In the past, I provided information on the then new Hardy Zenith and how it compared to other rods out there on the market and what my thoughts were on them. I've been able to fish them for 4 years now and when I heard they were discontinuing them, I wondered why and the hell this was happening!
In the last few years, amazing changes have been made in the fly rod world. We have always had some great rods out there, but over the last five years or so, fly rod companies have upped their game.
Several of the high-end rods available this year can do everything you ever wanted them to do. They are light, fast and a pleasure to fish with. This year, Hardy introduced their replacement for the Hardy Zenith, the Zephrus and also a new rod, the Wraith. I've been able to obtain both of these rods and cast them a few times and got them on the water as well to actually fish them. First, let me tell you how they cast.
Hardy Zephrus-9' 5wt rod.
The Hardy Zenith was almost perfect. It could do it all. The only thing I found it lacking was more touch on the really close casts. I fish the South Platte River in Colorado and that means I usually start the day nymphing and then switch over to dry flies as the hatches began. If you have ever fished on the S. Platte during a hatch or at any time, you realize that you can get close to the fish. These fish see a few people throughout the year and they have learned to deal with it in order to survive. That means that you can make point blank casts to these fish. I am not standing 55 feet away trying to make them eat. A lot of times, I am casting 15 feet or less. I need a rod that can make that cast.
After taking these rods out for a spin on the lawn, I have found that the new Zephrus is much like the old Zenith, but it is somewhat smoother and even lighter. The tip is a bit softer and therefore, those short casts become a reality. At 30 feet, this rod was smooth and sweet. The tip felt nice and the rod make accurate presentations on the lawn. At 45-60 feet, the rod was great, nice and smooth and powerful. There is no doubt that it would be fun tossing big hoppers with this rod and you would have no problem doing so. Close in work, such as the 15 foot cast was certainly doable, but the rod was still a bit stiff for that cast. Most rods struggle with this cast, unless you are throwing a glass rod because there is so little fly line out of the tip and therefore it cannot load the rod. Usually there is about 5 feet of line and your leader. If I can get the tip to flex a little, I can make the cast. I can do it with this rod. It's not perfect, but I can do it. I can't say that with a lot of rods.
Hardy Wraith 9' 5wt. Rod.
This is a new rod that utilizes Hardy's Sintrix 550 carbon fiber material. The Hardy Zephrus rod uses Sintrix 440. It's a faster action rod the the Zephrus. My initial reaction was that it was a fast rod and that it was smooth and powerful. I cast this rod with a Rio Perception fly line and it liked it. A 30 foot cast felt good, but I could tell that it was at the very beginning of loading the rod and that anything shorter was going to feel "dead". It was smooth and powerful at that distance. I felt that this was the rod to have on a windy day or for a "big bug" rod. I was pretending that I was on the Arkansas River throwing #10 Chubbies followed by a Tungsten Glossy Back Baetis Nymph dropped 2 feet below and having no trouble getting it where I needed it to be. Going out a bit further, the 45-60 foot distance with this rod was no problem and it actually felt great at this distance. I don't fish this far all that often but I would love to! This rod was made to fish at this distance. Further out, I had no trouble making that cast. I feel like this rod on the lakes would be awesome! I switched to a SA GPX Textured line and I think this is the better of the two lines I tried. The rod felt amazing at all distances with this line. Going back to the 15 foot cast, there was very little feel to this rod. This is not what it was designed for. It could make the cast, but it's not the rod I want in that situation!
I took this out to actually fish with to see how it handled a nymph rig and possibly dry flies. Setting it up with a Thingamabobber, 3 flies and split shot would let me know instantly how good this rod was going to be-or not. The first thing I noticed was how light the rod feels. It almost feels "fake". It's so light and casting it with a nymph rig was as easy as ever. I fished it with the Rio Perception and it handled everything just fine. It's a great rod. Nice and smooth and powerful. I wanted to try the Wraith but just couldn't put this rod down. One thing I noticed was how effortless it was to make mends with this rod. With just a flip of the wrist, I could make stack mends and I actually spent more time throwing mends into my drift. I missed a fish by "playing" around with the rod and making too many mends on the drift. After a break to another location of the river, I picked up this rod again and cast it. It was sweet. It brought a smile to my face.
After fishing the Zephrus, I switched over to the Wraith to see how it felt. I changed the reel and used the exact same rig as used before. This is a fast, strong rod!!! The best way to explain this is this: Have you even been to a restaurant or in a room where the music was just 3 or 4 clicks to high? The music was great and the speakers sounded great, but it was just a bit much? This rod is like that. I felt to was about 3-4 clicks too stiff. It cast like a dream, but it was stiff! It had very little bend at about 20 feet out with the nymph rig. It was certainly that much stiffer than the Zephyrs. I almost wanted to put it away but I kept with it and I found that it was getting easier to "feel". The mending was a bit harder to do as the tip is stiffer and it is noticeable. I am not saying it was hard, but not as smooth to do as the Zephyrs. Eventually, I wanted to go find some rising fish if there were any. I walked and found some. I immediately switched rods back to the Zephyrs.
Hardy Zephrus with dry flies.
After seeing fish rising to BWOs, I added tippet to my leader and put on a size 22 BWO Emerger. As mentioned above, I wanted to be point blank to these fish. I set myself up and across to them. I was about 12-15 feet out with a 12 foot leader. This was the moment of truth! It cast great. It put the flies where I needed them to be. It cast #22s and even #26 emergers perfectly. I have no doubt that I could do this with Tricos and BWOs anywhere within 15 feet and not feel overpowered. After casting this for a while and missing a few fish, I switched back to the Wraith to see how it felt.
Hardy Wraith with dry flies.
After the Zephrus passed with flying colors, I was afraid to put this rod on the fish. Actually, it felt ok casting that close. I was surprised, but still felt it was a bit too much throwing a # 26 Emerger with this rod. My first thought was similar to driving a diesel truck as a commuter vehicle, without owning anything to pull behind it. It could do the job, but certainly not be my first choice. Again, I picture myself on a bigger river with lots of room and big flies tied on and having fun throwing the long bomb.
So is the Hardy Wraith worth it? Depends on what you want to do with it. As a go to rod on the South Platte River? No. It's just too fast of a rod. It's a great rod and fun to cast and fish, but it's not for everyone, maybe not for most people. On bigger rivers with heavy nymphing and big dries, This may be one of the rods to have. It would be fun. If you throw lots of streamers, this is a great option for you. If you make long casts on lakes, this might be a great option for you. For throwing # 26 Tricos in Elevenmile Canyon, this is not the rod for you. Its a wonderful looking rod and a wonderful casting and fishing rod. It all depends on what you like your rods to be. It's fast and smooth. I am struggling to find a place for it in my line up, but I keep going back to throwing big dries on The Arkansas River with droppers as well as double streamer rigs. That would be the perfect situation for this rod. Also higher water at Deckers and Cheeseman Canyon when you can throw big Pat's Rubber Legs and Cranefly Larva with indicators. Or maybe at Spinney making long bombs to rising trout or throwing streamers.
Is the Hardy Zephrus worth it and is it better than the Hardy Zenith? Yes and yes. The Zenith is a hell of a rod and many people love it. I love it. It does everything you need it to do. But I always come back to the point blank work throwing dries. It could be better. The Zephrus closes that gap and allows you to make that cast better. If you are looking for a new rod, make sure to check out this rod. I have no doubt that I could be on the Arkansas River throwing long bombs with chubbier and tungsten droppers with no problem. I could also go to Elevenmile Canyon and throw #26 Tricos to rising fish. I could go to the Dream Stream and throw big nasty streamers all day long too. It can do it all for you and yes, I do think it is better than the Zenith. It's lighter and smoother than the Zenith. Does it blow it away? No! Like I said before, the Zenith is a hell of a rod and there are very few rods out there that are better than it and I think the Zephrus is one of them. I hoping to be able to test some other rods in the series as I know those will all be winners.
In my short time with this rod, I know it's going to be a favorite of many. The only thing keeping it from being a "favorite" of many people is the lack of dealers in my area. It seems that everyone loves the Winston and Sage rods and aren't even aware of Hardy as a fly rod manufacture. I can tell you that you need to find a dealer and cast these rods. They are better than 95% of the rods out there. There is no doubt that these rods will be a standard and a benchmark as to how rods should be created. As of today, the only other rod out there that can compare to the Zephyrs is the G. Loomis NRX LP fly rod. It is just as good and feels great. It's a bit different in the way it cast, but as I may have mentioned before, one is Manning, the other is Brady (Circa 2012). Both good, but different in the "feel". The Scott Radian is another great rod but is still a bit behind both of these rods in terms of feel for me. The swing weight is heavier and for me, it feels a bit fast for the point blank casts. There are five rods out there that I have spent time casting and fishing that I think are the best. The Hardy rods, Zephrus, Wraith and Zenith, along with the G. Loomis NRX LP and the Scott Radian.