For many years, the 10ft seven-weight has been the first-choice all-round rod for anglers fishing on big stillwaters and reservoirs. A rod of this size and weight gives you the power to control big fish, combat wind and turn over big patterns and teams of flies. It can cast a fast-sinking line, a floating line and everything in between. In terms of cost and convenience, it is the obvious choice for most anglers. All you need is a selection of lines of different densities and profiles and with this one rod you’ll have most conditions, scenarios and methods adequately covered.

The word adequately is important, however, as it is a rare beast that excels at every discipline. In this test, we’ve identified each rod’s subtle and sometimes obvious differences to help you narrow the choice to match your style of fishing, be that sinking or floating-line dominant, or whether you devote equal time to both styles.

Peter Gathercole and I tested each rod with three popular WF7 trout lines: a Rio Intouch Stillwater full floating line, an Airflo 12ft Slow Tip (sinking tip), and an Airflo Di3 Sweep sinking line. The rods were put through their paces at Eyebrook Reservoir on the Leicestershire-Rutland border, where a gusty north-easterly was typical of the inclement conditions found on large stillwaters.

Please note: these rods are no substitute for specialist tools such as a five-weight for dry-fly fishing or perhaps an eight-weight for exploring very deep water with fast-sinking lines, but they offer the compromise many boat and bank anglers seek.

We judged these rods without knowing their price (although, admittedly, with most brands you can hazard a guess) with a view to scrutinising only their performance and feel. Whatever our verdict, we strongly suggest you try your shortlist before buying — a decent tackle-shop should give you the opportunity to cast a few rods and advise you on fly-lines that are a good match.


Airflo Airlite V2 Comp Special


Airflo Airlite V2 Comp Special

A lively and responsive rod that cast accurately thanks to its good tip recovery. Long casts were achieved without excessive effort, but we were surprised how good it was at close and medium range given the Comp Special name, which is suggestive of a powerful distance rod. With its progressive taper and light tip, it will perform dry-fly and nymph methods, and would be easy to use all day. While not as powerful as some, it lifted the 12ft tip and sunk line well, providing lots of feel through the handle – you felt in touch with the line. As a sunk-line rod, there are better in this test, but it’s one of the outstanding all-rounders. The palm swell in the handle could be off-putting if you have smaller hands.

“Easy to use all day”

Contact: Airflo  Tel: 01874 618 510  Web:


Greys Kite


Greys Kite Rod

This rod will cast far and generate ample line speed without collapsing but lacks the finesse of other rods in the test. It is comfortable in the hand, but it lacks the lively feel and finely tuned tip of, say, the Hardy and the Vision. It’s more of a casting workhorse for nymph, washing-line and sinking-line set-ups from boat and bank where distance is more important than delicacy and accuracy. It offers a reasonable compromise between power and feel, but is not remarkable at either, which is a shame given Greys’ dominance in the field, although this model is at the lower end of Greys' price range.

“Workhorse for nymph, washing-line and sinking-line set-ups”

Contact: Pure Fishing  Tel: 01665 602 771  Web:


Guideline LPX Tactical


Guideline LPX Tactical

A light and responsive rod when loading. It’s not powerful and doesn’t like to be pushed. Use a slower casting stroke and fewer false casts and just let it do the work. It’s ideal for fishing dry-flies and nymphs, despite being a 7wt. It was very good at close range with the full floating line. There was a little tip bounce with the more unstable 12ft slow tip, and it was not powerful enough to manage the Di3, let alone heavy sinking-line work. It’s a delicate rod for precise surface fishing, rather than an all-rounder. More for summer sippers than charging downwind with a sinker.

“A delicate rod for precise surface fishing”

Contact: Guideline  Tel: 07973 291 367  Web:


Hardy Aydon


Hardy Aydon Rod

This user-friendly rod could be a 6wt, it felt so light and comfortable in the hand — why don’t other brands copy Hardy handles? It was highly accurate at short-medium range and coped admirably with all three lines, lifting them from the water quickly — a big plus when covering fish. It had enough power in the butt to roll up and re-cast the sinker with ease and touch, although it requires more effort to gain the distance achieved by the more powerful sinking-line rods. It doesn’t like being pushed, though. Let it do the work and it’s as good an all-rounder as the Vision, with slightly less feel at short range but slightly more with the sinker. Tight margins, but Peter’s favourite.

“Highly accurate at short-medium range”

Contact: Pure Fishing  Tel: 01665 602 771  Web:


Mackenzie FX2


Mackenzie FX2 Rod

The Mackenzie is a more powerful rod than most, which is great when you need to cast a long way from a boat or the bank. Although lacking the finesse of some of the other rods, it was happy being pushed and you could easily feel it load. The powerful butt combined with its middle action lifted the sunk line easily. This robust all-rounder suited both slow and fast casting strokes and, therefore, would suit those who largely use sunk- and washing-line methods at long distance. It’s a great buzzer rod, too, but a little too powerful for frequent dry-fly work. Its power and feel also make it an great choice for night-time sea-trout.

“For those who largely use sunk- and washing-line methods”

Contact: Mackenzie Fly Fishing  Tel: 07771 330 729  Web:


Orvis Recon


Orvis Recon Rod

Another powerhouse, only far more extreme than the Mackenzie. While this rod cast farther than any other, it would need a strong arm and a fit angler to fish with it all day. It looks and feels saltwater-like, especially with its two oversized stripping rings and poker-like feel. At maximum distance, it really performs, and if you target big trout on big flies at depth this could be the specialist tool you are after. Booby-bashers and Humungus maybe, but forget dry-fly fishing — unless you class a big deer hair fry as one?

“For big trout on big flies at depth”

Contact: Orvis UK  Tel: 03334 004 188  Web:


Sage R8 Core


Sage R8 Core Rod

A rod that can carry a lot of line and doesn’t mind being pushed, but it lacks the lightness and feel of the Vision. When we worked hard to create high line speed, the distance achieved was very good, but not everyone will be able to do this all day. This is down to its faster action, which prefers a shorter, faster stroke to perform well — often an issue with a team of three or four flies. The extra weight of the Di3 sinker helped load the rod, providing better feel and greater distance. One of the best with a sinker, along with the Shimano, but definitely for the experienced caster.

“Prefers a shorter, faster stroke to perform well”

Contact: Guide Flyfishing  Tel: 01977 681 300  Web:


Shimano Biocraft XT-C


Shimano Biocraft XT-C Rod

This workhorse will cope with all the conditions a big reservoir will throw at you. Its powerful butt lifts the line off or out of the water at distance to easily cover a fish within one or two strokes. It has less feel than most, but it lifts a sinker with ease, and if you want to cast to the horizon with a team of nymphs and lures it won’t disappoint. This is the best sinking-line rod in the test, but if most of your fishing is on the surface, look elsewhere. It’s also the only three-piece rod in the test, so its case is almost a foot longer.

“The best sinking-line rod in the test”

Contact: Shimano  Web:


Snowbee Spectre-Pro


Snowbee Spectre-Pro

The Snowbee, while not what we'd call delicate, was accurate, balanced and provided ample feedback to the caster. It has power reserves in the middle and butt sections and can lift and carry a lot of line. This power meant any attempt to force it resulted in tailing or poor loops, but with a simple lift and haul it was able to put the line out a long way. It easily handled all the lines we tried and while it lacks the finesse needed for dry-fly fishing, we would feel comfortable using it from bank or boat with teams of flies, lures or a bung and be confident it could cope in all conditions. Its casting ability makes it a great choice for fishing sinking lines from a boat.

“It was able to put the line out a long way”

Contact: Snowbee  Tel: 01752 334 933  Web:


Vision Still Hero


Vision Still Hero Rod

This excels with a floating line. Its tip is stable, making it accurate. It feels lively and crisp, and casts tight loops. We simply slowed down our casting strokes for open loops and teams of flies. It cast and picked up the 12ft-tip line with ease and had no problem dealing with the heavier sinker. We liked that we could feel every pull when retrieving the sinker, making us feel in touch with our flies on to the hang. Not the best distance rod but extremely user-friendly. A great all-rounder, and a delight when covering fish in or on the surface. Its balance and comfort make it feel like a six-weight in the hand. Andrew’s favourite, just pipping the Hardy at the post.

“A delight when covering fish in or on the surface”

Contact: Guide Flyfishing  Tel: 01977 681 300  Web:


Prices correct as at July, 2023


Rod Photography: Peter Gathercole