Bold New Fly Rods For 2017

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

What a year 2017 will be for fly rod design.

I’m just back from the International Fly Tackle Dealers show in Orlando and honestly still recovering. We will be posting our in-depth video coverage soon, but for now, here’s an overview of the new fly rods coming in 2017.

I initially thought this year’s news would be a single story. Having had the opportunity to fish the new Sage X for the last couple of months, I expected there would be nothing that would come close. The X, which is very impressive, did take the honors for best freshwater fly rod, best saltwater fly rod and best in show but it was in no way a landslide. Rather than being a singularity, the X is simply one of many phenomenal new fly rods coming our way in the next year.

Sage X

Sage X

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. I think the recent advances in fly rod design and materials will be looked back on as a great leap forward, on par with the genesis of graphite. After casting some of the new offerings, I’m even more convinced that’s true.

There are some definite trends, which are consistent across all brands.

Rods are getting lighter. Shockingly light. This trend is driven in part by performance and in part by the market. Personally, I’m not concerned with what a rod weighs, except to the extent which it serves the action. In many of the new designs, however, weight is a big part of rod action. These hotrod sticks will be an interesting challenge for reel designers in coming years. We are reaching the point where balancing a rod and reel is becoming a challenge.

Another obvious, and welcome, trend is that rod actions are becoming more accessible. The X is a great example. Sage has taken advantage of their new super-fast recovering material to make a rod which bends deeper and loads easier than the One, while having a faster action. This hat trick is also immediately evident in the new G Loomis Asquith, which won my heart with the first cast.

The last thing I expected this year was to be wowed by a company which has been all but absent in fly fishing for the last decade. It was a pleasant surprise. The Asquith is truly phenomenal. It’s extremely powerful while very accessible. Forgiving even. It’s light and soft in the hand, by which I mean easy to load and having an extremely smooth transfer of power. I threw the entire line with ease and was shocked to find that the rod I was casting was an 8 weight and not a 6, as I expected.

Screen-Shot-2016-07-26-at-10.16.52-AMThe construction of the rod is something completely new, Which is refreshing in itself. Rather than being constructed of sheets of carbon fiber, the Asquith is formed from graphite tape, rolled around the mandrel on a bias. Two layers of this tape wrap in opposite directions with a single sheet of graphite in-between. This yields a blank with no spine which tracks perfectly straight. The loop unrolls like a laser beam. You feel like a rock star casting this rod.

While the Sage X and the G Loomis Asquith are titans which seem made to battle each other for the top of the market, there are a handful of rods that are equally impressive in one way or another.

Thomas & Thomas has new offerings in both freshwater and salt, which I would be raving about at length in any other year. Scott’s new Flex is is a sweet casting machine that offers top quality construction and components in a mid-priced rod. The Flex, at $450, may be the best bargain in fly rods, especially when compared to the Asquith’s $1000 price tag. Winston’s Air is an elegant offering with a faster action than older Winstons, while keeping their famous progressive feel. Echo has a wall of new rods hitting the market including some really cool specialty rods, like a single hand spey rod with an interchangeable lower grip, and some beautiful saltwater glass rods.

While the rumored Orvis H-3 did not make an appearance this year, the big O is releasing some pretty awesome variations in their existing rod lines. If you read my review of the Helios 2 one piece, you may remember that I said, “I hope Orvis makes this rod in a 5-weight one day.” Well, dreams come true. I have the new one-piece 5 in my hands now and it has quickly become my favorite fly rod. I will be writing a full review at some point but I already feel confident in saying it’s the best H-2 yet. Orvis has also introduced an 11’ 3 weight Recon nymphing rod, which is the lightest in its class and flat black Covet H-2 models in limited quantities, which are sexy as hell.

As encouraging as these hot new rods coming from the heavy hitters are, it’s equally cool to see great new rods from fresh-faced brands like Clutch and Douglas. I cast rods from both companies that I didn’t want to put down. One of my favorite was the 4-weight Upstream from Douglas. I have cast the Sky, their high-end rod, but was shocked how nice the modestly priced Upstream is.

All things considered, 2017 is going to be a very interesting year for fly rods. There are some really quality rods coming downstream at every price point and for every kind of angler. Whatever you may be looking for in a fly rod, the coming year brings something sure to make your mouth water.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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10 thoughts on “Bold New Fly Rods For 2017

  1. Thanks for the reviews, and report on upcoming fly rods. I was wondering why my local fly shop was offering a 25 per cent discount on the recently released Sage X, and the Sage Circa and a few other rods. All are beautiful to cast, but I was equally mesmerized by the prices! Now, I know why. Good to know a few rod makers are still thinking about affordability. That said, I’m intrigued by the Asquith whose construction eliminates the spine.

  2. Great stuff here – good to know what’s coming out!

    I visited the St. Croix factory last week and heard about the award they won with their new SOLE rod.

    Did you get a look at it, and if so, what are your impressions?

      • I only heard about them – we were not offered an opportunity to try them.

        During the tour, they talked about winning the ICAST award for Best of Show for Fly Rod (I think I’ve got that right). Here’s a link, if it’s approproate to post it here:

        Their description got my attention and I had hoped you guys had had a chance to get your hands on one.

        I probably won’t get my hands on one to fish unless I buy one…that’ll be a long time coming.

  3. The Loomis Asquith sounds interesting but after my most recent customer service experience with Loomis (broken IMX), I’ll never buy another rod from them. Our 25 year love affair is over. Plenty of other companies building great rods and honoring generous warranties…we’re a blessed bunch.

    • I second that feeling. The Shimano Customer Service dept. that now handles the customer Service for G.Loomis products is both incompetent and unflexible.

      You can make ever so nice products but if your aftermarket service is so lousy as G.Loomis/Shimano’s is compared to the other high-end fly rod makers, you are not going to make it in the long run!

  4. I am researching a great 8 or 9 wt for my up coming alaska Fishing trip. A lot of great choices. Anyone have any suggestions. Salmon fishing.

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