One-piece rods: Biscayne, Loomis, Hardy

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Posted by Bill Blanton on 2011-09-26 14:28:29

I've got a fairly substantial quiver of two-, three- and four-piece rods from a variety of manufacturers -- TFO, Sea Level, Sage, G-Loomis, Orvis. I like them all, and they all get heavy use, both in my home waters of Southwest Florida and in my fishing travels. Still, I've always had an affection for one-piece fly rods. I've been using them for at least a portion of my fishing over the past several years, ever since G-Loomis introduced their CrossCurrent Pro-1 models. I've also fished with one-piece Biscayne rods, and I recently acquired a one-piece Hardy Proaxis 8-weight.

Why one-piece? Well, if you're like me, someone who spends about 90 percent of his angling life fishing from or guiding out of his own boat, one-piece rods offer advantages over their multi-piece brethren.

For example: Compared to a similar multi-piece rod, a one-piece is lighter and stronger. Modern ferrules are masterpieces of design, but they still add weight to a blank and serve as potential breaking points.

Another feature: One-piece rods are more trouble-free on the water. I can't tell you how many times during the course of a fishing day my clients have had to adjust the alignment of one or more sections of their multi-piece rods. It's not an uncommon event for an angler to cast the rod apart, throwing the tip or even the top two sections into the water. Those experiences are just minor nuisances, but on more than one occasion, I've had an angler break a rod at the ferrule on the strike or during the fight. While he was casting, the rod sections separated a bit, thus weakening the ferrule connection. The strain of a strong hook-set or a hard-pulling fish caused a break.

You don't have those problems with a one-piece. The guides never get out of alignment; you never cast the rod apart; there's no danger of breakage at the non-existent ferrules. (Of course, it's possible to break any rod, regardless of the number of pieces, by high-sticking, slamming the tip in a car door or spearing a revolving ceiling fan, but those are different issues).

On the other hand, there are some big disadvantages to one-piece rods:

-- The most obvious is, they don't transport well. Forget taking one on an airline or other public conveyance. They don't travel well even in cars and trucks unless you have a vehicle with enough interior space to stretch them out.

-- Since they don't transport well, you need to purchase additional, multi-piece rods if you plan to travel.

-- There aren't many to chose from: At the moment, you're pretty much stuck with rods from Biscayne, G-Loomis and Hardy, whose products range from moderately expensive to expensive to quite expensive. I wish manufacturers like TFO or Echo would jump into the mix with some more economically priced one-piece offerings. I'd love to see a one-piece modeled on TFO's BVK series.

How about casting? Theoretically, a one-piece rod should cast better than a similar multi-piece blank, but there are other factors besides number of sections that figure into casting ability. In the G-Loomis line, for example, the CrossCurrent Pro-1 rods are made out of a lower modulus graphite than that found in the four-piece CrossCurrent GLX rods or the new NRX rods. I'm not sure what the material is, but it doesn't seem to be as powerful or as sensitive as either GLX or NRX. The result is, the four-piece GLX and four-piece NRX rods are better casting tools than the Pro-1 one-piece models.

For me, however, the other advantages of the one-piece outweigh the slight casting disadvantage. I regularly use Pro-1 rods in 9-, 10- and 12-weight. The 12-weight casts well with just about any 12-weight line. Over the years, that rod has become something of a go-to for Florida tarpon guides. The 9- and 10-weights are good rods, but both required a little experimentation before I found lines that really loaded them well at close range. At medium to long range, they're excellent. Still, I've always been disappointed Loomis decided against making the Pro-1 rods out of GLX graphite. I hope a one-piece rod in the new NRX graphite will appear in the future.

The Pro-1 rods are offered in 7- through 12-weights. Due to shipping considerations, they're 8-foot 10 inches long instead of the more usual nine-foot length. Prices range from $430 to $485.

The Biscayne one-piece rods are made from their Billy Baroo graphite, which the company describes as an 80/20 graphite/fiberglass composite. It's the same material used in their multi-piece fly rods and many of their conventional rods. These nine-foot custom rods are extremely powerful, both for casting distance and fish-fighting ability. A friend of mine routinely relies on a Biscayne 9-weight one-piece as a tarpon rod and doesn't have any trouble landing even large fish with it. The Biscayne one-piece rods are offered in 8-, 9, 10-, 12- and 13-weight and in two 8-foot 6-inch bluewater versions rated as 12/14- and 15/18-weight. They range in price from $351 for the 8-weight to $642 for a tricked-out bluewater model. Biscayne Rod is a custom company, so, unless you live in South Florida, you're not likely to see their products in a fly shop. Most are ordered directly from the manufacturer.

Hardy introduced its Proaxis one-piece rods earlier this year. Like the Loomis Pro-1, the Hardy rods are 8-foot 10 inches long, but Hardy took a different approach than G-Loomis when it came to rod material. The Proaxis one-piece rods are made from the same Sintrix graphite as their four-piece counterparts. If you've browsed the Hardy web site or watched Hardy clips on YouTube, you've probably seen videos of Andy Mill battling large spinner sharks on the prototypes of these rods. You may also have read the results of George Anderson's Eight-Weight Shoot-Out, where he says the rods are so good they're "going to change the game as we know it in saltwater fly fishing."

Based on my own experience with one model, the 8-weight I purchased shortly after the rods were introduced, the hype is justified. So far, I haven't wrestled any large critters with mine, but I can say, without reservation, the Proaxis one-piece is the best-casting 8-weight I've ever used, and I've cast a bunch of different brands and models in my fishing lifetime. I don't intend to do a head-to-head comparison with other recently introduced rods like the Sage One, the TFO BVK, the G-Loomis NRX or even Hardy's own four-piece Proaxis. All those four-piece rods are excellent, but in this piece, I'm strictly concerned with one-piece models.

The one-piece Proaxis is extremely light, very accurate and very powerful. The action is smooth and crisp; the light, flexible tip lets the rod load well up close with a 8-weight line. The ease of loading at short range doesn't mean the rod is wimpy at long range. Far from it: The Proaxis will effortlessly cast all the line you care to bring.

So far, I've fished the rod with Rio's Saltwater and Redfish tapers, and it cast beautifully with both. Perhaps the best testimonial came from my wife, a beginning fly-caster. She calls it the "magic rod." She says it's much easier to learn to cast with the Proaxis than it was with the very fine rod I started her out on. If a beginner notices a difference, think how much an experienced angler will benefit from the rod.

I'm looking forward to trying out the 10- and 12-weight Proaxis rods before the next tarpon season rolls around.

The Proaxis one-piece rods are offered in 8-, 9-, 10-, 11- and 12-weight. The handsome blue-green blanks are finished with recoil guides and a distinctive reel seat. Prices range from $665 to $695. Hardy recently announced that it's going to offer one-piece rods in its Zenith (freshwater) line in 2012. I imagine quite a few western trout guides will be sporting one-piece 4- to 7-weight Zeniths in their drift boats next season. I don't know how I'd transport it from Florida to Montana, but I'd love to get my hands on one of those 4- or 5-weights!

One-piece rods aren't for everyone, but for those of us who do most of our fishing out of flats skiffs or other boats with good under-gunwale storage (my Maverick will hold eight fully-rigged rods in its racks), they're great tools.

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