6 Weight Fly Rod Review Series - Part One, Head to Head Lawn Casting

6 Weight Fly Rod Shoot Out

No fly rod is the perfect rod on every river, on every given day. I have often fallen in love with a rod on one river, fishing in one style; only to curse it later under different circumstances. I have also found that over and over again that the rod I enjoyed most behind the fly shop is not the one I enjoyed most on the river. To complicate matters, I have lost track of the number of times that I have listened to friendly arguments between fishing guides on which rod is “best”. It is like listening to sports talk radio hosts argue who is the greatest quarterback of all time; there is really no definitive answer. With this no win outcome in mind we set six of our favorite 6-weight fly rods head to head in different environments in the hands of different anglers to at least provide some reasonable guidance to how rods actually perform on the water. 

Spoiler alert: Our heads are still spinning and we aren’t sure if we are any wiser after completing this endeavor than when we began, but we did learn a few things.

We are frequently asked, “What is the best rod for Montana fishing”. Our canned answer is a 9 foot 6 weight with floating line. This is the catch all rod that can handle our most common fishing scenarios on many of our most common fishing scenarios in Southwest Montana. No rod is perfect for every scenario but a 6 weight has enough back bone to toss smaller streamers yet still provides enough “feel” to throw dry flies on a windy day. A 6 weight is hands down the perfect big river nymphing rod. When someone is buying their first fly rod for fishing our local rivers we generally steer them towards a 6-weight for these reasons. Of course the follow up question is then “which 6 weight should I buy?”. Now the answer gets a little more complicated!

There are quite simply a lot of really great fly rods on the market today. 20 years ago it seemed like whichever rod incorporated the newest generation of space age graphite would win the “best rod” race. While rod technology including new graphite fabrics and new “nano” resins continue to help make lighter and stronger rods; simply relying on lighter and faster doesn’t always produce the “best rod”. In the early stages of graphite rod development the race was to produce stiffer and stiffer “fast action” rods. Today’s resins and graphite fabrics all have the potential to make hyper fast action rods; but that is not always what an angler needs. In the past the most expensive rods tended to be fast action with higher density graphite fibers while the price point rods were “slower action”. As rod materials and designs have advanced, most rod makers are placing more focus on application specific rods. A price point rod can often be “hyper fast” but feel like a broom stick while many rod makers are producing high end (and expensive) slower action rods that feel buttery smooth. Rod tapers are now just as important as rod materials. 

 Important Disclaimer: Rods Feel Different On the Water!

The goal of our review process was in part to provide some first hand feedback on some of today’s finest top of the line fly rods. A secondary goal, however, is also to educate fly anglers on the importance of understanding that no one rod wins every race. You need to also analyze your own fishing needs and then match that to the style of rod that makes you happiest most of the time. 

Important Disclaimer: Rods Feel Different On the Water!

Over and over again I find that rods just feel different when you are out fishing with them. Quite simply fishing conditions on the water are always different than on a manicured lawn. To complicate matters; how much you enjoy (or dislike) a rod also depends on how and where you are fishing. The rod that you love roll casting on a small stream might be the one you hate when trying to punch a streamer in the wind. On the contrary, the rod that everyone falls in love with behind the fly shop - that casts 100 feet and hucks a heavy streamer on the water on big rivers in the wind may feel like it has “no life” when targeting more intimate settings like accurately presenting a dry fly to rising trout. Our goal with this rod review series is to take different genres and brands of high end rods and put them into real life fishing scenarios. 

Of course, when you are purchasing a rod in a shop - you can’t always take 6 or 7 different rods out for a real world spin on real world streams and rivers. So one of the goals of this review is to provide feedback on how rods were perceived test casting them on the lawn and see how that translates into “happiness” on the water.

General Overview of Rod Review Test Procedures
Our simple goal in mind was determining which fly rods “feel the best” in specific on the water applications. Basically we want to know which rods will be the most enjoyable to fish with when you are on the water. With this in mind we basically chose to ignore rod weights, swing weights, rod deflection curves and bonus points for good looks. We also decided that it is nearly impossible to quantify “feel” so we intentionally tossed out the notion of any point systems and will focus on qualitative descriptions of specific rods in specific situations. We recognized at the outset that it would be hard to crown specific winners and losers; but we also realized early on that every angler is different in their casting stroke and fishing priorities and what is most important is that you find YOUR winner and avoid YOUR losers. 

Rods Tested
We opted to select 6 premium price point rods (generally retailing between $875 and $1000) with a spectrum of rods that were designed for different applications (high powered canons for long distance and wind all the way to more moderate actions that “feel” buttery even on up-close casts. All rods were 9 feet in length.

Sage Light Line

Orvis Helios 3F

Orvis Helios 3D

Sage X

G-Loomis Asquith

Sage Igniter

Line pairings
Matching a rod up with the correct line is extremely important in evaluating a rod. Most line manufactures now make both true line weight lines and “line and a half” line weight lines. For this review we used the new Orvis Pro lines in both a 6 weight “trout taper” and “power taper”. Trout taper is essentially a pure 6 weight while power taper is essentially 6.5 weight. We did some quick experimenting and felt like the Sage LL, Orvis H3F and Sage X were best matched with a trout taper while the Asquith, Igniter and H3D were best matched with a power taper. Some of these rods could use either - for example the Sage X feels a little zippier at longer length casts with a trout taper but has more feel at 30 feet with a power taper.

Baseline - Casting on the Lawn
We can’t emphasize enough that trout don’t live in grassy fields. Casting rods without water only provides a small glimpse of what rod you might actually truly enjoy in a fishing scenario. This is, however, where most folks actually test rods before buying. A grassy lawn was also the easiest location to jump from rod to rod with multiple people trying multiple rods. So even though we strongly caution you to choose a rod solely because of how it feels “behind the fly shop”; we did want an even playing field and a baseline to at least begin the comparisons.

"We can’t emphasize enough that trout don’t live in grassy fields"

What to avoid when “lawn casting”
When you are testing a rod in an artificial setting like a yard or an ally behind a fly shop; what seems to always happen is the caster quickly spends all his or her time firing longer casts. Generally the distance that you test a rod out on a lawn is MUCH longer than how far you actually cast on the water most of the time (at least in trout fishing scenarios). Even on larger waters, most of my casts are under 45 feet when I am fishing and on smaller waters I rarely cast beyond 30 feet. Once you gun too much line out it is difficult to manage and your catch rates go down. Fishing in the grass also seems to provide a bit of a depth perception issue. What seems like a “normal cast” on the water seems absurdly short when you are on an expansive sea of grassy lawn. Conversely, a nice “medium” length cast in the grass is actually much longer than you often need to make on the water. Finally, if you use a rod for nymph fishing and streamer fishing you are also adding a fair amount of weight into the system (a common use for a 6 weight) which definitely changes how a rod casts when in application. 

"It is just simply “fun” to gun longer cast when in a big open field"

One of the traps you can easily fall into when testing rods on lawns is having a bias towards the rods that feel the best at longer distances. It is just simply “fun” to gun longer cast when in a big open field. This is compounded if you have a buddy with you since you might look a little silly make lots of short “trout fishing” casts with all of that green to play with. To avoid this tendency we set out a series of cones at 30, 45 and 60 feet. Many trout fishing casts are under 30 feet and 60 feet is about as far as you would ever actually cast in a real life fishing scenario. We didn’t even let anyone cast beyond 60 feet even though some of these rods can easily shoot out to 100 feet when in the hands of a competent caster. 

Sage Light Line

Brian:
The LL was my “in the grass” winner for short casts. This rod felt very different than every other rod I tested. The cool aspect of the LL series is that you are using the entire rod on every cast, even at short range which gives it a very smooth feel (until it is overloaded). The rod loads easily on short casts and flexes all the way down to the butt. When I ran back and forth between rods and only focused on short casts up to 30 feet this was the rod that I looked forward to casting the most. You can really “feel” every cast. It has a silky, relaxed feel and is very enjoyable. As I pushed the rod out to longer lengths I quickly started to max the rod out. When I was working hard and focusing I could still make 60 foot casts with the LL but I really needed to pay close attention to my timing. So on one hand while the rod is “easy” to cast close in, it felt like work at longer distances. The sweet spot for me was definitely at or under 30 feet. The good news is for a lot of my trout fishing, especially when wading smaller rivers like the Gallatin I am often making shorter casts. So this rod was my favorite under 30 feet. At 30 feet it was probably a tie with the Orvis H3F which also still had “feel” up close but felt zippier and more powerful. I still enjoyed the rod at 45 feet but I had to really make sure my timing was right - although it through great loops when I was on my game. I felt like if there was any wind or if I was hucking any weight at 45 I might be in trouble. At casts longer than 45 the rod wanted to collapse a bit and I was flexing right to the handle. Long casts aren’t really what the LL is designed for but that was certainly confirmed on the grass.

Casey:
Casey also loved the feel of the Light Line up close and compared it to “grandmas cobbler”: it just makes you feel good. Casey waxed poetic on the LL on shorter casts - just a “smooth rod” when it wasn’t overloaded. On longer casts he started to get into trouble and had to “push the rod” resulting in a tendency for tailing loops if the timing wasn’t dialed in.

Pierce:
Pierce also voted the LL as the best rod under 30 feet “The nine iron of fly rods, everybody hits it great in close. It felt very accurate at typical fishing distances, a great stick”. Pierce quickly acknowledged that the LL is very much an application specific rod and gravitated to the other rods with more of a tip flex at longer distances. Even though he readily admitted the shortcomings of the LL at longer lengths; Pierce voted this his favorite rod - “Sure it isn’t the most efficient rod for longer casts or in the wind but this is a “fun rod” and I like a fun rod when I’m fishing”.

Matt:
Matt wasn’t feeling the love of the LL. He self admittedly prefers a fast action rod and this was his least favorite rod of all we tested at every distance, even up close.

Zach:
Zach also really enjoyed the LL at 30 feet and under and placed it as a tie with the Helios 3F at close distances. He felt that the rod started to bog down quickly once he extended casts beyond 30 feet and for longer casts.

Jimmy:
Jimmy also voted the LL as one of his favorites at 30 feet and under. He placed the LL and Helios 3F at the top of the “happiness” factor when rod in hand for close casts with a slight edge to the LL. At 45 feet Jimmy was still impressed with the LL and felt that he still had some power at mid range casts with it but he rated it 2nd behind the Orvis H3F at mid range in terms of favorites; so still a strong contender out to mid range for him. Jimmy also felt like the LL dropped off quickly once pushing beyond 45 feet. 

Louis:
Louis had glowing praise for the Sage LL and rated it as his favorite rod both at close range and medium ranges. He enjoyed the slow, buttery smooth loops that the rod casts. It should be noted that Louis also has an aversion to fast cars, fast woman and fast fly rods. He freely admits that he works hard every morning to fight back the desire to dress in full tweed.

Orvis Helios 3F 

Brian:
This was an impressive rod and probably my overall favorite in most situations on the lawn. It was the only other rod that felt really good in my hand on short casts. I would say the Sage LL was still the most “fun” at super short range but by the time I pushed out to 30 feet I enjoyed the H3F equally as much as the LL. The really cool thing about this rod is that it seems to have a fairly wide “sweet spot”. At 30-45 feet the rod really excels and felt the best in this range of any rods I cast. While some of the other rods got the nod at 60 feet, the H3F still retained good power at longer range and was still pleasant to cast. Although I did have to pay a little more attention on longer range casts, my loops were still very tight and I never felt like I was working too hard at distance. I mostly use a 6 weight for throwing bigger dry flies or nymph fishing larger rivers. In these scenarios I generally am casting between 20-45 feet and this is the heart of the sweet spot for the H3F.

Casey:
Casey felt that the H3F performed most similar to the Sage LL, except it had a faster feel without as much flex at the handle as the LL. He described the rod at feeling great on shorter to mid range casts, but preferred several of the other rods in the test beyond 45 feet.

Pierce:
Pierce also felt like the H3F was the only other rod outside of the Sage LL that still felt really good on shorter range casts. “I felt like the Helios 3F had more power at mid range than the LL but for my casting stroke I had to work a little harder on longer casts. So all in all the H3F has more versatility than the LL and extends well to mid range but I preferred some of the rods with more tip flex once beyond 45 feet.”

Matt:
Matt also acknowledged that the Orvis H3F was one of the best rods in the closer ranges typical for trout fishing casts. Matt still prefered the “fastest” tip flex rods at all ranges, even short range. Matt was still impressed that the rod had a lot of power for as much “feel” as it offered and it was easy to cast tight loops.

Zach:
Zach ranked the Orvis H3F as his overall favorite rod in the grass casting session. He described it as “just felt great in my hands”. Zach really enjoyed the H3F both at closer range as well as mid range. At longer ranges some of the other rods outperformed the H3F but Zach still felt it had enough power and enjoyed the smooth feel and tight loops, even at 60 feet.

Jimmy:
Jimmy also rated the Orvis H3F as his overall favorite rod of all of the contenders. In closer range under 30 feet he placed it second in fun factor behind the Sage LL and considered it the only other rod in the group that still was enjoyable at close range. At mid ranges of 30-45 feet Jimmy felt that the H3F was effortless to cast, producing tight and accurate loops. At longer range Jimmy reported that the H3F still was throwing tight, accurate loops. He felt that it didn’t have quite as much power as a few of the other rods at 60 feet but still had plenty of “juice” to get it done at longer range.

Louis:
The smooth yet zippy Orvis H3F put a smile on Louis’s face and met all his criteria for a castable fly rod. “If I was going to buy one rod in the group this would be it, I like a nice moderate action rod that I can still feel in close but that has enough guts to make a longer cast when I need to. Casting this rod is the next best thing to listening to hockey on AM radio.”

Sage X

Brian:
The Sage X is another one of those rods that feels great in your hands and seems to effortlessly cast tight loops, especially at mid range casts common on larger Western rivers. I felt like the Sage X had a progressive action similar to the Orvis H3F although it seemed to have a narrower sweet spot. Although the H3F felt smoother under 45 feet once my mid range casts extended past 45 feet the Sage X was exceptional. The Sage X also was similar to the Orvis H3D although its sweet spot was at slightly closer range than the H3D which outperformed the X at longer casts. So while the X doesn’t have as much feel on the very short casts once you get to 30 feet you are able to start to load the rod and at longer mid-range casts it is a smooth canon. At 60 feet, just like the H3F I was still able to throw tight loops but I had to work a bit and make sure my timing was dialed in. This struck me as being a great all around 6 weight, especially if you are regularly nymph fishing larger waters or want a streamer stick for small to mid sized streamers. 

Casey:
This was Casey’s favorite “one-quiver” rod based on lawn casting results. It felt great at mid range casting distances but still had enough power to extend out to longer trout fishing range casts. It didn’t provide as much feel in close as the LL or H3F but it also didn’t feel like a broomstick either.

Pierce:
The Sage X was Pierce’s favorite rod for mid-range casts between 30 and 45 feet which is a great range for trout fishing on many of the bigger rivers that we spend a lot of time on. It didn’t have the power of the Igniter or Asquith at long range and Pierce questioned how it would perform as a streamer rod or in wind, but was confident it would still have enough back bone to still get it done if the chips were down.

Matt:
Matt gave the Sage X a thumbs up. As a fan of faster action rods he felt like the X could still had enough backbone and zip to match his casting style yet offered some smoother casts up close than some of canons like the Igniter. 

Zach:
Zach also enjoyed the Sage X at mid ranges but felt that it didn’t offer much feel at closer range and he struggled with it a bit at longer range. So in its sweet spot it zips line effortlessly when at mid range; but he felt the sweet spot was just a little narrower than some of the other rods he cast.

Jimmy:
Jimmy didn’t get a lot of love to the X at distances under 45 feet and felt like the LL, H3F and H3D all felt better in close casting scenarios and even to typical mid range trout casts. Once his casts extended past 45 feet the X quickly jumped to the top of the pack and where he had it as a tie with the H3D for mid range casts and beyond. He felt that for his casting style the Orvis H3D and Sage X compared very similarly overall.

Louis:
Louis appeared clearly distressed when casting the Sage X. We couldn’t quite make out his words as he mumbled to himself, but it appeared that some sort of spiritual battle was taking place within his inner being as the seductively smooth loops the rod cast conflicted with his aversion to the deceptive line speed it produced. Although he was still smiling at 30 feet, he appeared to break into hives at 60. 

Orvis Helios 3D

Brian:
The Orvis H3D is a smooth yet powerful rod. I had no problem making casts to 60 feet and had good loop control while doing so. The 3D felt just a little more effortless than the Sage X at the longest casting ranges in our test (60 feet which we felt would is about as far as we would practically cast in a trout fishing scenario). At 45 feet the Sage X feels a little smoother than the 3D but they were similar. For short casts there is still some “feel” in the 3D, but the LL and 3F definitely surpassed it on the fun meter when up close and personal. Although the H3D performed very well at 60 feet, when casting the Igniter and Asquith those rods felt like the line wanted to just keep going. Although casting beyond 60 feet is never really required the power to do so often comes in handy on big wind days. I felt like the Orvis H3D struck a nice blend of having great “feel” at mid ranges with great power potential for punching wind. My gut feeling was this would be a great all around big river rod for nymph fishing. 

Casey:
Casey felt that if he had to buy one of the rods after just casting it in the grass the H3D would be a top contender. He felt it was most similar to the Sage X and gave the Sage X higher marks at mid range while the H3D felt better on longer casts. For fishing larger Western rivers like the Madison and Yellowstone he felt like the H3D would be a great match when you are frequently making mid range casts with some wind to contend with.

Pierce:
Pierce enjoyed the H3D. He described it as fun and zippy at 45 feet when it started to come to really come to life. It matched his casting stroke well. Although it wasn’t as fun at close range as the LL or H3F it still retained some “feel” on closer casts, but was mostly just loading the tip. At mid range it felt smooth and powerful. On longer casts it flexed deeper into the rod but still maintained good power. Pierce described the H3D as a great design for a 6 weight on Western waters where nymphing heavier stoneflies with some wind on bigger waters is often the norm.

Matt:
As expected, Matt enjoyed the H3D based on his affinity for faster action rods. Matt felt that the rod loaded well at mid range but still had enough power to extend to longer casts. He felt the sweet spot was somewhere around 45 feet when casting in the grass without weighted flies, streamers or nymph rigs. 

Zach:
Zach felt that the Orvis H3D offered a good blend of power and touch. He noted that the rod is underloaded at close range casts, but starts to feel smoother on casts beyond 30 feet and it felt better and better as casting length increased out to 45 and 50 feet. At 60 feet Zach described the H3D as still providing plenty of power although not as effortless as the Sage Igniter on the longest casts.

Jimmy:
The Orvis H3D made a good impression on Jimmy during our lawn casting tests. It struck him as a great overall rod with a lot of power. Like several of the other guys Jimmy didn’t feel like it was quite as smooth as the LL, H3F or Sage X on closer casts but it felt very smooth on mid range and long range casts.

Louis:
“NO...just no! Can someone please bring back the Light Line, or better yet some M#%%F&%G Bamboo? And how many times do I need to ask for a dry martini around here?

Sage Igniter

Brian:
The Igniter is an impressive rod for what it is designed for - power and distance. This is light and balances well in the hand but feels too stiff on short casts where there wasn’t enough line to load and flex more than just the tip. At 30 feet you can start to load the rod but you need to pick up your casting rhythm to do so. This accelerated casting stroke and high line speed required a lot of focus when up close to make sure I didn’t punch the rod too much. At 45 feet I still had to accelerate my casting rhythm to generate a high line speed to feel the rod but once adjusting my casting stroke the rod felt great and I had good control.of loops and accuracy. The igniter just feels better and better as you make longer and longer casts. At 60 feet the rod is effortless - the line just seems to come flying out of the rod and I still had great accuracy. I had to restrain myself from making some hero casts as the rod felt like it wanted to just keep going. The Igniter is definitely an application specific rod - if you are going to fish it up close you may need to line it up an entire line weight (7weight). If you love fast action rods, have an accelerated casting stroke or need to punch wind or make longer casts on bigger water this would certainly be rod to consider.

Casey:
Casey wasn’t feeling the love from the igniter on shorter casts. He described it as feeling really touchy on short casts, with the rod mostly casting from the tip. The rod felt progressively more forgiving as casting lengths increased. Once beyond 45 casts the rod really started to shine and felt like a Kentucky Derby Pony. Although this wasn’t Casey’s favorite all around rod, he felt like it would be the go to rod in windy conditions or when longer casts are needed.

Pierce:
“I like a fast rod, and this rod is just like a sports car. It might be overkill in a lot of situations but I love the idea of having the rod that I know can always get it done, even on longer casts and in the wind. This is definitely the consummate parking lot rod!”

Matt:
Also a fan of hyper fast rods, Matt loved the igniter and placed it as his 2nd favorite rod, just behind the Asquith. Matt also agreed that the rod really shined at the longest casts but he also enjoyed it at mid range too. It was also interesting to watch Matt’s casting stroke which was similar to Pierce’s with a very aggressive, faster cadence using a lot of body and extending the casting hand far from the shoulder. 

Zach:
Zach really liked the Igniter. It was his second favorite behind the Orvis H3F. He acknowledged that it wasn’t great in close but it made the longer casts with ease. “If I needed a rod to punch wind or make a longer cast - at least in a big grassy field with no trout or wind, I would pick the Igniter”.

Jimmy:
Jimmy acknowledged that the Igniter had power it spades. It wasn’t one of his favorite “fun” rods but he also acknowledged that he was having a hard time evaluating it in a grass field and felt that he needed to cast it “with some bunny fur on the end”. “I’ve got a feeling I would like this rod a lot more on the big water casting big bugs”.

Louis:
Louis wasn’t a fan of the Igniter: “Let me reiterate - I really, really don’t like fast cars, fast women or fast fly rods...and where did I set my tweed jacket?”

G-Loomis Asquith

Brian:
The Asquith is an impressive rod and one that was arguably the most polarizing among the rods tested with some guys loving it and others rating it as their least favorite. As I was working my way through the rods we had laid out, the Asquith was the first of the “fast action” rods that I picked up. The power the rod offers is substantial and you immediately want to just start gunning longer casts. It handles even the longest casts well and at 60 feet the line wants just keep shooting. At shorter casts the rod still isn’t completely a dead stick but, this was not its forte. It wasn’t as buttery smooth as the LL, X or H3F at 30 feet but you could still load it by picking up your casting cadence. This rod somehow “feels” different than all of the other faster action rods that punch well at mid range and long range. It was hard to place a finger on why but when I was switching back and forth between the X, H3D and Igniter I noticed more similarities than differences. When I picked up the Asquith after spending some time bouncing back and forth between the other faster rods in the group it was noticeably a different animal. Often when I switched back to the Asquith I wasn’t impressed - but then if you kept casting you slowly adjusted and kind of thought “hmmm”. After little more casting you really started to enjoy it. I think part of the reason it feels so different is that it is the only “power rod” that offers a smaller cigar grip vs. the half wells grips on the other rods. So right away the rod feels different in your hand simply due to the grip. I tend to really like a cigar grip on 6 weights while other guys prefer half wells. I also had some previous bias with this rod as I spent a week with it in Argentina including punching big dry flies at Jurassic lake in crazy wind where it performed magnificently. I kept trying to envision wind blowing or big bugs on the end of my line. I left feeling a little perplexed by the Asquith...or maybe intrigued. There is no question that this rod offers power in copious abundance; you need to spend some time with it to fully take it all in. After a session on the grass my interest was piqued and I felt like I needed to get the rod back out onto the water.

Casey:
Casey didn’t love the Asquith and placed it near the bottom of the rods we tested. Interestingly Casey felt that the rod was enjoyable up close but he lost control with it once he got passed 40 feet. 

Matt:
"This was hands down my favorite rod, I liked it better than every other rod at every distance. It felt smooth up close but still had plenty of power at 60 feet. It was easily the best rod I’ve ever cast.”

Zach:
Zach felt that the Asquith was the least forgiving of the rods he tested. “It seemed to magnify any casting errors I made”. I couldn’t really “feel” the rod until longer distances.

Jimmy: 
Jimmy rated the Asquith as his least favorite. He felt like the rod didn’t feel great in his hand due to the smaller cigar grip. “I’ve got big hands and need a big grip, the half wells grips just feel better”. Jimmy did acknowledge that the Asquith had loads of power both at mid range and longer casts.

Louis:
Unfortunately we weren’t able to receive feedback on the Asquith from Louis. When presented with another fast action rod he entered a catatonic state. After reviving him with smelling salts we sent him home early for the day.

Summary
We all felt like parking lot heroes after spending a day on the lawn with some great rods. Having the opportunity to switch back and forth from one rod to another was a pretty cool way to get a feel for the potential each rod had. All of us felt like we really need to get these rods on the water to fully evaluate them, but a few trends certainly developed. First off it was clearly evident that no single rod was going to be the “best rod” in every scenario. Each rod had “sweet zone” where it felt really terrific. In general the rods that had lots of feel, with a smooth feel in closer distances tended to feel a little overpowered when casting at long range. Others cast at distance with control and ease but lost their “feel” and didn’t load well in close. 

Our second observation was that all of us had slightly different casting strokes which greatly impacted how we perceive the different rods. The guys with aggressive, full body casting strokes tended to gravitate toward the fastest action rods while those of us with a more compact stroke sought out the moderate action rods as our favorites. 

Our main takeaway is that you really need to evaluate what kind of water you will fish most often, as how you “like to fish”. You also need to determine what you value most - do you want a rod that will always get it done in tough wind even at the expense of not feeling as smooth in tighter range; or do you prefer a rod that feels like butter at closer trout casts yet takes a lot of work when the wind kicks up? Finally you need to cast a rod at the distances you most often fish (don’t get caught into parking lot hero casting) and find one that matches your casting stroke.

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