Sunday, 25 March 2012

Hardy Greys Factory Visit

As part of the Hardy Greys Academy I am in the fortunate and envious position of having a choice of their full range of tackle to teach with. Problem is there is too much choice and there is nowhere that you can try all the rods out in one place, except that is for the home of Hardy Greys in Alnwick. So what better excuse than to travel up there with my friend and fellow academy member Mike Roden.

6' and 7' brook rods on the rod rack ready for testing
6' and 7' brook rods on the rod rack ready for testing
Not only can you try and buy the full range of tackle in the factory shop, there is a very handy casting pool and grassed area where you can 'play' with rods. As we pulled into the car park Howard Croston, rod designer and casting guru, was on the casting pool testing rods and lines; secret, unmarked tackle that you and I will probably have in our hands in 3 years time.

Top of my list was a rod for teaching on the river. A rod capable of teaching a beginner to cast and take their first steps in river flyfishing, but also useful as a rod for teaching more advanced techniques to experienced anglers such as Czech Nymphing and fishing the duo. There is only one rod that fits the bill, not just in the Hardy Greys range but anywhere - the unique Greys XF2 Streamflex Plus. So unique in fact that there is a patent pending for the extension system which converts the rod from a crisp 9' 6" all-rounder to a 10' rod for fishing some of the more modern river techniques, as well as an excellent wet fly rod of course. I already own 10' and 11' #3 versions of the standard XF2 Streamflex rod, so my mind was made up to get the extending version, I just needed to decide which line weight, #3, #4, or #5. I'd ruled the #3 out as not really suitable for teaching beginners so it was between the #4 and #5. After casting both, the heavier rod got my vote as a better all-rounder for guiding and instructing - more feeling for the less experienced anglers - though the lighter of the two would probably be better for the more experienced.

Hardy & Greys rods, reels and lines
Hardy & Greys rods, reels and lines
Next up a 9' or 9' 6" #6 rod for teaching beginners on a lake - my bread and butter rod. Lots and lots to choose from, not a bad rod in the full range of Hardy and Greys. The XF2 came close, a beautiful casting rod, but too fast I felt for a beginner. In the end I opted for a Hardy Uniqua 9' 6" #6. A stunning looking rod with all the qualities you look for in a beginners rod: middle to tip action; plenty of feel and feedback; fast enough to cast long when required but forgiving enough to play feisty rainbows safely; and reasonably priced at £219 making it a realistic option for a first rod. This is a very important point and one that I always stress to beginners: don't go out and buy a cheap first rod, buy one that you won't want (or need) to upgrade in a year or two. Buy a rod you are proud to own and use, that you can use for many years to come.

My third decision was a rod for loch style boat fishing, something I often teach repeat clients returning a year or two after their beginner's course, or a guiding option when the rivers are flooded. I had provisionally made my mind up to get a Greys XF2 Competitor Special 10' #7 and casting with it confirmed my choice. A true all-rounder capable of fishing dries close on a floater or deep with lures on a DI7.  So decision made and now onto the cream...

Casting with a wand - The Hardy Classic Flyweight #2
Casting with a wand - The Hardy Classic Flyweight #2
I wanted to buy a couple of rods for myself, tiny wands for fishing small streams, something I find myself doing more and more of. I wanted a 6' and a 7' rod rated #2 or #3. There was a lot to choose from and it was going to be a tough decision, so much so that I used a notepad and rating system. The problem with such light rods is that it takes a while to get used to the lightness and action that they exhibit. When you are used to casting and fishing with heavier set-ups there is a massive difference and it takes a while to adjust your casting, something you don't get unless you can try at a leisurely pace. On my list of rods to try was the Hardy Classic Glass, Hardy Classic Lightweight and Greys Streamflex.

The Streamflex 6' #2, 6' 6" #3 and 7' #3 rods were faultless but I have a collection of these superb rods in various guises and wanted something different...

The Hardy Glass range is a very interesting rod which goes back to glass fibre to get the right action in such a light rod, and to make it more durable. It takes a while to appreciate, but once you get the feel it is a sublime rod, and not just to cast, they are stunning to look at too with quality tapered cork handle, deep gloss green blank and silver sliding reel fitting. I had to have one but which?

Also in the Classic range is the Hardy Classic Lightweight rod. A similar range to the Glass for fishing in tight places, but made from carbon fibre, they are based on a traditional design and classic looks but made with modern technology. The most striking difference to the Glass rods is the slimness of the burgundy blank, pencil thin. They cast like a dream, faster than the Glass, crisp and smooth. Delightful, almost too good to fish with and I wanted one, so I had a hard decision to make.

Hardy Classic Glass "The Brook" 6ft #3
Hardy Classic Glass "The Brook" 6ft #3

In the end I chose the Hardy Classic Glass Brook 6' #3 and Hardy Classic Featherweight 7' #3. I can't wait to get out this summer on the smaller streams of the Yorkshire Dales to put them (carefully) to the test.

And then I had to choose reels and lines but that's another story...!