LOOKING FOR A NEW FLY ROD IS always a mixture of excitement and trepidation. We all like to try something new, whether it’s a make or model we’ve never owned before or the latest model to replace an old favourite from a trusted brand. My advice is to treat yourself if you can afford it.

Advances in materials and manufacturing techniques have improved the performance of modern rods and they’ve become easier to cast than ever before, but this brings with it considerations before you make your choice.

Stronger and lighter materials mean a modern 13ft—13½ft double-hander is largely capable of doing what the standard 15-footer would have done only a few years ago. Lightness also means less fatigue during a day’s fishing.

I tested 12 new models, from a variety of leading brands. It was a thoroughly enjoyable  and interesting exercise that I hope will give  you an insight into what’s available in different price categories.

I’m fully aware that personal preferences play their part in a buying decision (favourite brands, price, preferred lines and casting styles). I have based my findings on each rod’s individual performance. Happily, I have been able to identify several quality rods to match the depth of most pockets. However, double-handed rods are a significant investment.

Every rod I tested was cast with at least four different lines to establish their strengths and weaknesses. These were: Rio Scandi taper (8wt and 9wt), Rio Outbound 8wt, Rio Skagit Max  Launch 600grain 8/9wt, and an 8/9wt Short  Head Spey Line.



13ft, 8/9wt, 4pc

Airflo Airlite V2

Apart from a slightly bulky feel in the hand when compared with some of the other 13-footers, the Airlite performed well. The Rio Scandi 9wt line worked best, as the 8wt Outbound felt a little light, so I feel it’s more a true 9wt than an 8/9wt. The short-headed spey line and skagit made the blank load slightly deeper, as you might expect. A versatile rod, performing well with different casting strokes, although it preferred a shorter stroke to get the best from it, producing reasonably good tip recovery, too.

“A versatile rod, performing well with different casting strokes”

Contact Airflo  Tel 01874 618 518  Web airflofishing.com



13ft 6in, 8/9wt, 4pc

Greys Wing

A powerful rod with a medium-fast action, which comfortably achieved longer casts. The Wing showed good tip recovery, accuracy and efficiency when cast and is a deeper loading blank than its GR series predecessors. It handled all four lines used in the test, although I felt the lower 8wt rating provided a sharper feel and a better presentation. The captive reel band used on new Greys rods is a user-friendly touch.

“Good tip recovery, accuracy and efficiency”

Contact Pure Fishing  Tel 01665 602 771  Web greysfishing.co.uk



12ft 9in, 8/9wt, 6pc

Guideline NT11

Such an easy rod to cast, it preferred a shorter stroke, but was versatile and forgiving and had a very comfortable feel in the hand. It performed with all the lines, but I believe it is closer to a 9wt rating. It was very accurate at all distances, felt light, and its sweetspot was easy to find from the outset. Although only 12ft 9in, it performed as well as any of the longer rods tested and the fact that it’s a six-piece rod is an absolute bonus for the travelling angler (or you can hide it away in a car). A real all-round beauty!

“Its sweetspot was easy to find from the outset”

Contact Guideline  Tel 07973 291 367  Web guidelineflyfish.com



12ft 9in, 8/9wt, 4pc

Hardy Aydon

A comfortable yet powerful rod that cast the 8wt and 9wt shooting heads well. The 8wt scandi line crispened the action somewhat, and both the 8wt Outbound and spey line gave it an appealing, light feel. It offered a relaxed and comfortable delivery, (always a good thing) but when coupled with the skagit, it achieved a much deeper action than some of the other 8/9 weights tested, so maybe a slightly lighter skagit would suit this rod. An accurate fishing rod when matched to the right line.

“An accurate fishing rod when matched to the right line”

Contact Pure Fishing  Tel 01665 602 771  Web hardyfishing.co.uk



13ft 7in, 9wt, 6pc

Mackenzie FX2 Atlas

This rod surprised me in a good way. In previous tests I’ve found some Mackenzies to be on the heavier side of the pack, but not this one. While weight takes little away from a rod’s performance, if you’re fishing all day it can lead to fatigue, so generally less is more. This rod certainly didn’t pose that problem, holding its own with other shorter rods and, in my opinion, it’s a real improvement on its predecessor. One that preferred a slightly longer casting stroke than some, with a crisp bottom-hand stop. It’s a definite 9wt, comfortable to cast at all distances with a crisp tip recovery allowing accurate delivery to the intended target. Its six-piece construction and short tube is handy for overseas travel.

“It’s a definite 9wt, comfortable to cast at all distances”

Contact Mackenzie Fly Fishing  Tel 07771 330 729  Web mackenzieflyfishing.com



13ft, 8wt, 5pc

Nam Ren

An interesting contender that performed very well with both the 8wt Outbound line and the 8wt Rio Scandi line. However, the skagit was slightly on the heavy side for it — no bad thing as this confirmed it as a rod with a true 8wt line rating, which is always good to know. It did not perform quite as crisply with the short-headed spey line as some of the other rods. However, with the correct 8wt line this was another good medium-action rod, light in the hand, comfortable to cast and with good tip recovery, making it relatively accurate. A sound choice if your purse stretches to the price tag.

“Light in the hand and with good tip recovery”

Contact Rod and Tackle  Tel 01670 733 747  Web rodandtackle.com



13ft 6in, 8wt, 4pc

Orvis Mission

One that worked well paired with the 8wt Outbound, confirming its rating as an 8wt rod. It also performed extremely well with the skagit line, preferring a longer, smoother casting stroke to achieve the best outcome, and it carried the spey line well, if that’s your preference. It performed all the casts and delivered the line accurately to where you wanted it to go, but it did feel a little heavier in the hand than some of the other tested rods.

“It  performed extremely well with the skagit line”

Contact Orvis  Tel 0333 400 4188  Web orvis.co.uk



13ft 6in, 8wt, 4pc

Sage Igniter

A fast-action 8wt that offers great feel when casting. It executed all the required casts with all the lines. The 600 grain skagit was unsurprisingly a little heavy for it, highlighting the current trend for correctly rated rods. The Igniter preferred a short to medium-length stroke, with an emphasis on the bottom hand. It was much crisper in its deliveries than some rivals and its tip recovered well, making it very accurate. It generated good line speed with minimal effort, making it very comfortable to cast and a pleasure to use. A little longer than the Guideline and probably requiring more thought in the cast — it may appeal to a more accomplished caster. Big price tag, though.

“It was much crisper in its deliveries than some rivals”

Contact Guide Fly Fishing  Tel 01977 681 300  Web guideflyfishing.co.uk



13ft, 8wt, 4pc

Shakespeare Oracle 2 Spey

I’ve always been impressed by budget Oracle rods, but I think Shakespeare has lost its way a little with this one. It had a much more traditional feel than the other rods tested, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but the poor tip recovery, even with the spey line, to which it was more suited, compromised its accuracy. Not a first choice for shooting heads, it preferred a long progressive forward stroke to get the best from it. Its softer action meant it worked best with the skagit — but a lighter skagit than the one I used would sharpen it up. On a positive note, it could prove a good tool with which to teach a total beginner, if they’re having difficulty feeling the cast. But there were much better rods in the test despite this being a budget buy.

“A good tool with which to teach a total beginner”

Contact Pure Fishing  Tel 01665 602 771  Web shakespeare-fishing.co.uk



13ft 6in, 8wt, 4pc

Shimano Biocraft XR Salmon

This rod felt comfortable in the hand and when I picked it up I noticed how light it is and that it felt stiffer in the lower part of the blank. When it came to casting, however, it didn’t feel stiff at all, and carried all the lines relatively well. Although it’s rated an 8wt, it didn’t feel overloaded by the 8/9 skagit or the short-headed spey line. Another rod that preferred a shorter casting stroke, it did everything I asked of it. Given its price tag, it may well be worth considering if your budget doesn’t stretch to one of the more expensive options.

“Another rod that preferred a shorter casting stroke”

Contact Shimano  Web glasgow angling centre



13ft 8/9wt, 6pc

Shimano Biocraft XR Salmon

Another accurately rated six-piece rod. The grip felt slightly more robust than a 13ft rod would ideally be, but it was not heavy. It had a crisp tip recovery, giving very accurate casts and good distances. As its 8/9 rating suggests, it was happy with a variety of lines, but the 8wt Outbound line crispened the feel of the whole outfit, giving me the impression that it would be ideal when delicate deliveries into quieter areas of the river are required. A lovely rod and a slightly more affordable option than other six-piece rods in the test.

“It had a crisp tip recovery, giving very accurate casts”

Contact Snowbee  Tel 01752 334 933  Web snowbee.co.uk



13ft 7in, 8wt, 4pc

Vision Salmon Hero

A lightweight rod with a medium-fast action that performed well, especially with a slightly longer casting stroke — longer than I used for the Sage, for example. It cast all the lines I used well, but worked best with the skagit, which it delivered with ease and accuracy. While not quite as precise as the more expensive rods, it allows you to feel what’s going on through the blank, which is especially important if you’re new to spey-casting. Like many good mid-range rods available today, it does what it says on the tin — without breaking the bank.

“It allows you to feel what’s going on through the blank”

Contact Guide Fly Fishing  Tel 01977 681 300  Web guideflyfishing.co.uk


Prices correct as at March 2023