Comments by Josh Edwards

This four-weight shootout was slightly different than the other shoot-outs that we have done in the past.  It was not as clear and concise as the 5-weight or 8-weight shootout because anglers looking for a 4-weight rod may want a short rod for close range fishing in tight quarters or a longer rod for bigger water in Western situations. If you are fishing plunge pools for Eastern brookies you would want a different 4-weight than someone fishing the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks in Montana.  In this review we have outlined the best rods for different applications. We hope you will enjoy our 4-weight shootout, and that it will help you choose just the right rod for your fishing waters, your preferences and your budget.  If you have any additional questions please call us here at the Yellowstone Angler Phone: 406-222-7130.  Or you can e-mail us at: Staff@Yellowstoneangler.com

         Josh fishing his original Sage TXL on Wilson's Creek

 

1. Hardy Zenith  8’6” #4

                                              

Casting Notes:  Well balanced in hand and very lightweight.  This rod was very accurate at all distances tested but it really excelled at 35’+.  The main thing I noticed while casting this rod was the amount of line control it gave me. This rod has a nice flexible tip that gives terrific accuracy. It cast very tight loops and has the power to fish dries, nymphs, and small streamers at all distances.

25’- Had to cast with a faster motion to load the rod at this distance but it was very accurate. Casting off the tip of this rod just requires a flick of the wrist.

35’- I hit the plate 9 of 10 times at this distance, it performs effortlessly.  Really smooth fast action rod that allows for casting mistakes without affecting accuracy or line control.

60’- Best in test at this distance.  Still plenty of untapped power at this distance, it surprised me that you could cast an 8’6” 4-weight 60 feet with a single haul!

2.  SAGE TXL-F   7’10” #4 

                                              

Casting Notes:  I have fished the original 7’ 4 weight TXL for years; it has been my favorite rod for backpacking and fishing small creeks.  After casting the TXL-F I am going to have to splurge for the 7’10” for backpacking to lakes and the willow choked creeks in central Montana.  This rod was by far the most fun rod to cast in the entire shoot-out.  The 7’10” Sage has incredible power for its size; it was very accurate even out to 50+ feet.  If you are a small stream enthusiast, fishing for brookies on the east coast or Cutthroat in western us this is the ultimate 4-weight.

25’- Light in weight, good control and accuracy with a crisp casting motion at short distance.  This rod was built with plunge pools and meadow streams in mind, really responsive up close.  Even a “bow and arrow” cast will work.

35’- This little stick packs a punch. This rod generates high line speed and tracks very well, allowing it to throw tight accurate loops at 35 feet.  

 

60’- I honestly didn’t think that the Sage TXL-F would stand a chance of even making a cast at this distance.  I was wrong; this little rod not only made it to this distance it was fairly accurate.  This rod is built for short to medium range fishing but if you need to cast 60’, this rod will get it done.

3. Winston BIIIx  8’6” #4 

                                              

Casting Notes:  This rod was a pleasure to cast, and is built for the dry fly enthusiast.  This would be my go to 4-weight when fishing the many spring creeks in Montana or Idaho.  Secondly, this rod would be a great choice for anglers with a slower casting stroke looking for a “fast action” rod.  The BIIIx gives the angler a faster loading and more powerful rod without losing that Winston feel we have all come to love.

25’- I felt this was the best rod for short distance casting, and it preformed effortlessly.  It formed nice loops and I was able to put the fly exactly where I wanted.  A single word to describe this rod is “Smooth”

35’ - Pleasant and smooth in every way. Good balance and an action that will have both new school casters and traditionalists stoked to fish dries.

60’- The Winston lost a lot of power at this distance.  If I tried to punch the rod harder, I would get collapsing or tailing loops.  This is a dry fly rod that it good up to 45’ to 50’, if you want a 4-weight that performs at this distance you will be much happier with the Hardy or Sage ONE. 

 

4T. Tom Morgan Rodsmiths  8’6” #4  - Two piece

                                                 

Casting Notes: George calls these rods as “the ultimate short-range tools”.  He is 100% on base with this statement. This rod is a much softer rod than the Zenith or the ONE, with a very soft tip and mid-section that made it easy to get delicate presentations.  In an article that was published in Forbes magazine Tom explained that the perfect fly rod is a “thought rod”.  A “thought rod” enables the angler to deliver the fly to a precise spot without being conscious of exactly how he got it there.  This 4-weight is without a doubt the leader in this category. 

25’- Very lightweight and a gorgeous rod.  More Accurate that the Winston BIIIx at close range.  If you are a traditionalist with a slower casting stroke this rod is perfect!

35’- This rod has some serious soul, it took a few minutes of casting at this range to get my timing right (after casting the Hardy and Sage which require little to no timing).  This rod generated the best looking loops at this distance; I couldn’t believe that a rod with this much feel could hammer out tight loops and accurate cast one after another.  If you are looking for a classic dry fly rod with all the modern hardware look no further.

60’- The long bomb cast is NOT an option for this rod. It is built for short-range fishing and delicate presentations.

 

4T. Beulah Platinum  8’8” #4

                                                

Casting Notes: Prior to the shoot-out I had never laid eyes on or held a Beulah.  I had heard rumor that they were the first company to produce Switch rods but knew nothing about their performance or that they were making single handed rods.  After making a few casts at all ranges I knew this company knows what they are doing making light single handed rods as well.    The Beulah Platinum is more of a medium-fast action rod when compared to the newer fast action rods like the Sage One.  The Beulah was hands down the best performing rod under $500.  This would be a great rod for experts and beginners alike.

25’- Great balance and feel, when cast at short distance I could just cast right off the tip on the rod and place the fly where I wanted it.

35’ – This is the bread and butter distance for the Beulah, and this 4 -weight could handle anything from dries and nymphs to dry/dropper rigs and even size 6 Buggers.  There is still plenty of reserve power left at this distance.

60’- At 60’ I had to work a little bit more with my hauling to get the distance, but accuracy was never compromised by this.  I think if you wanted to fish in close with this rod the Trout Taper would work best and if you wanted to fish at greater distances the GPX taper would give you higher line speed and better turn over.

5T. Sage One  8’6” #4

                                               

Casting Notes:  I was very skeptical of the 4-weight Sage One, with all the hype surrounding this rod I knew that it couldn’t be terrible but giving it the shake test in the shop gave me a few concerns about its stiffness.   My initial reaction was that the rod was way to stiff for a 4-weight and I didn’t really like the half-wells grip.  However after getting this rod lined up with a GPX taper that all changed.  The rod is very light in my hand, with a very powerful butt and mid-section but a softer tip.  This rod was one of the most accurate rods that we tested; this would be a great rod for someone who enjoys nymphing and tossing small streamers with a 4-weight.  I would have probably ranked this rod in the top 3 had it not been so stiff, but when I’m fishing a 4-weight I want more feel.

25’- My initial thought was that there is no way a rod this stiff is going to perform at close range.  I was wrong; you could hit the 25 feet mark with little effort by casting off the tip of the rod.

35’- I hit center plate 8 out of 10 times with the Sage.  I was previously making fun of the Sage ads boasting about how this rod was the most accurate rod on the market “Accuracy has little to do with the rod and everything to do with the cast”.  However, after casting this rod I did notice that it’s excellent accuracy directly relates to how well the rod tracks. 

60’- At 60 feet and beyond, the One is just that- “the one.”  If you want a four weight that can cast well at all ranges and have the ability to fish well at 60 feet this is the rod for you.  It held tight loops and was the most accurate rod at this distance.

5T. CF Burkheimer 8’9” 3-4-5

                                                    

Notes:  While this rod did not score a podium spot it is by far one of the nicest 4-weights on the market today.  These rods are truly handcrafted pieces of art.  If you are looking for a handcrafted high performance trout rod built by someone who is a craftsman, fisherman, and detail oriented this is the rod for you. The main factors that put a hindrance on this rod’s over all score was its weight and cost of repair.  We later found out that these rods are a lot heavier due to the thick constructed graphite sidewalls, which in turn makes a more sound product. 

25’- The Burkheimer was a little top heavy, which made short range casting awkward. 

35’- Very enjoyable while casting mid-range, could punch dries into the wind, as there is a lot of power left at this distance.  Loops were a little more open but line control was never lost.

60’- This rod did well at the 60’ mark.  You had to slow your casting motion down a bit to allow the rod to load but once you got the timing right you could unleash.  Accuracy was not as good as at distances less than 50’, but for all practical fishing purposed with a 4-weight this rod had it covered.

 

6. St. Croix Imperial 8’6” #4

                                              

Casting Notes:  The Imperial was a huge surprise to all of us involved in the shoot-out. This rod is an American manufactured rod without a huge price tag. For budget conscious anglers this is without a doubt the best buy.  Incredible line control, light in weight, and accurate tight loops at all distances.   This would make a great rod for a beginner or a back-up rod for more advanced anglers.

25’- This rod is very forgiving, and cast tight loops in close with just a small flick of the wrist. The faster action and softer tip helped give excellent accuracy.

35’- The Imperial’s very smooth action allows an angler to make mistakes without blowing the cast. Seems to track well with good loop control. This rod seems to cast every bit as well as some of the more expensive rods at this distance.

60’- The lack of butt power held the Imperial back at this distance. Smooth and well balanced but just not able to perform as well at this range as the stiffer rods like the Hardy and the 
Sage One. 

 

7. G.Loomis WhisperCreek GLX  8’6”#4

                                                

Casting Notes: The WhisperCreek has been around for a while and I have had the pleasure to fish it in several different situations.  This rod is not a good rod for a lot of wind or fishing heavy flies.  However, the whisper creek is great for fishing small dries on smaller water.  If you like rods with more flex and, and force-feeding selective trout with delicate presentations, this could be your rod!

25’- A smooth slower casting stroke kept the loops tight and the presentation very accurate.  If you fish small plunge pools this rod would be ideal because it takes very little line out of the tip to load the rod.

35’- This is the choice distance for the WhisperCreek.  It has good line control and the tip dampened well, allowing for soft presentations. 

60’- Casting much farther than 50 feet with this rod was difficult. It just didn’t have the power necessary to give me any decent accuracy. This rod was not built for fishing at a distance of 50’+.

 

8T. Scott G2  8’8” #4

                                                 

Casting Notes: I’ve always liked the feeling of the Scott G2, especially for short to medium distance work.  A lot of people are put off by the un-sanded blank, and the black up-lock seat, but I think it makes the rod that much more desirable.  This is a great medium-fast action rod, when compared to other rods in today’s market feels more Medium than Fast. In turn it seemed to run out of gas at long range and the accuracy suffered.

25’- The slower action incorporated into this rod allowed me to feel the rod load better, which made casting in close very easy.

35’- The G2 cast nice loops at this distance, however it did not have the overall line control of the top rods in our shoot-out.

60’- This rod is built for short-range fishing.  The slower cast timing doesn’t develop the line velocity I needed for accurate casting at this distance.

 

8T. G.Loomis Streamdance GLX 8’6”#4

                                                

Casting Notes: The Streamdance is a good rod, and at one point a few years ago it was considered great, but today it must take the backseat to the newer rods in our shoot-out.  Newer is not always better, but the introduction of higher modulus graphite and better resin systems has given us lighter and more responsive rods than the Streamdance.  The Streamdance can still do everything well though - i.e. fish dries, nymphs, and streamers.  It is a classic trout and at $650 it is a deal.

25’- Handled short-range casts well, but it was stiffer than the

WhisperCreek so I couldn’t feel the rod load as well up close. It was very accurate and the line tracked well with the tip.

35’- At this distance I noticed how much power these High Line Speed rods have.  It would shoot line easily and I had to back off a bit on the forward cast to keep from overshooting the 35 -foot target.  But once I did, the accuracy was good.

60’- This is where the Streamdance showed its true potential. It shot line out to 60 feet as effortlessly as the Hardy and the ONE.  It was able to hold tight accurate loops at this distance; perfect for the angler who wants a rod that is a cannon without the heavy price tag.

 

9. Orvis Helios 9’ #4  Mid-Flex

 

Casting Notes:  This rod had great medium fast action - not too fast or too stiff.  It was also very light in hand.  If you are an Orvis diehard fan this is the best 4 weight they make.

 

25’- Very Lightweight, but the 9’ at close range felt too clunky.  An 8’ or 8’6” would probably make much nicer presentations at short range.

35’- The line control and loops were much better at this distance.  You could dial in your accuracy at this distance, still a lot of power left at 35 feet.

60’ - At this distance the Orvis really shined.  It would be a great all around dry fly rod for middle to large rivers.  It had ample power for dries but would not handle heavy nymph rigs very well.

10.  Echo 3  7’10” #4

                                                    

Casting notes: This rod felt very light in my hand, and it would be a great rod for fishing smaller creeks and on larger streams at close range.   If your budget won’t allow you to go for the Sage TXL-F, this could be a good choice.  

25’ - Casts off the tip well with good accuracy.  This rod loaded well with the GPX line.

35’ -  Handled this distance well with nice tight loops.  It had plenty of power and could handle dry/dropper rigs.

60’ – A decent rod at long range but not as good as the Hardy or Sage One. It didn’t feel as accurate as the TXL-F, nor did it track as well.

11. Echo Edge 8’ #4

 

                                                   

Casting Notes:  If you are looking for an inexpensive rod that performs well at close this rod is a good choice.

25’- Loads well in close, and I could cast off the tip of the rod with a flick of the wrist.  It was fairly accurate at this distance.

35’- It held good loops at this distance.  The presentation was very delicate so fishing small to mid -size dries would a lot of fun with this rod.

60’- This is not a good distance rod. It lost a lot of power and had little accuracy at 50’+.

 

 12. Ross RX  8’6” #4

Casting Notes: I was very skeptical of the Ross rod before our initial shootout since the past rods we’ve seen and cast from Ross had not been that good.  I have been a fan of their reels for years, and this RX did prove to be a decent rod for the money.

25’- The RX handled the short-range casts well, but it didn’t feel as smooth as the St. Croix Imperial.  I also had to work a little harder to load the rod at this range, probably because of its stiffer tip.

35’- This rod held tight loops and was accurate. 

60’- Not as good at as the Imperial at long range.   For the money the St. Croix would be a better investment.

13. St. Croix Legend Elite 8’6” #4

                                                    

Casting Notes:  I had high hopes for the Legend Elite since it has proven to be a wonderful 9 foot rod in #5 and #6 line sizes. However, the 8’6” #4 did not score or perform as well as its cheaper counter part, the Imperial. It felt too heavy and too stiff. If you are a St. Croix fan, do yourself a favor and go for the much less expensive Imperial if you’re looking for a 4-weight. 

25’- The tip of this rod was way too heavy and too stiff.  It was difficult to get any kind of accurate presentation up close with this rod. 

35’- Tip still feels quite heavy even at this mid-range distance. It cast decent loops but with the stiffness in the tip, the accuracy suffered.

60’- Did better at this distance but still had the problems mentioned above that hurt both accuracy and presentation.

 

14. TFO BVK 8’6” #4

                                                    

Casting Notes:  The BVK was a stand out in our 5 and 8 weight shoot-outs, but it did not fare as well in our 4-weight shoot-out.  It lacked feel and was way too stiff to compete with some of our top contenders.

25’- the BVK lacked feel at this distance, I couldn’t feel the rod load at all, even with a GPX line.  I think this is a direct reflection of how stiff the tip is.

35’- At the mid-range I could start to feel the rod load. The stiffness was still a factor and it felt heavy in hand due to its heavy swing weight.  It did throw better loops at this distance and I could fine-tune the accuracy after casting it for a while.

60’- I originally thought the BVK was going to be the standout at long range, however this was not the case.  It lost accuracy at this distance even though it had the power to get the fly out to sixty feet easily.  Overall the rod was too clunky and stiff for my liking.

15. G. Loomis NRX 9’#4

                                                

Casting Notes:  After casting the other Loomis rods in our shoot-outs I had high hopes for the NRX.  This was quickly brought down after making a few shots with this rod.  It made nice accurate loops but felt very heavy in hand.  The other Loomis rods we tested are much better 4-weights.

25’- The NRX was smooth and loaded well but it was much heavier in hand than the other rods tested. 

35’- This was the best distance for the NRX. It had good line control and nice tight loops; it was very accurate at this distance.

60’- Plenty of power at this distance, it was still very heavy in hand, which made me feel like I had to work that much harder casting at longer distances.

15. Winston Passport  9’#4

                                                  

Casting Notes:  The Winston Passport was by far the best inexpensive rod in our 5-weight shoot-out last year.  However, this year there are much better inexpensive rods in the 4-weight category, especially the St. Croix Imperial. 

25’- Medium weight in hand, and accuracy was better with a slow smooth casting stroke at this distance.  The tip did not track as well as other price point rods like the St. Croix Imperial or Echo Edge.

35’- Getting the rod to hit the mid-range distance was very easy.  The only problem was the tip still felt a little sloppy, and accuracy suffered.

60’- This rod was harder for me to cast well than others at long distance.   It seemed to be slow and clumsy, and hard for me to make accurate casts past 50 feet.

16. TFO FINESSE 8’9” #4

                                                

Casting Notes: I fished this rod for a couple of years in college and was happy with both its price tag and it’s performance.  However, that was a few years ago and a lot of other companies are now producing better inexpensive rods. Today, If I were looking for a less expensive 4-weight, I’d get an Imperial or for a little more money, split for the Beulah.   They are both better all around rods.

 

25’- Nicer than the BVK or Ross RX.  The finesse was exactly what the name says at short-range casting.  I got nice loop control, good accuracy and delicate presentations.

35’- This rod was smooth and gave me delicate presentations at this distance but the accuracy was not as good as most of the other rods we tested.

60’- This distance was just too much for the Finesse to handle.  The rod couldn’t really power a decent cast past 50 feet.

 

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