I am a gear head and I know it so a few weeks ago I picked up a gift to myself or father’s day. JT has had a couple Hardy Marksman II rods in the shop for about a year now. I had cast them when they first came out and like it, but not long after I broke down and got a Zenith 9’ 4wt. I love this rod ,it is a great all around rod but I have found it to be a bit too powerful in the butt for smaller flies, I seem to pull flies size20> out of a trout mouth if I put any side pressure on them and then end up fighting them longer than I like. So being the Hardy (Butt boy I am) I got the marksman in 9’ 4wt, I love this rod too it is a true medium fats rod with a mid to tip action. It cast well out to about 60’ with no trouble and will load up pretty easy close as well. What I really like is how well it handles fish especially 12”+ trout on smaller hooks. I was able to put good pressure but the tip did its thing very well when a fish pulled back with side pressure. I still like the Zenith better as an all-around rod most importantly when there is any wind, it shines. It is also for reasons unknown a great wet fly rod with all the common sized wets. The tip flexes just enough on the take but hold up well during a fight.
Speaking of rods one thing I always try to make a point of when discussing rods is the following. The one best piece of advice I can pass along that I have picked up in my 35 years of fly fishing is NEVER, I mean NEVER buy a rod if you have not cast it. All the manufacturer hype in the world will do you no good if you can’t form a good loop. Contrary to what a lot of people do, with a quick wiggle or checking the taper by pushing it down on the floor really does nothing to tell you how it casts. You have to actually cast it. I find it funny when I see posts in internet bulletin boards asking what rod they should buy. I try to always tell them the rod that best suits their casting ability and style. I learned this years ago when I just had to have a T & T Horizon rod. I got one as a gift and could not cast it worth a hoot and after month of frustration trying to learn to cast it for a trip to Florida, I ended up using my old rod. I ended up leaving it in Florida with my dad who loved it. Lesson learned!
When you plan to try a rod bring along your own reel with the line you plan to use and test cast them before you buy. If a shop hesitates or will not let you test cast a rod, find another shop. That is just good customer service. I look at rods as a tool to get a job done. A rod that works great for one situation will be useless in another. There are some all-around rods that are good at most stuff but don’t excel at any either. 9’ 9 weight is a good all-around saltwater rod a little heavy for some stuff and light for other but will work. As will an 8’ 6” 5 weight rod for fresh water. It may be a little light for bigger streamers and too large for some small midges. But will cover most of what you will be fishing. But remember if you plan to do any specialized fishing don’t be afraid to get the correct tool for the job, it will make it that much more fun. I have far more rods than I could use in any normal season. Many of those are dedicated solely for guiding, these guide rods have two important things they are easy to cast for any level of caster and they are constructed well. They are far from top of the line rods but they are also not entry level ones. My personal rods are all very different from these rods. While the rods I use for guiding all seem to be general in size & length, I have a tool crate of personal rods from 11’6” & 12 two handers down to a 6’6” fiberglass 5wt for small streams. I tend to be very specific when I am fishing, it may be 10’ nymph rod, slow action old style dry fly rod or an ultra-fast rod for casting heavy steelhead rigs. When it comes to rods they are a real personal choice of what or how we want to fish. At this point in fly fishing history we are lucky because we have the greatest choice of great rods from $100 to $1,500 rods in all sizes shapes and colors.