ONCE, A DOUBLE-HANDED rod around 14ft, rated for a nine-weight line, would have been considered a tool for medium-sized rivers and summer fishing.

Casting sinking lines and big flies in spring and autumn was the preserve of the 15-footer, and while there is still a time and a place for the big stick, huge advances in materials and technology, not to mention fly-lines, mean the 14ft rod is no longer considered its “little brother”.

A modern 14-footer is capable of casting lines from sinkers to full floaters and flies from copper tubes to wee doubles. Unless you are venturing on to small spate rivers, there is perhaps no need to use any other rod.

Indeed, some would argue 14ft is too long and 13ft or less is enough, but there are horses for courses and what you may sacrifice in delicacy, you will make up for in what that great salmon fisherman, Arthur Oglesby, called “water command”. It is nice to keep something in reserve, rather than pushing your tackle and abilities to the limit.

While compiling this test, it became apparent that to get ten rods of different makes all exactly the same length and line rating was going to be impossible. Every rod designer has their perfect recipe, which can range from a few inches under to a few over the 14ft mark and on the lighter or heavier side of a nine-weight. What’s crucial is that our testers identify each rod’s pros and cons, and then it’s up to you to decide what best suits your situation.

Please note that some brands failed to submit a rod for the test or did not have a new model.

Our test took place on the River Eden in Cumbria in what we would describe as genuine fishing conditions. The forecast light south-easterly turned into a freezing 20mph downstream easterly with rain squalls for good measure. Sound familiar? Each rod was cast with at least three different line set-ups; ones that gillies find on most anglers’ reels throughout the year.

These were: Rio Elite Scandi Outbound Floating Body, 9wt (455gr/29.5gm) 22ft head and a 15ft, 4ips Airflo Polyleader; Mackenzie NX Full Spey Line, 9/10wt 55ft head and a 10ft, 4ips Airflo Polyleader; and Rio Elite Skagit Max Launch, 9wt (600gr) and 12ft of T14. Other set-ups were added if our testers felt they were necessary to make a final decision.

Cadence CF20 Ian Gordon

14ft 6in, 9wt, 6pc


Cadence is a newish brand; its rods developed by well-known angler Ian Gordon. The CF20 was one of the longest rods in this test, but it felt light and balanced. It dealt admirably with all three lines, producing stable loops and ample distance. It had the ability to lift more line than the shorter rods, for better control on larger rivers, but was less crisp and precise than some.

However, uniquely, it is possible to buy different middle sections (£49.99) to turn it into an 8wt or 10wt by softening or stiffening the action. We exchanged sections to create a 10wt, which quickened the action and improved performance, especially with an Ian Gordon 10wt, 60ft spey line. A six-piece rod, the extra sections also fit into its rod tube, ideal for travelling anglers. Choose either a cork or EVA handle.

“Uniquely, it is possible to buy different middle sections”

Contact: Cadence  Web: cadencefishing.co.uk

CND Gravity

14ft, 8/9wt, 4pc

CND Gravity

This stand-out rod had a lovely full-flex action and a fast-recovering tip that effortlessly delivered controlled casting loops and provided excellent feedback. Fitted with the Skagit, it produced an even deeper load, but still had the power to deliver in the difficult test conditions, making it a true all-rounder. While the Gravity was not quite as accurate as the NAM, both testers agreed it was an absolute delight to cast and would make a very forgiving and enjoyable rod to fish with, delivering top-class performance. It has a slim, nicely shaped handle, Alps reel seat and quality finish. If we had to nit-pick, the large tip ring could prove “a bit Marmite”, depending on your taste.

“Delivered controlled casting and provided excellent feedback”

Contact: Nordic Tackle Supplies  Tel: 07786 033 675  Web: nordictacklesupplies.co.uk

Greys Wing

14ft 6in, 9/10wt, 4pc

Greys Wing

The other 14ft 6in rod in this test, but unlike the Cadence, the Wing felt longer and a little chunky in the hand. However, it did everything we asked of it and cast all three lines well, even though the Scandi Outbound head was on the short side for the length of rod. Its medium-fast action was forgiving, performing well with short and long strokes, and while its accuracy and recovery were not as good as the best in the test, they were more than acceptable. A true all-rounder, suited to bigger rivers.

“It did everything we asked of it and cast all three lines well”

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

Guideline NT11

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

Guideline NT11

A lovely light rod with a crisp action and fast recovery. It performed best with the Scandi Outbound line, a good amount of overhang and a short, snappy casting stroke.

With the longer-headed Spey line, it liked more dynamic casts such as the snake roll. Our testers describe the blank as “middle to tip”, making it very accurate but less forgiving of mistiming and misplaced anchoring than some rods in the test, and therefore it is better suited to a more experienced caster. One of only two six-piece rods tested, it is ideal for the travelling angler. It has an attractive matt black blank and a black anodised, down-locking reel seat.

“A lovely light rod with a crisp action”

Contact: Guideline  Tel: 07973 291 367  Web: guidelineflyfish.com

Hardy Aydon

13ft 9in, 9/10wt, 4pc

Hardy Aydon

Its comfortable and progressive action meant the Aydon needed very little input to deliver stable loops and long distances. It preferred a slower, longer stroke and performed well with the Scandi and full Spey line. While it dealt with more head extended than most when casting the full Spey line, the Skagit set-up was a little on the heavy side for it and required more pace and effort to cast. It felt a little bigger in the hand than some, but typical of Hardy, the handle was a lovely size and profile, and the rod was extremely well finished.

“The Aydon needed very little input to deliver
loops and long distances”

Contact: Pure Fishing  Tel: 01665 602771  Web: hardyfishing.co.uk

Mackenzie FX2 Graphene

14ft, 9wt, 4pc

Mackenzie FX2

The FX2 is a top-class all-rounder. It cast the Scandi Outbound well, although it felt a little under-loaded. With the Spey line and plenty of head out, it really started to perform. The action was flexible, dealing with different casting strokes and speeds, but it preferred a faster, shorter stroke to excel and a little more effort than some. Accuracy and recovery were very good, and with the Skagit it showed reserves of power, dealing with more overhang than the other rods. Our testers tried the matching Mackenzie NX 9/10wt (648gr/42gm) 40ft shooting head, which loaded the rod better and crispened the action further. Definitely one with “water command”.

“A flexible rod, dealing with different casting strokes and speeds”

Contact: Mackenzie Fly Fishing  Tel: 07771 330729  Web: mackenzieflyfishing.com

NAM Original

13ft 9in, 9wt, 4pc


The NAM felt feather-light in the hand, which transferred into a super-crisp and precise casting experience. With the Scandi and full Spey line, it fired out accurate, tight loops and achieved consistent turnover, even in the testing conditions. Matched with the Skagit, the rod still had plenty of power, but with such a light rod, our testers agreed that it discouraged them from applying too much force. This was a good thing, allowing its progressive action to deliver the line like a slingshot. Tip recovery and feedback through the blank was excellent, giving effortless performance and a lively feel, which made casting it a pure joy. NAM’s look is Scandi minimalist, but the finish and fittings are of top quality. A super rod, capable of doing everything you need with finesse and style. 

“Effortless performance and a lively feel”

Contact: NAM Products  Web: namproducts.com

Orvis Mission

14ft, 9wt, 4pc


With its deep-loading blank, the Mission was very forgiving, delivering all three test lines in a relaxed style; in fact, you almost couldn’t be too slow when setting the anchor. It liked a fair amount of overhang with the Scandi line, less so with the heavier Skagit. The sweet spot with the full line was around 48ft of head, although it could cope with more. While not the lightest rod in the test, it was pleasurable to cast and one you could easily fish with all day. A true all-rounder, its handle was a comfortable shape, matched to a matt bronze blank, orange highlights and gunmetal grey downlocking reel seat.

“One you could easily fish with all day”

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

Scott Swing

14ft 1in, 9wt, 4pc

Scott Swing

While its thicker blank and handle made the Swing feel slightly chunky in the hand, it performed well, casting all three lines and dealing with a variety of stroke lengths and speeds. It did prefer a more positive delivery, with the blank recovering quickly, making it reasonably accurate.

The testers agreed it provided less feedback than some, making it feel a little under-loaded with the 9wt Scandi line, so it was tried it with a 10wt, which flexed it deeper and improved its overall  performance. With its progressive action, gloss finish and silver handwritten graphics, its looks are quite traditional. Unusually, it has 14 rings, which are small and closely spaced; perhaps added to reduce line sag and slap, although they made tackling up more of a chore.

“A 10wt ... flexed it deeper and improved its overall performance”

Contact: Fly Fish Europe  Tel: 0777 223 5428  Web: flyfisheurope.com

Simba Rods

From £795
14ft, 8/9wt, 4pc

Simba Rods

The only bespoke rod in this test, the Simba’s traditional, deep-flexing action performed well with all three lines, although unsurprisingly, it preferred the full Spey line. It had the power to cope with the tricky conditions, casting across the stiff downstream wind with little effort. The relatively short top handle helped to create line speed, shortening the stroke, and while few Simba users might want to use it with a heavy Skagit set-up, it was among the best casting it, which sealed its tag as an all-rounder. With 16 rod rings, tackling up takes more time, but nit-picking aside, this is a very practical fishing rod with the added bonus that you can fashion it to your tastes (eg, choose  reel seat, rings and whippings). It’s supplied with Simba’s trademark chrome thistle stoppers and a tweed-covered tube.

“It had the power to cope with the tricky conditions”

Contact: Simon Barnes at Simba Rods  Tel: 07976 591 717  Web: simbarods.com