Fly Rod Technology Today – Fins and Feathers Bozeman
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Fly Rod Technology Today

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Fly Rod Technology Today

Trying to breakdown the differences between high-end fly rods can be a tedious task for anyone outside the realm of aerospace engineering. As a retailer, we are constantly regurgitating the information manufacturers feed us into practical and meaningful terms for the angler. The biggest advancement in recent years has to do with overall weight reductions in fly rods through the elimination of fiberglass in the rod blank.

Although graphite fly rod blanks have been the standard since the early eighties, most manufacturers continued to use fiberglass in the scrim during production. The scrim is essentially the “backing” of the graphite and is used to give the graphite strength. Sheets of graphite and fiberglass are essentially glued together and cut into smaller sheets called flags, which are then rolled around tapered metal cylinders called mandrels to give a rod blank the overall taper.

Scott Radian , Orvis Helios 2, Sage Fly RodsScott Radian , Orvis Helios 2, Sage Fly Rods

Over the last 10 years, there has been a move away from using fiberglass scrims in favor of different resin formulas to reduce weight and increase the durability of the graphite. The elimination of fiberglass from the scrim results in a more sensitive final product along with a 20% or more weight reduction. This translates into high-performance rods that are easier to cast, as they are more intuitive in the way they load than rods of years past.

Manufacturers, no longer limited by fiberglass in the scrim, have now been able to push the performance boundaries of graphite in rod construction. Most high-end rods today use multiple modulus graphite in their construction, which means that they are using several different types of graphite in a single rod blank. This results in more precise flex locations in the rod, which allows rod manufacturers more control in terms of how a rod loads and stores energy during the casting stroke.

Scott Radian , Orvis Helios 2, Sage Fly RodsOrvis Helios, Sage, Scott Radian Fly Rods

There has never been a more exciting time in fly rod technology in terms of delivering durable, accurate, and lightweight performance. Although the technology is similar between the manufacturers, the proprietary resins, taper designs, and modulus combinations are what determine the differences in the final product. One would think that the rods are all very similar today, but they are actually quite different in how they load, track, and perform in a variety of conditions.

We always recommend casting a few of these rods together to see which ones fit your casting style. Here is a brief overview of some of the leading manufacturers and the technologies used in their high-end rods. Hopefully this helps give some clarity into what makes each of these rod lines unique. A high-end, fast-action rod is not always the best for everyone in terms of budget and practicality, but they really are a “step-up” from mid-priced rods.

Orvis Helios 2 Fly Rods

Orvis has been using thermoplastic resin scrim technology ever since the T3 rods released back in the early 2000’s. With each release of a new rod series, this technology has been tweaked and really came to be appreciated with the Helios rods. Lighter overall weight makes for easy loading, which results in improved casting in close as well as at distance. Orvis’ resin technology is proprietary and encapsulates the graphite fibers for increased overall durability.

Orvis flagship technology can be found exclusively in the Helios 2 line of fly rods. The H2 rods are highly regarded throughout the fly-fishing industry for their ease of casting and durability. We highly recommend them to anyone looking for a lightweight rod that will serve as an all-purpose rod in a given line weight. They fish and cast very well in the 20-50 foot range for anglers of all casting abilities. At longer distances, they still perform very well with a slowing of the casting stroke. (Compare to the Sage One and Scott Radian).

Sage Fly Rods

Sage fly rods that feature Konnectic Technology have proprietary resin technology, multiple modulus graphite, and a unique curing process that results in denser graphite walled rod blanks. Increased hoop strength is achieved by strategic placement of directional graphite fibers along the inner walls. The result is several lines of fly rods (One, Method, Salt & Circa) that are very lightweight, durable and unique actions. Rods with the Konnectic Technology tend to track very true throughout the casting stroke, which ultimately results in more accurate presentations.

• The Method is a very stiff line of rods that have been designed with the experienced caster in mind. This remarkably lightweight line of rods will carry a ton of line and easily generate the fastest of line speeds in a given line weight. This is not a rod for everybody, but one of the best choices out there for fishing at longer distances in the 50-90’ range.

• The Sage One is a fast-action rod that has been designed with anglers of all skill levels in mind. The One loads easily at a variety of distances and is a very accurate casting rod. Both the inexperienced and angler will appreciate how responsive the rod is during the casting stroke. Truly an all-purpose rod, the One is equally at home when fishing dries, streamers, and heavy nymph-rigs. (Compare to the Orvis H2 and Scott Radian)

• The Sage Circa is a modern day throwback to the days of slow, smooth actions typically reserved for the finest dry fly rods. The blanks are noticeably thinner in diameter than even the most experienced angler would expect in smaller line weight rods. The Circa has all the bells and whistles of Sage’s proprietary Konnectic Technology with a classic presentation action.

• The Salt series of rods are new for 2015 and, as the name implies, are oriented towards the saltwater fly-fishing market. This is fast-action series of rods that are designed for the experienced saltwater in mind. The rod’s overall stiffness allows a skilled angler the ability to push heavy lines through big winds at long distances. These are very powerful, lightweight rods that really shine in the harshest of conditions. (Compare to Orvis H2 and Scott Radian)

Scott Radian Fly Rod

Scott introduced the Radian in 2013 as a fast action rod series with unique sensitivity and feel. They have combined a range of proprietary design techniques including new resins formulas, multiple modulus graphite blanks, and larger diameter blanks with very thin walls. The resins create stronger bonds between the graphite fibers, creating very durable blanks. Multiple modulus graphite placement throughout the rod blank enables precise placement of flex points within the blanks. Proprietary ARC reinforcements give the Radian increased hoop strength which in turn makes it possible to use very thin walled blanks with low mass designs. The result of all this technology in the Radian is a fast-action rod series that performs exceptionally well at a wide range of distances. (Compare to Orvis H2 and Sage One)

All three of these rod manufacturers are truly pushing advancements in fly rod designs and we find it difficult to prefer one to the other, as they are all great rods. They are all made in the USA, which is important to us when looking at high-end performance and a premium price-point. Although there are some great fly rods coming out of Asia, the quality control and attention to detail during the manufacturing process does not compare in consistency to that found in the USA based rod shops.
The overriding theme of high-end rods today – in our experience – is that they are all unique in their action and performance. Most anglers will be able to feel the difference between the various manufacturers with preference being determined by casting style and anticipated use. Beyond the technology, all of today’s high-end rods are fitted with premium cork, hardware, and finishes.

Our personal experience in fishing these rods in a variety of situations is intended to help the consumer narrow down the choices to a few models that will work best. We can usually tell which rod will work best for someone once we learn what the primary use of the rod. However, casting experience does make a difference in the decision and we strongly recommend test casting before making your final decision. If you can’t come into the shop, consult with one of our staff over the phone at 1-877-790-530 or e-mail and we will help to make sure that you are getting the best rod for your situation.