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
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