS 3F 8'6"#4

Orvis HELIOS 3F 8'6"#4

Engineer and rod designer Shawn Combs put a lot of work into developing the Orvis Helios 3 rods and the proof is in the pudding.  In general, for lighter rods we prefer the Helios 3F (finesse) series to the 3D (distance). The 3F rods have a softer tip than the 3D models, offering better feel and superior tippet protection while still maintaining an impressive amount of reserve power.  In 4-weight rods, the 3D is available only in the 9 foot #4 model, another reason we chose the 8’6” 3F #4 for our Shootout.  

Of our top three rods, the Helios 3F had the most power for dealing with a stiff headwind or throwing a long bomb should that be necessary.


Orvis claims the 3F is not only made to be smoother, faster, and stronger, it is also designed to be the most accurate rod ever made.  Mission accomplished?  For me, both the Zephrus and Pure had the edge in accuracy at short to medium distances.  But at long range the H3F was definitely one of the very best rods.   Get one in your hands, compare it with the Zephrus and Pure, and you be the judge.

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

No hook keeper, matt finish gray blank, signature bright white section above cork handle.  Another rod with a great blend of power and finesse.  Has the good, thin and flexible nickel/titanium snake guides.

Performance at 25 feet: 18.8 points out of 20
Smooth and very accurate.  Note quite as light in hand, nor as much feel as the Hardy Zephrus or the Winston Pure.  Feels like I’m working harder to hit the plate here than with the Zephrus or Pure.

Performance at 40 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Terrific power and feel.  The slightly heavier swing weight of the H3F requires more effort to cast than the Hardy Zephrus or Winston Pure.  Still, one of the very best rods at this distance. 

Performance at 60 feet:  9.6 points out of 10

Killer power and accuracy, this is one of the best rods for battling the wind, throwing a smaller streamer, or when casting longer distances.  The line tracks exceptionally well in the air. Only Douglas Sky and G. Loomis Asquith are equal or better.

 

#4 Scott G SERIES 8’#4  $845

Scott G SERIES new G rods

Scott G SERIES new G rods

Anglers who enjoy slower, softer action rods are going to fall in love with Scott’s new, buttery smooth G Series.  Like the original G2 rods, Scott stays true to the original G tradition, focusing on rods that ooze feel rather than rods that can cast the entire fly line.  The result is wonderful dry fly rod that loads well in close and is accurate out to 45 feet.  Unlike many of the stiffer modern day 4-weights, the G Series rods do not require up-lining by a half line size.  We found the SA Amplitude Smooth Trout to be the best match. 

If the G Series has an Achilles heel, it is not enough reserve butt power.  This affects the G Series’ capability to handle windy days, hook setting, and keeping that big brown away from that nasty stick pile. 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:  This is the only spigot ferrule rod in the test, giving this rod its buttery smooth, one-piece feel.  The Amplitude Smooth Trout line is perfect for this softer, slower rod.  Amazing feel! One of the few rods I could feel moving through the cork handle while I was casting.  Excellent craftsmanship.   

Performance at 25 feet: 19.5 points out of 20

Amazing touch in close, this rod is easy to load and you can feel the blank flex through the cork grip.   This added sense of feel gives me extra confidence in making delicate presentations.  I was tempted to give the G Series a perfect 20, but the Zephrus and Pure were slightly more accurate.

Performance at 40 feet: 19.4 points out of 20

Super smooth, with an excellent blend of feel and power.  I can compare this rod to a glass of my favorite 12-year-old Scotch.    

Performance at 60 feet:  7.9 points out of 10

Finally the slower, softer action is catching up with the G Series.  Power must be applied smoothly, and carefully, otherwise expect tailing loops.  I can hit the distance but my accuracy is not so good.

 
 

#5 Orvis RECON 8’6”#4  $425

Orvis RECON 8'6"#4

Orvis RECON 8'6"#4

 

I was surprised to see the Orvis Recon place so well after adding up my scores, but the Recon has always done well in our Shootouts, consistently one of best mid-priced rods. 


The 8’6”#4 Recon did not disappoint.  The Recon has a nice blend of power and feel at all distances, and is a great choice for an all-around 4-weight.  Amazingly, the Recon was slightly lighter than the Helios 3F in both overall and swing weights. The medium fast action is much like the H3F, giving me good feel and accuracy in close.

Coming in $250 under our 4-weight winner the Zephrus, and nearly half the price of the Helios 3F or Winston Pure, Recon is a smart buy!    

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

This Orvis “workhorse” rod is not as fancy as their more expensive H3F, but has a pleasing medium fast action that produces a good performance.  Nicely shaped grip and the cork quality is good.  Chrome snake guides, good swing weight, and a nice blend of feel/power.  Nice burled locking rings work well on the reel seat, and an attractive wood insert is used.

Performance at 25 feet: 18.8 points out of 20

Very nice actually!  Light enough, with a good amount of feel.  While others are lighter and sweeter the Recon is still feeling very good.

Performance at 40 feet:  18.9 points out of 20

Excellent.  This is a very nice rod and feels more expensive than it is.  One of my favorite rods in the shootout in that mid-priced level.  Orvis nailed it.

Performance at 60 feet:  8.8 points out of 10

Ample power, and easy to throw long without throwing tailing loops.  Good in the wind.  A solid performer at long range. 

 

 

#6 Thomas & Thomas AVANTT 8’6”#4  $845

 

Thomas & Thomas AVANTT 8'6"#4

Thomas & Thomas AVANTT 8'6"#4

The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives synonyms for Avant as cutting-edge, advanced, and progressive.  I’d say T&T hit the nail on the head with both the name and the rod, albeit with extra T.

 
The Avantt is a powerful rod, and proved to be one of the best when casting into the wind or when casting 60 feet and beyond.  It was also one of the more dominant rods for fishing small, (size 8-10) streamers or leeches.   But even with all this power, it was still one of the better rods for me at mid-distance.


Along with the Winston Pure, the T&T Avantt is one of the most attractive rods in the Shootout.  The distinctive “T&T Blue” is easy on the eyes, as is the smooth functioning black ash burl, uplocking reel seat, complete with an engraved T&T logo on the slide ring.  Even more impressive is the attention to detail on the guide wraps, and their epoxy coatings, with handwritten serial numbers on each section.  A perfectionist will appreciate the job T&T has done with this rod. It is really a functional work of art. 


If I were to tweak the 4-weight Avantt at all, it would be to give it a slightly softer tip.  This would enable the rod to make delicate presentations in close with better feel and accuracy.  It would also improve the swing weight slightly.   

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Feels powerful.  Classy matte cobalt blank with matching thread and white trim looks sharp, making the Avantt a very attractive rod.  While the cork quality is excellent, the length of the cork grip is an inch shorter than most others, yet very comfortable. The interesting stripping guide looks like it is mounted backwards, however it is not.  Large chrome snake guides could be smaller. Hand written serial numbers on each section are a nice touch. Quality reel seat hardware utilizes a single lock ring and an attractive wood insert.

Performance at 25 feet: 17.8 points out of 20

Very stiff, with little feel in close despite being very accurate.

Performance at 40 feet:  19 points out of 20

Now I’m getting much more feel out of the rod.  Laser tight loops and accuracy to match.  This rod is fun to cast as the line tracks exceptionally well, even in the wind!

Performance at 60 feet:  9.6 points out of 10

Even nicer out long!  This rod is an absolute rocket and one of my favorites at 60 feet.  Only the Orvis H3F and Douglas SKY, and G. Loomis Asquith were its equal or better.

 

 

#7 Hardy SHADOW 8’6”#4  $349.95

 

Hardy SHADOW 8'6"#4

Hardy SHADOW 8'6"#4

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.

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

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.

 

 

#8 Douglas DXF 8’6”#4  $349

Douglas DXF 8'6"#4

Douglas DXF 8'6"#4

It’s rare that we score a rod company’s less expensive model over their top-of- the-line rod, but occasionally it happens.  Not only does the DXF have a lighter swing weight than the SKY, (mostly due to the SKY’s 9 foot length), but it has also has a softer tip and more feel in close.

Choosing the best mid-priced rod was more difficult for me than choosing the Shootout winner or the best inexpensive 4-weight rod, mostly because the DXF is so good in close and at mid-distance!


Aside from the DXF’s solid performance, I’m impressed by its high-end looks. The attractive matte forest green blank looks great. The dark green anodized double uplocking seat complements the color of the rod.  The burled wood insert looks high-end and the cork quality is very good.  Douglas adds darker, composite cork rings top and bottom on the grip that also look great.  I think this is a great rod for a nice price!

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Metallic matte forest green blank, huge chrome snake guides.  The softer butt and midsection give it a deeper flex than the SKY. Composite cork on both ends of the grip, with a very nice wood insert and a good double uplocking reel seat.  Easy-to-see alignment dots.  Feels lighter in hand than most.

Performance at 25 feet: 19.1 points out of 20

Surprisingly good!  Lighter in hand, with more feel than the SKY (and many others).  Nice blend of power and feel at 25 feet.

Performance at 40 feet:  19 points out of 20

Again this rod is smooth and throws some tight, accurate loops.  I wish I had a little more power here but double hauling helps.  I’m still not getting the zing that I get with the Shadow or Recon.  

Performance at 60 feet:  7.9 points out of 10

Timing becomes critical when casting 60 feet.  If you are able to apply power smoothly the rod performs well.  But when I punch the power in too quickly, I was getting tailing loops and tangles.  The SKY was way better here at our longest distance.

  

#9 Fenwick AETOS 8’#4  $179.95

Fenwick AETOS 8'#4

Fenwick AETOS 8'#4

I’m always surprised by how well the Fenwick Aetos rods place in our Shootouts, although at this point I shouldn’t be.  The Aetos has consistently proven to be our “best buy” (best inexpensive rod) in nearly every Shootout it has been in; including the best inexpensive trout switch rod, best inexpensive 5-weight, best inexpensive 6-weight, and the best inexpensive 8-weight.  In short, the Fenwick Aetos series has been dominating the inexpensive market for years, and the 8’#4 is no different.

Light in hand and effortless to cast, you simply can’t beat the Fenwick Aetos’ performance for the money.  In fact, several testers had the Aetos outscoring rods that cost 2-5 times as much money!  The quality of the components was inferior to the better rods, and the swing weight was not as light as the best rods, but this is far from a beggars can’t be choosers proposition.   

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Cork quality is pretty poor, although the shape of the grip is good.  Cheap looking reel seat but the nice burled double lock rings work well.  I thought it would feel a little lighter in hand for an eight-foot rod, but the swing weight is still pleasing. Large black chrome guides are used, with alignment dots and an 804 designation on each section (handy for people who own more than one Aetos rod). I liked the action - very nice flex and feel, especially for the money!

Performance at 25 feet: 18.9 points out of 20

Light, easy to cast, nice flex and decent accuracy. This rod probably could have scored even higher, but the competition was fierce.

Performance at 40 feet:  19.3 points out of 20

This rod has a very nice blend of power and feel.  I was really blown away by how accurate and fun this rod was to cast.  I’m getting very nice loops.  Only the Zephrus, Pure, Helios 3F, and G series score better.  

Performance at 60 feet:  7.7 points out of 10

Not as much reserve power as I would like, but not bad and better than the Hardy Ultralite.  Accuracy suffered, and I had to concentrate on applying the power smoothly to make good casts.   

 

 

#10 Douglas SKY 9’#4  $695

Douglas SKY

Douglas SKY

The Douglas SKY isn’t going to be anyone’s 1st choice for fishing a size #22 midge with 6.5X on the spring creeks.  It is simply too stiff and heavy to hang with the best 4-weights on the market. 

But that doesn’t mean we should completely ignore this powerful rod’s uncanny ability to throw long, accurate casts.  What wind?  This rod would be best utilized by throwing hopper/dropper combos, dead drifting two meaty nymphs under an indicator, or throwing streamers on a floating line.

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions: Feels like a 9’#5.  Stout, stiff, and heavy - this is not a great all around 4-weight rod.  Nice reel seat with a classy wood insert under aluminum, similar to what we see on the Scott Radian.  Smooth double lock rings, titanium single foot guides, and composite cork at either end of the grip for better longevity. 

Performance at 25 feet: 17.3 points out of 20

The heavier swing weight and stiff tip is holding the SKY back from a high score at 25 feet.

Performance at 40 feet:  18.4 points out of 20

Not bad!  The stiffer tip isn’t nearly as overbearing, and the power is starting to be a plus.  I would have scored this rod even higher but the swing weight still felt heavy in hand, and I didn’t have as much feel as I did with the best rods.

Performance at 60 feet:  9.7 points out of 10

Crushing power out long!  This rod can carry all 60 feet of line without even double hauling!  Cleary one of the best at this distance.  Only the Asquith was better for me.

 

#11 (tie) Hardy ZEPHRUS ULTRALITE 8’9”#4  $679.95

Hardy ZEPHRUS ULTRALITE 8'9"#4

Hardy ZEPHRUS ULTRALITE 8'9"#4

Incredibly light in hand, the Hardy Ultralite is sure to pass anyone’s “wiggle test” with flying colors.  Buttery smooth and fun to flex, it was only when I cast the Ultralite head to head with the top rods that I noticed it wasn’t nearly as accurate, nor did it have much reserve power.  I attribute this to the Ultralite’s softer butt and midsections and relatively stiffer tip.  

Anglers who are looking for the ultimate in feel, (even at the cost of accuracy) will most appreciate the Ultralite.  Like the Scott G series, you can feel this rod flex through the cork handle.   

The Zephrus Ultralite is an attractive rod.  I like the golden brown blank color and the ingenuity that went into the cutout reel seat.   Not only does it lighten the overall weight, but it looks cool and different.  Personally, I like a wider cork handle as it is more comfortable to grip, but anglers with smaller hands will appreciate the Ultralite’s thinner handle.

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Super thin cork grip.  Unique reel seat with carved out wooden insert (revealing cork underneath).  Burled locking rings are on the thin side and sometimes hard to grip.   Extremely light in hand, softer mid and butt-sections give this rod a very deep action load.  Recoil wire stripper guide (like the NRX LP) with the same nickel/ titanium single foot guides as the Zephrus, but a smaller tip top than the Zephrus. Performed better with the lighter SA smooth trout line.

Performance at 25 feet: 19.2 points out of 20

This rod oozes feel, but is it possible it is too soft and light?  I’m not nearly as accurate as I was with the Zephrus and Pure.  It also gets blown around in the wind more than the Zephrus or Pure. 

Performance at 40 feet:  19 points out of 20

Exceptional feel but again I’m struggling to be as accurate as the others, especially in the wind.  You can feel the rod flexing through the cork handle, like the Scott G Series.

Performance at 60 feet:  6.9 points out of 10

Now the softer butt and midsections have met their limit.  It was very difficult for me to cast 60 feet, and get any kind of accuracy.  

 
 

#11 (tie) Taylor TRUTH 9’#4  $649

Taylor TRUTH 9'#4

Taylor fly rods

Normally when we test a rod from a new rod company the rod doesn’t make the cut for one reason or another.  After casting the Taylor Truth however, we couldn’t deny it a spot in the line-up.  Reminiscent of older G. Loomis’ GLX rods, the Truth is built for speed.  Light in hand for a longer rod, the Truth was one of my favorite 9-foot rods tested.  Crisp and clean, the Truth had a lot of power, recovered quickly, and had the ability to throw tight loops. 

While the 9’#4 Truth was too long and stiff for a perfect all around 4-weight, I’m curious and excited to see how their 9’#5 and 9’#6 versions will perform.

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Feels like a 9’#5.  Matte charcoal color, and lightly sanded.  Large nickel/titanium flexible single foot guides.  Large full wells cork grip, with good quality cork.  A nice reel seat as well.

Performance at 25 feet: 17.3 points out of 20

Feels light in hand for a 9-foot rod, but not much feel in close.  

Performance at 40 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Surprisingly nice blend of power and feel at 40 feet.  Accuracy is good!

Performance at 60 feet:  9.3 points out of 10

Excellent reserve power, great line control in the air, good accuracy - an impressive performance!

 

 

#13 (tie) St. Croix IMPERIAL 8’6”#4  $270

St. Croix IMPERIAL 8'6"#4

St. Croix IMPERIAL 8'6"#4

Last time we did a 4-weight Shootout, the St. Croix Imperial was our pick for the best mid-priced rod.  It was so good in fact, that we liked it better than the St. Croix’s more expensive Legend Elite.  Unfortunately this year we weren’t able to get a Legend Elite in time, but I suspect the upgraded Imperial would have outscored it again, mostly due to its nice soft tip. 

This year, when compared head to head with the Hardy Shadow however, the Imperial was much heavier in hand and not nearly as lively.  I’m guessing the difference is the higher modulus and lighter 220 Sintrix graphite used by the Shadow.  I like the deflection and the medium fast action of the Imperial very much. 

That being said, if you want the best inexpensive USA made 4-weight, the smooth casting Imperial is it.

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

New paint job – this time the blank is more of a metallic burnt sienna.  Reel seat also receives some upgrades with new metal; a laminated wood spacer and double uplocking rings that seem to work better. Nice grip shape and quality of cork for the money.  Interesting “double bar” hook keeper.  A nice fast, soft tip.

Performance at 25 feet: 18.3 points out of 20

On the heavier side, but very smooth.  Not bad!

Performance at 40 feet:  18.9 points out of 20

Now we’re talking!  A nice blend of power and feel.  I’m easily getting nice tight loops.  Still smooth, but a little heavier in hand than others.

Performance at 60 feet:  7.8 points out of 10

Still solid, but the more powerful rods were able to edge it out. 

 

 

#13 (tie) G. Loomis NRX LP 9’#4 $745

G. Loomis NRX LP 9'#4

G. Loomis NRX LP

The G. Loomis NRX LP’s action is perfect in a 9’#5, (hence the reason it has won our 5-weight Shootout four times in a row).  In a 4-weight however, the NRX LP is too heavy in terms of swing weight and a bit too stiff to take the crown.  Surely, a 8’6”#4 NRX LP would have scored better, but this is only available as a 9 foot model in a 4-weight rod.  The craftsmanship is good and they use the best nickel/titanium single-foot guides on the tip sections.

Rather than asking Steve Rajeff to give us a better 4-weight NRX LP, his focus likely will be on the brand new G. Loomis rods that will be released the summer of 2019, to replace both the NRX and the NRX LP.

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Smooth flex and feel, this is a smooth rod to cast.  The stripper guide is one of the unbreakable wire recoil guides, while the other guides are the good nickel/ titanium single foot guides.  No alignment dots used.  I really wish this rod came in either a 8’ or 8’6” length as the 9’ version feels heavier in hand than most.

 

Performance at 25 feet: 17.4 points out of 20

The heavy swing weight kills performance in close when compared with the lighter, shorter rods. Accuracy is still spot-on however.  

Performance at 40 feet:  18.6 points out of 20

Smooth and effortless to cast, this might be my favorite 9-foot rod in terms of good power and feel at 40 feet.  I just wish it were a little lighter.

Performance at 60 feet:  9 points out of 10

Terrific power and fun to cast.  A double haul really seems to help here.  Again, swing weight is holding it back from a higher score since it certainly was accurate.

 

#13 (tie) Sage X 8’6”#4  $900

Sage X 8'6"#4

 Sage X 8'6"#4

In our last 4-weight Shootout I had the 8’6” Sage ONE on the podium as one of my favorite all around 4-weight rods.  I was hoping the Sage X would follow suit, but unfortunately it did not.  The two things that hurt the X the most were its heavy swing weight and its stiffer/slower tip, which can be seen on the deflection chart and felt when casting.


Cosmetically, I like the dark, stealthy look of the X.  In the shade or inside the rod looks black, but in the sun you can see its dark spruce hue shine through.  I love the size and shape of the X’s snub nose half-wells cork handle.  I wish Sage used the lighter, more expensive nickel/titanium guides rather than the thicker, heavier hard chrome snake guides.  The epoxy coatings over the guide wraps are some of the sloppiest in the Shootout and disappointing to see on a $900 rod. 

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Feels heavy in hand with a stiffer tip than most, yet powerful. 4-weight rod designation on hood of reel seat slide is a nice touch.  The cork handle feels good in my hand. Pleasant dark olive blank (nearly black) with matching thread make this a cool looking rod.  I’m still seeing some sloppy epoxy work on the large chrome snake guides.

Performance at 25 feet: 18 points out of 20

Heavy swing weight, but overall this rod feels pretty good.

Performance at 40 feet:  18.8 points out of 20

Effortless to cast, but harder to obtain really tight loops than with the rods that had softer tips.  I think for many anglers this rod has a wide sweet spot.  

Performance at 60 feet:  8.2 points out of 10

Pretty good.  Rod still feels a bit heavy.  I was also expecting the rod to have a little more power.

  

 

#13 (tie) G. Loomis ASQUITH 9’#4  $1000

G. Loomis ASQUITH 9'#4

G. Loomis ASQUITH 9'#4

Another rod I had high hopes for, the G. Loomis Asquith was simply too stiff and heavy for a great all-around 4-weight.  On the bright side, it was my favorite of all the rods at 60 feet, receiving a perfect 10.  For anglers wanting an aggressive 4-weight that can throw hoppers, stoneflies, heavy rubber leg nymphs, and streamers with ease, the Asquith is a great choice.  

One thing we have noticed about the Asquith rods (and the 9’#4 is no different) is that they can take a beating!  No other rod that I know of is as durable, tough, and dependable when it comes to playing fish, deflecting split shot, or yanking misplaced flies out of trees.  If you are traveling out of the country, or on a camping trip, there is no other rod that I would trust more to make it back home in one piece, (or in this case, it’s original 4 pieces).

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Feels like a 9’#5.  Impressive reel seat with burled lock ring that is easy to grip.  Looks nice with complementary bamboo insert.  Large nickel/titanium snake guides, no alignment dots.  This rod has a smooth feel to it, like the NRX LP, only stiffer.

Performance at 25 feet: 16.5 points out of 20

Feels much heavier than the Zephrus and Pure, with a lot less feel.  Very stiff with little flex in close.

Performance at 40 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Still very stiff for a 4-weight, but accuracy is excellent.  A great rod for aggressive casters or for fishing hopper patterns.

Performance at 60 feet:  10 points out of 10

One of only 4 perfect scores, this rod is unbeatable throwing long.  Immense power, yet with great feel and insane accuracy.  No double haul required but fun for even more punch. 

  

 

#13 (tie) Mystic REAPER X 8’6”#4  $299

Mystic Reaper X

mystic fly rods mystic reaper X

The Mystic Reaper X has a good all-around medium fast action for the money.  The swing weight isn’t the lightest, but it’s light enough to still feel and cast pleasantly, (especially in close).  Casting the Reaper X head to head with the Shadow, Aetos, DXF, and Imperial, it was clear that the other rods had the performance edge. 

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Huge cork handle.  The action feels pretty good however, and this rod is nice enough to cast.  Cheaper looking reel seat with squeaky locking rings.  Large chrome snake guides with no alignment dots.

Performance at 25 feet: 18.5 points out of 20

Light in hand, pleasant feel, easy to cast off the tip. 

Performance at 40 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

A nice action, with a good blend of power and feel. A decent amount of reserve power. Not bad at all!

Performance at 60 feet:  8 points out of 10

Not a rod you can punch easily without tailing, and your timing must be very good when throwing long. Not quite as accurate as the stiffer rods. 

 

#18 Thomas & Thomas ZONE 8’6”#4  $495

Thomas & Thomas ZONE 8'6"#4

T&T ZONE new fly rod

The new T&T Zone series has received a lot of attention recently, both on social media and by winning the best saltwater fly rod at IFTD.  Naturally I was excited to get a Zone in my hands and see what all the hype was about.   

The Zone felt pretty heavy, but upon taking a few casts in close, it felt good, with a softer feel than the Avantt.  I thought we were on our way to a new Orvis Recon.  But after running the Zone through its paces at 40 and 60 feet my enthusiasm ran short.  The Zone’s softer butt and midsection don’t give it much reserve power, and I couldn’t cast very accurately with the Zone’s relatively stiff tip.   A solid performance, but nowhere near as good as the Avantt or the other top rods.    I did like the Zone’s appearance and cosmetics.  

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Two tone rod (blue and grey on the butt section), and a lightly sanded blank. Decent swing weight and feel (about in the middle of the pack).  Large single foot chrome guides, cork composite rings at either end of the grip for more longevity.  Reel seat has better hardware than most rods.  A graphite spacer is used. Handwritten rod model number and serial number on each section as well as alignment dots.

 

Performance at 25 feet: 18.5 points out of 20

Surprisingly, I was getting more feel than the Avantt in close!  The rod loads easily at this distance, not quite as light a swing weight as the best rods, but still pleasant to cast.

Performance at 40 feet:  18.7 points out of 20

The Zone’s medium action is not quite as crisp as my favorite rods, and it is not as accurate in the wind.

Performance at 60 feet:  7 points out of 10

The softer butt and mid as well as the stiff tip are starting to catch up to the Zone.  I’m not getting the power I would like to see, and accuracy is not great.

  

 

#19 R.L. Winston NIMBUS 8’6”#4  $650

R.L. Winston NIMBUS 8'6"#4

R.L. Winston NIMBUS 8'6"#4
 

Cast the Nimbus by itself, and it feels like a very nice 4-weight.  But put it head to head against the best rods and it becomes apparent that the Nimbus lacks a little feel in close, has a slightly heavier swing weight, and doesn’t have as much reserve power as the best rods.

The Nimbus doesn’t have a boron butt section like Winston’s high end “green sticks.”  It also doesn’t have the same high modulus graphite, with Winston’s new nano-resin.  No doubt the boron would likely have given the Nimbus a stiffer butt section, and the nano would have allowed for a faster/softer tip without the risk of breakage. 

If the Nimbus were $350, I’d say go for it.  But at $650, my advice is to spend the extra $200 and buy the 8’#4 Winston Pure.  Then you'll have one of the best 4-weights in the world.

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

“Big Sky Blue” looks much different, and not as nice as other Winston rods in their traditional emerald green. Reel seat looks cheaper than it should be at this price. Nice hand written model number and serial numbers on each section. Large chrome snake guides.  Soft butt section gives the Nimbus a lot of feel but at the cost of power and accuracy.

Performance at 25 feet: 18 points out of 20

Not bad!  Smooth feel with a very wide sweet spot.  I struggled to get tight loops at close range, and wasn’t nearly as accurate as I was with other rods.

Performance at 40 feet:  18.2 points out of 20

Smooth moderate action has a pleasing feel but lacks accuracy and power.

Performance at 60 feet:  7.8 points out of 10

The medium action is making it very difficult for me to dial in accuracy at 60 feet. I would prefer a stiffer butt section here, which would give this rod a lot more power.  

 

 

#20 TFO FINESSE TROUT 7’9”#4  $229.95

 

TFO's best 4-weight fly rod

TFO's best 4-weight fly rod

The TFO Finesse Trout 7’9”#4 is a fun rod to fish, especially if you are fishing on smaller mountain creeks or in tight quarters.  Light in swing weight, this rod was fun to cast, especially in close. 

Everyone preferred the faster action of 7’9” Finesse to the 8’9” Finesse.  The 7’9” felt much more lively and spunky than its longer, heavier, slower older brother. 

When compared to the smoother casting Aetos, Imperial, and Reaper X, I noticed the 7’9” Finesse felt a little “hingy” or choppy.  The bigger problem however, was the 7’9” Finesse lacked enough butt power casting long or into the wind, severely limiting it to a small creek rod rather than an all-around 4-weight.

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Light in hand, feels super short and a little “hingy” or “choppy” in action.  Very small diameter blank.  Huge stripping guide and large chrome snake guides. Very nice wood insert although the hardware on the reel seat looks and feels cheap. SA Smooth Trout was the best line match.

Performance at 25 feet: 18.5 points out of 20

Nice swing weight, fun and fairly accurate, but not nearly as smooth as the top rods.  I can definitely feel a hinge effect.

Performance at 40 feet:  18 points out of 20

Still feeling light but I already want more power.  Not a good rod for punching it. 

Performance at 60 feet:  6.6 points out of 10

The shorter length and lack of power seriously impede distance and accuracy.

 

 

#21 (tie) Loop OPTI K2 9’#4  $549

 

Loop OPTI K2 9'#4

Loop OPTI K2 9'#4

We like Loop’s new Opti K2 very much in the 9’#5 and 9’#6 versions, but I felt it was too heavy and stiff in the 9’#4 version.  Reducing the size of the huge snake guides would help with the heavier swing weight, as would offering an 8’6” version with a softer/faster tip.

Performance wasn’t terrible, but this was another rod that felt and performed more like a 9’#5 than a great all-around 4-weight.

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Shiny silver color stands out!  Futuristic silver reel seat matches the blank well. Locking ring on reel seat squeaks quite a bit.  Huge chrome snake guides. Alignment dots. Printed rod model on each section (nice for anglers who own more than one K2 rod).  Nice grip shape, cork quality is very good with a contrasting composite cork at both ends.

Performance at 25 feet: 17.6 points out of 20

Not bad for a 9 footer, feels stiffer and heavier than most.  I wasn’t getting much feel in close.

Performance at 40 feet:  17.9 points out of 20

Smooth casting rod, but the tip feels like it could be softer. 

Performance at 60 feet:  7.5 points out of 10

I thought I would like this rod best at distance but I wasn’t getting the power I thought I would out of this rod.  


 

#21 (tie) Sage MOD 8’6”#4  $850

Sage MOD 8'6"#4

Sage MOD 8'6"#4

The Sage MOD has a lighter swing weight than the Sage X, but a much softer butt section and mid-section, making it significantly less accurate and more difficult to cast longer distances.  If you take a look at the deflection chart, the MOD has the second softest butt section of all the rods in the Shootout with a relatively stiffer tip.  This type of rod design focuses more on the feel side of the equation than on the accuracy side.  Anglers that like a more medium action rod, and are willing to sacrifice power and accuracy for greater feel will be drawn to this rod.

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

The sublime/vibrant lime green paint job really makes this rod stand out. Nicely shaped “snub nose” half wells grip but the quality of cork could be better for a rod this price. Likewise for the wood insert and reel seat hardware. This rod has a very soft butt section and mid section but a stiffer tip, giving it a very deep action load.  Chrome snake guides are used. I couldn’t help but notice that the epoxy work could be better.

Performance at 25 feet: 17.5 points out of 20

Softer butt and mid-section give this rod a fair amount of feel but at the cost of consistent accuracy. The heavy swing weight also held it back from a top score in close.

Performance at 40 feet:  18.7 points out of 20

Nice feel but again difficult to dial in accuracy. Swing weight could be lighter, but the MOD does feel a little lighter than the X.

Performance at 60 feet:  6.8 points out of 10

Soft butt and midsection make this rod feel more like a fiberglass rod.  Distance, power, and accuracy all suffered, especially in the wind.   

 

#21 (tie) Scott RADIAN 8’6’’#4  $795

Scott RADIAN 8'6"#4

Scott RADIAN 8'6"#4

The Scott Radian’s lower finishing order is the biggest surprise of the test for me.  After having it tie for 1st place in past 5-weight Shootouts, I thought the 8’6”#4 was going to be a real contender.  But after casting and directly comparing the Radian to the top rods the results hold true – the Radian was too heavy, and too stiff in the tip with a butt and mid-section that seemed too soft.   

I do appreciate the top shelf craftsmanship of the Radian; it is easily one of the best looking rods in our Shootout.   

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Eye catching reel seat, with attractive orange hue wood insert under black aluminum.  Swell in the grip seems a little large for a 4-weight rod. Stiffer in the tip than I’d expect from Scott.  Alignment dots, lightly sanded blank, hard chrome snake guides. Attractive orange trim on the butt section wraps. 

Performance at 25 feet: 17.8 points out of 20

I was surprised and thought the Radian would have more feel in close!  Accuracy was good, but coupled with little feel.

Performance at 40 feet:  18.2 points out of 20

Feels a bit like the Sage MOD with a softer butt section and stiffer tip.  While fun to cast I was more accurate and had more power with the top rods.

Performance at 60 feet:  7 points out of 10

Not so hot, the softer butt and midsection are becoming more of a crutch than an asset.  Accuracy and power were both diminished. 

  

 

#24 G.Loomis IMX PRO 8’6’’#4  $495

G. Loomis IMX PRO 8'6"#4

G. Loomis IMX PRO 8'6"#4

The main thing holding the G. Loomis IMX Pro back from a higher finish is its heavy swing weight. It had the third heaviest swing weight in the Shootout, which is saying something seeing how this rod is 8’6” and still heavier in swing weight than several 9-foot rods.

The extra weight is all part of the package.  Believe it or not, that’s the way G. Loomis designed it!  The IMX Pro was designed to be the most durable, affordable rod on the market, and with that comes a heavier swing weight.


The IMX Pro series has definitely proven to be strong.  Several of our guides have been using them now for a whole season as client rods, without any breakage.  Beginner clients were hitting bridges on back casts, kids were sword fighting on the spring creeks, and countless cone head ricochets occurred, that would have left most rods shattered.

While the IMX Pro 8’6”#4 isn’t going to be your go-to spring creek rod for fishing tiny dries on 6X tippet, I will say it was a smooth casting rod.  Look for this rod to excel in the 9’#5, 9’#6, one-piece 7 and 8-weight streamer rods, and the 11’11” Shortspey series.

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Heavy and Stiff, feels like a 5-weight rod.  Large cork grip for a 4-weight.  Cheaper looking wood insert (like Winston Nimbus) but decent reel seat hardware. No alignment dots, and single foot hard chrome guides. Composite cork ring on the bottom end for less wear and tear. 

Performance at 25 feet: 16.5 points out of 20

Very heavy in my hand. Not very pleasing to cast when compared with the best mid-priced rods. Almost no feel and little accuracy.

Performance at 40 feet:  17.9 points out of 20

I’m impressed with how smoothly this rod casts, but disappointed with the heavy swing weight.

Performance at 60 feet:  8.5 points out of 10

Good power, accuracy is also good. You can lean into this rod and it won’t throw a tailing loop.

  

 

#25 Orvis CLEARWATER 8’6”#4  $198

Orvis CLEARWATER 8'6"#4

Orvis CLEARWATER 8'6"#4


The Orvis Clearwater’s performance was underwhelming compared to the fabulous performances of both the Helios 3F and Recon.  But it is what it is, there is no reason to get upset or expect more from an inexpensive, low modulus, relatively heavy 4-weight rod. 

This rod is aimed at beginners, but my advice is to save some money and go with the Fenwick Aetos, which at $180 is a much more pleasant rod to cast and fish. Or better yet, take your $198 and put it towards the Recon, which was one of our best performing mid-priced rods.

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Vague feel, neither great nor terrible, but heavy for a 4-weight.  Feels more like a 5-weight rod.  Grip shape is good but the quality of the cork is not.  Cheaper looking reel seat but the hardware seems to function well. Alignment dots, large chrome snake guides.

Performance at 25 feet: 17 points out of 20

Feels heavy in hand with an ambiguous, bland feel. I’m not getting the crisp, tight loops that I was getting out of the Fenwick Aetos or St. Croix Imperial.

Performance at 40 feet:  18 points out of 20

Not bad.  Here the Clearwater feels decent although not quite as lively as the others.  

Performance at 60 feet:  7.8 points out of 10

Good power, but it feels more like a 9’#5 rod due to the stiffness and heavier swing weight. 



#26  Loop Q 9’#4  $229

Loop Q 9'#4

Loop Q 9'#4


The heavy swing weight was the Loop Q’s Achilles heel.  In fact, it had the heaviest swing weight of all the rods in the test.  Despite the extra weight, the Loop Q is actually a smooth casting rod.  My guess is that it is also very durable, similar to the IMX Pro. 

Again, my advice here is to save some money and go with the Fenwick Aetos which is less expensive and will give you better performance. 

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Feels heavy in hand.  The cork grip looks vaguely orange in color and the quality of cork was not very good.  No hook keeper.  Burled lock rings squeak quite a bit.  Reel seat looks cheap. Huge chrome snake guides.  The rod alignment dots and model number stamped on each section are a nice touch.

Performance at 25 feet: 17 points out of 20

Feels heavy in hand, and a little clubby in close compared to the lighter/shorter rods.

Performance at 40 feet:  17.8 points out of 20

Not bad but it has a long way to go to match the feel of the Fenwick Aetos or St. Croix Imperial. The heavier swing weight is what seems to hurt the most.

Performance at 60 feet:  7.5 points out of 10

Not so good.  The heavier swing weight hinders both feel and accuracy. 

 

#27 (tie) TFO FINESSE TROUT 8’9” #4  $229.95

TFO FINESSE TROUT 8'9"#4

TFO FINESSE TROUT 8'9"#4

The 8’9” TFO Finesse wasn’t nearly as fun to cast as its little brother.  This was mostly due its heavier swing weight and its slower/stiffer tip. 

For a better and less expensive all-around rod, go with the Fenwick Aetos.  If you like fishing smaller, tight quarters mountain streams, consider the shorter 7’9” TFO Finesse, which performed a lot better than this longer rod.

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Heavier and slower than TFO 7’9”#4 with a deeper action load.  Not nearly as accurate or as much fun to cast as the 7’9” Finesse.  Huge stripping guide.  Decent cork for the money, the wood insert looks great but the rest of the reel seat hardware looks cheap. Large chrome snake guides.  Alignment dots are a nice touch.

Performance at 25 feet: 17 points out of 20

The heavy swing weight led to poor feel and accuracy when compared to the Fenwick Aetos or St. Croix Imperial.

Performance at 40 feet:  17 points out of 20

Heavy in hand, not as much feel as better inexpensive rods.

Performance at 60 feet:  7 points out of 10

Underwhelming performance, simply too heavy and slow to perform well at 60 feet.

  

 

#27 (tie) Waterworks Lamson SS  9’#4  $399.95

Waterworks Lamson SS 9'#4

 Waterworks Lamson SS 9'#4

The Waterworks Lamson SS was designed to be versatile, accurate, fun to cast, and true to line size. In my opinion, none of these criteria were met, at least when compared to the other top rods in our Shootout.  

We tried an SA Trout line on the SS, (which is true 4-weight line), however it was far too light for the SS’s stiffer/slower action.  We found a 5-weight line was a much better match for this rod.

This was a pretty good-looking rod, in light matte gray.  The half wells handle was comfortable and the quality of cork was decent.  The reel seat is solid aluminum and looks cheaper than most. 

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Heavy in hand, matte grey blank stands out. Cork grip and shape are quite nice.  Cheap looking reel seat, however the double burled locking rings work smoothly.  Alignment dots, large chrome snake guides but then a small tip-top. 

Performance at 25 feet: 17 points out of 20

Heavy in hand, not very delicate. The stiffer tip kills any kind of feel in close.

Performance at 40 feet:  17 points out of 20

Not especially accurate, still feels heavy, and too stiff to be a good 4-weight.

Performance at 60 feet:  7 points out of 10

Better.  I could get used to this, but other rods had better power and felt much lighter.

 
 

#29 Mystic JXP 9’#4  $499

Mystic JXP 9'#4

Mystic JXP 9'#4

I was surprised to see the JXP finish so low since the Mystic rods have done well in past Shootouts.  The main reason the scores were so low is that the JXP is way too stiff.  If you take a look at our deflection board, the JXP 9’#4 flexes more like a super stiff 5-weight or 6-weight rod!  Its heavy swing weight didn’t help.  The fast action was fine, but the stiffness hurt its scores at close and medium distances.

If you are prepared to spend around $500 on a new 4-weight, my advice is to go with the Orvis Recon, which is a much nicer rod at $429, and performs as well as many of the top rods.

 

James’ casting notes:

1st impressions:

Feels like a 9’#6-weight.  Much heavier (and stiffer) than Mystic Reaper X.  Lightly sanded blank, the large full wells grip seems too big for a 4-weight.  The reel seat looks cheap but works well.  Two stripping guides unnecessary for a 4-weight rod, large chrome snake guides.

Performance at 25 feet: 16.5 points out of 20

Almost no feel, (other than heavy and clunky).  Accuracy suffered too.

Performance at 40 feet:  16.8 points out of 20

Getting better but still heavy and far too stiff a tip for a good 4-weight.

Performance at 60 feet:  7 points out of 10

Again feeling better, but the Reaper X is way lighter and feels much better.  This rod does have a ton of power but requires a 5.5 or 6 weight line to perform well.

 

 brown caught with a Hardy 4-weight rod

 

We appreciate your support! 

These Shootouts take a lot of time and effort.  With your support we can continue to give you more Shootouts and head to head comparisons on tackle and equipment in the future.  So if you like what we are doing, the best way to thank us is to buy a rod, reel, or outfit from the Yellowstone Angler.  

 

Our thoughts About a Purchase 

If you are thinking about buying a fly rod, we suggest reading one of our Shootouts for the line size rod you want.  You’ll find these on our Yellowstone Angler home page at yellowstoneangler.com.

If your favorite local shop stocks the rods you are interested in, by all means visit them, try a few rods and purchase an outfit from them.  

If you cannot find or cast the rods that interest you, we are here to help.  Call us at 406-222-7130, or e-mail us at [email protected] and we can discuss your needs and wants.  I’m confident that we can come up with the perfect rod or outfit that best fits your needs. 

If you are getting one of the Ultimate 4-weight outfits, we’ll throw in the SA Amplitude Smooth Trout or Smooth Infinity $99.95 line for free, and also ship it to you for free! And since we are in Montana, there is no sales tax.

Once you get your new rod or outfit, do some casting on the lawn, and if you feel it is not just what you want, (and has not been fished), we’ll allow you to return it to us for a full refund, less the shipping charges.  

Use this link to go to our Favorite Freshwater Outfits for the 3 through 8-weight rods, in our Online Store.  Here you'll find our recommendations in three price ranges:  The Ultimate Outfit, Mid Priced Outfit and Best Buy Outfit.   

If you are looking for that perfect saltwater outfit, then use our Favorite Saltwater Outfits link.

If you get to Montana, we invite you to stop at our shop and do your own rod comparison right here on our lawn.  We have several reels rigged with the various line sizes, and leaders, all ready to go. We’ll come out with you and give you some help to fine tune your casting stroke, or just help you with the basics.  And once you’ve picked out the perfect rod, stay and enjoy a few days on the water with one of our top guides. 

We value your comments about the Shootout and invite any questions you might have about it or your tackle needs.  We have fished all over the world in both fresh and saltwater for a variety of fish, and we’ll be glad to answer all of your questions, to help you choose the perfect rod or outfit.