big problem with most fly rod reviews is that they don't tell you much
about the fly rod other than the price. You're not going to have
that problem here. We're going to tell you how the fly rod behaves on the
water, because we fished every fly rod in this review. And we caught fish
on every fly rod in this review...without exception! You see, at Fly
Fish Ohio we don't pull our punches!
If you've read our
Vise Shoot-Out then you have an idea of what to expect here. This is
a subjective review where-in we share with you our impressions about the gear in
use. We've tried to include as much objective data as possible,
including Common Cents measurements. In an effort to truly be
fair, we've contacted every manufacturer and asked them for their reaction
comments to this review. They'll get to tell you what they
think, and we'll print every word right alongside our own opinions.
You, the reader, deserve to get a real, honest idea of how this gear will
work for you on your waters. We sincerely hope we've delivered on that
2-Weight fly rods are
highly specialized tools. They don't perform well with any
appreciable wind. They don't cast big flies, with a rough upper
limit of a size 12 (so long as it's not too air resistant). They're dangerous when
pitted against large fish because they may prompt overplaying that
physically damaged the animal. But, and this is an important but, they are an absolute blast when the
conditions are right! And they can most certainly be the very best
choice when the ultimate in stealth is necessary. We fished poppers and dry flies, nymphs and
tiny streamers under a variety of conditions - both while wading and while
paddling. To the manufacturers who kindly (and trustingly) loaned us
this gear for review, I must apologize right now. It's not coming
back to you in the clean, pristine condition in which it arrived!
I'd like to thank all of
the manufacturers who agreed to provide gear for this review. It's
important to realize that this is a brand new way of reviewing gear in the
angling media, and the companies that participated took a real chance.
I hope that none of them think we've let them down. The Fly Fish
Ohio editorial objective is to tell it like it is, regardless of how
difficult that may be. While we'd love to give every piece of gear
an outstanding review, that's simply not possible. In the market
there are some products that succeed and some that fail, some that perform
beyond expectation and some that don't make the mark. Just because a
piece of gear reviewed here is lauded, that's not an endorsement of every piece
the company makes. Conversely, if we find a rod lacking, that
mustn't be read as a pan of the other rods in the company's line-up.
The opinions expressed here are based on personal experience with the rods
I'd also like to thank
Bass Pro Shops for their generosity. While Bass Pro doesn't make a
fly rod that fits the parameters of this review - 2-weight production fly
rods under $400 MSRP - they did opt to support Fly Fish Ohio by providing
four Bass Pro White River ultra-light fly reels and four White River fly
lines for this project so each reviewer could experience the same
rod/reel/line combination, thus eliminating two big variables and allowing
us to really compare rod-to-rod. Without cooperation and support
like this, this review would have been a much more difficult project.
This article also marks
the contributions of two new members of the
Fly Fish Ohio Team - Paul Feldman
and Jeremy Kurtz. The talent these two gentlemen (I use the
word loosely) bring to the Fly Fish Ohio experience is truly impressive.
The fact they both dream about fishing just shows that great minds think
alike! Welcome to the madness, guys!
Finally I'd like to thank
Senior Editor Jim Stuard for his relentless drive in putting this project
together. Jim coordinated all the fly rod loans, managed the
shipping and transportation and generally made this happen. In fact,
it was his idea. Thanks for providing the impetus for a fabulous
weight fly rods are generally like open stretches of highway at rush hour.
You don’t tend to see a lot of them in one place. My experience with 2
weight fly rods is limited to occasionally casting friend’s rods. They
would lay a dry fly down on smooth river flows like it was being lowered
into place. Before this shootout, I’d never cast anything heavier than a
#18 Parachute something or other, on a 2 weight Add to that, my friends
would only use a 2-weight on the calmest of days and I was reluctant to
spend a lot of time with the rods. I balance that opinion out by
mentioning a picture on Joe
Cornwall's office wall. It’s a shot of a gigantic bull bluegill straddling
the seat of his canoe. Had he not released that fish shortly after that
picture was taken it may well have been an Ohio state record and almost
certainly and IGFA tippet record at
12.75 inches long, 16 inches in girth and an estimated weight over 3 lbs. It was caught on a 2wt fly rod.
That was enough to let me
know I needed to give these unique fishing tools a closer look. In the
last few years, I’ve been bitten by the vintage tackle bug and it’s
afforded a unique historical perspective on the way designers intended
their rods to be used. Quite a few of the rod companies, some of whom
survive to this day, maintained that you could cast multiple line weights on
their rods. The transition from using the old letter system of gauging
line weight, to the current AFTMA standard, was a watershed moment for the
demise of these ideas.
There are many examples
of fiberglass rods from the 1960’s and 70’s listing multiple line weights.
Russ Peak, one of the giants of this era, went so far as to publish three
line weights on some of his rods. I think rod companies back then were
either more in tune with the needs of the customer and, in so doing, were
advertising the enormous versatility of their rods or, the lines of the
period varied across so wide a range, they couldn’t do anything but
advertise a likely line weight range.
With that history lesson
in mind, look around today and you will have to look long and hard to find
a rod that advertises more than one line weight. Some of the companies
I’ve spoken with will flat out tell you their published line weights are
only a suggestion. They suggest over-lining to your comfort level. I’ve
taken 6wt rods and not had them cast well until I’ve up lined them two
more line weights. Long story short, I’m starting to appreciate the value
of being able to cast multiple line weights on a single rod. If the rod
can handle the targeted species, why not be able to cast the published
line weight and, as your flies or tactics change, be able to up-line to suit?
That appreciation for
value applies when looking at this gaggle of 2-weights. The way I’ll be
personally evaluate the rods is from a line range value standpoint. I want
that rod that will let a size 20 Adams float gently and accurately to the
water's surface. I also want to be able to swing a small wet or even a
weighted nymph with some appropriate up-lining. I’ll definitely be
delivering my opinion based on the rods usefulness as a 2-weight (all my
review numbers were arrived at by using a double taper 2wt line), but I'll
be making note of rods that are versatile enough to handle real fishing
In the 40 plus years that I
have been fly fishing, my quest for the perfect fly rod has been all over
the map. I started with glass, followed by bamboo, and a steady
progression of graphite rods from medium action mid-length rods thru ever
increasing rod length and faster actions. When I rediscovered the mid
action rod several years ago, it was like rediscovering the fountain pen!
A ball point gets the job done very efficiently, buts it’s no fun to write
with! In the last couple of years, I have focused my rod purchases on 6 ½
to 8-foot rods in 1 to 3-weights.
I have observed that ultralight fisherman fall into three separate camps
(at least). The first group, and probably the majority, fish ultralights
because they are nearly weightless, cast effortlessly, and allow small
trout and panfish to show their stuff. They just find that ultralights put
more “WOW” in their fishing. Another group fishes ultralights for the
disadvantage and, hence the challenge they provide. Guys in this group can
be heard bragging about how heavy a nymph or how large a streamer they can
throw with their 2 weights! This is much like shooting skeet with a .410.
The final group, to which I belong, fish ultralights for the distinct
advantage they provide. These days my favorite type of (trout) fishing
consists of late season, low-water conditions, with good trout sipping
ridiculously small mayflies and midges. Under these conditions the slap of
a 4-weight line on a placid pool sends fish racing upstream for cover. A
soft action 2 weight (or a 1-weight) definitely results in more hookups. I
know there are guys who fish early season with nymphs and streamers with a
2-weight, to which I say, “whatever blows your skirt up!”
─ Paul Feldman
fascination with ultra-light tackle began years ago before I started fly
fishing. Like many kids, I started out with a Zebco spin casting outfit.
Most of the rods of my youth were medium action, but as a young kid,
feeling the fish on the other end and enjoying the fight wasn't on my mind
Later on in
my late teenage years, I got a cheap ultra-light spinning outfit. Since I
was into fishing for bluegills,
I wanted a
rod that was capable of throwing very small spinners and jigs. Around that
time too, many guys I knew where buying up the Quantum Micro rods and
reels. These were a bit lighter than my UL outfit, so I bought one too.
forward to the start of my fly fishing career. My first Fly rod was a 6wt.
That was what was recommended by the guy at the fly shop. So I bought the
6wt rod, but fishing for bluegill wasn't all that enjoyable with this rod
like it was on the Quantum Micro. It took a couple of years to find a fly
rod that would work for me and my panfish addiction. I finally found it in
a 3wt rod. From there my direction in this sport was clear, and as time
went on I wanted to go lighter, and I ended up with a couple of 2wt rods.
everyone agrees on the practicality of UL rods or how and when they should
be used. Some want a challenge, others what to paint a small fly on the
water as delicately as possible. Some what to catch large fish on the
lightest possible tackle. For me it's all about having fun, and catching
panfish. I think that 1wt, 2wt, and 3wt rods allow panfish to show off a
great deal more than a 5wt rod will. Fishing is supposed to be fun after
These rods were fished on
creeks and ponds over the course of the spring of 2009 by Paul , Jeremy
Jim and Joe. Bass Pro Shops
kindly loaned us four
BP White River Classic UL fly reels, two
White River CV2 weight-forward number 3 lines and two
Cortland Double-Taper 10-Meter number 3 lines. We're very
grateful for their generosity and support. In addition to the
Bass Pro gear, which was a constant in this project, each rod was also
mated with the reels and lines each reviewer already owned. Roughly
speaking, 6 of 8 different models of reel and at least as many different
varieties of line were paired with each rod in an attempt to isolate the
performance of the stick from the performance of the system. Long
time readers of the Fly Fish Ohio on-line magazine will know how much
importance we assign to balance.
When you see comments regarding the balance of the rod and reel in this
feature, we're referring to the Bass Pro gear unless otherwise noted.
Reviewers were provided with a
standardized review form that
asks for a rating on each of nine axis of performance, with a tenth
opportunity for the reviewer to award purely subjective points. Once
a rod was evaluated by each reviewer, the points were added and averaged
to create a composite score. The questions were averaged across each
reviewer, and then the 10 composite question ratings was averaged for a
final score. This score is then rounded to the nearest quarter point
and the Fly Fish Ohio Fly Award ratings were set.
A fly rod is a tool used to
perform a number of complex fly casts as well as to hook and control a
fish once its been fooled into taking the fly. Therefore we've put
emphasis onto the full palette of attributes, some of which are as
strongly aesthetic as they are practical. We've looked at the grip,
which should not overpower the rod nor compromise balance with a selection
of appropriately sized reels. The grip should provide a comfortable
foundation for the casting hand while enhancing the appearance of the
stick with graceful lines and proportions. Guides should be properly
sized and wraps should be neat and symmetrical. Ferrules, especially
on multi-piece rods, should provide witness marks for easy assembly,
incorporate minimal mass and must be robust. A rod tube is an
integral part of the system and an after-market tube is a hidden cost.
In short, a fly rod must satisfy the need for pride of ownership as fully
as the need for practical utility in order to score highly.
Jeremy provided Common Cents
System (CCS) measurements for each fly rod.
The Common Cents System was developed from
the need to have a standard for rating fly rods.
While the CCS ratings aren't a perfect way to evaluate a fly rod, they are
a consistent way. Without getting into a lengthy treatise on the CCS
system - something you can read about in detail here - instead we'll give
you the Cliff Notes version. The
Effective Rod Number (ERN) is the
number for a rods power/line weight. Since this is a 2wt shootout, we'll
use the 2wt range of numbers to explain the ERN more clearly. An ERN of
2.5 is dead on for a standard 2wt line. A 2.0 rating would make the rod a
light 2wt or heavy 1wt. A 2.9 rating would make the rod a heavy 2wt or
very light 3wt.
ERN 1.0-1.9 = 1
ERN 2.0-2.9 = 2
ERN 3.0-3.9 = 3
ERN 4.0-4.9 = 4
ERN 5.0-5.9 = 5
Action Angle (AA)
describes the curve of the rod under a load. These numbers can be
roughly translated to the amount of flex; ie... slow, medium, medium fast,
and fast. The Action Angle
numbers are as follows.
59 and under = Slow
59-63 = Medium
63-66 = Medium Fast
66 and above = Fast
Me The Rods...
I Can't Wait, Take Me To The Summary...