Unsolicited Review of Modern 8'0" 5wt Fiberglass Rods

Lugan

Joe Streamer
#1
Skysoldier sent me a PM asking for advice on an 8'0" 5wt glass rod. I've given the same advice 1:1 a few times, so figured I might as well offer a review here for the collective (and so that lazy me can point people to this). These are my experiences and my tastes, and YMMV. One thing about my taste in all rods: I like progressive to semi-parabolic tapers. I hate tip-flex "dry fly" tapers because I find them to be less versatile (they have a hard time casting and presenting streamers and other heavy junk), and they require me to think too much about tip speed in order to avoid tailing loops. Screw that. I like strong-tipped rods and I want the whole rod to work on the cast. This goes for everything from my shortest/wimpiest glass and cane rods to a few Sage Ones. Anyway, onto the review of a few rods:

My favorites in 8' 5wts are Steffen 4/5, Barclay 7'10" 5wt, and Epic 805. All three are great - responsive, stable tip tracking, lighter swing weight - but still very much glassy rods. They are different from each other though. A few details:

The Steffen 4/5, as you might guess from the line rating, is on the slightly lighter side of a 5wt though I'd never use a 4wt line on it and I don't know anyone else who does. I use a lighter-than-normal Wulff TT-5 line on this rod and it just sings. I currently own 5 Steffens and this one is a 4-piece model. Overall, Steffens are just my favorite rods. Mark is a great guy too. Mine is made by Mark Steffen, but for a little more $ you can have Shane make one too that will be a little fancier. Mark's builds are getting nicer over the years though, and all of mine are made by him. He can now even give you custom reel seat and cork shape options, which is what I got with this one (true cigar cork and a downlocking seat).

The Epic is the fastest glass rod I have ever cast (including two other Epics I own which are not as fast). It is the elusive bridge between the formerly fastest glass (Steffen, T&T, Graywolf Signature, etc.) and the slowest graphite (Scott G, Winston WT, Sage LL, etc.). There used to be a gap, but this rod uniquely fills it. But really, it is more of a 5/6 in my hand. I owned but sold this rod b/c it was so close to my Steffen 5/6 that is my #1 favorite rod of all time. The Epic 580's taper is a bit more tip flex action than the other two Epic rods or any Steffen, which I don't like as much usually, though didn't mind on this rod. It was a close call, but I sold it. You could have Shane build this for you, or for a little less $ but still excellent quality, have Robert from Flyrod Crafters in NM build it. He has built 3 rods for me and is great to work with, like Shane.

The Barclay is also great and a true 5wt with a progressive taper that might be the smoothest and most stable tracking rod of the bunch. It is very bamboo-like in a very good way. It is somewhat similar to a Redington or Orvis 805 in terms of being medium-quick action for glass, but more responsive and, frankly, much nicer looking too. It is also the prettiest of the bunch. But it is a step slower in overall quickness relative to the Steffen or Epic - which may or may not be what you want. Chris is also a super nice and responsive guy.

Shane Gray of Graywolf Rods and his Signature 8'0" 5wt warrants a serious look. I have never cast the Graywolf, but a good friend of mine in Maine has one. He and I have very similar tastes in rods and he insists this is one of the two best 805 rods he has ever touched (the other is the Epic 580). He says it is very much like a Steffen but a little quicker and a true 5wt. Shane is also a great guy. Just writing this makes me want to get one of these. Think I might...

I would only buy a McFarland if it is in stock or used. Mike McFarland is a genius rod designer and great artist, but unfortunately also has a well-documented track record of unreliable delivery which you can research yourself. However, there is hope that he has turned over a new leaf and in partnership with another person has a new company called Seele. If you can buy one of his new Zeitlos rods from his new company, I am sure it will be jaw-droppingly awesome in every way. I think their main retail dealer is a shop in the NE called Bearsden.com. Maybe talk with them about getting one and let them deal with the delivery reliability issues if any. I do own one of his rods (8'3" 4wt S-Glass) and have owned or cast a half dozen others, and all of them are excellent.

A few rods I don't care for, though others do: I did not like the 805 Orvis or Redingtons I cast once each. They were OK, but just average by comparison with the above, mostly because they just felt a half step too sluggish for me. Rods from Japan like the Kabuto 805 seem to be heavy, unresponsive and feel waterlogged even though they are pretty. I found the Kabuto 765 to be the same as the 805. One odd thing about those rods was how fidgety the tips were on the cast. You really had to pay attention to tip velocity at every point in the cast, and the rods did not like anything but a Rio LT in my hand. Also, anything by Lamiglas or based on a Lami blank sucks in my hand as they are truly slow overall and tip tracking is vague at best; just way off the charts IMO. Finally, I waited a few years for a Morgan glass rod, got it, and soon after sold it. It was not a 805, but a 765, but is still worth mentioning because I just found it to be annoyingly vague in the tip and therefore inaccurate no matter what line I put on it. I was surprised considering the cult following and aura around that line of glass rods. Maybe I just suck though and you should ignore everything I wrote above.

I'd love to hear others' opinions on this common configuration of fiberglass rods.

- Tom
 
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Lugan

Joe Streamer
#3
A very helpful and useful thread but dammit you are pushing me closer to the edge on starting the search for a high quality contemporary glass rod.

This should be a sticky in this subforum.

TC
Tim, we should organize another glass rod clave this summer like we did 2 years ago at Gary Knowels' house and the park across the street. Then you can cast some of these and many others. I know I both learned a lot that day after casting 20+ rods, and it was great fun with great guys attending. We could expand it to cane rods too. Anyone else up for that?
 
#4
That why there are so many rod's out there. My brother and I both have a different casting stroke. We both can cast a rod give in to us. But his stroke is more tip and short. Mine is more open and long. There are rods we both like and others we are on opposite sides of the fence.
Thanks for that great review. I have the Epic 8'6" 6wt and love it. Had the 8' 4wt and didn't like it. I have had the Kabuto 8' 5wt but had to sell it before I could real use it. I have a proto-type Barclay 8'1" 3wt. Haven't had a chance to cast it yet.
But thanks again for the review.
 

jwg

Active Member
#8
Lugan:

thanks for the post.

It would be interesting to get your opinion on a "Hurricane" rod I have, old fiberglass, possibly phenolic rather than epoxy, that came to me indirectly from an estate. Of all the glass rods in this estate collection, this one stood out. Although it seemed pretty wimpy waving them around, on casting it stood out. It comes to just 6 wt using the common cents method and its a thick butt and hence fast action. I rebuilt it to the extent of replacing all the guides. it feels light in the hand. It casts great. I fished it last weekend. big fish don't put the bend deep into the handle, so its kind of stiff in that regard, but both little and big fish stayed on, so the top half was responsive. (little fish shake off a rod/tip that is too stiff in my experience)
(I realize you would have to cast it to give me an opinion, so this is really an I wish…)

I have a Cabelas 5/6 from their 50th anniversary i think, 7.5' CGR, which is my main glass comparison. This Cabelas rod is thin all the way down and bends down into the grip. ( also have a 6 ft 3 wt CGR, which works fine for small cuts in little rivers and streams, and keeps them on the hook for netting - a 4 wt IM6 graphite was too much for these small fish and even being relatively slow IM6 they shook right off and I never netted one)

I have cast a friends Stephen 5/6 which was sweet.

The 5 wt graphite rods I learned on were actually slow and very slow, although they were labeled fast and slow - they were both the same brand and same 53M modulus graphite, but different tapers.
So most of my rods are "full flex to mid flex' with a couple of exceptions.

From a technical point of view, do you know if some of these modern glass rods are using some combination of glass and graphite?

Jay
 

Lugan

Joe Streamer
#9
It would be interesting to get your opinion on a "Hurricane" rod I have, old fiberglass, possibly phenolic rather than epoxy, that came to me indirectly from an estate... From a technical point of view, do you know if some of these modern glass rods are using some combination of glass and graphite?
Never heard of a Hurricane rod. Ask the guys at the Fiberglass Flyrodders forum about that one. As for a combination of materials, yes, the recently-discontinued Hardy glass rods were a blend of some kind. Others in the past that were blends include the short-lived TL Johnson Synergy rods, and the Shakespeare Ugly Stik.
 

Kyle Smith

DBA BozoKlown406
#10
I really like what you said about a "vague" rod tip. I think that's the reason I can't fish my 5wt boo rod on streams smaller than 40 feet wide. Amazingly, I vastly prefer my faster Scott (medium fast) graphite 3wt rods on the small creeks for the quick side-arm skip the fly on the water deliveries. Do the Steffen rods offer that kind of control at close range?
 

Lugan

Joe Streamer
#11
I really like what you said about a "vague" rod tip. I think that's the reason I can't fish my 5wt boo rod on streams smaller than 40 feet wide. Amazingly, I vastly prefer my faster Scott (medium fast) graphite 3wt rods on the small creeks for the quick side-arm skip the fly on the water deliveries. Do the Steffen rods offer that kind of control at close range?
IMO, yes, a Steffen is quite powerful and under control for that kind of thing. It's the main reason I have so many of them. Mark's use of faster S -Glass and a tapers with stronger tips are the keys. Kyle, I think I noticed once that you mentioned chasing big fish with streamers on small creeks. I do that too, and have 3 different Steffens for that purpose, if that's any endorsement. YMMV of course.
 
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Chad Lewis

NEVER wonder what to do with your free time
#12
Lugan, thanks for the great write-up. I've been getting into glass, albeit slowly. I got a Hardy Trout Fisher (580) a few years ago and recently picked up a Cabela's CGR in 466. I used the CGR on a little river on opening weekend and loved it with a fish on. The action's a bit weird for me but I can cast it well. It flexes so deep it feels like there's nothing there at all for power, but then the line shoots out okay. 30-40 feet is pretty easy and I've done more. Meh. For 40% off it's a lot of fun. It's also a blast on bluegill.

I got to cast the Echo and Reddington glass rods back to back a few weeks ago. Interesting you say the Redingtons felt sluggish. I thought it was really fast for glass, like getting close to some graphite rods. The 5 weight Redington was way faster than my 5 weight Hardy. I thought the Echo was really good and I'll probably end up with one in some weight or other. Just gotta figure out where to fit it in……

I think our rod preferences are fairly similar. Even in graphite I prefer a slower action. I recently got a new 6 weight. I thought I was going to buy the new Echo Boost, but ended up with the Carbon instead. That slower action just works for me.
 
#13
Thanks for an informative write-up, Lugan. After talking with you a few years ago, I picked up a couple of fiberglass starter rods (Cabelas CGR), both in short lengths and have loved fishing them. This was also about the time I bought my first bamboo rod (Mike Monsos builder). I've come to like the action on these rods and it makes my graphite rods seem less enjoyable whenever I pick one of them up again. Like Tim, I may have to start looking for a longer and higher-end glass rod.
Dick
 

tonemike

fish'n glass
#14
yes, we definitely should have another Clave!! i bet many of us have some new rods to demo and there's certainly nothing like casting a rod yourself. that's what finally got me to pull the trigger on a Steffen. a central location near I5 would probably be easiest, but as a distant plan B, i would volunteer my home. i've got 3+ acres of grass for your casting pleasure, but i live a bit off the beaten path in Monroe. i do have a nice grill and a good-sized weber smoker for those of you, like myself, who are partial to meat. nonetheless, i bet more people would come if we met nearer Seattle. what do you guys think?
 

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Lugan

Joe Streamer
#15
Nice spread, Mike! I'm easy. I could go to Monroe or Seattle or other. The date will be more of an issue for me and I suspect others due to summer trips. What if we did it the first or second weekend of September?
 

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