5-weight shootout

Comments by James Anderson

 

Back to back 5-weight shootouts???

Yes.  Why?  Because the nine-foot five-weight fly rod, is without a doubt the most versatile, well-rounded weapon in any trout angler’s arsenal.  As the flagship of every rod manufacture’s talent, the 9’#5 (590) is not only the most purchased fly rod in the world, it has also become one of the most important rods for a rod designer to get right.  After seeing 2016’s array of fantastic fives, clearly rod designers and fly rod companies have been stepping up to the plate and doing a better job than ever.

A lot is expected of a great 5-weight fly rod. The best 5-weights can cast a size 20 or 22 dry with feel and accuracy at 25 feet, throw a hopper/dropper rig with confidence at 45 feet and handle a size 4-6 streamer 70 feet, even casting into the wind.   Is the 9 foot #5 the end-all be-all one quiver rod for all your angling needs?  Of course not, but it is the perfect compromise and certainly well rounded enough to cover 90% of a trout angler’s required tasks.

 

The 590 - Perfect for your 1st Rod 

If you are thinking about getting into fly-fishing, there’s no question a 9 foot 5-weight should be your first rod purchase.  Depending on your budget (and level of projected interest in fly-fishing) you may want to select one of the best inexpensive rods, including the Echo Base ($89.99), Fenwick HMG ($149.95), the Fenwick Aetos ($189.95), or Mystic Reaper ($229).  Any of these rods will allow you to fish larger rivers, lakes, spring creeks, and small streams efficiently and effectively.  If you think you’ll love fly-fishing and spending time on the water you might want to stretch your budget and buy one of the best mid-priced rods like the Douglas DXF ($349), G. Loomis Pro4X LP ($375), Orvis Recon ($425), or St. Croix Legend Elite ($460).  

If you have more room in your budget (or have the time to save up), we suggest getting the best performing 5-weight you can afford. You’ll be extremely happy with it and it will cover nearly all of your angling needs.  After you’ve fished for a season or so you’ll then be able to decide which facets of fly-fishing you enjoy most.  Perhaps you prefer fishing small dries on spring creeks for big weary trout, or perhaps you enjoy the chase for the big meat eating brown).  Once you know what style you wish to master you can purchase a second rod (a 3 or 4-weight for small dries, or a 7 or 8-weight for sink tips and streamers).  The rest of the time you’ll have the best 5-weight rod possible should you break your specialty rod or should the conditions call for a rod that can do it all.

 

 

 

Unbiased and Honest Opinions

Our goal when writing up shootouts has always been to cut through the marketing hype and find the best performing rods, reels, waders, tippet, or whatever product we are evaluating.  We strive to keep an open mind and unbiased point of view while doing our due diligence to stick with our gut reactions and honest opinions.  Remember, at the end of the day, our shootout results reflect our opinion on the performance of each product as we see it.  Just as any wine, beer, or cigar tester has his or her own idea of what they like or do not like, we are all entitled to our tastes and preferences.  No one is right or wrong, correct or incorrect.  Joe likes fast and Jimmy likes slow.  Bill likes chocolate but Lisa loves vanilla.  If we don’t see eye to eye with the rod that you love don’t let that bother you.  Be happy that we have helped you zero in on the rod you love, which is what this shootout is all about.

 

Rod Bashing

In the past we have been criticized (harshly) for bashing rods and rod companies that we either didn’t carry or didn’t like.   In hindsight we realize that sometimes vocalizing our honest opinions can hurt feelings (and possibly even hurt revenue for small, up coming companies).   I have to admit in past shootouts we didn’t show a lot of tact with our evaluations, and for that I am sorry.   In this shootout as well as in the future, we’ll try to stick to the facts and back off with our harsh words. 

That being said, we use shootouts as a tool to figure out which rods we like best (and which companies we should be investing larger pre-season purchases from).  Sometimes when we find a new rod that performs well (like the Hardy Zenith) we decide to open a new wholesale account because we believe in their products.  We carried Scott fly rods for years, but only recently re-opened our account once we saw how amazing the Scott Radian rods performed.  Why on earth would we bother opening an account with and buy a bunch of rods we don’t like and can’t sell?   And of course we don’t stock the rods we don’t believe perform well. 

 

 

 

Our philosophy on rod design and why

Since our first shootout back in 2007, we have always had a preference with rods that have a stiff butt section and a soft, fast tip.  The reason for this is that rods with stiff butt sections have the power to throw long (or steer that big brown away from that log jam).  At the same time, we prefer rods with soft, fast tips that allow the rod to cast better in close off the tip of the rod, as well as make miniature mends better and help with accuracy or when casting underneath branches.  Rods with a stiffer (slower tip) often feel heavier in swing weight and also take away from feel.

 

Scientific Angler’s MPX line

One can make the argument that the winner of our 5-weight shootout isn’t necessarily the best 5-weight rod, it’s the 5-weight that best casts the Scientific Angler’s Wf-5-F MPX line.   The MPX replaces the GPX line and while it is still a half a line size heavy, the meat of the extra weight has been moved back towards the belly of the line.  The MPX throws a tighter loop and feels slightly more like a trout line compared to the shooting head style GPX. 

SA’s MPX is our favorite line for a few reasons.   To start off with, SA’s coatings are superb.  They get dirty less quickly and their durability is better than other lines we have tried.  The running line tends to tangle less than other brands and we’ve never had a problem with the coating peeling or severing off the core.   Above all, we think the MPX is the most well-rounded taper that SA has to offer, and excels whether you are throwing dries, nymphs, or streamers.

 

 

Purchasing your rod

We sincerely hope our shootouts help you find a rod that you will love to fish for years to come.  We hope the descriptions you read about each rod will give you enough information to decide if you think you would like them or not – that way you may only have to cast a handful of rods to find your perfect match rather than 30! 

If you have the opportunity, go to your local shop and ask to try two or three of the rods that interest you.  Try to use the same line and reel while you cast each rod to keep it apples to apples, (hopefully the shop will have a few reels rigged up that are the exact same reel with the exact same line and leader).  By all means if you find the perfect rod we encourage you to purchase it from your local shop.  If they don’t carry the rod you are interested in try to cast it at another shop.  If you can’t find it anywhere then of course we’d love to have your business!   

 

 

Nothing Sweeter Than a Threepeater!

The folks over at G.Loomis should be exceptionally proud of themselves.  In this day and age where new nano-resins, single foot titanium guides, high modulus graphite, and good cork are readily available it’s hard to stay on top, much less remain “king of the hill” for three years in a row! 

 

To be honest we didn’t really want the G. Loomis NRX LP to win.  Most of our customers have already bought one and it would have been better for sales if something new (and better) had knocked them off.  If anything, this just goes to show what a timeless rod the NRX LP is.  

 

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!  Until a new material hits the world of fly rod design and manufacturing G.Loomis has found the perfect balance for an all around 5-weight.  Pinnacle performance in nearly every distance, in the right hands this rod creates mastery control, accuracy, and feel.  At this point the only thing G.Loomis could do is offer the NRX LP in a third color…
 

Hats off to the entire G.Loomis team, especially Steve Rajeff,  who took the time to refine the stiffer-tipped original NRX 5-weight, whittling it into a precise casting machine that can handle it all.  Kudos.

 

 

 

James’ Top 10 Picks

There are a few standout rods in our 2016 5-weight shootout that I feel I can fully endorse.  I believe these rods are all excellent choices for anglers seeking a truly great rod.  I feel these rods (in order of price) are the best rods you can buy for the money - all great investments that you’ll enjoy fishing for years to come.


1.   Echo Base - $89.95 (for the money)???

2.   Fenwick Aetos - $189.95

3.   G. Loomis PRO4x LP - $375

4.   St. Croix Legend Elite - $460

5.   Loop Opti-Stream -$532

6.   Hardy Zephrus - $699

7.   G. Loomis NRX LP - $755

8.    Scott Radian - $795

9.   Hardy Wraith - $849

10.   Tom Morgan Rodsmiths - $1,495

 

Bottom Line

The Bottome line is finding a rod YOU like and having fun with it out on the water. Who cares if someone doesn't like the rod you like.  Personal preference is a silly thing to argue (try to convince a teenager huckleberry icecream is better than chocolote).  As long as you like your rod that's all that matters.  

I took it upon myself to fish some of the top rods as well as several of the bottom finishers.  At the end of the day all the rods caught fish and brought joy to my day. There are no winners or loosers, just rods I prefer more than others...

 

James performance only

 

 

 

#1 (tie) - G. Loomis NRX LP 9’#5   $755.00 – 58.50/60

G.Loomis NRX LP

buy now

As they say, three times is a charm!  For the third consecutive year the G. Loomis NRX LP has taken top honors as our undisputed 5-weight winner.  The NRX LP can handle size 22-24 tricos on the Bighorn one weekend and a size 4 streamer on the Yellowstone the next. 

The NRX LP’s mix of finesse and power - especially between 25-45 feet is unsurpassed by any rod we’ve found to date. If you haven’t picked one up yet, it’s time!

Although the G. Loomis NRX LP and Scott Radian tied in performance points for me, the NRX LP’s softer tip gave me a “YOU DA MAN” feel at both 25 and 45 feet.  I think it is the perfect rod for Spring Creeks, and flatwater, tailwaters, and anywhere else where large, spooky trout lurk.  For guys casting a single dry, no question this is the weapon for you. 

The one thing I will say for those who can’t get the NRX LP to perform – give it time!  Don’t rush your forward cast, if anything apply more power to your back cast, (which will set you up for a successful forward cast).  Anglers who spend the time with the rod and “get used to it” will reap the greatest benefits and in short become a better caster because of it.

 

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  20 points out of 20

One of the smoothest rods I felt at this distance, this NRX LP is a dry fly enthusiast’s dream come true.  The fast (soft) tip allows me to throw tighter loops than any other rod in the shootout.  In terms of amazing feel, only the Tom Morgan 2 pc from last year felt better with equal accuracy at this distance.  The two Scott rods came close but the G2 wasn’t nearly as accurate and the Radian was just a hair stiffer in the tip.

Performance at 45 feet:  20 points out of 20

Flawless victory.  This rod has absolutely zero mid-distance hiccups.  Smooth as butter with plenty of reserve power to drive the fly straight to the plate nearly every time.  20 out of 20, without a doubt, no questions asked.  The rod literally feels like an extension of my arm and does exactly what I want it do without any extra concentration or effort.  

Performance at 70 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Finally at this distance I have to slow down my casting stroke and really concentrate to make a good cast. When I do, the result is amazing and I’m convinced this IS the perfect rod for me.  When I rush the cast and punch the power in too quickly however, I end up frustrated with a tailing loop. If you are a great caster and can hit the NRX LP’s sweet spot every time, you’ll be unstoppable with this rod.  In the meantime spend some time casting long with it to get used to it.  Slow down your timing and don’t force it - let the LP take do the work instead of your arm.

Cast the whole line? 

Yes, but I really have to apply my power smoothly, otherwise expect a tangle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#1 (tie) - Scott Radian 9’#5   $795.00 – 58.50/60

Scott Radian

buy now

I cannot say enough kind words about the Scott Radian.  It has tied two years in a row for me as the #1 5-weight on the market.  I love how this rod performs at all distances and prefer it over the NRX LP in certain conditions. For my casting stroke, the Radian is easier to throw long with a nudge more power and better accuracy in the wind than the NRX LP.  I think its slightly stiffer tip is better for throwing two nymphs under an indicator or throwing the occasional wind-resistant or articulated streamer. 

Even though it ties the NRX LP in points, I feel this is a slightly better all-around rod for Freestone rivers like the Yellowstone, Madison, or Gallatin where we often fish chubby/rubbbie (a chubby Chernobyl and a pat’s rubber leg dropper) or a Pat’s and a beadhead nymph behind it.  It also works great at pulling line off the water should I make a bad cast out of the boat and desperately want my fly right next to the log we are passing.

Another interesting thing about the Radian is the grip.  It is shorter than every other grip in the shootout and also has a different shape, which for me was somewhat of an acquired taste.  Now that I’m used to it I love how it seems to fit the palm of my hand.

Also worth noting is that the Radian comes in two colors – a “his” and a “hers.”  The “his” rod has bright orange highlight wraps where as the “hers” model has purple/blue wraps.  Picking up a “hers” rod might score a guy serious points at home, not to mention the benefits of “borrowing” the rod from time to time should your own or 5-weight be broke down and back at the factory for repairs.  As Denzel from Training Day would say, "This is chess not checkers." right?? 

 

Performance at 25 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

This rod actually drills it right in there for me.  While some may complain there’s a lack of feel I don’t care.  My fly is landing on the plate nearly every time and the presentation is still delicate compared to most powerful rods.  Only the NRX LP, the Tom Morgan two-piece 8 ½ foot #5, and the Scott G2 felt smoother at this distance.

Performance at 45 feet:  20 points out of 20

This rod blazed my yarn indicator near the plate (within 6”) 8 out of 10 times.   Only an unexpected errant wind could knock its pin point accuracy off course.  Add a heavier fly or split shot and this rod performs just as well.  20 and on the money… another no brainer buy, you'll certainly be happy with this rod.

Performance at 70 feet:  19 points out of 20

Again, I have to slow my casting stroke down significantly and wait for the right moment before punching in the power.  This rod is similar to the G. Loomis NRX LP but perhaps a little more forgiving.  With both rods you have to have perfect timing and application of power to make this rod perform perfectly at longer distances.  Remember to let the rod do the work! 

Cast the whole line? 

Yes, but you have to slow down and apply your power smoothly for the best results.

 

 

 

 

 

#2 (tie) - Hardy Zephrus 9’#5   $699.00   - 58/60

Hardy Zephrus

buy now

The Hardy Zephrus is a fantastic casting rod.  It is softer than the Hardy Zenith, but with added feel comes a slight decrease in accuracy, at least for me.  For 90% of anglers the Zephrus is going to be the better Hardy rod (over the Wraith) as it is significantly less stiff with way more feel, something most trout anglers prefer over sheer power and accuracy.  And, although I prefer the Wraith, I have to admit the Zephrus is a better all-around rod and must be scored as such.

This year we had a few visitors swing by, (all good casters and anglers) and everyone who cast the Zephrus was impressed.  It’s a great rod that just about anyone can pick up and throw easily.

 

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  19 points out of 20

Before casting the Radian and LP I had given the Hardy Zephrus a perfect 20.  It delivers an amazingly smooth and delicate presentation at 25 feet.  Accuracy was right on the money with zero complaints, even in the wind.  There sure are a lot of great high end rods this year! 

Performance at 45 feet:  20 points out of 20

Benchmark performance here from the Hardy Zephrus.  This rod delivered a smooth, powerful, yet delicate presentation for me nearly every cast.  It brought such a joy for a while I could not put it down. 

Performance at 70 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Dang! The Zephrus had impressive performance at 70 feet and even beyond!  If I noticed the wind had blown my cast off target I could continue to recast the whole line, even without a double haul.  I was very pleased with this rod to say the least.    

Cast the whole line? 

Yup.  9 times out of 10 with little thought or effort.

 

 

 

 

#2 (tie) - Hardy Wraith 9’#5   $849.00 – 58/60

Hardy Wraith

buy now

If there was any rod in the shootout that I wanted to keep for myself, it was the Wraith.  Since I already have a great 8’6”#4 for dry fly fishing and a wonderful all- around five, the Wraith would have a place in my arsenal as a lethal weapon on windy days or when fishing hoppers and streamers. 

I simply was blown away by this rod’s ability to cast between 45-100 feet.  Enough that I can forgive it for having little to no feel at 25 feet.  If I was a competition caster there’s no question this would be my rod.  

When others are forced to give up due to the wind, this rod will keep you casting and in the game, and that alone is worth it’s steep price of admission.  
 

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Wow!  This rod feels so light!  Not much feel per say but boy is it accurate.  I can hit the plate nearly every time and while it’s not as much fun as the softer tipped rods it still feels “doable.”  I have to score it high in terms of sheer accuracy.  Crisp tight loops off the wrist, even though the Loomis NRX LP and Radian, clearly give me more feedback.

Performance at 45 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Again this rod feels exceptionally light in my hand.  I’m surprised the swing weight is higher than the Zephrus.  While the Wraith exhibited impeccable accuracy, it didn’t quite have the same level of refined feel for a perfect 20, (at least with a yarn indicator tied on the end of the leader).  I liked this rod the best of all the 5 weights in the test during gusts of heavy wind and suspect I’d like it best with streamers as well. This certainly seems like a rod you can depend on, even when the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Performance at 70 feet:  20 points out of 20

Easiest 20 I’ve ever given.  I would call the wraith a cannon but that sounds too heavy.  Weightless laser is more like it.  With a slightly less stiff tip than my other favorite long distance rods (the Sage ONE 690) this rod has power, lightness, accuracy, and control. In my book the Hardy Wraith sets the bar for distance accuracy, all others shall bow down.

Cast the whole line? 

Whoa!  Did you see that?!?..... hahaha!

 

 

 

 

#2 (tie) - Loop Opti-Stream  9’#5   $532.00 – 58/60

loop Opti Stream

buy now

Here lies the hidden gem of the whole lot.  The Loop Opti-Stream is arguably THE perfect 5-weight in terms of compromise and performance at all distances, not to mention you’ll have an extra $167-$317 if you buy it instead of an NRX LP, Raidian, Zephrus, or Wraith.

The only thing that we have heard from fellow anglers and customers alike is that the Opti-Stream has a tendency to break. Of course 95% of rod breakage is due to angler error, it still raises a hint of concern.  We’ve definitely sent back a few more of these than G.Loomis rods, Scott rods or St. Croix rods (all rods with nano-resin in their tip sections)…
 

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Another rod that the feels very light in the hand.  With noticeably softer mid and tip sections yet a powerful butt section, this rod performs great.  A hint of hinge kept it from scoring a 20 but still exceptionally pleasingly to cast.

Performance at 45 feet:  20 points out of 20

The Opti-stream casts right with the best of them at this distance.  Tight, smooth, easy to form loops all day long.  I didn’t have to force more energy or double haul the rod, nor did I have to back off the heat, I just let the rod do the work and smiled… $$$

Performance at 70 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

In calm situations I’d be temped to score this rod another perfect 20.  But the Hardy Wraith is the only rod that deserves that mark.  If casting a country mile isn’t as important to you as great feel and you are on a budget, this rod is truly a terrific buy. 

Cast the whole line? 

No prob Bob! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2 (tie) - St. Croix Legend Elite  9’#5   $460    -58/60

St. Croix Legend Elite

buy now

One of my all time favorite rods, the St. Croix reminds me a lot of Sage’s late Z-Axis (the best 5-weight Sage has ever made in my book).  The rod has plenty of power to throw streamers, yet also has a soft tip that can handle small dries in close with grace.  AND it is made in Park Falls, WI.

St. Croix used to use 3M’s nano resin but they found a way to cut out the cost and make their own nano-resin, making the Legend Elite extremely durable to split shot or conehead nicks.  I can’t remember the last time we sent back a Legend Elite for a repair and we sell quite a few.

Take a close look at this rod’s deflection and you’ll find exactly what we like in a fly rod.  A powerful and strong butt section with relatively strong mid-sections and a soft (fast) tip.  St. Croix, please keep this rod in your line up forever!

This rod has achieved legendary status in my book, at a very reasonable price.  If you simply can’t afford $460 at the moment try to save up for it, otherwise my next favorite rod in terms of all-around performance is the Fenwick Aetos at $189.95.

 

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Smooth, easy to cast effortless loops every time.  Only the G. Loomis NRX LP threw tighter loops into the wind for me.

Performance at 45 feet:  20 points out of 20

Deserving of a 20 this is what a well rounded trout rod is all about.  If I were designing fly rods right now, I’d be buying this rod and reverse engineering it. 

Performance at 70 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

This rod is good at 70 feet but it just can’t hang with the best long distance rods, especially the amazing new Wraith. Still, it’s a very well balanced rod and decent enough for nearly all anglers at 70 feet.

Cast the whole line? 

You betcha…

 

 

 

 

#3 - Tom Morgan Rodsmiths  9’#5   $1495    -56.5/60

Tom Morgan Rodsmiths 4 pc

 

buy now

When purchasing a Tom Morgan Rodsmiths rod you are not only buying one of the best performing rods in the world, you are also buying a piece of art and history.  These rods are amazing in everyway, and each one possesses that special character that can only be experienced once you cast one.

In today’s busy world fishing isn’t getting any easier.  I remember Tom McGuane once joking that the angler’s best tool for catching fish is no longer a rod but a passport.  And he’s right, there are a lot of big fish in the world that are easier to catch than the big fish on many of our home rivers.  Tom Morgan Rodsmith’s 4-piece rods show the evolution of how important it is to be able to travel with your favorite fly rod.

Why are Tom Morgans rods so smooth?  Aside from their well designed taper, one key factor to the smoothness of Tom’s 4-piece rods are the spigot ferrules.  While they are certainly more time consuming and more expensive, they allow the rod to flex much more smoothhly than fit-over style ferrules.  The net result is a 4-piece rod that feels like a 1 or 2-piece rod. 
 

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler Trout WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Buttery smooth, the Tom Morgan would be a 21 out of 20 in terms of feel.  As good as the rod felt and as much as I wanted to score it a perfect 20, I was able to throw a slightly tighter loop and was more accurate with the NRX LP.

Performance at 45 feet:  20 points out of 20

Wow!  One main difference I found while casting the Tom Morgan is that this rod is more FUN to cast than others.  It’s hard to put in words but the smooth feel is simply uncanny.   With grace and integrity the rod feels like a part of your body and amazingly gets the yarn indicator to the middle of the target nearly every time.  It feels like the difference between knocking a chip off a clay pigeon and completely dusting it with your full choke barrel. Well deserving of a perfect score at 45 feet this rod is in a class of it’s own. 

 

Performance at 70 feet:  17 points out of 20

In the hands of a highly skilled caster the magic is possible, but for most anglers getting it this far will be tough.  Surprising some of the other testers were able to cast this rod father than any other rod, but for me the significantly stiffer butt and mid-sections of the Hardy Wraith required less concentration.  I had to slow my casting stroke down significantly at 70 feet, so much that the wind started to mess with my timing.  Tailing loops became a frustration as much as I wanted it to work, especially after watching the old man bomb one cast after another near the plate, smiling and giggling, “What?  You can’t do that?  Hahaha…your casting stroke needs work!”

Cast the whole line? 

Nope, at least this time…  And I’m pretty sure Tom wants it that way.  ;-)

 

 

 

 

#4 - Orvis Helios 2 9’#5   $795.00   -56.5/60

Orvis H2

buy now

The Orvis Helios 2 tip-flex is without a doubt the best rod I have ever cast from Orvis.  It is very similar in both flex and feel to the G. Loomis NRX and Scott Radian, with excellent attention to detail and superb craftsmanship. 

The Orvis H2 is surely a top of the line rod and will be difficult to beat.  The fact that it finished this far back only goes to show how amazing all the rods have become.  The subtle differences between the best rods in the world are getting more and more difficult to feel much less describe on paper.

 

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

This rod is light, smooth, and easy to cast.  It’s also very easy to get used to but for some reason I can’t get it to track as well as the rods that scored higher.

Performance at 45 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Again an impressive performance but again the top rods had that extra edge that is hard to describe why they got 20’s.  I think it may be the swing weight or slightly stiffer tip than the others, making the H2 feel a hair heavier in hand despite it’s high modulus graphite construction.  When I cast the H2 by itself with out a side-by-side comparison and it would be a 20 every time.

Performance at 70 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Both the NRX LP and H2 feel similar at this distance, which is to say a good caster with perfect timing can make perfect loops.  That’s a lot easier said than done however and in the wind I found myself throwing the occasional tailing loop.  It didn’t help that I was comparing it head to head with the Hardy Wraith.

Cast the whole line? 

Not easy – but yes.  

 

 

 

 

#5   (tie) - Fenwick Aetos 9’#5   $189.95 – 56/60

Fenwick Aetos

buy now

I always thought the Fenwick Aetos felt like a less expensive Hardy Zenith.  The rod has a stiff butt section for power yet a softer tip for casting in close with accuracy – exactly what I love about all my favorite casting 5-weights.  The rod mends well, casts under bushes with ease, and performs like a $500 rod.  The Aetos is a great pick for the budget conscious angler that wants a powerful but smooth casting rod.


Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

I can achieve excellent loop control off the tip rod.  A “flick of the wrist” goes a long way here drilling in shot after shot with both feel and accuracy.  Is it an NRX LP?  No, but it sure is affordable and pleasing to cast.

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

This rod feels crisp and clean, casting with authority and control.  Although it feels heavier in hand than others I quickly got used to it.  

Performance at 70 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Good but not great.  I guess a rod for under $200 has to have some limitations.  The old Hardy Zenith was much better here, and the new Hardy Wraith is even better.

Cast the whole line? 

Just barely.

 

 

 

 

#5 (tie) - Thomas & Thomas Spire 9’#5   $795 – 56/60

Thomas and Thomas Spire

buy now

A powerful rod with attitude, the Spire surprised me.  Although the power takes a bit to turn on, like a freight train it was unstoppable once you got it going.  The reason it takes a bit to get going is certainly the weight.  At the same time, that’s what keeps the momentum going. 

I think this rod will be great for executives who have to work 60+ hour weeks and don’t have time to practice before their yearly trip.  While the Spire may not feel the lightest, it’s stiffer tip will deliver with less chance of a tangle.  It’s more forgiving than the NRX LP, H2, or Radian and is certainly built with equal if not better integrity and craftsmanship.  I like to think of it as the Bentley of the shootout rather than the Ferrari…


Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  18 points out of 20

Although heavy in hand, the Spire was accurate.  I could hit the plate nearly every time, but like the Hardy Wraith, it had very little feel.  

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

Like a heavier Wraith this rod is amazingly accurate.  One advantage of their heavier tip is once you get it going it really flies!  It also throws a streamer with ease and will keep you fishing once that afternoon upstream wind picks up.

Performance at 70 feet:  19 points out of 20

We were calling this rod “the creeper” because of how the power came in at the end of the stroke.  It required a little more effort to get the rod in motion but once you generated the power it was in pure beast mode.  I heard phrases like, “Yes please, more of that…” and “That is daaaamn good” from the other casters.

Cast the whole line? 

Definitely.

 

 

 

 

#6.  (tie) - Winston BIIIx 9’#5   $845 – 55.5/60

R.L. Winston BIIIx

buy now

 

In my opinion, this is still Winston’s best all-around 5-weight.  Faster with a touch more accuracy than the BIIILS and softer than the BIII Plus, this rod has lots of feel and above all plenty of “soul.”  You might not be casting it to the other side of the river, but it is a sweet rod for spring creek anglers, small creeks, and anglers who prefer fishing dries. 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I think its great looks can only be matched by Tom Morgan Rodsmiths.  Top shelf everything. If you can’t quite afford a Tom Morgan, this is the next best match and also made in Montana.

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Perfect action and feel for a trout rod in close.  It’s easy to cast, fun, smooth, and accurate – all with a delicate touch.  I can still achieve slightly tighter loops with the Scott Radian and G.Loomis NRX LP, which were a smidge more accurate in the wind.

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

Smooth, almost perfect loops when there was no wind.  Even in the wind I was able to control this rod.  About as much feel as you’re going to get from a 5- weight rod, with impressive delicate presentations.  The cost of all this feel was a little less accuracy… but for a rod this sweet I’d be willing to give up a foot here or there on accuracy. 

Performance at 70 feet:  17 points out of 20

Getting it this far isn’t the problem, it’s accuracy that goes downhill quickly.  One out of every 5 or 6 casts is close to the plate.  Every now and then I threw a tailing loop despite serious concentration.

Cast the whole line? 

Yes, but it took a few tries and it wasn’t pretty...

 

 

 

 

#6.  (tie) - G. Loomis Pro 4X LP  9’#5   $375 – 55.5/60

g.Loomis Pro4x

buy now

 

G. Loomis’ Pro 4X LP is a proven stick and a great choice as a “guide rod” for outfitters and guides fishing on freestone rivers.  It has plenty of power for nymph rigs, streamers, yet has the softer light tip to allow you to throw dries in the foam eddies. 

One plus we found about the Pro 4X LP is that the tip section has nano-resin in it, helping its tip stay light while still being stronger than most rods in its price point.  (The nano in the tip probably offsets G. Loomis’ cost with less repairs). 
 

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  18 points out of 20

Not bad at all!  A bit heavier feel in hand despite the nano-resin tip but still pleasant to cast in close.  Accurate but more feel would have got it a 19…

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

Excellent performance for a mid priced rod, I was happy to see this rod throw loops right in there with the best of them.  Again, if the rod had a little more feel and felt lighter it would be a 20.  Accuracy was there for sure.

Performance at 70 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Surprisingly more consistent and more forgiving for me than the G. Loomis NRX LP!  The slightly stiffer tip is an advantage at this distance, especially for those who tend to punch the power in too quickly. 

Cast the whole line? 

Yes sir…

 

 

 

#6.  (tie) - Orvis Recon 9’#5  $425.00  - 55.5/60

Orvis Recon

buy now

 

The Orvis Recon is in the same boat as the G. Loomis Pro 4X LP.  It’s not the best, nor is it constructed of the best materials available, but it IS a very good casting tool with significant savings.

It's certainly a huge improvement in terms of feel and accuracy from past Orvis mid-priced rods.  It’s night and day better than the old Orvis Access.  A great choice for a backup rod for beginners who aren’t sure if they will be able to fish as much as they’d like to. 


Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

James' Casting Notes:  55.5 out of 60

Performance at 25 feet:  17.5 out of 20  
More power than feel, I’m not getting nearly as much pleasure out of this rod as the H2 and the other top rods. 

Performance at 45 feet:  19 out of 20  
A solid balance between feel and power this rod felt excellent at 45 feet.  There are just so many great rods that I wasn’t able to score it a 20.

Performance at 70 feet: 19 out of 20   
Aggressive casters will love this rod at 70 feet. It reminds me of a Sage ONE as it can handle a quick punch without throwing a tailing loop.  

Cast the whole Line?

Yes!

 

 

 

 

#6.   (tie)  - Fenwick HMG 9’#5   $159.95 – 55.5/60

Fenwick HMG

buy now

Most people won’t be able to feel the subtle difference between the Fenwick Aetos and Fenwick HMG.  The rods feel extremely similar, although when push comes to shove I’d give the power advantage to the Aetos and the feel advantage to the HMG.  If you think you might throw more dries rather than streamers, go with the HMG.  If you think you might end up nymph fishing more or throwing streamers go with the Aetos.

 

Performance at 25 feet:  18 points out of 20

Very close to the Fenwick Aetos with a slightly softer tip.   I like it!

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

At this distance I think the Aetos is slightly better, especially with bigger flies or in the wind.  Still the two rods are so close it is hard to differentiate.

Performance at 70 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Again I like the Aetos better at this distance (and when throwing streamers).  The tip on the HMG can’t take a big power punch so you have to slow your casting stroke down accordingly.

Cast the whole line? 

Yes, but harder than the Fenwick Aetos.

 

 


#6.  (tie) - Beulah Guide Series II $295  55.5/60

Beulah Guide series II

buy now

Beulah’s Guide Series II was a great seller for us in 2015, partly due to the price but also due to it’s impressive performance for a rod under $300.  This is kind of what I might have expected the Redington rods to cast like, with a lighter swing weight and good blend of power and feel.  I wish they would dress this rod up a bit like the platinum, but of course that would bring the price up drastically. 


James' Casting Notes:  55.5 out of 60

Performance at 25 feet:  18 out of 20  
Faster and stiffer than the platinum the Beulah didn’t have as much feel in close.  

Performance at 45 feet:  19 out of 20  
Again less feel and more power, anglers who like crisp, faster actions will like this rod better than the slower, med-fast Platinum.

Performance at 70 feet:  18.5 out of 20 
At 70 feet the Guide Series II is starting to feel much better than the Platinum.  A great rod for the money! 

Cast the whole line:  Yes.



#8.  (tie) - Sage BOLT 9’#5   $650.00    -55/60

Sage BOLT

buy now

I first tried the Sage BOLT at our rep’s house and I have to say I was impressed.  I want to say we were casting it with an In-Touch Rio Grand.  The rod felt awesome from 40-80 feet.

When we cast the BOLT head to head with the other great rods however, it quickly became apparent that this rod is heavier in both overall and swing weight.  But so what?  Perhaps as the years go on my elbow won’t be able to take casting a heavier rod all day but for now it doesn’t bother me nearly as much. 

The more disappointing thing about the BOLT was is accuracy and feel in close.  It’s heavier swing weight and stiffer tip just didn’t allow it to deliver delicate on the money casts with feel.  If you want to throw dries you might want to fish smaller hopper patterns. Plan on fishing the BOLT as either a nymph stick, chub/rub rod, or streamer rod - that’s where this rod really shines. 

Speaking of shine, I love the orange candy paint on this rod.  Both the Sage MOD and BOLT were a couple of my favorite rods to photograph. 

At the end of the day I’m not unhappy with the BOLT, but I do wish it was lighter like the MOD.  Then it would truly feel like an XP.

 

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  17.5 points out of 20

This rod is noticeably heavier than the top rods, and a bit clubby in close.  Compared to the Hardy Wraith (which is also very stiff) the BOLT feels stiffer and heavier in hand.

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Now the BOLT is feeling good.  I can still notice the weight, but the accuracy is very good and casting into the wind is not an issue.  I’m surprised Sage classifies this rod as “Ultra fast” as I find it slower than both the ONE and Method, and certainly slower in the tip than the G. Loomis NRX LP, Scott Radian, Hardy Wraith, and Zephrus.  

Performance at 70 feet:  19 points out of 20

Feeling better and better at distance.  This rod feels more in its element and more competitive with the other top rods at this distance.  It feels like it would be a good “guide rod” with ample power and ability to handle a ¾” indicator, split shot, and two nymphs.  I’m also guessing it will break less often than Sage’s higher modulus rods like the XP.

Cast the whole line? 

Like a rocket... 

 

 

 

 

 

#7.   (tie)  - Echo 3  9’#5   $349.99.  -  55/60

echo 3

buy now

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

After fishing the Echo 3 I have decided it is better suited as a nymph fishing rod than a dry fly rod.  It has a strong butt section and mid-sections, perfect for turning over a rubber leg and a prince under and indicator.  It will cast a small dry but it takes more work to get it done. 

This rod reminds me of a TFO BVK, except it is closer to a true 5-weight instead of a full on 6-weight.  I love the color of this rod and the Echo 3 is one of my favorite inexpensive spey rods, along with the Fenwick Aetos.  

 

Performance at 25 feet:  18 points out of 20

Surprisingly heavier in hand than the base with a thinner cork grip.  Throws very accurate, tight, crisp loops but perhaps a tad too stiff to score above an 18 at this distance.

Performance at 45 feet:  18 points out of 20

Tip heavy but plenty of accuracy.  Other rods were just as accurate however with more feel and lighter in hand.  I know from fishing nymphs out of the boat this rod will handle a thing-a-ma-bobber, two nymphs, and some weight with ease and makes for a great freestone “guide rod.”

Performance at 70 feet:  19 points out of 20

Now the Echo 3’s backbone is starting to kick in and throw some great casts.  Great power, feel, and accuracy at this distance.  This rod does quite well throwing small streamers.

Cast the whole line? 

Yup.

 

 


#7   (tie)  - Limit Creek 8’6”#5 $169.99 – 55/60

Limit Creek

buy now

Limit Creek is another new company to us.  We would much rather have tested a 9’#5 however Limit Creek doesn’t offer a 9’#5.  In fact, Limit Creek has a very limited size run in their fly rod category – you have three choices – An 8’#4, an 8’6”#5, or a 9’#6.  They do make several other types of rods including spin rods, trolling rods, ice rods, and a casting rod.

One thing I like about the Limit Creek is the action.  While 9 feet would have given the rod more all-around performance, the 8’6” length gives the rod a very light in hand, almost “spunky” feel.  This would be a fun rod to fish on tight rivers like the Beaverhead or the Spring Creeks.

I also like the quality wood insert and good looks of the real seat.  I wish other rods in the inexpensive category would take note and follow suit here. 

All and all a great rod for the money.


Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  19 points out of 20

One of the lightest rods in hand in the whole shootout, the 8’6”#5 has a clear weight advantage over longer 5 weights, even when throwing a 12’ leader it feels good.  This rod is very accurate and the feel is there to match.

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

Very pleasing in hand, this rod was accurate but not nearly as smooth as other rods that were equally as accurate.  Still, a good show and strong performance from a rod we have never heard of that costs $169.99!

Performance at 70 feet:  17 points out of 20

Not so hot at 70 feet.  The Limit creek should probably be limited to the creek.  Tailing loops became a common denominator between most all of us except George.

Cast the whole line? 

No.

 

 

#7.  (tie) - CD Composite XLS II  9’#5   $549.99 – 55/60

CD Composit XLS II

buy now

CD Composite is a new company to us and I have to say I’m impressed with the actions and quality of their rods.  This New Zealand company had a non-compete clause for the US market for a while but that is now over and they can now distribute their rods in America.

CD Composite sent us two rods: the red XLS II and a green JCI II.  We all felt the XLS II had a better feel to it, with a faster (softer) tip and better swing weight.  The rod has good strength in the butt as well, giving it a great all-around design.

Casting the XLS II alone was a pleasant treat.  The rod was responsive, sensitive, with a decent amount of reserve power for a softer tipped rod.  Only once it was compared to the very best rods could I start to see a difference in feel and accuracy.  This rod would be a fine option for someone who was thinking about purchasing a mid-priced rod.
 

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Actually a very pleasant flex and feel to this rod.  The swing weight feels good and the accuracy is pretty darn good.  Impressive loops and much sweeter than it’s stiffer brother, (the JCI II) that didn’t make the test.

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

Anglers looking for a softer loading rod will appreciate the XLS II’s soft and fast tip.  Think Winston BIIIx, BIIILS, or Mystic Reaper with a bigger cork grip.

Performance at 70 feet:  17.5 points out of 20

Now I have to slow down the casting stroke significantly, so much that the wind is starting to effect my timing.  Punching it produces tailing loops, waiting for it produces a bigger loop than I like to see.  At this distance CD Composite’s faster JCI II is a better option.

Cast the whole line? 

Not so good… (as in one out of 10).

 

 

#8.  (tie) - Scott G2  9’#5   $745    -  54.5 /60

Scott G2

buy now

The Scott G2 is one of the finest dry flies rods ever built.  Its flawlessly smooth, delicate presentations are the reason this rod has been so popular over the years fishing the Paradise Valley Spring Creeks.  It is one of the few rods in the test that made a 12 foot leader feel good and it can handle even longer leaders when needed.  A lot of Scott fans really love this rod in the 8'6"#5 or 8'6"#4 where dry fly is the main focus.

 

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler Trout WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  19.5 points out of 20

Easily one of the very best rods in the shootout at this distance.  At 25 feet only the Tom Morgan and G.Loomis NRX LP were better, (the Tom Morgan was smoother and the NRX LP was more accurate).  I had a hard time putting this rod down.

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

Again the Scott G2 felt wonderfully smooth and had adequate power to the distance.  Feel alone was a 20 but I couldn't quite get the same accuracy as I could with the best rods. 

Performance at 70 feet:  16 points out of 20

This rod struggles beyond 50 feet, casting it 70 feet is a really a chore.  

Cast the whole line? 

Maybe on the moon...


 

#8.  (tie) - R.L. Winston BIII Plus 9’#5   $855 – 54.5/60

R.L. Winston BIII Plus

buy now

My first impression picking up the Winston BIII plus is that if looked and felt more like a 6 or 7-weight rod than a 5-weight.  One of my favorite rods of all time is the BIIx 7-weight, so I was excited to cast this rod and see what it could do, especially since we liked it a lot in the BIII Plus 8-weight model.

While the BIII Plus had it’s pluses, it also had some negatives that were hard to overcome.  First and foremost was the heavy swing weight in the tip.  I definitely prefer the BIIIx tip, which while not a powerhouse, was much better in terms of feel and swing weight. 

Bottom line, stick with the BIIIx if you are buying a 3 through 6 weight.  The BIII Plus’ raw power starts to excel and compete better with other high-end rods in the 7-weight to 12-weight models.

 

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  18 points out of 20

Noticeably heavier in hand than most, I still found the BIII Plus was exceptionally accurate in the wind.  True, it lacked feel (especially for a green stick), so I felt an 18 was an appropriate score at this distance.

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Tons of usable power but I’m still not getting the finesse and feel like the other top performing rods. Even at 45’ I’m still not flexing this rod to it’s potential.  55-65 feet feels more like this rod’s sweet spot.

Performance at 70 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

As expected this rod is money at longer distances!  It has plenty of backbone to pick up the whole line and keep me false casting if I notice I’m off target.  The only problem is the effort it takes to get the rod going.  Like the Thomas and Thomas Spire, its freight train power will impress you once it gets going.

Cast the whole line? 

Yes, quite easily.  One of the best long bomb tools in the test.

 

 

 

#8.  (tie)  - Mystic Reaper  9'#5   $229 - 54.5 / 60

mystic reaper

buy now

The Mystic Reaper reminds me a lot of the late Winston Passport.  It's an inexpensive overseas rod that has great feel and performs well in close or with smaller flies.  It isn't nearly as stiff as other inexpensive rods and it feels much lighter too.  The reel seat also looks better than most rods in its price point. This rod could cost a lot more than it does, thanks Mystic for keeping it affordable!  Attention dry fly anglers on a budget - this rod is for you!

 

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  19 points out of 20

The Reaper is feeling very smooth, fun, and easy to cast at 25 feet.  It's light swing weight and soft tip allow me to dial in accuracy while still maintaining a good amount of feel.  

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

Tons of feel still, although accuracy is not nearly as good as some of the best rods.  For the money this is a great rod between 25-55 feet. 

Performance at 70 feet:  16.5 points out of 20

At 75 feet casting becomes less effortless and I have to really concentrate to pull it off.  Even when I do the accuracy just isn't there.  Plan on tailing loops if you punch it. 

Cast the whole line? 

Barely, with the help of a good a tailwind...

 

 

 

#8.  (tie)  - Temple Fork Outfitters BVK  9'#5   $295

TFO BVK

buy now

We have become huge fans of the Temple Fork BVK rod line, but we sell very few 9'#5 weights, simply because the rod is too stiff for a great all-around 5-weight.  This rod is certainly in need of a re-vamp since we know how wonderful they are in the 6-12 weight range.  If you are nymph and streamer fishing 100% of the time this would be a good five but if dry fly is part of your program I would pick up one of the other inexpensive rods.
 

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  17 points out of 20

The BVK's heavy tip and overall stiffness really held it back from feeling good in close. Still, accuracy is pretty darn good. 

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Again decent accuracy and power but I'm still not getting the feel I get out of the better rods.  The Fenwick Aetos felt like it had equal power but much better feel and costs about $100 less.  

Performance at 70 feet:  19 points out of 20

At 75 this rod kicks ass.  Now that 50 feet of line is out the tip the rod flexes smoothly and gives me confidence to hit the plate.  

Cast the whole line? 

You know it!


#9.  (tie) - Beulah Platinum   9'#5   $229

Beulah Platinum

buy now

The Beulah Platinum is a good option for anglers looking for a softer, slower action rod.  In the world of faster, stiffer, farther, there is still the need for a rod that casts well in close and is both pleasant and fun to cast in close to medium distances.  The Platinum fits that nitch, and it sure looks sharp!   

 

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

The Beulah Platinum wasn't the lightest rod in the shootout, and this held it back in close in terms of feel. It was very smooth however, and fun to cast.  

Performance at 45 feet:  18.5 points out of 20

Again I'm getting great feel but accuracy isn't as great as the best rods.

Performance at 70 feet:  17 points out of 20

Long rang performance isn't the Platinum's forte.

Cast the whole line? 

Only in the best of conditions.


 

 

#9.  (tie)  - Echo Base 9’#5   $89.95 – 54/60


Echo Base

buy now

 

The Echo Base is a no brainer for anyone thinking about getting into the sport of fly-fishing or any guide for that matter (who needs a back up rod or two under their boat seat).  While it isn’t the most crisp rod in the test, it is very forgiving and will be a great rod to learn on. Unlike the NRX LP, it’s actually pretty hard to throw a tailing loop with the Echo Base – at least up to 45 feet.

I wish I had not known how much the Base cost at the time of testing since it was difficult to keep an unbiased opinion on such a great bargain.  For $89.95 I’m more than willing to give up some accuracy here and some feel there.

My advice?  Buy one (or two or three or four) as soon as you can - there’s no way this rod is going to stay at this price once the laws of supply and demand go into effect!


Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  18 points out of 20

Wow!  Surprisingly light with a nice feel for $89.95 fly rod.  For this price I was expecting a Walmart wet noodle but instead I was impressed with this rod’s ability to throw loops as good if not better than rods costing nearly 9 times as much!  Feel was there, however accuracy was not quite as good as the best rods for me.

Performance at 45 feet:  19 points out of 20

This rod is even more than satisfactory at 45 feet… Softer and slower than most rods we cast, The Echo still found a way to throw smooth, easy to cast loops with a pleasant feel.  Good show!

Performance at 70 feet:  17 points out of 20

Finally the Base is taking a little more concentration to cast.  I have to really slow down my casting stroke, so much that the wind is starting to effect my timing. 

Cast the whole line? 

A no for most anglers.  The bound and determined will find a way, use the force.

 

 

 

 

 

#9.  (tie) - Carbon Pro River Ridge+  9’#5   $149.99    - 54/60

Carbon Pro River Ridge Plus

buy now

Easily my favorite of all the Carbon Pro rods sent to us, the River Ridge Plus had the best blend of power vs feel, with a much lighter and softer tip than all it’s siblings.  

There isn’t a whole lot of things to complain about with this rod, it’s just that the other rods in the shootout are so good.  Had I never cast one of the top rods I would be perfectly happy fishing the River Ridge Plus.


Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  18 points out of 20

The River Ridge Plus felt smooth and pleasant to cast.  Still it wasn’t overly impressive in terms of accuracy or feel when compared side-by-side with the best rods. It reminds me a bit of the St. Croix Imperial?

Performance at 45 feet:  18 points out of 20

Lighter and smoother than some, this rod really was deserved a better score than is reflected here.  The problem is so many other great rods. 

Performance at 70 feet:  18 points out of 20

Finally a bit tougher for me to control my loops but better than others that often through tailing loops.  Also it feels better than some of the heavier rods in the test.

Cast the whole line? 

Almost…

 

 

#10. - Douglas DXF  9'#5   $349 - 52.5 /60

Douglas DXF

buy now

The DXF is the stiffer brother to the DHF.  Both are good but the DXF is a little faster and better suited as an all-around rod.  Douglas also has a new rod coming out for 2016, but at the time of testing it was still unfinished.  The DXF would be an excellent choice for guides or for anglers on a budget that want to fish dries, nymphs, and a streamer here and there.  

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  17 out of 20  
This rod is quite accurate but I wasn’t getting the smooth feel that other rods like the Scott G2, Tom Morgan, Radian, or NRX LP had. 

Performance at 45 feet:  17.5 out of 20  
Better at this distance and actually a good rod.  There are just too many great rods in the shootout to compare to.

Performance at 70 feet:  18 out of 20  
Now the DXF is feeling more in its element.  I can acheive tight loops and the rod carries a lot of line in the air with its stiffer backbone.  Not bad!

 

 

#11.  - Redington Hydrogen 9’#5   $299.95    -52/60


Redington Hydrogen

buy now

The Redigton Hydrogen is the lightest rod in the test (2.5 ounces), followed by the Sage MOD (2.6), Orvis Helios 2 (2.7), and Scott G2 (2.7). 

Surprisingly it has one of the heavier swing weights in the test.  After casting this rod and comparing it with the best rods it is clear to me that lighter is not always better, especially when the diet comes in the butt section of the rod. 

It would be cool to see a Redington re-do on the Hydrogen’s tip to try to get it a little lighter. Perhaps they could reduce weight buy using less graphite material in the tip or use smaller single foot guides.  I can only imagine how fun it would be to cast a rod that had an overall weight around 2.5 and swing weight around 8.5.

 

Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  17 points out of 20

Feels quite heavy compared to others, despite the fact that it is the lightest rod in the test!  Huh??  Accurate enough but the rods tip’s heavy feel killed it for me in close.

Performance at 45 feet:  17 points out of 20

Again accuracy was there but the tip heavy feel holds it back from being an economical phenomenon.  The Fenwick Aetos, Fenwick HMG, and Base all out performed this rod in terms of feel and accuracy. 

Performance at 70 feet:  18 points out of 20

Now the stiffer tip is playing a better role but the bottom line is there are other rods that throw long better and feel lighter even though they aren’t.  Cutting down the weight in the butt section isn’t always the best move.

 

Cast the whole line? 

Surprisingly Nah!

 

 

 

 

#12.  - Sage MOD 9’#5   $850.00  -  51/60

Sage MOD

buy now

The Sage MOD’s low scores here are not a reflection of it’s performance as much as they are a reflection of my own personal preferences for a trout rod.  I struggled with the MOD’s softer mid-sections, and for me, I was unable to get the high performance results I would expect from an $850.00 rod.  It feels like the mid-secions of the rod are made with 3 or 4-weight mid-sections instead of 5-weight mid-sections.

In the same way that a fiberglass caster would initially hate the Wraith’s plank like feel in close I’m definitely going to have to give my attitude a MOD (modification) before I enjoy fishing with this rod.  Perhaps it should be a lesson to take fishing a little less seriously and just enjoy being out on the water with a softer rod. 

The one thing I will say about the MOD is that at least it's different.  The Sage ONE and Method were so close to the same action that there really wasn’t much reason to buy a Method other than for the color.  The MOD is something new and drastically different from all of the previous high end rods.


Jamie’s Casting Notes with a Scientific Angler MPX WF-5-F line.

Performance at 25 feet:  17 points out of 20

Lighter in hand than the BOLT but with a unique action.  It’s softer than many of the other rods, especially in the mid-sections, but the tip still feels stiffer other rods, making the MOD feel more top heavy. It reminds me of a parabolic glass rod.

Performance at 45 feet:  17 points out of 20

Again, the feedback I’m getting from this rod feels odd.  Perhaps I’m just not used to it and it is an acquired taste.  I suspect glass anglers will dig it more.  It wouldn’t be the best nymph rod as it’s softer (and slower) action would be a disadvantage for setting the hook quickly.  It would make for a nice dry fly rod however, especially for those who appreciate a slower casting stroke.

Performance at 70 feet:  17 points out of 20

Mushy.  The third section (the section above the butt section) seems too soft for a high performance all around 5-weight.  This rod did not perform well at distance, nor could it handle the wind.  Soft is great, but I’d rather fish a rod with a softer tip than softer mid-sections.  Of course this all comes down to personal preference and taste.

Cast the whole line? 

Huh!  Surprisingly YES, (but with little/no accuracy).

 

 

 

 

#13.  -  Redington Vapen 9’#5   $349.95 – 50.5/60

Redington Vapen

buy now

Well, there has to be a last place finisher in every shootout and for me, this year it was the Redington Vapen.  The main issue here is the rod feels much heavier in hand than the best rods.  It has the heaviest swing weight in the test and also felt the most “clubby” to cast, especially in close…

But I fished the Vapen (mostly to see how the grip did once wet – no problems there).  The rod caught fish and I had fun…

Like the Thomas and Thomas Spire and Winston BIII Plus, one nice thing about the Vapen is once you do generate enough power to make a cast at mid and long distances there’s no stopping it!  And the line tracks very well along the spine of the rod.  Accuracy was actually good.  The rod also had good butt section power to bring in fish quickly.

The most interesting thing about the Vapen is the grip.  At first glance it appears to be a gimmick and it definitely takes an open mind and a little time to get used to.  But after casting rods for 8 hours a day, the heal of my hand started to get a bit of a blister and no question the Vapen’s cushiony grip gave me more relief from this discomfort.  I would encourage Far Bank to use some of these grips on one of their Sage rods, perhaps matching the color to the cork to make the transition from traditional to high-tech a little easier on the eyes. 

 

Performance at 25 feet:  16 points out of 20

Hmmm….  This rod feels SO heavy compared to the rest.  I would almost compare it to one of the heavy bats baseball players use to warm up in the batters box for warm up.

Performance at 45 feet:  17 points out of 20

At this distance this rod reminds of late Hardy 9’#8 ProAxis, which was also tip heavy but had a ton of power and tracked very well. The only problem is this one feels like it’s made out of metal instead of graphite.

Performance at 70 feet:  17.5 points out of 20

Does the rod get it there?  Yes.  Is the rod accurate?  Yes.  Do I want to take a couple Advil?  Yes. 

Cast the whole line?   

Absolutely!

 

We hope you have enjoyed reading our 2016 5-weight shootout.  We welcome you to share any comments (positive or negative) about the shootout, simply e-mail us at staff@yellowstoneangler.com and we’ll be happy to reply.  Or, for immediate questions/comments feel to give us a call, 406-222-7130.