The best thing I found about the Clearwater is the price. That gives it a perfect score of 10 along with the Aetos. However, the 8-foot Aetos turned in much higher scores in several categories, including performance at 25 feet, swing weight and light tippet protection. The Clearwater is heavy in overall weight and very heavy in swing weight, making it a chore to cast. It is also a stiff rod – almost as stiff as the SKY and IMX Pro. Its medium action is far slower than the Recon or their H3F, and it didn’t perform nearly as well, especially at 25 feet.
Stiff, slower action rods are NOT what you are looking for in a 4-weight, where accurate, delicate presentations are the keys to success.
Overall, the craftsmanship was decent for a rod that is manufactured in Asia, but not nearly as good as what we see in the Recon and H3F that are built in Vermont. But superior craftsmanship commands a much higher price!
The Clearwater is finished in a dark gray color with dark olive guide wraps. The epoxy coatings over the wraps were surprisingly good for a one-coat finish. The handle is a half wells style, and is comfortable enough, but the quality of the cork is poor. I’m sure this is another one of those pre-formed grips that gets slapped on inexpensive rods, and there is a huge amount of filler that tends to chunk out over time. At least it is sanded to a smooth finish initially. The single uplocking reel seat is plain anodized gray aluminum with no insert. A sliding band and wide locking ring is used that is easy to grip and seemed to lock up well.
For some reason they don’t use a hook keeper on this rod, maybe another way to cut the cost? I’d gladly pay another few dollars to have one. For guides, they use one SiC stripping guide followed with hard chrome snake guides that are thin and light on the tip sections. Alignment dots are placed at the ferrules, which is handy.
The perfect line: SA Amplitude Smooth Infinity in WF-4-F
George’s casting notes:
Performance at 25 feet: 18.0 points out of 20
Not much feel with all that swing weight, and the accuracy was pretty crappy too. The Aetos was dramatically better for an inexpensive rod.
Performance at 40 feet: 19.0 points out of 20
Good, just not great. About as good as the Imperial, but the Recon and Shadow were noticeably better.
Performance at 60 feet: 9.0 points out of 10
The stiffness is a bonus at long range. It tracked well and the accuracy was good – better than the Imperial at long range.
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.
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.
Logan’s Comments: 43 out of 50
The Orvis Clearwater was one rod that was in need of an update, and Orvis did a good job improving one of their least expensive rods. Now it has a more modern look that fits nicely into the Orvis lineup. I like the overall appearance of the Clearwater in its dark gray color. It has a nice nickel colored reel seat that complements the blank color well.
Performance at 25 feet: 17.5 out of 20
The Clearwater has a powerful butt section, making it a little too stiff to cast well in close. A softer tip would help here.
Performance at 40 feet: 18 out of 20
At 40 feet the Clearwater was nice. It was forming tight loops and tracking well.
Performance at 60 feet: 7.5 out of 20
I could easily get the Clearwater to 60 feet but the accuracy was not very good.
The new Orvis Clearwater is another nice rod to get you out on the water for under $200. It’s not the lightest or most powerful rod in the shootout, but it’s a good workhorse and seems to do everything well. It performed well for me at all distances.
Performance at 25 feet: 18/20
The Clearwater felt pretty good in close. A little heavy in the tip but still could get those 12’ leaders to turn over with decent accuracy.
Performance at 40 feet: 18/20
Mid-distance was where I felt the Clearwater performed best and showed its ability.
Performance at 60 feet: 8/10
I was pleasantly surprised by the power and accuracy I was getting with the Clearwater out at our longest distance.
The Clearwater felt heavy in hand, and a bit stiff when casting. It did have a bit of a softer tip, which is ultimately what gave it the edge over some of these other rods.
Performance at 25 feet: 15.5 out of 20
The rod did OK this distance, but still felt a little clunky. I wish it was lighter.
Performance at 40 feet: 16 out of 20
With the stiffness of the rod, it did a bit better at 40 feet. Still not giving me as much finesse as the lighter rods.
Performance at 60 feet: 6.5 out of 10
Though it could hit 60 feet, It took a lot more work than other rods.