Yellowstone Angler 6-weight shootout

Sweet Sixteen

A Comparison of the best 6-weight rods for 2016 

By 

George Anderson

 

 With comments by James Anderson, Logan Brown, and “JG” Josh Green

(Click on their Names or photos below to read their individual comments)

 James Anderson OP Steelhead  Logan Brown Yellowstone Brown  Josh Green JG Montana Sucker

                James Anderson                      Logan Brown                         JG (Josh Green) 

 

There were some incredible new rods introduced at this July’s ICAST show, from many of the top rod companies.  We felt that having a 6-weight Shootout that included only a dozen of what we feel are the very best rods on the market would make a lot of sense. 

 

We quickly concluded, however, that we needed to get some of the less expensive and mid-priced rods into this shootout, as we have done in the past.  We actually cast twenty-five rods and narrowed our review down to sixteen rods - so here is the “Sweet Sixteen.”    

 

Nine rods didn’t make the cut for one reason or another, and we’re sorry if we didn’t include your favorite one.  But what anglers really want to know is what are the best 6-weight rods, over three different price ranges.

 

We get lots of requests for Shootouts on other weights of rods, like 4-weights, 6 and 7 weights, and then even 10 and 11-weights.  We hope to tackle some of these in the future, but we felt that a 6-weight shootout had more relevance as a great all around fly-fishing tool.  A good six-weight rod is a perfect choice for many occasions, and is also the choice of many anglers going to places like New Zealand and Patagonia.

 

 6-weight rods

 

Why a 6-weight?

6-weight rods have just enough more guts over a 5-weight to make nymph fishing a breeze and they also provide enough power to throw medium size streamers on a sink tip.  They have the power to pick up lots of line to make an immediate re-cast, as you often do while fishing out of a drift boat.  Fishing big, wind resistant rigs like a “Chub/Rub” combo, (a size #8 Chubby Chernobyl dry with a size #8 rubber legs nymph behind it), is far easier with a six-weight rod.     For nymph fishing, 6-weights work better for chucking a two-nymph combo, like a #8 weighted rubber legs, with a smaller tungsten bead head dropper.  Add some split shot and a big strike indicator, and throwing the whole rig is far easier with a 6-weight rod than with a 4-weight or 5-weight.   

 

A good 6-weight rod must have the power to play bigger fish when you are trying to pull them away from undercut banks or underwater logs or boulders using 2X – 4X tippet.  And to help with playing fish, you’ll find that many of these rods we tested have a short fighting butt.   A good 6-weight should also be able to cast 75-80 feet with a small damsel nymph or mini leech, and have the guts to keep that big angry lake brown out of the weeds.

 

On a windy day, being able to choose a 6-weight rod over something lighter makes a lot of sense.  With the more powerful 6-weight rods you can really punch your cast into a strong headwind of 15-20 mph. Some of the lighter action 6-weights however, don’t have this capability.

 

Fishing streamers is a joy as these rods have the power to drive a long 10-15 foot sinking head with good sized streamers, right up to size 4 with ease.  They won’t throw an articulated fly quite like an 8-weight, but surprisingly there’s a lot you can do with the best 6-weigths.   They will wear you out less than streamer fishing all day long with an 8-weight.

 

The best 6-weights must be delicate enough that you can fish dry flies very effectively on light tippets, right down to 5X and 6X.  They must be accurate, especially at the short to medium distances and be able to make delicate presentations when called for.  They are ideal for fishing bigger, more wind resistant dry flies like hoppers or stoneflies.   But if you unexpectedly run into a surprise PMD or Baetis hatch, you don’t want to go back to the car for a 4 or 5-weight rod.  A great 6-weight can do it all.

 

Some exciting new rods  

Great new rods from the top manufacturers were the big news at ICAST.  Sage has the new X fly rod, G. Loomis introduced their new spiral wrapped Asquith, (one of the first production rods to sell for $1000.00), and Douglas came out with a terrific new rod called the Sky, that gave us terrific performance, with a retail price of $695.00.  Winston has a new entry too, called the Air, which is a new design and especially light and superb at closer distances.  Loop has a new series of the Cross SX rods that proved to both light in swing weight and sweet to cast.     

 

To these we added our favorite rods from Scott, G. Loomis, Orvis Hardy, Fenwick, Echo, and TFO.  We are confident that you’ll find a rod here that is exactly what you are looking for in a 6-weight!  

 

 

2016   6-Weight results – a quick look    

 

1.  The amazing Douglas Sky dominated to take #1 over the new Loomis Asquith, in both the overall score and the performance categories. 

 

2. The high priced, exotic Loomis Asquith delivered in performance with its new spiral graphite wrap process and good looks. 

 

3. The Douglas DXF, at $349.95 was our favorite mid-priced rod as it was in our last 5-weight shootout. 

 

4.  The Fenwick Aetos is back again as our top pick for the best inexpensive rod at $189.95.

 

 

Why trust our opinions?

After being in the fly fishing business as a guide, store manager and shop owner for the past forty six years, I’ve learned a lot about fly rods and what it takes for them to perform well.  I learned to fly fish when I was about 13, in New York’s Catskills, but I really fine-tuned my fishing on the South Platte River in Colorado.  Then after moving to Montana in 1972, I learned a lot about casting from both Mel Krieger and Steve Rajeff, two of the best casters of all time.

 

I’ve always loved helping rod manufacturers like Sage, G. Loomis, Scott, Winston, and Tom Morgan, and Douglas in the design process.  I helped design rods in the Sage LL series, The Loomis StreamDance GLX series, and doing the final casting and prototype work with Tom Morgan on his graphite and glass rods.  Lately I’ve worked with Douglas and Scott in their re-designs of the Sky and Meridian.   I’m pleased that these manufactures think enough of my casting skills and knowledge to solicit my input as they develop their new designs.  I’ve been fishing for bonefish, tarpon and other saltwater species for the past thirty years throughout Florida, the gulf coast, and the Caribbean.   

 

My son James (Jamie) is a real fly-fishing fanatic, and great caster, as well as a great angler.  He’s now the boss at the Yellowstone Angler and is an integral part of all of our rod shootouts and tackle comparisons.  He is a gifted photographer too, and all his superb photos really make our shootouts click.  He enjoys fishing the salt as much as I do but his real love is chasing big browns on streamers or fishing for steelhead when he gets the chance.

 

Logan Brown, our guide bookings manager has lived in Montana for over ten years now and has become one of the better anglers in our area.  Of all the guys at the shop he spends the most time on the Yellowstone and has the brown trout photos to prove it.  He has fished for Golden Dorado as well as for big Rainbows at Jurassic lake.  He has proven himself time and time again to be a good angler and caster, even in the toughest conditions imaginable.

 

JG, (Josh Green) is our on-line sales and mail orders manager.  He has quickly grasped everything from tying tarpon leaders to technical rigging for billfish, GT’s, or Atlantic salmon.  JG’s attention to detail helps tremendously as he is a great caster but more importantly also very in tune at feeling the subtle differences among rods. 

 

I think you will find everyone’s comments interesting and worth reading.  They don’t always agree with me, but that’s OK.  As you’ll see, however, we were all pretty much in agreement on which were the best rods.  To read their opinions and finishing order click on their photos or names above and you will find a separate page.

 

Remember in doing these Shootouts, we are giving you OUR opinions.  This is a subjective test designed to help give you a guide to which rods you want to try or buy.  But we know from our readers’ comments that the vast majority of anglers are in general agreement with our findings.

 

Great fly rods are not always the most expensive

As you’ll read again this year, there are some outstanding rods that score higher than rods that are two to three times as expensive.   A good example of this in a mid-priced rod is the Douglas DXF at $349.95.   It finished higher than four other rods that sell for $700-$895.00.  But if you want the best, your credit card is going to take a hit for one of the higher numbers.  Is that high priced rod really up to $700 better?  Only you can make that decision.  And the best way to do this is to cast some of these rods yourself and do your own head to head comparison.   

 

If you are not going to do much fishing, then one of the inexpensive or mid-priced rods may be the best choice.   For experienced anglers that can afford the best rods our advice has always been that if you can afford the best, buy the best.  You’ll never regret it.  And this goes for beginners too.  Casting and fishing one of the best rods will allow you to advance much more rapidly.  In my experience, the key to catching fish is casting accuracy.  But having a nice light rod (in swing weight) in your hand all day pays big dividends, in terms of fatigue.  There is also a certain lust factor going for the expensive rods.  Part of this is the wow factor.  The best rods have almost become a status symbol.  Are you comfortable showing up with a $200 rod when all your buddies have those hotshot $750-$1000 rods? It’s nice to look down at your rod and reel and appreciate  function and craftsmanship of one of the very best rods.

 

We see so many people wishing to economize getting into the sport and buying less expensive equipment.  Then, shortly after getting started, they realize that the higher priced rods will allow them to improve more quickly so they buy a more expensive outfit and essentially end up throwing away the money they spent on the cheaper outfit.  While they can hand the outfit down to a friend or family member, the real economy is buying the right rod initially.  We hope this shootout helps you do so.

  

Great anglers design the best rods

Over the past fifty years, it has become very apparent to me that the best rod designers are people that are also great anglers.  From their fishing experience, they know just what is needed for specific fish and the fishing conditions that are likely to be encountered.  They can take a design and fine tune it to perfection, making a few tweaks and design changes along the way to end up with that perfect rod for the specific fish and fishing conditions.  A lot of people come to mind.  Fellows like Steve Rajeff (G. Loomis), Tom Morgan (Tom Morgan Rodsmiths), and Howard Croston (Hardy) are guys I’ve spent time fishing with on small streams, big rivers and in the salt.  Then there are a lot of other guys I know that are also great anglers like Jerry Siem at Sage, Jim Bartschi at Scott, Tim Rajeff at Echo, the late Jimmy Green, who gave us the first graphite rods from Fenwick, and of course Lefty Kreh who has worked with TFO to give us the BVK rods.    

 

 

Our testing procedures –keeping it apples to apples.

As in all our prior shootouts, we have strived to eliminate the variables by setting up the rods with the exact same reels, lines and leaders.  For this 6-weight shootout, we had identical Ross Evolution LT #2 reels set up with our favorite trout line, the new Scientific Anglers Mastery MPX in WF-6-F. On the lines we are using for this shootout we used our own 9-foot 4X Yellowstone Angler hand tied Clear Butt Leaders.  Tied with Clear Maxima butts and mid sections, these leaders simply cast better, with more accuracy than any of the knotless leaders.  

 

With all the rods set up identically, it was easy to take a few casts with one, lay it down, and immediately pick up another rod and do the same without having to take the time to strip all the line off the rod and load up another one.  We were comparing two to three rods at once at our individual casting stations.  By doing this, we could easily determine the subtle differences among the rods and get a good feel for how each compared at the different distances.  And it was always good to have what we felt was the top rod in the Shootout, like the Sky, on hand to make immediate heads up comparisons.   

 

Ross Reels Ross Evolution 2 for 6-weights 

 

Reels

This year we again used the Ross Evolution LT #2 reels for our 6-weight shootout.  These are one of the most popular reels we sell here in our shop, and have proven to be extremely reliable.  They are light, with a good drag that is easy to operate.  The craftsmanship and finish are excellent.  With the newest 6-weight rods becoming lighter and lighter, a nice light reel like the Evolution LT is a perfect choice.   The Evolution LT #2 weighs 4.1 oz. empty, and approx. 5.4 oz. with a WF-6-F line and 100 yards of 20 lb. Cortland Micron backing.

 

Best all around 6-weight fly line SA MPX WF-6-F

 

Lines

 

We have been Scientific Anglers line fans for years and the new MPX line is a perfect choice for these 6-weight rods. This line is a half-size heavier than a normal Trout taper.   The MPX in WF-6-F has a total head length of 36 feet with a 6.5-foot front taper that allows for a quick turnover in the wind, and is especially good with the larger and more wind resistant flies like hoppers and even streamers that you may be throwing with a 6-weight rod.   The new MPX is a smooth line, which we prefer, and this year it is a two-colored line – the head is one color with the running line a different color.   This makes it easier to judge exactly how much belly you have out in the air casting longer distance when you need to use a double haul.   I prefer the Green/Buckskin (MPX Optic), as it is more visible with the green portion forward, allowing me to judge the distance better to deliver the fly more accurately.   This line is also available in an Amber/Willow version (MPX Stealth) for anglers that prefer a less visible line.   The New Zealand guys love this one. 

 

9'4x leader yellowstone angler hand tied leaders

 

Leaders

As in the past, we prefer to set up all the test lines with our own Yellowstone Angler hand-tied leaders.   For this 6-weight Shootout we used our Clear Butt 9 foot 4X leaders.  These utilize clear Maxima butt and midsections with Rio nylon 4X tippets.  Our hand-tied leaders turn over better than any of the 9 foot knotless leaders we’ve found.   For most of the fishing we do with a 6-weight rod a nine-foot leader is the best choice, often with a 3X or 4X tippet. But if you are fishing in more difficult conditions, with spooky fish, then you might want to shift up to a 12 footer and finer tippets.  With larger wind-resistant hoppers, our guides are normally using a 9-foot 3X leader.   For our 6-weight Shootout casting, we tie on a fluorescent yarn indicator that approximates a medium size dry fly, enabling us easily to judge turnover and accuracy.

 

 

6-weight deflection charts

 

Deflection Charts

Our deflection charts have been so popular that we have worked up more for this 6-weight Shootout.   These allow everyone to see exactly how each rod bends compared to the others.  If you click on this chart, the link will take you to the page with the other deflection charts.   One chart gives you all ten of the expensive rods, and another chart shows the six mid-priced and inexpensive rods.  This chart also shows the winning Sky profile.  Now you can easily see which rods have faster actions than others (the tip bends more) or ones that have more moderate, slower actions (the tip bends less steeply).  To make the deflection chart, we placed the rods at a 45-degree angle and then hung a weight of 4.5 oz. from the tiptops.  Then we traced the outline of the rod in different color sharpies. 

 

Keep in mind that fast action rods are not necessarily stiff rods.  The tips on the faster action rods bend more, and if you look at the top rods, you will see that they tend to be faster action rods.  We have found that this is the key to getting good accuracy in close.  On the other hand, the best rods must have enough butt and mid-section power to throw longer distances with ease.  

 

 6-weight deflections

On the above chart, it is interesting to see how much stiffer the Scott Meridian is than the others, and also how much softer the Winston Air is compared to the rest.   The top rods are pretty much bunched together and most have a similar fast action.  The Sage X is slightly slower than the rest, with a stiffer tip.

 

You can pick a rod off the rack in a fly shop, flex and wiggle it with your hand and get an idea of how it might perform, but the proof is what it will do when matched up with the correct line and then cast it heads up with other rods.  Only then do the subtle differences reveal themselves.  And this is what we are doing for you in our Shootouts.  

 

 

Douglas Sky best 6 weight fly rod

G.Loomis Asquith

G. Loomis NRX

Scott Radian

Loop Cross Sx

Orvis Helios 2

Douglas outdoors DXF

Hardy Zephrus

Scott Meridian

G Loomis Pro4x

sage x

Orvis Recon

Fenwick Aetos

Winston Air

Temple Fork Outfitters BVK

Echo base best fly rod for the money

 

 

Objective Observations

Please find the figures for price, overall weight and swing weight in our table for Objective Observations below.

 

 6-weight Objective Observations

 

How we measure Swing Weight

I wanted to explain how we do this, and this is easy to do yourself with a little practice. First you must zero out the scale.  Then a foam-packing pellet is placed on the center of the scale, and the grip of the rod placed on this pellet while the rod is in a horizontal position with a fingernail holding only the butt cap of the rod.  The reel seat rings and band are placed at the bottom of the reel seat.  Now we position the grip over the fulcrum created by the foam pellet so that the pellet is about half way up the grip – but more importantly over the center of the swell, where you will grip the rod.  With the Scott rods the fulcrum was slightly farther up the grip.  Once the rod is placed precisely on the foam pellet as the fulcrum, we position the rod horizontally and apply finger pressure to the very end of the reel seat, usually using a fingernail over the butt cap.  Then we read off the weight of this pressure on the scale in ounces.  This is repeated a half dozen times, zeroing out the scale each time.  Then we take the average of these measurements and this becomes the swing weight. We have found that to obtain accurate measurements, all this must be done the same day, at the same temperature, and within a period of less than one hour. 

 

Yes, for all you engineers this may not seem precisely accurate, but as a practical way to measure swing weight it works fine.  The most important thing here is not the actual figures, but how the rods compare with each other.  Swing weight is such an important category, we now give it 20 points and consider it a part of our performance evaluation.

 

 

Explanation of Points Categories  

  

Price in US $$ - 10 points available

This is simple – the least expensive rods get the highest points.  We gave all the rods under $259.95  -BVK, Aetos, and the Base a perfect 10 here.  The most expensive rods, the $895 Sage X and the $1000 Asquith got the lowest score of 6.    Most of the top rods that were in the $800-$865 range got a 7.  Rods from $695 to $795 got an 8, and the mid-priced rods from $350 to $450 got a 9.  

 

Overall Weight – 10 points available

As in the past we are using our reliable digital postage scale, and round off to .01 of an ounce.  We don’t take the manufacturer’s word for stated weight.  Lighter is better here, but this factor is not nearly as important as swing weight.  In the past we've seen manufacturers cut overall weight by reducing the weight of the butt section only.  This actually hurts the rod's swing weight. 

 

Swing Weight – 20 points available

You know about swing weight, if you play golf.  It is the relationship of the club head to the shaft when you wiggle the club.  Measuring this on a fly rod is not quite as easy though.  We have played around with this over several shootouts and now we have gone back to my tried and true approach, using our digital postal scale.  The swing weight of the rod is the weight you feel out ahead of your hand, holding the rod in a horizontal position.  Rods with a light swing weight are pleasant and effortless to cast.  Rods with a heavy swing weight feel tip heavy or “clubby” in your hand and will wear you out casting them all day.  

 

Warranties:  10 points available

We looked at all the warranty policies in detail as some have changed slightly.  Every manufacturer now has some kind of “Lifetime warranty”.  Well, the Orvis warranty is now 25 years.  Nearly all are charging a “handling” fee of $35-$100 to repair or replace your rod.  But then it is also going to cost you $15 or more to ship the rod in for repair or have your dealer do it. 

 

To my way of thinking, the most important thing when you break your rod is getting it back quickly, not so much the price you’ll have to pay.  In this regard, G. Loomis continues to utilize their popular Expeditor policy.  Loomis will charge your credit card $100 but you get a brand new rod back in 3-4 days.   But for the Asquith it will cost you $250, so we down graded this rod to a 7.5.  I think that most anglers will gladly pay for this Expeditor service if they can get a new rod back in just a few days.    Loomis gets the perfect score of 10 for the NRX, as do Echo, and TFO, as these companies also send you back a brand new rod in just a few days, and the cost is only $35.   

 

As you’ll see, most rods got a 9, which means that it costs at least $50 for the repair or replacement.  But most of these companies repair your rod, and don’t give you a brand new replacement.  We gave Sage and R.L. Winston 8’s because of the length of time it took for most repairs, especially during the busy summer months.  Often it took a month and a half to get a rod back from repair.  To us this is unacceptable.  If you live in Montana or happen to be fishing near Dillon at least Winston offers a “lender” program. Be sure to look at our section below that explains the various warranties in detail.  

 

Craftsmanship – 10 points available

One thing that all of us here in the shop have noticed is how good the craftsmanship has become in the past several years.  Most everyone was awarded a 9s and 8s in this category. This year there were only a couple of 7s.    The Scott rods, the Loomis Asquith and the Winston Air get the 10’s for the best craftsmanship.

 

Fun to Fish/Got to Have – 10 points available

If the rod looks like a million bucks and casts like it too, any normal fly fishermen will lust for this rod.  For many, it might be seen as a status symbol.  For others, they see how this rod performs in their guide’s hands, and think that it is going to make them great anglers too and at least take them to the next level.  Surprisingly enough, they are often right.  Great rods don’t make great casters, but they can sure help an average caster get a lot better in a hurry.  Don’t let the price slow you down.  You’ll find a way to sneak it into your stash without the little lady (or husband) finding out.  

 

Performance at 30 feet – 20 points available

A rod’s ability to make delicate and accurate presentations with small flies and long leaders is the key to scoring well here.  Casting accuracy is the number one factor I use in rating these rods, and at short distances accuracy is critical.  And a big part of accuracy is the feel you get through the handle that gives you the confidence to put the fly where you want it.  I’m convinced that the key to catching more trout and especially larger trout, is casting accuracy. Fly selection is far less important.  

 

Does the rod load well enough in close, to give you the feel and accuracy you need with a short length of line and leader out of the guides?  At short range I like to cast off the tip of the rod, using mostly my wrist and very little arm movement to power the tip of the rod through the stroke.  The best rods here are almost always the lightest in swing weight, especially if you are doing a lot of false casting when fishing dry flies.  

 

Performance at 50 feet – 20 points available

Here is the most important of all the performance categories for picking the best all around 6-weight rod.  At 50 feet you want a rod that will be light and smooth enough to do a lot of false casting, which you will do fishing dry flies like hoppers all day long.   At 50 feet, you shouldn’t have to double-haul to get the rod to perform. The best rods will have the ability to carry a lot of line in the air, and throw very tight loops at this range with consistent accuracy. They should feel totally solid at this distance and the line should track perfectly. With the best rods, a good caster will place a dry fly within a foot or two of the exact target on most casts.

 

The best 6-weight rods need to have excellent loop control and the ability to throw very tight loops to get the best accuracy and presentation, and to cut through a good breeze.  But they should also be able to easily form the more open loops you’ll need fishing nymphs.  Again, we’ve found the rods that seem to do this best are nearly always fast action rods. 

 

The best 6-weight rods make superb rods for nymph fishing, both at short and long range. But to do this, the rod needs to have enough butt and mid-section power to drive a couple of nymphs, maybe a split shot or two, and also a big, wind resistant indicator, and then put the cast where you need it at 25-50 feet.  Picking one of the lightest rods with a low swing weight will give you more sensitivity and the rod’s faster reaction time will help you set the hook more quickly. A good strong butt and mid-section will help you mend line, especially if you are fishing at longer distances like 35-50 feet, using an indicator. Faster action rods with good butt and mid-section power will also help you play larger fish more quickly, allowing you to release them in perfect shape.

 

Performance at 70 feet – 20 points available

The best 6-weight rods should be able to cast 70 feet with ease, using a double haul.   We found that the good ones could carry 55-60 feet of line in the air while double hauling, so hitting the 70-foot mark was pretty easy.    With an expert caster at the controls, the good 6-weights can easily cast all the line – ninety to one hundred feet. But this also requires an angler to double-haul well and form good, long, tight back cast loops. 

 

On big rivers, when I’m fishing nymphs at long range using an indicator, a lot of mending is required. The best 6-weight rods have enough power in the butt and mid-section to get the job done easily.

Another reason you’ll want good butt power and performance at long range is chucking steamers.   And all the best 6-weights will handle mid-sized streamers and sink tip lines with ease.    

 

“Perfect 6-weight Performance”  20 points available

We felt that this category was needed to reward the best 6-weight rods for their superior performance and that special feel that gives you total confidence in putting your fly just where you want it at any distance. We’re looking for rods that can do it all, at any distance, with a 6-weight line.  So that hurts rods that are only good in close or at short to medium distances like the Winston Air.  

 

 

Warranties explained by manufacturer 

Here is a short recap of each manufacturer’s policy and what we have experienced for repair time required. 

  

Douglas – Lifetime warranty.  $35 handling fee.  Rods are repaired, not replaced.  Usually takes two weeks.

Echo - Lifetime warranty for original owner.  $35 handling fee.  Rods are replaced.  Normal time 2-4 weeks

Fenwick- Lifetime warranty.   $35 handling fee.  Rods are replaced.  Normal time 2-4 weeks.

Hardy - Lifetime warranty to original owner.  $35 handling fee.  Rods are repaired. Shipping is from their US warehouse, normally about 10 -14 days.    

G. Loomis - Lifetime warranty to original owner.  You send in the rod and their warranty dept. examines it.  If rod broke because of a defect, or while fishing, the replacement is free.  No handling fee.  If from neglect or any other cause you must use the Expeditor service, which charges your credit card $100 but you get a brand new rod in 3-4 days.   The same expeditor policy applies to the Asquith, but the charge is $250.  If you decide not to use the expediter program the price varies with each rod ranging from $75-150.  AK or HI shipping add $25.

Loop - Lifetime warranty to original owner. $60 handling fee.  Rods are repaired.  Same day or next day shipping if they have the parts in stock, if not, usually takes 2 weeks.

Orvis - 25 year warranty to original owner.  $30 handling fee.  Rod is repaired, not replaced.  Usually takes 2-4 weeks.

R.L. Winston – Lifetime warranty to original owner, $50 handling fee. Older rods not under warranty cost $120 or more. Rods are repaired, not replaced.  Usually takes 4-6 weeks.  Winston does offer a "lender" program while your rod is being repaired but this is still somewhat of a hassle.

Sage – Lifetime warranty to original owner. $60 handling fee.  Rods are repaired, not replaced.   Usually takes 4-6 weeks.

Scott – Lifetime warranty to original owner, $50 handling fee. Rods are repaired, not replaced. Usually takes 2-4 weeks.

Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO) - Lifetime warranty to original owner.  $35 handling fee.  Rods are either replaced with a new rod or the broken section is replaced.  Usually takes 1 week.  

 

 

Some Rods didn’t make the cut, here's why…

In order to have a more manageable Shootout, we wanted to limit our 6-weight Shootout to what we felt were the ten best expensive rods. Then we added three more mid-priced rods and three inexpensive rods for a total of 16 rods.  In the end we picked what we felt were the best 6-weight rods we’ve seen this year.  But we cast and looked at 9 more.  We refuse to test any private labeled rods from retail monsters like Cabelas, LL Bean, and Bass Pro Shops etc.   

 

Performance distances for the 6-weights

We decided to use slightly longer distances for the performance evaluations for these 6-weight rods - 30 feet, 50 feet and 75 feet.

In our 5-weight Shootouts, the distances have been 25 feet, 45 feet and 70 feet.  Then in our 8-weight Shootouts, the distances are 35 feet, 60 feet, 80 feet and 100 feet.  These correspond closely to the distances that most people will be fishing these rods.

 

6-weight shootout FINAL RESULTS

 

6-weight shootout Performance Only

 

Price versus performance comparison chart

 

I think that most anglers value performance far more than price and our main chart reflects our weighted emphasis on performance.  But we have gotten a few comments that we don’t place enough emphasis on price in picking the best rods.  So if you are one of those anglers that weighs price more heavily, we have created a chart the rewards price roughly 40% and performance roughly 60%.  With 100 points available in the performance categories, we assigned a maximum of 60 points in the price category.  But this was a sliding scale, reflecting the price differences with the least expensive rod, the Echo Base, getting the highest score at $89.99 getting 60 points.   Then rods from $100-$260 – the Aetos and the BVK, got 55 points.  The mid-priced rods from $349.95 to $450 – the Pro 4X, DXF, and the Recon, got 50 points.  Rods from $695 to $795 – Sky, NRX, Cross SX, Radian, Helios 2, and Zephrus, got 45 points. Rods from $845 to $895 – the Air, Meridian, and Sage X got 40 points.   The Asquith at $1000 got the lowest score, 35 points. 

 

6-weight shootout Price vs performance comparison

 

 

 

#1.  Douglas Sky  9 foot 6-weight   $695.00

Douglas Sky

Douglas Sky best 6 weight fly rod

The new Douglas Sky was a pleasant surprise to all of us!  This rod just did everything well.  Once in a while in our Shootouts we’ll find a rod that feels and performs so much better than anything else, and this is why we gave the Sky a perfect score in the Perfect 6 category.

 

At 30 feet it had a terrific feel and the accuracy was superb.  But at mid and long distance it gave us the kind of performance that few other rods could touch.  It formed effortless tight loops and delivered great accuracy.  Nearly all of our testers felt the same way.  Douglas sure came up with a winner with the Sky. Douglas is an American Company based in New York, but the rods are manufactured in Korea, with design work done in the United States.

 

The Sky is a handsome rod too, with a flat gray, non-glare finish and black wraps.  Douglas is one of the first manufacturers to use the new Fuji Torzite stripping guide that has a slight angle forward to allow the line to shoot more smoothly and the slickest ring in the business.  The rest of the guides are single foot, flexible nickel titanium guides that are very light.  This is one reason the Sky feels so light in your hand in terms of swing weight.  

 

The Sky has a western style grip with very high quality cork and contrasting rings top and bottom.  It looks good and feels good.  On these six-weight rods, I prefer this Western style cigar style grip to the full wells that works best on larger rods.  The Western grip on the Sky gave me better feel, especially when casting at shorter distances.  The reel seat is good looking gray anodized skeleton seat with double locking rings and a dark wood insert.  The locking rings have a thin nylon ring on top of them that allows a more secure lock-up than most standard rings.  The new rod sock they have designed is one of the best I’ve seen and will allow a wet rod to dry out quickly, even if you have to put it away wet.     

 

George’s casting notes:    The perfect line-  S.A. MPX in WF-6-F

 

Performance at 30 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Extremely good feel in my hand – nice light swing weight and great accuracy.  The only thing better at short range was the Winston Air.

 

Performance at 50 feet:   20 points out of 20

Just effortless tight loops and wonderful accuracy.   Marginally better than the Asquith or Radian.   A very impressive performance.

 

Performance at 75 feet:   20 points out of 20

Another perfect performance from the Sky at long range.  Only the Asquith felt as good out long. 

 

 

 

 

#2.  G. Loomis Asquith 9 foot 6-weight   $1000

 G.Loomis Asquith

G.Loomis Asquith

 

We first got a look and a chance to cast the new Asquith rods at the ICAST show last July.  Everyone that cast these rods was impressed.  All the models I cast were terrific.  From what I’ve seen and experienced fishing this rod for Atlantic salmon, their 8-weight will be a serious contender to win our next 8-weight Shootout.  The blanks for this rod are made by Shimano in Japan, with a new technique of combining spiral wraps of graphite, one wrap running one way and another in the opposite direction, with a flat sheet of graphite in between.  This new process produces a very light and very strong rod, and the performance is impressive, especially at mid to long distances.  It was the only rod together with the Sky to get a perfect score at 75 feet.   

 

This is a great looking rod with a dark green finish that sparkles in the sunlight. The wraps are a complementary dark green.  The guide set up is the best I’ve ever seen from Loomis.  Finally, they ditched those wire recoil stripping guides and replace them with single, light Torzite style guide.  The rest of the guides are the flexible and unbreakable nickel/titanium snake guides.  The handle is a comfortable Western style grip, with narrow rings and extremely fine quality cork.  The reel seat is also better than what Loomis has given us in the past – a very easy to grip, single ring up locking seat, and this one locks up very positively.  The wood insert is also made with narrow rings of bamboo with a beautiful finish and look.  Overall this is a really classy looking rod.

 

This is the first production rod to break the $1000 price point but I don’t see why that should slow any one down that is willing to lay out $795 to $895, and we have six other rods in our shootout in this category.  Once they get this rod in their hands and see how well this rod performs, the high price isn’t that big of a deterrent. 

 

The warranty policy on this rod is both good and bad.  The popular Loomis Expeditor policy still applies, however if you break the Asquith, Loomis will charge your credit card $250, (but then at least you will get a brand new rod in just a few days).  This is similar to the great Expeditor policy for the NRX rods where the price is only $100.  The beauty of this plan is that you get a rod back in your hands very quickly, and for most people this is a whole lot better than waiting 4-6 weeks in the middle of your fishing season! 

 

Another thing to keep in mind is that this Asquith is one of the strongest and toughest rods ever built–so if you are reasonably careful there isn’t much danger of it breaking.   
  

 

George’s casting notes:    The perfect line-  S.A. MPX in WF-6-F

 

Performance at 30 feet:  19 points out of 20

The accuracy was simply amazing but I just didn’t have the feel I got from some of the other top rods.

 

Performance at 50 feet:   19.5 points out of 20

Smooth, tight loops and this rod tracks beautifully.   I was tempted to give it a 20 here but the Sky and Cross SX were marginally better.

 

Performance at 75 feet:   20 points out of 20

At long range, nothing beats the Asquith.   This rod has explosive performance on tap when you need it.   Very tight loops and superb accuracy.  

 

 

#3. (tie) G. Loomis NRX   9 foot 6-weight    $745.00

 

G. Loomis NRX 9'#6

G. Loomis NRX

 

Here is one of our favorite 6-weights, the NRX.   Although this rod has not changed much over the last few years, it is still one of the best performing rods at all distances in the Shootout.  Nothing jumps out to make me rate it higher than others, but the NRX gave a very solid overall performance.   This is a fairly light rod in swing weight, which I like but it has lots of power to throw long with the best of them.  The softer tip gives it very good feel in close and the tight loops at mid and long distance are impressive.   

 

For once now all the NRX rods in sizes 6-weight on down are green and the 7-weight on up come in charcoal grey with blue wraps. Personally I really like this dark green with matching green wraps.  This is a good-looking rod.  The guides are two wire recoil guides for strippers and the rest the excellent single foot, and flexible black finished nickel/titanium guides.  These help to reduce weight in the upper section and tip section of this rod.  The handle is a Western style grip with excellent cork, and an uplocking aluminum seat with a single locking triangulated ring that is easy to grip and a green graphite insert.  This rod also has a short fighting butt that is helpful and only ¾ of an inch long so it doesn’t get in the way. The NRX rods have proven to be the toughest rods we have ever sold, and very few get broken, although the Asquith may prove to be even more durable.   If they do, you can take advantage of the Loomis Expeditor policy and get a brand new rod in just 3 days!  Your credit card will be charged $100 but G. Loomis also send you a FedEx call tag so it won’t cost you a thing to return your broken rod.   To me, getting a broken rod back quickly is well worth the $100.

  

George’s casting notes:    The perfect line-  S.A. MPX in WF-6-F

 

Performance at 30 feet:  19 points out of 20

The soft tip and light swing weight produce good feel and accuracy at short range, but not quite as good as the Radian or Air.

 

Performance at 50 feet:   19.5 points out of 20

Superb power and smoothness.   This rod tracks with the best.   The NRX seems equal in performance to the Asquith and Radian at mid-range, and better than the Sage X or Zephrus.

 

Performance at 75 feet:   19.5 points out of 20

Great power on tap to reach out with ease.   Out long I liked this a lot better than the Sage X or Helios 2.

 

#3.   (tie)    Scott Radian   9 foot #6wt   $795.00

Scott Radian 9'#6

Scott Radian 9'#6

 

The Radian has performed very well in our 5-weight Shootouts, and this 6-weight is no exception.  Only at long range did we find it lacking in power compared to the Meridian.  All the Scott rods rated right at the top for craftsmanship and the Radian is a gorgeous rod.  The blank is left un-sanded in the Scott tradition so it is dark gray with gray wraps, trimmed with orange on the butt section, and at the ferrules. 

 

One of the little touches we like are the inch markings at 12 and 20 inches for measuring fish.  I wish more manufacturers would give us these. 

 

The grip is unusual in that it has the swell slightly above the middle of the cork grip.  Then it is basically a full wells grip but it feels great in your hand and positions your hand closer to the top of the grip, so you feel less swing weight.  Thin cork rings are used with top quality cork.  The reel seat is striking, with an orange tint to the wood burl enclosed in the black skeleton uplocking seat.  A nice big locking ring is used that you can grip firmly to tighten down on the reel foot.  Scott uses one SiC stripping guide, with small diameter wire hard chrome snake guides the rest of the way, as well as a hook keeper.   

 

One of the reasons these Scott rods perform so well is their softer, more flexible tips, yet good strong butt sections.  This design has been a winner and these tapers are far better than what we have seen from Scott in the past.  

 

The Radian was a difficult choice for me over the Meridian, which has won our 8-weight Shootout.  I loved the very light swing weight of the Meridian and its better performance at long range.   But the lack of a fighting butt and the smaller guides are probably better for a 6-weight that will be used primarily in fresh water.  And the Radian performed much better at short distances than the Meridian – more like conditions you are going to encounter while trout fishing.   

 

George’s casting notes:    The perfect line-  S.A. MPX in WF-6-F

 

Performance at 30 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Great feel and accuracy at short range.  As good as the Sky and only the Winston Air was better.    

 

Performance at 50 feet:   19.5 points out of 20

Buttery smooth and able to form very nice loops without much effort on my part.    The accuracy was as good as the NRX or Asquith.

 

 

Performance at 75 feet:   19 points out of 20

Only out long did the Radian lack a little power, but it was still in the top six rods at long range.  Here the Sky and Asquith rule. 

 

 

#5.  (tie)  Loop Cross SX (fast)  9 foot 6-weight   $795.00

 

Loop Cross SX 9'#6

 Loop Cross SX 9'#6

 

The newly designed Cross SX is another inspiring rod from Loop and perhaps their best to date.  We love their 5-weight Opti-Stream which has been a top performer in the past but this new Cross SX is even more impressive. 

                                                                                                                              
This new Cross SX as well as the new Evotec Cast series are all new designs and good ones.  Unfortunately we didn’t get the Evotec Cast in time to get it into our Shootout but when we got one it felt very good also.   The Cross SX has a nice fast action with a more flexible tip but very good power in the mid and butt sections.  This is billed as one of their top performance rods and it comes through as advertised.  This rod is built at the same factory in Korea that produces the Douglas Sky rods and you can see some similarities.  Like the Sky, the SX is a medium gray color with a non-glare flat finish.  The wraps are black and trimmed with red highlights on the butt section.  The full wells handle feels perfect to me and Loop is using top quality cork rings with some good looking contrasting corks on the top and bottom of the grip.  The reel seat is somewhat unusual as it is open and you can see the blank itself.  Three aluminum rods in a triangular pattern run back to support the uplocking seat with a short extension butt.  The lock up ring is large and very positive.  Guides are two SiC strippers and the rest black hard chrome snake guides.

 

I just loved casting this rod, especially at fifty feet, where I gave it a perfect score, matching the Sky.  But it is excellent at all distances.  This Loop Cross SX felt much like the Sky, even though the design is definitely Loop’s own.   This is another rod that gave us a very strong performance and one that anyone will find a pleasure to fish.   

 

George’s casting notes:    The perfect line-  S.A. MPX in WF-6-F

 

Performance at 30 feet:  19 points out of 20

Nice tight loops and feels a lot like the Sky.  Good accuracy with the softer tip.

 

Performance at 50 feet:   20 points out of 20

Here is where this rod really shines.  I rated it a perfect 20 along with the Sky.  Beautiful tight loops and wonderful feel and accuracy.

 

Performance at 75 feet:   19.5 points out of 20

Still terrific at long range.  Only the Sky and Asquith felt slightly better.

 

 

#5.  (tie)  Orvis Helios 2 (tip flex) 9 foot 6-weight $795.00

 

Orvis Heilos 2 9'#6

Orvis Helios 2

 

 

The Orvis Helios 2 has always been one of my favorite 6-weight rods.   This rod has a very nice fast action, feels great in my hand and is very light, and along with the Recon, these are the lightest overall weight rods in our Shootout.  The Helios 2 is also one of the lightest in swing weight, which is so important in a rod that you will be doing a lot of false casting with all day long, fishing dries like hoppers.   In performance this rod does everything well, from shorter distances to long.  Not quite as good as the very best rods at specific distances but a very solid performance overall.    The one thing that I love is the looks of this rod in a sparkling dark blue with matching blue wraps.   And the craftsmanship is extremely good – something we have found to be very consistent year after year.   We have had many satisfied customers buy this rod over the past few years.   

 

The handle is a western style grip, just the right size, and the cork that they use is as good or better than you will see on any rod.    The reel seat is an elegant slotted uplocking seat with a bluish burl wood that complements the color of the rod.  A single uplocking ring is used.

The guide set up is one fairly large SiC stripper with the rest our favorite nickel/titanium snake guides that flex and won’t break, and are also very light - one of the reasons this rod has such a light swing weight.   

  

George’s casting notes:    The perfect line-  S.A. MPX in WF-6-F

 

Performance at 30 feet:  19 points out of 20

Nice feel and good accuracy.  Not quite as good as the Air, Sky, or Radian but certainly equal to the Zephrus.

 

Performance at 50 feet:   19 points out of 20

Again matches the Zephrus and a good performance here but I felt that the Sky and the Cross SX threw tighter loops with better accuracy.

 

Performance at 75 feet:   19 points out of 20

Nice loop control with little effort.  Almost as good as the Cross SX and definitely better than the Zephrus.

 

#7.  Douglas DXF  9 foot 6-weight    $349.95

 

 

Douglas DXF 9'#6

 

 

Douglas DXF 9'#6

 

Here is another rod that has done very well in our 5-weight Shootout, where we touted it as the best mid-priced rod.   The DXF pulled this off again!  There is no question that the DXF is the best mid-priced rod we’ve found and the best mid-priced rod in our 6-weight Shootout! Douglas is a relatively new company, just a few years old now and not yet well known, but they are giving us some wonderful rods.  The DXF performance figures reflect the fact that this is a terrific rod for the price.  In my hand this rod has a very nice fast action – not quite as fast and slightly heavier than the Sky, but it is only half the price!   The action of the DXF is very similar to the Helios 2 but it is slightly heavier in swing weight.  If you are on a budget, you cannot go wrong with this rod.

 

I especially like the looks of this rod with its flat, non-glare green finish and matching green wraps with a nice looking epoxy finish.    The handle is a western style grip with a gorgeous burl wood spacer in a double ring, uplocking seat that is anodized green to match the blank.  Guides are one SiC stripper with the rest hard chrome snake guides. 

 

George’s casting notes:    The perfect line-  S.A. MPX in WF-6-F

 

Performance at 30 feet:  19 points out of 20

Feels great in close and a lot lighter in my hand than the Pro 4X. The accuracy is good also.

 

Performance at 50 feet:   19.5 points out of 20

I can form tighter, nicer loops than with the Sage X or the Recon.  Almost as good at mid-range as the Sky.

 

Performance at 75 feet:   19 points out of 20

Starting to run out of gas here.  Still good but out long the Sky is much better, as are both Loomis rods.  

 

#8.   (tie)  Hardy Zephrus  9 foot 6-weight   $709.00

 

Hardy Zephrus 9'#6

Hardy Zephrus 9'#6

 

The Hardy Zephrus rods that have replaced the Zenith are superb. The 8 ½ foot 4-weight Zephrus is the finest 4-weight I’ve found.   And in our latest 5-weight Shootout their 9 foot 5-weight Zephrus tied for 3rd.   The 6-weight was not as impressive though, and finishes right in the middle of the pack.   It is good at short and mid range, just not great.  Then at long range it seemed to run out of gas compared to the best rods.  Nothing like the old Zenith that had better power at long range.  

 

This is a very attractive rod, finished in a medium olive green, with a green burled wood insert to match.  The wraps are brownish olive.    The guide set up is one SiC stripping guide followed up with very light nickel/titanium and flexible single-foot guides in a dark finish.   The Zephrus rods are designed in England but manufactured in Korea.

 

The Zephrus is not as light as the best rods in swing weight and when we put it on the deflection board we see that it is slightly slower in action than the best rods.  All this contributed to somewhat of a lackluster performance.

 

George’s casting notes:    The perfect line-  S.A. MPX in WF-6-F

 

Performance at 30 feet:  19 points out of 20

Pleasant and has pretty good accuracy but I cannot cast off the tip as with the Sky or Radian

 

Performance at 50 feet:   19 points out of 20

Good, but the Sky and the other top four rods were markedly better with tighter loops and more zip.  

 

Performance at 75 feet:   18.5 points out of 20

Not nearly the punch or power of the Sky or Asquith.   The Zephrus seems to run out of gas at long range.

 

 

 

#8.  (tie)   Scott Meridian 9 foot 6-weight    #865.00

 

 

 

Scott Meridian 9'#6

 

 

Scott Meridian 9'#6

 

 

In picking the best 6-weight rods, it was hard to overlook the Scott Meridian, especially when this rod won our latest 8-weight Shootout.  The Radian is perhaps better suited to trout fishing for most people, but this new Meridian is lighter, and more powerful at long range.  It is also perfectly suited to fishing the salt, with its larger guides, solid aluminum uplock seat, and a large extension butt that helps a lot in playing bigger fish.  

 

When I pick up the Meridian, I notice its very light swing weight. Even with the extension butt it is noticeably lighter than the Radian. It is also seems a bit more powerful at long range. Only in close did it not perform quite as well as the best rods. 

 

The craftsmanship of these Scott rods is as good as it gets.  This is a good looking rod too, finished in the Scott traditional gray unsanded but finished blank, with complementary gray wraps trimmed beautifully with two shades of blue.  The handle is a full wells similar to the Radian, with the swell more towards the top of the grip, forcing you to grip the rod with your hand higher on the grip.  It feels great to me.  This also makes for a better power grip than the western style grips for throwing long.  The reel seat is a full-anodized aluminum double uplock seat with no insert, which is far better for fishing the salt.  The two large locking rings are very positive and easy to tighten.  A large extension butt caps it all off.   The Meridian uses two large SiC strippers and my favorite nickel/titanium flexible snake guides.  There is no hook keeper as you’ll find on the Radian. 

 

George’s casting notes:   The perfect line-  S.A. MPX in WF-6-F

 

Performance at 30 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

I felt the Radian and Sky were much better, with more accuracy and feel.

 

Performance at 50 feet:   19 points out of 20

I like the light swing weight and it tracked very well, but the Sky and Cross SX were noticeably better.

 

Performance at 75 feet:   19.5 points out of 20

This rod is a lot better at longer range and feels very solid with tons

of power on tap.   

 

#10.   G. Loomis Pro 4X    9 foot 6-weight    $360.00

 

G. Loomis Pro4x 9'#6

 

G. Loomis Pro4x 9'#6

 

 

We debated not including the Pro-4X into this Shootout as there are already two other Loomis rods, but this one gets in since it is another very good mid-priced rod to consider.   This rod has a nice fast action and the only real drawback is its heavier swing weight.   The Douglas DXF and even the inexpensive Fenwick Aetos were better.  One thing we know about the Pro 4X rods is that they are tough as nails and very tough to break, much like their NRX rods.   The action is similar to the NRX too, with good butt and mid-section power but a softer tip.

 

The color is a medium olive green with lighter olive wraps.   I must say that I’m not crazy about the cosmetics but many people like it.  To me there are much more handsome rods.  The handle is a western style grip with a black anodized single uplock seat that has a cutout with cork inside and the Loomis skeleton fish logo.  You can get a good grip on the big single locking ring to tighten down your reel. Loomis uses a single SiC guide and then all the rest are hard chrome single foot guides, that are heavier and not nearly as nice as the nickel/titanium version used on the NRX.

 

George’s casting notes:    The perfect line-  S.A. MPX in WF-6-F

 

Performance at 30 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

I can cast off the tip easily with decent accuracy but the heavy swing weight kills any feel.   About equal to the Recon.

 

Performance at 50 feet:   19 points out of 20

Now I’m getting some nice loops and good accuracy but the DXF was definitely better.

 

Performance at 75 feet:   19 points out of 20

Feels very strong at long range with nice loops and good control.  Feels better than the Recon to me out long.   

 

#11.   Sage X     9 foot 6-weight    $895.00

 

New Sage X fly rod

New Sage X fly rod

 

The Sage X was a disappointment for me.   After winning all the awards at ICAST we expected a better performance from the new X rod.  I think the tip is too stiff, although the X does seem to have a faster action than the One.  Both the Sky and Cross SX have a faster action with a softer tip.  And the Loomis Asquith was a lot better and a lot more solid at long range.   I did like the light swing weight of the X rod, but the feel just didn’t seem to be there, especially at close distances.  

 

This is one rod that you can order with either a standard uplocking seat that has a wood insert, or one with full anodized seat and a short extension butt that would be better for salt water use.  This was the model we tested.  

 

This is a stealthy looking rod in straight black, with black wraps, that are trimmed in silver on the butt and at the ferrules.  I especially like the handle design. It is a full wells, but with not much of a swell at all in the middle of the grip, and slightly smaller in diameter than most.   Sage uses one SiC stripper and the rest are hard chrome snake guides.  Craftsmanship was very good but not equal to what we are seeing from Scott or the Asquith. 

 

George’s casting notes:    The perfect line -  S.A. MPX in WF-6-F

 

Performance at 30 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

The tip is still too stiff and I cannot cast off the tip of the rod nearly as easily or as accurately as I can with the Sky or Radian.

 

Performance at 50 feet:  19 points out of 20

I cannot form the effortless tight loops like I can with the Sky, or Cross SX.   The Asquith also was better and more accurate

 

Performance at 75 feet:  19 points out of 20

Good, just not great.   Both the Sky and Asquith were far better at long range. 

 

 

 

#12.   Orvis Recon    9 foot 6-weight     $450.00

Orvis Recon 9'#6

Orvis Recon

 

The Orvis Recon has performed very well in our other shootouts and since this is another mid-priced rod, we wanted to include it in in our 6-weight Shootout.  But here it got shot down handily by the DXF that costs $100 less.  And it just barely beat out the Fenwick Aetos, that is $260 less!   The Recon is not all that good looking either – nothing like the handsome Helios 2.   It is a dark olive color with darker olive wraps.   It certainly doesn’t jump out and grab you like the Helios 2.   The handle is a western style grip that does use high quality cork, but then the uplocking seat with a wood insert uses a single ring with fine knurling that was a lot harder to tighten than the rings on the Scott or the Asquith, for example.  The guides are one SiC stripper and the rest hard chrome snake guides.   

 

I think the action is just too slow on this rod – the Helios 2, tip flex was much faster, and it performed much better.   The performance figures were a straight 18.5 across the board.  OK but nothing to write home about.

 

George’s casting notes:    The perfect line-  S.A. MPX in WF-6-F

 

Performance at 30 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

The stiffer tip didn’t allow me to cast well off the tip of the rod like I could with the DXF.

 

Performance at 50 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

I am got much tighter and nicer loops with the DXF.  Even the Pro 4X was better than the Recon at mid range.

 

 

Performance at 75 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Again, not quite as good as the DXF. The Helios 2 was definitely better out long.

 

 

#13.   Fenwick Aetos   9 foot 6-weight      $189.95

 

Fenwick Aetos 9'#6

Fenwick Aetos 9'#6

 

Once again the Aetos gave us a fine performance at the ridiculously low price of $189.95.    We are giving this rod the award for our best inexpensive rod, just as we did in our latest 2016 5-weight Shootout.   Fenwick has two inexpensive rods in their line up – the Aetos and HMG, but we prefer the Aetos as it casts better and looks better than the HMG.  More fly shops are beginning to stock these rods as the parent company, Pure Fishing also offers Hardy rods that many shops already stock.   But you’ll likely find these in the big box stores as well.

 

The Aetos is a pleasing dark blue, trimmed in silver with darker blue wraps.   Fenwick uses one SiC stripping guide with the rest black hard chrome snake guides along with a hook keeper.   The cork handle is a western style grip, but the quality of the cork is not so hot, with a lot of filler.  I guess you can’t expect high quality cork at this price.   The reel seat is a solid gray anodized aluminum double uplocking seat that seems to work fine despite the cheap appearance.

 

This rod has a medium fast action and cast well at all distances.   The performance scores were a straight across 18.5 but even some of the good rods got individual scores this low.   The swing weight was heavier than the DXF, but better than the Pro 4x, BVK and the Echo Base.    

 

George’s casting notes:    The perfect line-  S.A. MPX in WF-6-F

 

Performance at 30 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Pretty good but no question the DXF was better. The BVK and Base were the only rods not as good in close

 

Performance at 50 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Good and felt as good as many of the more expensive rods, and gave me some decent feel and accuracy.  The DXF was a lot better here.  

 

Performance at 75 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Doesn’t have the power at long range as the better rods but will get the job done. 

 

 

#14.   Winston Air     9 foot 6-weight     $845.00

 

R.L.Winston Air 9'#6

R.L.Winston Air 9'#6

 

I am still amazed that the Air didn’t score better in our shootout, especially after coming up with perfect scores in craftsmanship and performance at 30 feet.   The thing that hurt was its poor performance at long range.  This is a soft rod, and that gives it superb feel and accuracy in close.  But then at longer distances the Air lacks the mid and butt section power of the best 6-weight rods.  If you are doing most of your fishing at shorter distances, like 20-40 feet, and you love to fish dry flies, you will love this rod.   

 

The best 6-weight rods need to have enough power and backbone to throw long and cast streamers well and this is where the Air suffers.  This contributed to a low score in the perfect 6 performance.

 

The Air is a new design that still uses a little boron in the butt, and has a nice smooth medium fast action.  The craftsmanship is typical Winston perfection.  This is a gorgeous rod.  The deep emerald green that has been a Winston trademark, sparkles in the sunlight.   The grip is a western style that Winston refers to as their cigar grip.   The reel seat is Winston’s own classy nickel-silver uplock seat with a beautiful birdseye maple burl spacer.   The guides are one SiC stripping guide and the rest hard chrome snake guides.  

 

 

George’s casting notes:   The perfect line -  S.A. MPX in WF-6-F

 

Performance at 30 feet:  20 points out of 20

Just fantastic feel and accuracy at close range.  Better than any other rod in the shootout with a perfect score here.

 

Performance at 50 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Still good, but the best rods are much better. The Sky and Cross SX were far better, with tighter loops and better accuracy

 

Performance at 75 feet:  17.5 points out of 20

This is where the Air just runs out of gas and has a hard time

getting it done.  And if there is any wind you are in real trouble.    

 

 

#15.     TFO   BVK   9 foot 6-weight      $259.95 

 

Temple Fork Outfitters BVK 9'#6

Temple Fork Outfitters BVK 9'#6

 

Although the 9 foot 8-weight BVK is one of our favorite rods, the smaller line size rods like the 5 and 6-weights have not proven to be nearly as good. This rod is just so heavy in swing weight that it is an arm breaker if you are doing a lot of casting.  This 6-weight BVK has a much slower action than the 8-weight BVK, and this is one reason it does not perform as well.  All this swing weight and relatively stiff tip killed the shorter distance performance.  At short distance it was the worst rod in the Shootout, and at mid to long range it fared only slightly better.  

 

The rod is a pleasing dark olive green, with lighter green wraps.  The handle is a western style grip with decent cork.  TFO uses a double ring uplock seat with a green graphite insert to complement the blank.  The locking rings on the reel seat are very small and difficult to tighten.  TFO needs to use larger rings with a coarser knurl pattern, similar to what Scott uses on their rods.  The guides are two SiC strippers and the rest hard chrome snake guides with a hook keeper.

 

One last gripe is the lack of a hard case like all the other manufacturers provide.  These are available if you want one but the cost is an extra $30.00.  TFO does also make a triangular travel case that will take up to 5 rods in their cloth bags for $49.95

 

 

George’s casting notes:    The perfect line -  S.A. MPX in WF-6-F

 

Performance at 30 feet:  17 points out of 20

The extremely heavy swing weight does not allow for any feel and with the stiffer tip, the accuracy was not good either.

 

Performance at 50 feet:  18 points out of 20

The weight still hurts, but at least now it tracks pretty well and is reasonably accurate.   

 

Performance at 75 feet:  18 points out of 20

The power is there to cast long but I’m working especially hard and casting this rod all day would be a workout.   

 

 

#16.    Echo Base    9 foot 6-weight     $89.99

 

Echo Base 9'#5

Echo Base 9'#5

 

 

 

The Echo Base is really a surprisingly good for a rod this cheap.  It has a medium fast action that does a reasonably good job.   It is hard to complain about the lack of craftsmanship – what do you expect for $89.99?  At least they do give you a hard case, which is better than TFO.  And their warranty is one of the best.   When I pick up this rod I first notice the swing weight, which is one of the heaviest in our Shootout.   But for this price you cannot expect to get the high-tech, highest modulus graphite.    So it’s a trade off.    Many people would buy this rod as a back up or to have a tough boat rod that likely won’t get broken.   A beginner would far better off spending another $100 and stepping up to the Fenwick Aetos.  

 

The Base is a very dark blue rod, with black wraps that are trimmed in silver on the butt.  The actual finish coat on the wraps is quite good.   The handle is a western style grip but like the Aetos, the quality of cork is not so hot.  The reel seat is a black solid anodized aluminum uplock seat with one locking ring that is pretty easy to grip.   The guides are one SiC stripper and the rest hard chrome snake guides. 

 

 

George’s casting notes:    The perfect line-  S.A. MPX in WF-6-F

 

Performance at 30 feet:  18 points out of 20

Decent in close, definitely better than the BVK.  The heavy swing weight didn’t equate to much feel, however.

 

Performance at 50 feet:  18 points out of 20

Pretty good at mid-range but that heavy swing weight hurt. I was having trouble getting the kind of accuracy I did with the Aetos.

 

Performance at 75 feet:  17.5 points out of 20

Another rod that just did not perform well at long range.   It was a workout too.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We hope you have enjoyed reading our latest 2016 six-weight shootout. While we always recommend trying (and buying) a rod from your local fly shop first, we'd love to have your business!  With your support, we can continue to give you more shootouts and head to head comparisons on tackle and fishing equipment in the future.  But these shootouts take us a lot of time, energy and effort.  Usually two to three weeks!    So if you are in the market for a new rod or outfit please consider buying one from us.  Be sure to e-mail us your comments and any questions you have about the exact tackle you need for the fishing you are doing or tackle needs for a trip you are planning.  We have fished all over the world in both fresh and saltwater for a variety of fish, and we’ll be glad to help answer any questions you might have, and give you our best advice. We appreciate your business!

 

                                                                                                      -George Anderson