Monday, 26 November 2012

Rod Review – Hardy Classic Lightweight 7’ #3 Featherweight

When Steve Peterson, Hardy Greys Game Marketing Manager, asked me to review one of the rods I am using this season he probably had in mind that I would take it to a lovely Yorkshire Dales river to test and get a few pictures. I'm sure he would have imagined a tumbling stream with moss covered rocks, limestone crags and moorland as a backdrop, and a photo opportunity in every direction. If I'm honest so did I, but that's not how things panned out...

My friend Dave invited me to fish with him on Colne Water, an urban stream in the heart of industrial Lancashire. A small river that was once polluted by industry but now recovered and home to plenty of wild brownies. Recovered and clean enough to hold trout it may be, but this stream is never going adorn the pages of a Hardy catalogue! It has all the hallmarks of a river running through a densely populated area, i.e. shopping trolleys, bikes, sewage outflow, litter hanging from every tree branch, in fact just about any imaginable bit of household waste, plus a few other things you couldn’t imagine!

The Hardy Lightweight 7’ #3
(Featherweight) Rod and Cascapedia
Reel framed against urban river debris.
Not knowing what to expect I loaded a few rods into the car boot, but my brand new Hardy Lightweight 7' #3, known as the 'Featherweight', got the nod. Colne Water is a small stream; it widens out in places but most pools are confined, either by trees or man-made structures such as walls and bridges. The 7' #3 would be perfect, but I have to admit to cringing a little at the thought of using my pride and joy Hardy Lightweight rod, paired with my Hardy Cascapedia reel, in such a place! Regardless of the backdrop it would still be the perfect testing ground and with urban flyfishing seemingly the current 'in thing' it seemed very apt. The only doubt I had about using this rod was the occasional downstream gusty wind and whether such a light rod would cope.

The first striking thing about this rod is the rod tube, which comes in a protective cloth bag complete with drawstring closure. The tube is made from cream coloured metal with stunning, varnished, cork end caps. It's little touches like that that set Hardy rods apart from the rest. The rod is 2 piece, so despite being short when made up, it is longer than the more usual 4 piece rods in the car boot. At only 7' though, it does still fit width ways across the car boot, just.

Fishing upstream nymph with the
Hardy Classic Lightweight 7' #3
Featherweight rod and
Cascapedia Reel
Inside the rod tube, the rod is protected further with a cloth bag, again matching the tube in cream. The blank is a lovely burgundy colour, carefully inscribed with the make, model, length and line rating. The handle is high quality cork, reversed half wells, which fits perfectly and smoothly in the hand – a real pleasure to hold. I'd also forgot how much easier and quicker it is to put together a 2 piece rod in this world of 4 piece 'convenience' rods. The reel is mounted via a traditional looking, universal reel holder, which matches the image of the rod and the rest of the cosmetics and fittings. Fitted with my Hardy Cascapedia reel it made an awesome outfit and keeping with the traditional theme I was using a Hardy Premium DT line.

Top marks then for looks and presentation but now the real test - casting and fishing. A rod such as this is made for small streams and short casts, upstream fishing mainly, dry fly or nymph. It was cold for the time of year, and early in the day, so with no signs of a hatch or rising fish I tied on a small tungsten bead nymph. I made short upstream casts, searching anything that looked as though it might hold a trout. The first thing that strikes you about this rod is that it has quite a soft action. Not unduly so like the rods of old, it just takes a while to get used to and adjust your casting stroke. You need to relax, slow everything down and lengthen your stroke slightly. At the end of the day you should be relaxed in the places this rod will accompany you to. The slightly soft action is built into this rod for good reason. When flycasting it is the line that loads the rod - it is our weight. We need sufficient line outside the tip to make the rod work (bend in other words). But on small streams often you can't get out enough line to load the rod because of your restricted position. And that's where the softer action comes in; the rod loads itself because it bends under its own weight during the casting stroke. When the rod straightens the line is cast to the target.

Playing a trout on the
Hardy Lightweight 7’ #3 Rod
This rod is a blend of old and new; tradition meets technology; a rod that takes the characteristics of traditional rods but manufactured with modern materials and techniques to give us a sublime casting and fishing rod. The slightly soft action is married to fast recovery tip, turning this rod into a crisp casting beauty. I progressed upstream, overhead and sidecasting my nymph into every possible lie. I had numerous small trout take the nymph and the rod set the hook every time. Playing fish was a delight, small stream trout perfectly matched to small stream rod.

Every so often I'd come to water which had to hold a trout, but with no backcast room I had to resort to roll casting. If anything the rod performed even better with a roll cast than overhead casts, producing the tightest of loops and delivering the fly with exceptional accuracy wherever you intended.

Occasionally a downstream wind would spring up, which can cause problems with softer rods because they can’t punch a tight loop into the wind. Again the Hardy Lightweight came out on top, producing tight, wedge shaped loops, with a slight alteration to the casting stroke. The short tapered leader turned over every time, assisted by the weight of the beaded nymph.

A plump, wild, urban trout and
Hardy Lightweight 7’ #3
Featherweight Rod.
By the time we had reached the upstream limit a hatch of olives had started to trickle off and so as we walked and waded back to the cars we started to see a few fish rising. The hatch intensified and dry flies were tied on in place of the nymph, rounding off a great day’s fishing with a few more trout on CDC olive imitations.

As the day ended we’d had a superb day’s sport in not so great surroundings. I can’t say that I had fallen in love with the river, despite its plentiful trout, but I’d certainly fallen for the rod. It is a rod that is at home on small streams and confined places, from city centre to middle of nowhere. It’s not a rod I’ll be using everyday. It will, though, make me want to fish such places more often, just so I can use it; it really is a delight to use.

The 7’ #3 Featherweight is just one of a range of 4 rods in the Hardy Classic Lightweight range. There is a shorter, 6’ #2 rod, for the smallest streams, and, 8’6” #4 and 9’ #5 versions for bigger streams and rivers. The Classic range of rods will appeal to any angler who appreciates attention to detail and quality. They may be based on traditional designs but they fit in perfectly with modern flyfishing, particularly those who enjoy a stealthy, mostly dry fly approach.

Many followers of my blog will recognise the day above on Colne Water from the day described in my previous blog post, A Tale of Two Rivers. The above article was submitted to Hardy Greys earlier this year for use on their website. Please don't think that biases the review in any way at all. Everything I have written is exactly how I found it. If I had any minor niggles with the rod I would have said so. If I found anything major that I disliked I would not have submitted a review.

I have since used this rod throughout the 2012 season on various Yorkshire Dales streams and headwaters, and totally fallen in love with it. It is a real pleasure to fish with and is not overpriced at £299 for a rod of such quality. There is a certain feeling of joy as you remove it from the rod tube, something that only a few rods can cause. It is now on my all time favourite rod list and joins others such as my Greys Streamflex 10' #3 (original version - do everything river rod), Sage XP 9' #4 (dry fly) and Hardy Swift 9' 6" #7 (stillwater bank rainbow trout).