If you have more than 140 years of rod-building heritage under your belt, you should know a thing or two about what makes a good fly-rod. For its new HBX series, Hardy has started, as always, by choosing top-quality materials and technology. The fast-action blanks are built with Sintrix 440, using nano silica resin produced by technology giants 3M. This creates up to 60 per cent more compressive strength and is 30 per cent lighter than traditional carbon-fibre.
Each rod is hand-built by five expert craftsmen in Hardy’s Alnwick workshop. After six quality checks, each is given an individual, hand-written serial number, and each female ferrule is fitted with a machine-turned aluminium stopper. Pleasing finishing touches.
We tested an HBX double-hander, the 13ft 6in model, rated for 8/9wt lines.
The rod has a minimal, gloss-black finish, high-end Fuji titanium stripping guides and REC black pearl Recoil rings, which keep the rod light and responsive.
The handle is made from premium Flor-grade shive cork, hand-turned to produce a profile on which your hand naturally finds the right casting position. The bottom grip has an alloy spacer and a hard-wearing, synthetic butt-cap that fits the palm of the hand snugly and gives a good pivot point while spey-casting.
The down-locking reel seat places the reel in the best position to counter-balance the rod.
The Sintrix blank results in a fast-action rod with the power to cast heavy tips and big flies in spring, but also the accuracy and feel for delicate casts with small flies.
We tried it first with a medium-length spey-line. The rod was comfortable lifting and casting a full line, perfect for summer fishing when you could cover an average-sized pool without the need to strip between casts. We also tried a 520grn (33.8g) short scandi head. Unsurprisingly, this made casting into the stiff wind much easier and the rod felt balanced and responsive in the hands, but we felt it was a little underloaded, so we changed to a 580grn (37.7g) head, which seemed to suit the rod’s fast action better, loading it deeper and releasing its reserves of power.
The tip recovers fast and is very stable and precise when changing direction. This is a rod that could cope with a wide range of rivers without ever feeling under-gunned.
The Hardy HBX four-piece double-handed rod is available in three sizes: 11ft 7/8wt; 13ft 6in 8/9wt; and 14ft 6in 9/10wt. Each is supplied with ferrule stoppers, a soft cloth bag and a black powder-coated aluminium rod tube.
Hardy HBX double-handed rods
11ft 7/8wt, £999.99
13ft 6in 8/9wt, £1,099.99
14ft 6in 9/10wt, £1,299.99
Contact: Pure Fishing
Tel: 01665 602 771
The Perfect, Marquis, Cascapedia and Ultralite, just a few of the many fly-reels made by Hardy that have become classics over the years. While it is too early to say whether their newest addition, the HBX, will be considered a classic, it has received accolades: it was awarded best fly-reel at EFTTEX (the European Fishing Tackle Trade Exhibition) in 2018.
The HBX looks modern with a heavily ported spool and frame made from aerospace-quality 6061 bar-stock aluminium. But it possesses admirable homespun qualities: it is machined and then assembled by hand at Hardy’s Alnwick factory.
The FWS (Freshwater Series) 4/5, 5/6 and 7/8 models have a linear Rulon disc-drag, which can be flushed with freshwater for easy maintenance. You can see through the porting to the small, single ratchet-and-pawl mounted on a plate in front of the drag. It is there to produce clicks when line is retrieved or taken, but it will also add resistance to the spool, useful if you’re fishing with ultra-light tippets.
The larger AWS (All Water Series) 9/10 and 10/11 models cater for both freshwater and saltwater fishing, from salmon to tarpon and everything in-between. The linear oversized carbon-fibre drag system is saltwater safe and can produce a formidable 15lb drag pressure. The large, knurled drag knob has a positive click and is easily used with wet or cold hands. Adjustment is fast, from zero to near lock-up in less than a single rotation.
The spool is released by a captive screw, etched with the Hardy logo. All models have an attractive gunmetal, anodised finish with red detailing.
Hardy HBX FWS 4/5wt, £399.99, 5/6wt, £449.99, 7/8wt, £499.99
Hardy HBX AWS 9/10wt, £549.99, 10/11wt, £599.99
Contact Pure Fishing
Tel: 01665 602 771
Our first experience of Wychwood’s new flagship fly rod, the RS, came early in 2017 with the 10ft 7wt model. A favourite workhorse of the reservoir angler, Rutland Water seemed the ideal place to try it. Within a couple of chucks I knew I liked it, there’s plenty of power to turn over a large fry pattern or long-leader for buzzer fishing with loads of feel in the handle. The tip bends nicely during the casting stroke so that the rod is not only accurate but also very pleasing to cast. The fixtures, fittings and finish on the RS are good too, I particularly like the fine wire matte black snake guides and low flash matte grey blank with silver whippings.
The new range of gear from Wychwood, rods, reels, lines, clothing and more has been extremely impressive. I suspect the expertise of top competition angler Steve Cullen has been quite heavily involved in the development. Wychwood kit still offers good value for money but it seems to me that the performance has been cranked up a couple of notches.
I have particularly enjoyed fishing with the 9ft 6in 6wt RS, paired up with the new Wychwood Truefly SLA Mk II cassette reel. One of my favourite ways to fish from the bank is with a lighter rod and floating line with crunchers, diawl bachs and buzzers. Targeting cruising rainbows close-in on the creeks and bays of Rutland or Eyebrook rewards stealth and patience. The RS is great fun to fish with, and that has to be one of the most important reasons to go in the first place.
The 6wt RS is well-suited to this style of fishing, with a floater or midge-tip line and making accurate casts at relatively close range. The rod bends beautifully with a fish on, protecting lighter tippets well and transmitting the fight through the cork. If you hook a really big fish it helps to use the lower two-thirds of the blank, where the real power is, to fight the fish.
The only thing I would have liked that the 6wt RS doesn’t offer is a fighting butt – the beefier 7wt has one, and I’m looking forward to breaking it out come fry time. Twitching a floating fry and watching the surface of the water erupt as a big brown or rainbow hits is one of those great autumn moments.
The Wychwood RS is available from £179.99 and if you’re looking for a new reservoir rod I recommend picking one up and having a cast.
Contact: Wychwood. Tel: 01908 442 949. Web: wychwoodgame.co.uk
Vision has entered the premium wader market with its 37.5 Technology, which it says delivers improved breathability – ideal for the summer months.
Putting on a pair of waders creates a microclimate around your body, being active and increasing your body temperature leads to sweating which increases the humidity inside the waders. The fabric in Scout waders provides 800 per cent more surface area and removes moisture by responding to your body heat. We have tried the waders, fishing for several days in a row, and found them to be excellent. When walking the bank in warm conditions you can feel the waders working to evaporate moisture from your skin.
The Scouts have a NoSeam cut, which creates a slightly curved shape and removes the need for seams around the seat – usually a high-wear area. Seams are all ultrasonic welded with E-tape so there are no stitches to worry about. They are cut with more material, which gives them a roomier feel and allows the spacious kangaroo pocket at the front to be used to full effect. The wading belt sits low on the body because it is mounted below the join between heavier and lighter fabric to allow for the large waterproof front pocket. It would be a good idea to try the waders before buying, or speak to stockists Guide Fly Fishing to make sure you are choosing the right size and cut for your body shape.
The Scout has a waterproof zipped chest pocket, which is divided into three compartments with handy elasticated pouches. This pocket can easily accommodate a large fly-box.
Inside the waders is a flip-out pocket that has two zipped pockets and a velcro-fastened compartment where you could carry more tools. The usual D-rings have been replaced with spring clips, which are great for hanging forceps. Gravel guards are fitted. A wading belt, which matches the braces, is supplied.
Contact: Guide Fly Fishing. Tel: 01977 681 300. Web: visionflyfishing.co.uk
Hodgman’s H-Lock removable sole system is an excellent innovation that allows you to switch between rubber, felt and studded soles using a single pair of wading boots.
The boots are supplied with felt soles and Wadetech rubber soles. Additional studded rubber or felt soles can be bought for £44.99, and these studs are pre-fitted through the top of the sole making them far more secure than studs that are screwed in from the bottom in the standard way (you can’t later add studs to the plain soles because of their
The soles lock in place at two separate points and can only be removed if both locks are disengaged at the same time. This makes them very secure. They are relatively simple to fit, though it is important to make sure their grooves are correctly aligned when fitting.
There are drainage ports built into the boots that flush water through the soles with every step, making sure that sand and debris doesn’t become trapped. The soles are clearly marked with right and left to avoid confusion once removed and have a space to right the name of the river where they’re used – a good idea where biosecurity measures are in force.
The Aesis boot features a BOA M2 closure (you turn a dial to tighten or loosen the fit) instead of laces, which makes the boots easy to remove without having to untie knots. They are made from an abrasion-resistant synthetic material, with corrosion-resistant hardware and extra rubber in high-wear areas such as the toe. There is a small D-ring on the tongue for attaching the hook of a gravel guard. This feature is also present on the nubuck Vion boots (£229.99) and H-5 lace boots (£179.99) where it saves wear on the laces.
The boots are sized to allow for the neoprene sock on a pair of stockingfoot waders so your regular UK shoe size should be correct. Available in UK6 to UK12.
Contact: Pure Fishing. Tel: 01665 602 771. Web: Hodgman.com
Hodgman has been making fly-fishing clothing in Massachusetts since 1838. It returns to the UK market in 2017 with a new range of cold-weather wear and a big reputation. But is it any good?
The Aesis is an outer shell fastened to an insulated jacket – shell and jacket can be worn alone or together. The inner jacket is made with Thinsulate, a synthetic insulating material that continues to work when wet. I found this layer very warm. Last winter, on the banks of Rutland Water when the weather turned milder than expected, I often removed it and wore just the shell over my fishing shirt. I was then grateful of the inner jacket’s warmth when returning to the car as temperatures dropped near freezing in the gloaming. In dry weather on the Wye, the jacket also worked well on its own, although it doesn’t have the same wealth of features as the outer shell.
It has two hand-warmer pockets positioned high on the chest so that you can still access them when the jacket is tucked inside chest waders. There is a pair of zip pockets near the waist and a zipped chest pocket. The inner security pocket has a flap and velcro closure, and this becomes the inside pocket when the two jackets are worn together.
The inner jacket zips into the outer shell with loop and snap fastenings at the collar and sleeves, which keeps it from moving around.
The chief ingredient in the shell is Hodgman’s breathable, waterproof and windproof V-TecH fabric. There are two layers of V-TecH, with a micro-fleece lining and taped seams. The main zip has two outer flaps, one with a rain gutter for extra deflection; and there’s a third flap on the inside. Zips can let in wind and water, but the flaps make this nigh impossible.
The hood is detachable and adjustable. It has a nice wide brim that easily fits over a cap. I have stood in a heavy downpour with large dollops of rain tip-tapping on my lid without a single drop rolling down my neck or anywhere else inside the shell.
The cuffs have a tight rubber seal that can be pulled tighter with a velcro fastening. These are very good at keeping out water, even if fully submerged for short periods when returning a fish or turning over a rock. If you have big hands I would check they are not too tight before you buy.
There are plenty of pockets, four on the chest – two top-opening flapped pockets and two side-opening zip pockets. All four will take a large fly-box comfortably. Underneath the flaps is a D-ring on which to hang accessories. I don’t like hanging things off the front of a jacket because they can get in the way at the worst moment, so the fact the rings are covered appeals strongly. If you like to keep forceps attached at all times, you may prefer retractors to D-rings.
Also high on the shell are a pair of fleece-lined pockets, positioned deliberately high to be useful when deep wading. For some these pockets can be positioned uncomfortably high – it depends on your physique – but for a person of my size (medium-short) they are entirely comfortable, not to mention extremely welcome on cold days.
There is a velcro fly patch on the right side with a removable magnetic bar. It will temporarily hold flies, nippers, even forceps if they’re not too heavy, and that makes the job of switching flies easier.
The shell has what Hodgman refers to as a Range of Motion fit: its contours aren’t restrictive. I have used the Aesis with single- and double-handed rods and at no point did I feel impeded. The shell also fits well over additional layers should you need them, though I found the addition of the inner jacket is more than warm enough over a shirt in
This jacket is versatile, warm, waterproof, comfortable to wear, accommodates a full casting action and has plenty of pockets on the outer shell for storage. The fact that insulation can be added or removed throughout the course of the season, or the day, is very handy. I’d recommend this jacket for all fishing throughout Britain and Ireland, especially for the river angler. Sizes: small to XXL.
Contact: Pure Fishing. Tel: 01665 602 771. Web: hodgman.com
Following advancements in raw materials and components the popular LPXe range of rods from Guideline has undergone a complete overhaul. The original LPXe was and is a firm favourite among salmon anglers who like to use shooting-head lines. Its short handle and powerful blank first appeared in 2003 as part of what was then the latest in salmon-fishing fashion from Scandinavia. The new LPXe has big shoes to fill, which is perhaps why Guideline has spent three years in the development and testing process.
We tried the rod on the Welsh Dee and the power of the blank is immediately obvious. Using a matched shooting-head line and thin shooting-line it was easy to hit the opposite bank without much effort.
The rod has new grip lengths, shapes and diameters. The handles on all the rods in the range are slimmer than on previous models. The bottom grip on the 14 ft 9/10 is very comfortable in the palm. It is short, which is ideal for the bottom-hand-driven Scandinavian casting technique. The top grip tapers nicely towards the blank with a slight flare to guide the thumb position.
The reel seat is smart, with an etched metal insert and orange detailing on the locking nuts. The blank has a matt grey finish and has been built using new graphite structures and cutting patterns. The intention is to give improved strength and recovery speed while loading with a three-quarters deep bend. Described as crisp, the rod is light and bends nicely; you can feel its power and spring.
The Fuji KW stripping rings have a slant that is set away from the handle towards the tip. This design was first introduced on Guideline’s RSi rods and it aims to stop your running line tangling around the rings when shooting for distance. A stripping ring that projects at right angles to the blank is more likely to catch a loop of running line during the cast. Single-leg rings are preferred to snakes to minimise weight and prevent any unnecessary stiffening of the action. Everything is geared towards maximising the LPXe’s performance. It looks and feels the part.
The LPXe is supplied in a hard, light tube with a fabric outer layer. The four pieces are held in a dark grey Air-Mesh bag, which has a tactile spongey texture and fluorescent orange trim. The whole package feels very modern with lots of attention to detail.
A full range of single-handed rods, three 11 ft switch rods in different line ratings, and double-handed fly-rods from 12 ft 8/9 wt to 15 ft 10/11 wt are available; all are four-piece.
Contact: Jim Curry. Tel: 07973 291 367. Web: guideline.no