Best Fly Rods '08

G.Loomis EastFork FR1084-4 An aggressive, fast/stiff taper pegs this 9-foot rod's line-speed capabilities right between Loomis' super-quick Max GLX and medium-fast Streamdance models. Its profile is quite slim. The reel seat's locknut has raised lobes for easy handling in bad weather, and the seat itself is bronze (to match the finish of the Loomis EastFork reel) and has a cutout with a burl-cork insert branded with the skeleton fish logo. The blank's finish is a rich, satin cabernet color. The rod gives the performance and quality of some rods costing up to $200 more. Price: $410 Contact: gloomis.com Testers' comments: Most accurate rod of the lot. Lovely finish, as you'd expect. Fast but controllable. Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price/Value: Very Good Watch the videos HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Orvis ZG Helios 865-4 This 8 1/2-footer has a steep taper that's powerful and progressive (it doesn't feel stiff at all), and it's as much a pleasure to cast at 20 feet as it is at greater distances. Blanks in this new series are 30 percent lighter than Orvis' already feather-like Zero Gravity rods. Thermoplastic resins- instead of epoxy resins- allow construction with fewer graphite fibers yet no loss of strength. The graphite (rather than fiberglass) scrim also means less material for the same strength. Newly designed guides and components reduce weight even further. Price: $755 Contact: orvis.com Testers' comments: Versatile. Very light. Great tippet protection. Turns flies over like a piece of cake. Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price/Value: Very Good Watch the videos HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Sage ZXL586-4 Another 8 1/2-footer, this rod's moderate action makes for a relaxed casting tempo. It has superb line-control qualities as it loads farther toward the grip in a continuing and smooth power progression. The rod is uniquely accurate and sensitive at short to middle ranges. The performance harks back to classic-trout-fishing style on off-the-beaten-path waters. In essence, you get a traditional trout rod feel with state-of-the-art graphite. Rods in this series include models in weights 3 through 6. None are longer than 9 feet. Price: $670 Contact: sageflyfish.com Testers' comments: Dynamite rod for smaller rivers. Great on curve casts. A super dry-fly rod. Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price/Value: Very Good Watch the videos HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor
L.L. Bean Double L Classic Here's a rod that will forgive the occasional casting flaw. It blends traditional design with modern materials for strength and sensitivity. The action is smooth and medium-fast. There's power to punch out longer casts with proper timing, but the rod is precise and can land flies with the delicacy of a dropped feather. Models in this series range from 3- to 9-weight and come in four- and two-piece configurations and different lengths. The reel seat is anodized and features a hardwood spacer. Each blank section is marked with the proper line weight to avoid mix-ups. Price: $215-$225 Contact: llbean.com Testers' comments: Easy casting strokes give you distance. Very good roll and curve casting. Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price/Value: Excellent Watch the videos HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Ross Essence FW590-4 The FW rods are the top dogs in Ross' new Essence lineup (see others opposite). This trout-oriented rod will give accuracy and a smooth presentation under challenging conditions. The rod is quite sensitive and able to load and make accurate casts at short distances, but it has the power to reach out once you get the timing down, making it a good rod for anglers of all abilities. The reel seat is nickel-plated with a hand-turned solid maple insert. Price: $200 Contact: rossworldwideoutdoors.com Testers' comments: Throws nice curve casts. Best of finesse and power worlds. Performance: Very Good Design: Very Good Price/Value: Very Good Watch the videos HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Scott S4 905/4 (EDITOR'S CHOICE) Three types of carbon fiber are used to build the S4 rod, each laid up at a different angle. That means true tracking for great accuracy and a smooth power transfer. It has a fast taper, casts flat and creates precise loops with very high line speed. The 9-footer weighs 2.9 ounces and employs Fuji SiC stripper guides in titanium frames and REC Recoil nickel snake guides. The titanium reel seat sports extra-select buckeye wood spacers. Also features alignment dots and measuring wraps. Price: $675 Contact: scottflyrod.com Testers' comments: Added feet to my casts. Mind-bending ease of use. Puts a lot of line in the air. Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price/Value: Very Good Watch the videos HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor
St. Croix Legend Elite EFW 905.4 (GREAT BUY) At home on technical waters for dry-fly fishing, this rod also has the power to handle hefty buggers and streamers on big rivers. Integrated Poly Curve tooling eliminates all sharp transitional points along the rod blank, resulting in increased strength, smoother action and greater sensitivity. The scrim, constructed of carbon-matte rather than fiberglass, reduces weight and allows for ferrules with a slimmer profile. Features include REC's hard-anodized aluminum reel seat and flora-grade cork on the handle. Price: $440 Contact: stcroixrods.com Testers' comments: Perfect for small stuff or bass bugs. Handsome and really comfortable to cast. Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price/Value: Excellent Watch the videos HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor
G.Loomis Xperience FR1085-4 (EDITOR'S CHOICE) The rod is constructed of a blend of mid-range graphites to give a light in-hand feel. It's also very easy to cast and boasts surprisingly fast line speed for a medium-action/power blank. An all-around 9-footer, it's purpose-driven to give the best performance at a reasonable price. It will appeal both to occasional anglers and those looking for an extra rod. Like the more expensive Loomis EastFork, this rod has raised locknut lobes that make tightening and loosening easier in nasty weather. Price: $285 Contact: gloomis.com Testers' comments: An 'easy rider' of a rod. Surprising power. Lots of spine to play big fish. Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price/Value: Excellent Watch the videos HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor
L.L. Bean 8-piece Travel (GREAT BUY) Hike-in anglers, travelers or backpackers looking for a great-casting rod at a reasonable price need to check out Bean's new eight-piece traveler. After years of pushing the limits of multiple-ferrule technology, the company has developed a new series that will break down to fit in a briefcase or any carry-on luggage. Despite the numerous ferrules, the rod combines incredible power with the ability to handle finesse presentations¿something rare in a travel rod. It comes with a sectioned nylon-covered tube. Price: $185 Contact: llbean.com Testers' comments: Impressive distance for an eight-piecer. Loads like a dream. Picks up line beautifully. Performance: Very Good Design: Very Good Price/Value: Excellent Watch the videos HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Ross Essence FS590-4 For those just getting into flyfishing, this would be a logical choice. It features the most progressive design among the three in Ross' Essence series. Casting is smooth and effortless for beginners. It will be best for short to medium casting and general trout fishing, except on big, brawling rivers. Accuracy is assured. The rod should also find double duty for any panfishing with flies and small panfish bugs. It features an anodized-aluminum reel seat, the handle is synthetic cork and it comes with a handsome Cordura rod case and a rod sock. Price: $100 Contact: rossworldwideoutdoors.com Testers' comments: A great entry-level rod. I loved this little rod- and its price. Performance: Very Good Design: Very Good Price/Value: Very Good Watch the videos HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Ross Essence FC590-4 Rods in the FC series have a slightly more parabolic design than those in the FW series, though the maker describes them as having a medium-fast action. This is a 9-foot, four-piece mid-range rod with what we feel is an overall moderate action. It will be best for anglers who prefer to cast with a somewhat slower cadence, and should do very well on most trout rivers and on panfish ponds. The rod features a half-wells-style synthetic cork handle and a manufactured walnut insert, as opposed to the solid maple insert found in the FW series. The reel seat is nickel-plated and quite attractive. Included are a Cordura case and a rod sock. Price: $150 Contact: rossworldwideoutdoors.com Testers' comments: Good all-around, forgiving starter rod. Slower than the FW. Performance: Very Good Design: Very Good Price/Value: Very Good Watch the videos HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Temple Fork Outfitters Axiom TF 05 90 4A Here's a rod that more experienced casters and anglers will like. They'll find the reserve power irresistible when big casts are needed. But this 9-footer, like others in the new Axiom series, is capable of short, accurate presentations as well. The rod is most suited to medium and larger rivers. It is constructed of Kevlar sandwiched between layers of carbon-fiber material. This patented process helps reduce the "ovaling" effect a rod blank experiences under load- especially during power casts. That, in turn, creates remarkable dampening qualities that instantly subdue tip bounce. Ultra-high line speed, with crisp, clean, accurate loops, is the result. Price: $250 Contact: templeforkflyrods.com Testers' comments: A rocket launcher. Traditionalists might not like it. Performance: Excellent Design: Excellent Price/Value: Excellent Watch the videos HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Wright & McGill Boron 5Xe WMEB5XE955 Made of boron- for strength and core stiffness- this rod was built for power and line speed. The idea was to produce a rod that gives wind-cutting power but still has the ability to deliver delicate casts accurately and close up. The softer tip helps make that happen, as well as working to protect tippets. This five-piece model features titanium snake guides and a Fuji SiC stripping guide. Ferrules are the internal type. The handle is slightly shorter, with thinner surface area for increased touch in delicate situations, but still gives excellent grip. The handle is made of premium cork, with composite cork at each end to provide durability. Price: $330 Contact: wright-mcgill.com Testers' comments: Good all-around performance. Throws more like a 7-weight. Performance: Very Good Design: Very Good Price/Value: Good Watch the videos HERE.Outdoor Life Online Editor