Fishing with The Hardy Zephrus FWS
As an angler residing on the front range of Colorado, I find myself fishing tighter tailwater fisheries most of the year and a majority of my time is spent on the South Platte River near Deckers, Colorado. If you have ever fished this stretch of the South Platte, then you know how technical it can be with its need for accurate casts, perfect mends, seemingly impossible drifts and ridiculously picky trout. I try to fish a lot of different rods in the hopes that somehow another expensive piece of equipment will help fill the holes in my game and elevate my fishing. Most of the time, I am reminded that there isn’t a rod that can save me from my own mistakes, but every now and then I come across a rod that is truly remarkable in its feel, casting capabilities and application in the situations I fish. One of these rods that I was lucky enough to try is the 9 foot 5 weight Hardy Zephrus FWS. I put this rod through the ringer, as I do with most of the equipment that I demo, fishing with it on the South Platte and Eagle rivers for a week and using it in a ton of different water situations from casting delicate # 26 dries, deep nymphing as well as tossing bulky streamers. This rod performed beautifully the entire week and left me checking my bank account for the possibility of buying one for my ever expanding quiver. If you stop reading here, then you should know that I absolutely LOVE this rod and highly recommend it to any angler who is looking to upgrade that mid level stick to a high grade fast action rod. Plus anglers will be pleasantly surprised when they see the Zephyrus rings in at almost $100 less than its competition without sacrificing quality.
-Construction at a glance-
One of the first things I noticed about this four section rod is the craftsmanship. The forest green finish on the blank, the darker wraps and line-up marks are all eye catchers. The Fuji titanium framed SiC stripper guides and intermediate REC black pearl recoil guides are lightweight, durable and a great touch with their friction and line noise reducing qualities. The handle is a high quality, 4A grade reverse half wells cork and feels great to the touch. The reel seat spacer is a beautiful burl wood and the heavy duty anodized aluminum reel seat both come standard on the FWS models. I was a truly surprised at the weight of this rod in my hand and weighing in at just 2.5 ounces, it is one of the lightest rods on the market. Constructed with Hardy’s own Sintrix resin technology, Hardy rods are at the forefront of fly rod technology, here’s what they have to say about Sintrix:
“The resin material used in SINTRIX® is produced by 3M®, it is a unique and patented material incorporating silica nano spheres which provides two distinct benefits. Firstly the microscopic silica spheres are able to evenly surround every individual carbon fibre filament providing a matrix of strength throughout the rod. Secondly, being spherical, the silica particles are able to resist pressure and compression from any angle. This is particularly important because it is under compression forces, on the underside of a bent rod, rather than tension forces, on the outside of the curve, that carbon fibre is most likely to weaken and potentially break. So by resisting compression better, SINTRIX® rods are stronger…The final results were astonishing with up to 60% increases in strength and up to 30% savings in weight. Driven by our passion and determination to always push the boundaries—part of Hardy’s DNA since 1872—”
Most anglers in my region don’t need to cast much further than 50 feet, so I made sure that most of my attention was focused on the 20-50 foot range while I was taking notes on this rod. I fished the Zephrus with a Ross Evolution R reel spooled with Rio Intouch gold line over the week and it was a near perfect match-up for me. Of course I couldn’t wait to get out on the river with this setup, so my first few casts were taken right in front of my house, and from the moment I started, I knew this would be fun. At 20-30 feet, the accuracy of this rod was simply unmatched, I was on target almost every cast and the rod loaded my line as quick as I expected. The Zephrus is a fast action rod and I could immediately notice how much power I could put behind it. The action took a little getting used to, but after a few minutes of adjusting it was game on. As I progressed to the 40-50 foot range I was pleased to find that my accuracy suffered little change and I was still hitting my mark, loading line and laying it down perfectly with this rod. For me, feel is very important with long casts, I like to know exactly where I am as the line loads in my back cast and I hate having to wait forever to feel out that sweet spot for a good loop. If you are like most average anglers, your 70 foot cast is probably a little choppy and for me, this is where most rods really start to shine or fail. At 70 feet I was still hitting a 3 to 4 foot radius around my target and having little trouble with my double hauls and loops, I was extremely happy at the results. One thing that I noticed most about this rod is the flexibility of the tip. My go-to rod is my 9 foot 5 weight Sage X and sometimes I feel like the tip of that rod is a little bit too flexible for those long casts and i tend to feel insecure about going those long distances. The Zephrus really performed where I needed it to with those long casts and still had enough stiffness in the tip to deliver those long lengths without sacrificing the feel of a 5 weight.
-On The Water-
The first couple of days that I fished the Zephrus on the South Platte were amazing. Big fish, beautiful weather and great flows made for an epic week on the water, so I was excited to put this rod to the test out there and find out if it was really worth the price tag. I usually start my days with a nymph rig setup unless I can spot a riser or two nearby, so I ran a three fly nymph rig with a 9 foot leader to get started. One of my biggest issues with nymphing is being able to deliver my bugs evenly and mend accurately without pulling my drift out of the lane, especially at longer distances with heavier rigs. The Zephrus had no trouble executing short and long casts with ease, even when I had to load up the tungsten putty. My mends were extremely accurate and I could follow them all the way up to my indicator with very little movement in my drift, which is a definite plus. I tend to use very light tippet on the South Platte, so being able to hook set without snapping or damaging my tippet is very important, the flex and dampening distributed perfectly through the rod, was spot-on for nymphing with light tippet and my hook sets were firm and lethal on both dries and nymphs. I was lucky enough to spot a few risers over the course of the week and was more than happy to oblige with some top water tactics. This is where the Zephrus really won me over. Casting on the grass is one thing, but there is so much more at stake when you are on the water and want to hunt that big riser without spooking it or casting into the overhanging bush above it. At about 30 feet, my cast and presentation was exactly what I expected from a rod of this caliber, and I could gently mend that 30 feet of line without completely skating my tiny pattern out of the small pool that I was casting to. I was using 6x tippet, got a little too excited when I finally got a take and my hook set was way too hard on my first fish. To my surprise, I didn’t break it off or damage my tippet. It might have been luck, but I still feel like the flex of this rod really dampened that monster hook set, I may never know who to credit for that one. It was an absolute pleasure to fish dries with this rod and I really enjoyed the forgiving flex though some very interesting 6x fish fights. Needles to say, this 5 weight almost feels like a 4 weight when fighting fish and that makes it even more fun when the fish are on the hook. I don’t typically enjoy throwing streamers with a 5 weight, I feel like most 5 weight rods don’t really have the backbone for it and the Zephrus is no exception. However, the firm midsection of this rod really helped me give my casts some power when it came to throwing the heavy meat and the farther I can keep a streamer from the back of my head, the better. The Zephrus can handle it all.
Let’s face it, a good fly rod isn’t cheap, in my opinion you should never buy a rod without at least running some line through it and casting it in the parking lot of your local shop. With that said, I believe that the Hardy Zephrus can cast side by side with most $1000+ rods on the market and at a $779 price, that makes it a great value. Aside from any marketing hype, these are great rods and the workmanship that is put into them is astonishing. I have fished with many different fly rods over the years and the Zephrus is a standout, I highly recommend it. If you are interested in casting the Zephrus, feel free to stop by either of our Minturn Anglers locations and giving it a go. We also carry several other Hardy models to fit your skill level and budget, so don’t be afraid to cast them all before taking the plunge. I will absolutely be adding a Zephrus to my quiver soon.
See you on the river!