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Is The "Best All-Around" 5wt Fly Rod A 6wt? (or, Yellowstone Angler's Fly Rod "Shootout" Misses The Target)

Posted by Tom Chandler 1/26/2011 5 minutes

First, congratulations to Hardy, whose 9' 5wt Zenith fly rod won the Yellowstone Angler 5wt Fly Rod Shootout (and by a handy margin).

In recent decades, Hardy was the manufacturer you turned to if you smoked a pipe and spoke like Rex Harrison, but it's interesting to note that they - and the formerly tweed-friendly Orvis - both now offer cutting-edge fly rod technology (they'd suggest "industry-leading" technology), which is proof, I suppose, that you write off the old guys at your own peril (I'm not drawing parallels to the Underground, though you kids should stay the hell off my lawn).

west-yellowstone-planning-guide

Despite the win for an Underground advertiser, I'm compelled to offer a couple comments about the testing, which - despite the language - doesn't appear to be a search for a truly "all-around" 5wt.

Only Speed Demons Need Apply

In fact, a quick glance at the criteria suggests a test that's highly biased towards strong, fast-tapered rods - the kind of rods that are often more useful in daydreams than on small and medium-sized rivers.

For starters, the testing was conducted with an SA GPX line - the "half-line-weight-heavy" line that falls perilously close to 6wt territory, and represents (to me anyway) a sad admission that many modern fly rods are simply too stiff to function at "normal" distances with normal fly lines.

For other signs of what I'd consider a skew towards fast "power" tapers, look no farther than Yellowstone Anglers' own evaluation criteria:

If you're in the market for a good 5-weight rod, we are going to assume that you want one rod that will do it all – a rod that will cast in close with delicacy and accuracy with small drys and fine tippet, a rod that will launch larger drys like hoppers seventy feet into stiff breeze, and a rod that has enough backbone to throw a couple of nymphs, a wind resistant strike indicator and maybe a little split shot as well. It also must have the guts to chuck a streamer with a split shot clamped next to the eye, and put it on that cut bank 80 feet away.

Uhh, casting weighted streamers 80'? Throwing hoppers 70' into a "stiff" breeze? Really??

It's interesting to note that the only two "medium" tapered rods in the test (both by Orvis) finished no higher than the middle of the pack.

And that - to my eye - two of the four critera aren't exactly the native habitat of the 5wt fly rod.

Finally, the use of the GPX line means the "5 Weight Shootout" is actually a "5.5 Weight Shootout."

Merge those realities with repeated uses of marketing power words like "backbone," "guts" and "launch" and I had to wonder why they didn't simply test 6wts - which would actually handle 3/4 of the tasks far more comfortably than a 5wt.

In simple terms, Yellowstone Angler might have actually picked the best "All-Around 5wt" - but only if you were trying to sell overlined fly rods to people fishing big, windy western rivers.

That's not the world faced by most fly fishermen - the vast majority of whom have never actually cast 80', and probably never will.

Still, let's not forget commerce is involved, and that reality always finishes a distant second to fantasy when you're selling people things they probably don't need.

Before The Emails Begin...

Before the nasty emails begin to pour in, let me be clear: the folks at the Yellowstone Angler state their criteria right up front, and I'm not alleging hidden agendas.

What I am saying is this: before you start buying your way down their shootout list (or any Top "XXX" list), consider the criteria, and see if they even remotely match your particular reality.

Being as I live in the mountains of Northern California, my "all-around" 5wt isn't anything like Anderson's.

Mine would cast wonderfully at small stream ranges, yet still throw a Green Drake (or October Caddis) on a medium-sized freestoner like the Upper Sacramento or McCloud. If pressed, I'd say it looks a lot like a medium-tapered 8.5' 5wt that wouldn't necessarily launch every 6" or smaller small stream trout I hooked.

In all likelihood, it would barely lift a weighted streamer, much less cast it 80 feet.

It might even be bamboo or fiberglass, and could have been made upwards of half a century ago - an admission which suggests I don't need to sell modern, high-modulus fly rods to fly fishermen.

In other words, consider the Yellowstone Angler 5wt Fly Rod Shootout a highly subjective test of strong, fast-tapered 5.5 wt rods in situations where you might normally fish a 6 wt, give Hardy their due for their apparent comeback (or simply welcome them back to the party), and let's all move on with our lives.

See you testing anything but fly rods, Tom Chandler.

Read More The Underground Picks the Dozen Best Fly Rods of All Time Period
Destinations
 (1)
A uniquely western mix of quaint and kitsch, West Yellowstone is a gateway to one of three, Montana based, national park entrances. While tourist shops and nature attractions threaten ... moreto distort the town’s true character, serious fly fishers should not be put off. In 2009, Forbes Magazine rated West Yellowstone as one of the top ten fly fishing destinations in America, describing it as the trout epicenter of the world. If that weren’t enough, in 2010, Forbes went on to list Firehole Ranch, located on Hebgen Lake, as the 5th best fly fishing destination in the world, one of only two cited in the US.

Epicenter is in fact an accurate way to describe this town. Top rated trout streams surround West Yellowstone such as the Madison, Gallatin, Yellowstone and Henry’s Fork of the Snake. The Upper Madison, Gibbons and Firehole Rivers are a stone’s throw away. For those partial to float and deep-water fishing, Hebgen Lake, Earthquake Lake, Henry’s Lake and Island Park Reservoir provide a large roster of fishing options. Heartier souls can go ice fishing during winter months while for those inclined to participate, the region hosts several, competitive, ice fishing tournaments. 

Lodging choices are abundant, ranging from rustic campsites to absolute luxury. Year round sports opportunities are available including horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. 
Fishing Waters
 (2)
Scenic, beautiful and rich in history, this northeasterly flowing river is thought to have acquired its name from the Minnetaree Indians whom were struck by the unique, yellow-colored ... moresandstone lining the river’s lower bluffs. Translated by early French trappers as Roche Jaune, {Yellow Rock} the river kept this moniker until Lewis and Clark recorded their translation into Yellow Stone, a name that took hold and remains today. The river may be better known in history as an escape route after General Custer and his 7thCalvary, were soundly defeated by the Lakota Indians at the Battle of Bighorn. The few remaining survivors were ferried down the Yellowstone to Fort Abraham Lincoln along the Missouri River.

Today, the awe-inspiring river is closely associated with the Wyoming based Yellowstone National Park and the other great recreational fishing rivers that cluster within the southwestern corner of Montana. The Yellowstone itself is officially classed as a Blue Ribbon stream in Montana, from the Park to its confluence with the Boulder River east of Livingston and from the Rosebud Creek to the North Dakota border, and is the longest undammed river in the lower 48. The absence of dams along the river results in favorable habitat for trout from high inside the Park, downstream to Gardiner, the Paradise Valley, Livingston and to Big Timber, a length of nearly 200 miles.

Many consider the area around Paradise Valley to be the most favorable in Montana, especially near Livingston. Here you can expect to lure brown trout, rainbow trout and native yellowstone cutthroat trout as well as rocky mountain whitefish. Further along, from Billings to the North Dakota border, burbot, channel catfish, paddlefish, sauger, smallmouth bass, walleye and the occasional pallid sturgeon can be found. The section of the river from Mallard’s Rest to Carter’s Bridge is known both for its magnificent scenery and abundant fishing. Here you will find yourself in the midst of snow-capped mountains, the Absaroka to the east and the Gallatin to the west, and a landscape dotted with elk, fox and other wildlife. You’ll also discover meandering streams and creeks that flow into the Yellowstone. Many, such as the DePuy Spring Creek, are highly ranked, and like the main river, are full of rainbow and brown trout.
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Maclean’s famous story, A River Runs Through It, is set on the now famous Blackfoot River. Despite this, Robert Redford’s 1992 movie version was largely filmed on the Gallatin as he ... morefelt the scenery and fishing were more cinematic. The river originates high in the mountains of the Gallatin Range inside Yellowstone National Park and flows for 115 miles until it intersects with the beginning of the Missouri River at Three Forks. Inside the Park, where it runs for more than 25 miles, floating is not allowed and there are restrictions on fishing. Once it exits the park, it crosses a forty-mile expanse of mostly public lands, and runs parallel to a highway that makes it quite accessible. Because the river is narrow for much of its run, float fishing is restricted from Yellowstone Park to the confluence with the East Gallatin River. No wonder this river has a great reputation for wade fishing!

Unimpeded by dams, the river provides consistent, easily waded flows from mid-summer through mid-spring. Rainbows predominate with an estimated 1400, 8+ inch, fish per mile from the West Fork confluence at Big Sky to the mouth of the canyon. Browns are abundant accompanied by occasional cutthroats, brook trout, white fish and graylings. New to the lower most band of the river are northern pike. Never known for trophy trout, the river offers excellent dry fly fishing and beautiful surroundings. Since the fish are recognized as indiscriminate eaters, the Gallatin has come to be known as an excellent river for those learning to fly fish.

Like much of Montana, the River played a significant role in the state’s history. First explored by Native American hunters, by the early 1900’s, the area eventually became known to fur-trappers and gold prospectors. By the turn of the twentieth century logging rose in importance to the local economy as loggers famously rode the logs down river to prevent them from jamming. The towns of Bozeman and Three Forks are most closely associated with the River although given the importance of Maclean’s legacy, Livingston should also be considered as part of its history and heritage.
Game Fish Opportunities:
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If fly wranglers were gossips, the “Blue Ribbon” Madison River would likely be their primary object of attention. Arguably it’s the most talked over, written up and ... morefrequented river in the entire state of Montana – and that’s saying something. What’s more, no one has anything bad to say about it and that’s for a good reason. There’s nothing bad to say. Its scenic journey begins in Yellowstone National Park at the convergence of the Gibbon and Firehole rivers and continues for 19 miles through parkland. Within the Park, fishing rules apply: no live bait and sorry to disappoint, but it’s catch and release only. Once outside the Park the river meanders past working ranches, stately conifer forests and cottonwood lined banks, interrupted by riffles and quiet runs that contain large rainbow and trophy brown trout. Flowing alongside Yellowstone’s West entrance road, the river enters the Hebgen Lake, created by Hebgen dam, until it reaches Quake Lake, a bit downstream from the dam. At this point the river is commonly called either the Upper Madison or the Lower Madison, although in fact, they are one and the same.

Upper Madison – Quake Lake to Ennis Lake
Directly below Quake Lake the river roars into 5 long miles of Class V whitewater with steep gradients and large boulders along the way. As the rapids decline, the magic begins. For the next 53 miles, often referred to as the 50 Mile Riffle, the cold river runs north and the fish jump high. Annual runs of spawning trout make their way from Hebgen Lake, rainbows in the spring and browns in the fall. Known the world over for its “hard fighting” trout, it’s not unusual to pull a 25” brown from these upper waters. In deference to the purists and fly-fishing enthusiasts, it’s wading only from Quake Lake to Lyons Bridge. Boats may be used to access the river, but if you’re going to fish, your feet must be on the riverbed. Fortunately, the Hegman releases water throughout the year, leveling its flows and relieving it of spring runoff issues and summer shrinkage.

Lower Madison – Ennis Lakes to Three Forks
A short section of the river between Ennis Dam and the power station maintain relatively low water levels and provide wonderful opportunities for wading. Past the power station the river regains its muscle and for 7 miles winds through Bear Trap Canyon. Hiking trails offer the only entry, great for those that like to walk and seek the solitude of a designated wilderness area. Floating is permitted but requires a lengthy shuttle and the ability to work through Class III-IV whitewater. Once out of the canyon the river flows in shallow riffles until it reaches Three Forks and joins the Missouri. From Warm Springs to Greycliff, the river is easily accessible for drifters and wading.
Trips
$
495
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
1 day
The Gallatin River is one of the closest, in proximity to Bozeman. As it makes its course from Yellowstone National Park to the Headwaters of the Missouri River, the Gallatin River ... moreflows through a diverse topography. High mountain meadows near Yellowstone Park, robust pocket water through the Gallatin Canyon, and the wide open spaces of the Gallatin Valley offer three distinct environments in which to fish and explore this fine river. Since it is smaller than many of our other rivers, the Gallatin offers a good opportunity for fishing on foot. Consistent hatches of caddis, mayflies and stoneflies throughout the season make the Gallatin an easy choice on any day.
$
550
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 2 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
1 day
Join us on the Yellowstone for a great day of fishing. With over 20 years experience floating the Yellowstone, Water's Edge Outfitting knows every riffle and pocket of water to help ... moretailor your trip to meet your expecations and skill level. Whether a first time angler or and expert, we will help you create great moments for a lifetime of memories.
$
1,625
-
$
1,925
/ Boat
Capacity:
1 - 3 anglers
Days:
Daily
Duration:
5 days
 (1)
Experience the Madison River Like Never Before Learn the best spots on the Madison River with 5 great fishing days with Red Mountain Adventures. Eric Shores, with over 35 years of ... moreexperiencing guiding on the Madison River will take you down a journey of the best places to fish.

The journey starts on the Upper Madison River on a guided float trip covering about 8-11 miles of premier fly fishing water. The following day includes a recipe (location flies, and technique) on a do it yourself wade location near the fly fishing town of Ennis. The third day moves you on to where the Madison River dumps into Ennis Lake for a full float day stalking the giants. The following day provides instructions again for a do it yourself wade day. Location will depend on the hot locations during your visit. The final day is another full day float day on the lower Madison River. All together, you will experience the Madison River like never before by true expert.

Note: The order or location may change based on where the best spots are at the time.
Outfitters
Welcome to Zach Neville Outfitters. With over 10 years experience, we are one of Bozeman, Montana's premiere fly fishing guide services. We offer float and walk/wade fly fishing trips ... moreon southwest Montana's finest trout waters. Here in Bozeman we are centrally located among The Yellowstone, Madison, Gallatin, Missouri and Bighorn rivers. In addition to this, we have access to some of the best private water in the region. At Zach Neville Outfitters it is our mission to provide you with a fun, safe and educational day on the water regardless of your background or level of experience.

AuthorPicture

Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

53 comments
It is true that it is hard to be "pro" in a none competitive, contemplative sport where no score is kept and no one makes much money. I don't know about rod manufacturers "pushing" rods of any action other than the ones they believe in. There are several slow, deep flexing rods on the market from Winston, Orvis "Superfine" and even Sage has Circa. There are very few truly fast rods, perhaps Sage's ... more Method qualifies but many medium fast rods which are appropriately most popular, Scott's new Radian is a good example. I am puzzled though by the predominant perception that "personal preference" is the ultimate ruler. Ultimately we will all fish with what we are most comfortable with and here comes the "pro" thing...if we fail to experiment and strive to understand what the top rod designers are developing then we are moribund and will fail to evolve and learn. If you were shopping for a new motor vehicle, which is more relevant; what you neighbor says or what track-trained "pros" write in analytic comparison test in specialty car magazines. Advances in fly rod material and fabrication technology are real and provide designers with new opportunities. It is great that Anderson exposes some of these improvements from within his stated set of biases but go to an FFF Casting Rendezvous and see what these exceptionally skilled casters are doing with new rod designs that they understand far better than many a casual angler or even most single destination guide/outfitters. There are genuine advantages to your angling imbedded in some of the new and unfamiliar, lightweight, low mass, quick recovering fly rods. One may experience a learning curve getting accustomed to one of them but there are gentler and more articulate dry fly presentations available through some of the best new rods.
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I kind of like the shootouts for entertainment purposes because it is cool to read perspectives on new products. Let's face it...we all like new toys...I have been fly fishing for half a century and have seen many fads come and go. First off...can there really be a "pro" when it comes to a sport like fishing? I've been a guide for 25 years and I still don't feel like a professional fisherman...The ... more industry has promoted fast rods as "for advanced casters" and slow rods "for beginners". This is a misconception because many experienced guides use slower action rods and enjoy the sport of fly fishing instead of casting. You can ask Joan Wulff if you have questions. Try one of her personal rods sometime and you'll find they are slow while you're seeing all the line fly out the tip... Anyone who has been around for awhile knows rod choice is about personal preference. Just my 2 cents. Go and cast all the rods you can before you make a choice on a fly rod. Also check out customer service of all the companies. Call them and check out their attitude before you plop down your hard earned the green for rod...
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I'm a lifelong very avid fisherman, but I've only gotten into fly fishing in the past 6 months. It's an intimidating area of sport to break into, for reasons I'm sure I don't need to explain. I think the Yellowstone Angler shootouts are simply great. Based mainly on their reviews, I bought my 5 wt St Croix Legend Elite (which I loooove), my 8 weight TFO BVK (which I loooove) and even my Simms G3 waders ... more (which I loooove). I also bought a 6 wt Sage Approach, simply because I happened on a really great deal, and "other" sites and individuals gave it good reviews. Guess what? I don't love it. Hmm. Their shootouts have been invaluable to me as a beginning fly angler when it comes to making smart choices with my money. They've let me make big purchases with confidence. Any of you who are concerned with the shrinking participation in this sport should be extremely thankful that a resource like this is available to help guide and inspire guys like me.
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I appreciated the YA shootout,I may never have heard of a Hardy Zenith otherwise.,I got lucky when a friend didn't like his and sold it to me at well under retail.I already owned a BVK 5# which I really like as well. so the bottom line is I have a great allround rod and a very good backup both due in large part to YA shootout.,And yes I did cast both before buying.
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I appreciate the work that YA does in there shootouts. I don't take it as gospel n roll use their recommendations and go try those rods. in the shootout they tried two different lines a truck paper in the GPX. whichever rod preferred which line that's the line I used. They made many references to the short capabilities of all the rods. I just purchased a hearty Zenith 5Wtbased on the shootout but ... more not without first casting this rod both short and long distances. I think the Hardy suits my type of fishing very well. it does not do everything great but it does a lot of things very very well.
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It may well be the case for many anglers that casts under 50 feet comprise the vast majority of their fly fishing. As I mentioned above, I tend to fish larger rivers, sometimes from a drift boat and always with a dry fly. I routinely make as many long cast as short ones and it is imperative to me that my rod be capable and effortlessly enjoyable while doing both with feeling and accuracy. It is true ... more what the recent remarks above have commented upon and Anderson concurs that the Hardy Zenith is remarkable. Light and sensitive yet amazingly powerful it really does it all. Tom, this is your blog and you may like rods that are slower in action than the medium fast Zenith but If anyone fishes a deeper flexing rod then switches to the like-sized Zenith they may well be surprised by the intuitive ease with which these rods generate tight smooth loops and supreme accuracy while simultaneously feeling sweet and lively. Oh, and Anderson does live on the Yellowstone River, not the smallest of the Missouri's tributaries.
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Apart from a couple of 7 - to - 8 foot split cane rods for my tweedier, more reflective moments on headwater streams, I've become very fond of my Powell 4wt for most fishing here in New Zealand's South,and a Hardy 5wt Smuggler for exploring.The Smug's lovely, but it comes apart inconveniently when I'm playing good fish. So a while ago I bought a Hardy prototype - they make a lot of rods just to try ... more out different things, and then sell them, unbranded, through their works shop at Alnwick. This one's 9ft, marked 4wt, 4pce with a refined sort of overslide joint instead of their usual spigots.It's very, very light, and very, very stiff with a 4wt line. A pole. Then I tried a 5wt line, and it came to life. It did tricks. It's an astonishing rod. You simply forget about it - the fly goes where you want it to go. You just get on with the fishing. Nice,that. Once, rods didn't bother to tell you what line weight to use. You were expected to engage in a dialogue with the rod, the line, your personal style of casting, and the weather. And you'd find out what the rod did, and did it with, and whether or not it was actually what you want. Different horses for different courses. And riders. And the prototype? It became the Hardy Zenith.
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I find it interesting to read everyone bashing the YS shoot out criteria and commenting on the 70' and 80' cast when if your read the comments by the casters in the shootout they reference short, medium and longer distance casts. My thoughts are prior to posting your comments you actually go to your local fly shop and actually try casting these rods and see if your thoughts line up with the gentleman ... more who have eveluated these rods. I understand and also believe that most fly fishing takes place inside of 40 feet,and in many cases inside of 20 feet so I was sceptical about the shootout results but if you take it upon yourself to cast some of these newer rods like those offered by Hardy you may surprise your self. For what its worth I primarily fish small creeks and love my bamboo but am opposed to some of the "old timers, or wanna be old timers" bashing without actually testing. Take the time to get out there and cast a few rods, what do you have to lose, a few hours that you would have wasted sitting around groaning about the workd, who knows if you keep an open mind may actually find some very interesting rods out there.
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Hi Tom. You really hit the nail on the head here. We Fly Anglers have to listen to a lot of nonsense from rod makers telling us we really need the latest model of rod x because it has the latest material used on an F22 fighter.. I for one never had a dogfight on the river bank. I have a Sage Launch 9 foot 7 weight that works best with my 5 weight windcutter 2 trout line. WHY? Because when I have the ... more full head outside the rod tip I am casting 190 grains of line, and a 7 weight is 180 grains give or take a bit. So find a line that suits your fishing best THEN go to a shop and try it on a few different rods OF DIFFERENT LINE RATINGS. You will be very surprised. Patrick
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Interesting comments. A friend and I were wanting to get new 4 wt's and used the YS shootout as a yard stick. What it did do is provide food for thought and sent us from retailer to retailer testing 4wt's and relating back to the shootout. In the end we both bought the Hardy and I certainly am very happy with the purchase. My XP remains my nymphing rod and the Hardy my dry fly stick. My appreciation ... more to all involved in the shoot out for getting us thinking rather than just buying whatever the local dealer tells us to. I never believed you could have presentation and distance in the same stick but have to say that I believe the Hardy does both.
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jstan: How about a test of medium to medium-fast rods cast to 50 feet or less (real trout-fishing distances)?Hopefully there are still enough such rods available for a thorough test. Like you, I call that real life, more or less.
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How about a test of medium to medium-fast rods cast to 50 feet or less (real trout-fishing distances)? Hopefully there are still enough such rods available for a thorough test.
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The main text of the shootout(s) feature George Anderson's opinion, but the other testers are given a chance to offer their two cents. In the latest shootout, James Anderson said he'd rather walk 40 feet closer instead of casting 70 feet. The rods are tested at 25 feet as well, and those that don't do well in that close (if you consider that "close), did not finish well. The top finishers did well ... more at 25 feet and further. I own a 590 Z-Axis, and it easily and accurately casts 10 feet of line with a 9' 4x leader. My preference for smaller fish and delicate presentation is a Sage ZXL 4wt. I also use GPX and SA's Trout line. The Trout line is used for drys cast to spooky trout (it just lands so nicely), and the GPX seems to carry hoppers to weighted nymphs with ease. This gear is all very good, but do try it for yourself....
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[...] Re: New Yellowstone Angler 5wt Shootout I thought that I would put a link to another perspective to the shootout here also. Is The “Best All-Around” 5wt Fly Rod A 6wt? (or, Yellowstone Angler’s Fly Rod &#82... [...]
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[...] Re: winston B2mx and Sage Zaxis Here is another perspective on the famous 5wt shoot out Is The “Best All-Around” 5wt Fly Rod A 6wt? (or, Yellowstone Angler’s Fly Rod &#82... [...]
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Or perhaps you may want want to retitle yours as The Dozen Best Historical Fly Rods of All Time. The fly rod is just a tool regardless of price or material, and is only as good as the angler who uses it.Leaving tomorrow to the Arolik river, Alaska, back on July 25.
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Tom2Cast: Not sure how YS Anglers 5wt shootout differs from TU's 12 best fly rods of all time? That suggests you didn't read them since one was a tongue-in-cheek look at historic fly rods, the other was a flawed attempt to sell fast-action 5wts that most angler's don't need...
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Not sure how YS Anglers 5wt shootout differs from TU's 12 best fly rods of all time? I once watched Lefty Kreh grab a 5wt TFO off the rack, which still had the plastic wrap on the cork and put out a tight loop into the backing. After his demo, someone asked him what's his favorite fly rod? Lefty replied, "The one I happen to be fishing with at the time."I've been casting everyday for the last 7 years, ... more and learned skill has more value than any fly rod. My favorite fly rod? Sage Launch 9' 5wt 4pc, can do everything all the top 5wts can do, plus it doesn't getting beat up.
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Uhh, I believe I just *did* offer an educated opinion on rod comparisons, my opinion being this one's kinda silly for most fly fishermen.
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Wow. A month later ? Really ? Way to stay on topic, bud. Really on point.
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Sounds like the view is pretty good from the cheap seats. Why don't you sack up and do your own shootout. That way you could give an educated opinion on rod comparison.
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It's hard to imagine me convincing anybody to do anything (Exhibit One: the L&T and Meski never do anything I ask), but good luck.Fish what you like.
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Thank you for convincing me to trade in my fast 5-weight for an old Scott! Fishing for trout in the Northeast never requires me to cast more than 60 feet (in fact it's usually impossible).
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I understand that Mr. Anderson is a really great caster, so some of the things he might find nice in a rod are going to useless for m0st of the rest of us. I'd say that for me to cast a weighted streamer or multiple beadheads to any distance approaching those in the testing I'd need at least a 7 weight rod. But likely I'd ask the guide to get the boat closer to the target instead, so that the fishing ... more would be fun instead of hard work. By the way, I've noticed that 5 or even 4 weight rods are nowadays being suggested as all-around rods; whereas I remember getting my first 5 weight and being very pleased to have acquired this real lightweight outfit that allowed me to be so much more delicate than I had been able to be before. I still maintain that the right rod should be used for the task at hand instead of trying to make a light rod do the work that a heavier one would do with more grace and ease.
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Fly rod comparo-tests are as silly as comparo-tests of neckties or guitars. A knowledgeable person might point out that one rod has better wrappings, or reel seat hardware, or varnish (if it's cane); and at a given price point, those are worth pointing out. All the modern rods are well made enough that any of us should be so luck as to wear any part on one out. A review might point out that X is better ... more than Y at heaving steelhead lines, or that Z is a great drift-boat rod; beyond that it is more a matter of an anglers' taste and their getting used to casting a particular design. And rubber soled boots still suck, if anyone's interested. After a week in Argentina, I can report that the Korkers Chrome are neat boots (but they stay wet a long time); and their non-studded soles are as useless as the Simms ice-skates.
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I applaud George Anderson's "Shootouts". I don't necessarily agree with his findings, line choice or all his stated criteria, but he states quite clearly what his criteria are. Perhaps he hopes to generate some sales through these tests - that's OK too. I think he said and if he didn't we all know, that his chosen group of rods are not optimized for small stream angling. As an Easterner who fishes ... more big rivers and small streams both East and West, I, like most of us, own an array of rods from #4 to #12, from 7 1/2' to 10' (single handed). But to find a trout rod that is optimal for fishing dry flies in close with sensitivity and lots of communication but also affords control and feel at distance is a rare thing. If one fishes the Upper Delaware watershed in the East as I do and the Henry's Fork and Missouri in the West, a rod like those Anderson tested would be a great thing to fish. I actually own one of the top rated models (Sage Z-Axis #5) and it is a terrific rod. I fish it with a #5 not a 5.5 line and it is perfectly loaded and very sensative - not stiff or cluby at all. Flaws? Yes, the guides, though great for casting smoothly and with minimal line slap, are on the small side for freely feeding slack into the drift in a big water downstream presentation. I cast the Hardy Zenith and the also new NRX at the Somerset Fly Fishing Show last weekend and they are very different rods. The NRX is, as you remarked, is like a #6 and if throwing weighted flies is your thing, could be a great choice. The Zenith is a charmer, no doubt about it and, I was told will become available in a broad range of lengths and line sizes to suit many specialized angling applications. Do I need a new rod? Do I need yet anther bottle of Malt Whisky, or polarized sunglasses in another shade, or, for that matter, a trip to a Bahamian bonefish flat to escape the weekly snow storms of this North East winter...debatable, but I WANT all these things ($ not withstanding). Also, if I am going to buy a new rod, I am going to show up at a shop with several of my potential brands is stock with my own reels and lines to test cast with. If a rod needs to be over-lined to perform properly it is unlikely to wind up in my duffle.
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I rather liked the warm weather hat review. I would humbly submit the "leafy-flage" boony as a goofy, but effective, variation (Combined with a ghillie suit).
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Thanx for the review of the review. I got a little weary reading the "shootout", very few anglers I know spend that much time reading about rods, much less casting that many rods. What you said about home waters is spot on. I was talked out of buying an "all around 5wt" because of my home waters. The people I talked to suggested that I buy a rod for the water I fish not the water I dream of fishing. ... more It was also pointed out to me that if you do go to fly fishing meccas out west or elsewhere you can usually rent a rod. I wound up buying a 6wt for my travels and fishing my St. Croix avid 8' 5wt on my home waters. Thanx again Tom, postings like this are why I read your blog.
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Here's my take on the shootout and your assessment. You didn't mention the Thomas & Thomas rod (last place) only the two medium action Orvis rods were mentioned. Just wanted to point out that there were three rods in the test with slower actions, and they did mention that they would "shootout" bargain rods in the future as well as medium action rods. Personally, I find the shootouts extremely ... more useful. Based on their last shootout and their objective opinions I purchased an Albright and a G2 from Scott, even though neither rod won (both were middle of the pack). Based on their notes I was able to see which rod fit my style/location the best. Both rods were exactly like they described, and I think the guys at Yellowstone Angler have done all of us a good service, unless you just look at adjectives and then write off the entire test as a marketing ploy (not that you did this, per se, but other respondents seem to feel that your tone suggested a marketing strategy as opposed to an objective test). Also, there were four testers, all of them were generous enough to share their opinions, and I believe with four testers and each with their own rankings of the rods you can get a very good idea of which rods perform in which situations. They all love the Z-Axis, for example, and that rod totally rocks for exactly the reasons they mentioned. In contrast, one of the testers actually liked the Thomas & Thomas rod and did so for all the right reasons, his reasons. For what it's worth, I love your site and think your writing is inspired, but I would disagree with the tone of this particular post and some of the "facts" you presented; which I believe are unnecessarily condemning of what I think was a fair test/shootout within the criteria they established; use their chart of performance at a specific range, cost, weight, swing weight, as well as warranty information and see which rods scored a 10. If that is your sweet spot range for casting distance, price, warranty, weight, etc then you have an idea of what rod to look at. Sure, there had to be winners and losers, but the real winners were the consumers/us. They've done all the research for us and taken out a vast majority of the hyperbole. For example, check out what Orvis says about the Access rods and then compare it to the Yellowstone Angler comments. I hear your point, however, about 5.5 wt rods and GPX line, but love it or leave it in today's fly fishing industry...that's the trend. Thankfully, there are still quite a few manufacturers that still build legit 5 wt rods. For what it's worth, I cast/fish the G2 and Albright I purchased, post shootout, with RIO Gold and they perform at the same standard as reported in the very first 5 wt shootout. Thanks for the great work. I look forward to more of your thought provoking and well written posts. Sincerely, a.
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The Hydros is every bit as sexy as the Helios and is -$300. Just say'n.
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Perhaps the best test, if it could be done, would be to give the various rods to testers, maybe even real people rather than guides, HA! Bravo, Craig. You've hit on something here. That's a test I would read.
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If there's much doubt about where the industry's headed, consider this: the Orvis fly fishing catalog features its new affordable Access rods right at the front of the catalog - not the big dollar Helios.
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About 10 years ago the company that I worked for hired Andy Burk to guide some customers around the Truckee and during the afternoon to give them casting lessons. Andy summed it up best stating that no one can possibly get all the performace out of a modern fly rod regardless of the price. I thought it was good to see rods in the $200 range perfroming well with rods over three times the cost.
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Attempts at objective tests of such subjective technology are nuts, but I guess they generate interest, as proven by the interest shown here and elsewhere. Maybe if you keep flyfishermen thinking about tackle, by whatever means, they are more likely to keep buying the stuff. In that respect, perhaps the entire activity was designed to be provocative, rather than meaningful. Well . . . nah. Anyhow, ... more the test protocol is designed, either purposefully or by default, to favor fast-action rods. Perhaps the best test, if it could be done, would be to give the various rods to testers, maybe even real people rather than guides, who then would be told to spend a few days fishing different streams - - some small pocket water with dries, a meadow stream with dries and nymphs, and a real brawler with weighted scuplins and stonefly nymphs. Then the assessment would at least be based on best rod for certain defined situations. Shoot, I'd read about it.
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I exchange some e-mail with George having read their article. Like you Tom I pointed at nonsense of comparing mid-flex Orvis rods with other fast action rods in the test. George replied that Orvis insisted to test mid-flex as the easier to cast rods for beginners. Pity, he didn't stated that in the article. The power of fast and slow action rods differs by default. Even though you focus on showing ... more how versatile all the rods are, still, medium and slow action rods are meant to provide greatest performance at short and medium distances, while fast action rods (in fact these that top the final result board of your shoot out) are expected to provide best performance at medium and long distances. I've never cast or heard of a medium-action rod that would performed well on longest distances while there are some fast action rods that perform well through the whole range of distances.
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I would suspect that the rise of the beadhead nymph has as much to do with these faster and stiffer tapers as anything else. An online friend and bamboo freak from New York described his first guided drift boat trip in the west; the guide knotted on a double-bead head (and weighted) stonefly, added a sizable beadhead, three big split shot and a diaper-sized indicator. Fishing his favorite bamboo rod, ... more he said his first cast never even got the rig out of the water...
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You nailed it Tom. The criteria are pretty skued toward gonzo marketing BS rather than fishing use. It amazes me that the uniformly horrible ultra fast stuff continues to be popular. The do cast better for the unskilled than a rod with action and certainly can be made to toss impressive amounts of line in a fly shop parking lot by almost anybody with a pulse but they're of little to no utility on ... more trout waters. Most of my medium to big water general trout rods are 6wts preferably with plenty of tip in case BWO or Tricos and 7x are on the menu....... The good news is as you've pointed out more than once Bamboo and Glass are making something of a comeback....there is hope for us yet
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I would suspect that the rise of the beadhead nymph has as much to do with these faster and stiffer tapers as anything else. Trout fishermen are throwing shot and tungsten tipped nymphs - and all that extra weight feels "more in control" (I hesitate to say good) with a stiffer rod. From casual eyeballing other's boxes, and what shops are stocking, it would not surprise me to see 60-70% of the nymphs ... more with beads.
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I've never had to cast 80' on a trout river. Hell, most of the rivers I fish are pretty far from 80' wide. From the folks I've talked to and my own limited experience, almost no one needs to cast 80' even flats fishing... more like 50' and usually more like 40'. Still... an ideal rod for the Upper Sac for me certainly would not be a 8.5 rod made of something other than graphite... but we probably ... more fish different water and different styles, which gets me to thinking that the "ideal" rod has a lot more variables than even what part of the country you are fishing. Even in a smalls stream I like a 9 foot rod so I can dap dries ahead of me. It is all so subjective... which is good... it gives us a lot to argue about, hopefully over a pint of nut brown ale.
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Uh, OK. Pretty sure I was agreeing with you. If you read my earlier comment you'll see we feel the same way. Most rod shootouts are stupid. Thanks
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Well L, since I do fish flats, saltwater, big water, and every place else you have to fish long, I am quite capable of casting an entire flyline any time I NEED to. In fact I spend more time fishing long in those environs than 5 WT land. But I can honestly say, in all my fishing with my 5 WT, I rarely have to fish 80' casts. If that's an important benchmark for a 5 WT evaluation, it's seriously wrong. ... more And that is one of the many reasons this shootout is BS.
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Faced with this much useless information (not from you but from the shootout) Thanks for the clarification. I was pretty sure I just nailed that warmweather hat review...
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I also usually fish a 6wt On my recent Montana trips to anything but small water, I found myself routinely fishing the 6wt (amusing 6wt post coming soon), and never once did I sigh and think "If only it was a bit more delicate." I'm reminded of a talk with a Lower Sacramento River guide, who rolled his eyes when his clients - advised to bring a strong rod to handle th big fish and strong currents ... more - insisted on fishing their 3wt. Sure, it may be a "standard" trout rod in some parts of the world, but...
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but, in the end, you need to cast it before you buy it. Very true, though even more so with "fast" rods than their slower counterparts.
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Being able to cast a long ways accurately is fun and has it's applications (flats fishing, BIG water etc.). Most trout-y folks, once they get over the distance envy, make it a game to get as close to the trout as possible. For me, getting close is as indicative of skill as any casting acumen.
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Glad to see the TU'ers not falling for George's marketing BS. And BS is about what I think of his shootout. Quite funny that the previous "winner" was a rod that was not widely carried by most fly shops (but of course his does) and this years "winner" fits the same category. Amazing how that works isn't it! C'mon 80' with a 5 WT on a trout stream??? Gimme a break, I rarely have to go 80' with an 8 ... more WT on a steelhead river. What hubris!
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It is, indeed, amazing what rod manufacturers are doing to increase power and speed, and there's clearly an audience for it. At the International Sportsmans Expo in Denver a few weeks back, I was amazed at the number of attendees who were more interested in trying to cast over the divider at the far end of the casting pond than they were about a rod's accuracy or it's feel. If I never see a master ... more double-hauler stroking his own ego again, it'll be too soon. Good stuff, Tom. Thanks.
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Hear hear Tom. Couldn't agree with you more. Keep up the good work! Cheers, Rudy
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I really hate "shootouts". They almost always suck and this one is no exception. Faced with this much useless information (not from you but from the shootout), I would conclude I don't need a new 5 wt after all; I need to save my money. But, If money were no object (and it is!) and I wanted a new 5wt I'd get the Scott S4 904 (yes a 4 wt.) or a some variation on the G2. My Point? Go cast some rods ... more at your local fly shop and buy the one you like best regardless of the name. As a side note: I'm stunned at the praise heaped onto the loomis NRX. Every NRX I've held is plagued with craftsmanship issues: Loose wraps, poorly aligned guides, and bubbles in the epoxy at every guide and they cast like a broomstick. 17 years in the making? they've been designing it since I was about 21. I wonder how old I was when they passed the point of diminishing returns. Sorry Loomis, I do like your surf rods a lot. Thank you.
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Tom, I think you are missing the point. You can still cast 80' in a small stream. You just have to stand in the middle and send it up or downstream. Just kidding. You are correct in your assessment. The best-all-around 5wt for wide open and windy rivers in Montana is going to be a different best-all-around 5wt than what is preferred on your home waters. I also usually fish a 6wt.
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I noted some of the same details, and assumed like cars, they're no longer making rods for Old Farts ... I've done streamers and splitshot, a pair of nymphs and an indicator, and slinging hoppers with great force at undercut banks, but most were 30-40 feet away. Only a damn fool or Steve Rajeff slings a streamer and split shot 80 feet consistently. It's all that "power marketing action word bullshit" ... more - where the fellow has to sound like he's squinting menacingly under his curly brim levering .44 shells into a wheelgun ...
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Thanks, Tom, for a terrific "framing" of the assessment. The test provides some great information, but, in the end, you need to cast it before you buy it. Well done.
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