Al Campbell, Field Editor

December 15th, 2003

Albright Rod Test
By Al Campbell

When I test cast a new fly rod, I look for a few things that will measure the performance of that rod. I usually test all new rods in the same place if possible. That gives me a measure of consistency to work with. Since that place is also marked off in 10-foot intervals, it's easy to measure how far a rod can cast by watching where the end of the fly line lands. I also have some targets I can toss out to observe how accurately a rod will cast. The best part is that place is right behind my house in a mowed, open field.

Well, last weekend I finally caught a day when the weather was tolerable, and the winds were less than 10 mph. I dug out that batch of Albright rods and had a ball. Since my neighbor (Mike) is a very serious fly fisherman, I invited him to join me so we could compare thoughts. I think we spent about 3 hours casting and discussing how each rod cast, and trying to beat the other guy in distance or accuracy. I just wish I had a 10wt line to cast the 10wt rod in that box, but I think I can truthfully comment on Albright rods without that last tidbit of playing. So, without further delay, here's the scoop.

The EXS series of rods is the top of the current Albright lineup. In daylight, the rod looks like it was wrapped with metallic Christmas wrapping paper. That's due to the final over-wrap of the fused silicate scrim. Although the look is rather unique, it is very appealing to the eye, and it definitely sets the rod apart from the rest of the players in the rod building game. It looks good, has some of the best hardware, and has a delta shaped rod tube. Since all current EXS models are three-piece, I suppose I should tell you it was a three-piece model; but then again, you already know that.

How did the rod cast? It's deceptive if you just go by how it feels. I had a lot of line on the ground and was watching the line in the air and the rod tip to see how far it was bending with normal false cast strokes. Then I just let the line go (no double haul) and measured the distance of a normal cast. Forty-five feet with a slightly angled head wind isn't bad at all, especially for a 4wt. The next cast was with a double haul, but not a huge haul on the line. It went 62 feet (not counting the leader). My neighbor said my markers had to be wrong so we dug out the 100ft tape measure and proved that they are placed at exact 10ft intervals.

Next it was Mike's turn. He didn't exactly giggle, but I would take the sound he made to be an expression of delight. He did a "reach for your socks and try to bust a kidney" haul trying to best my cast, and did so by about four feet. I think he needs more time on the water, but all was well as long as his line went further than mine. Since we both agreed that the rod casts a lot like my 9ft 4wt Sage SP, I dug that out to compare. They are indeed very similar in the way they cast and feel. However, it took a little more effort to reach 60 feet with the SP. Considering the possibility of differences in wind speed and direction, I'd say they are equals in casting ability, but the Sage SP cost a lot more money than the Albright EXS does. The hardware on the EXS is a bit nicer too.

We cast 9ft EXS rods in 4, 5, 6 and 8 weights. None are exceptionally fast, but that smooth feel they have will fool you. As the rod weights increased, so did the distance they could cast, ending with a 93 foot launch from the 8wt rod. The lighter rods have a green color, but the heavier rods are blue. I suppose that is one way to quickly see if the rod is a saltwater weight. As far as accuracy goes, they are deadly. I think I want one, but "which line weight" is the haunting question.

Next we cast a few of their A-5 series rods. These are 5-piece, high modulus offerings in an emerald green color. I have never cast a 5-piece rod that I thought was an equal to a 2-piece version. That is still the case. Although the rods cast great for a 5-piece version, they still have all those extra ferrules to impede the action and make it feel slightly sluggish. I'll say this though, I think they are better casting than the 5-piece Wayfarer that Redington offers. And, they have exactly the same retail price at $195.00. Five-weight, five-piece rod, 60 foot cast and accuracy to boot. As with all 5pc rods I have cast, a double haul won't stretch the power curve nearly as well as it does on a 2pc rod.

The next series of rods are called General Practitioner. I think I like shorter names if I'm going to be writing about them, but that's because my fingers are a little bit lazy. Anyway, I let Mike cast the first one and asked him how much he thought it should cost (I hadn't told him the price of the A-5 rods yet). He guessed around $200.00 to $250.00, then his eyes got big when I told him they retail for $95.00 for the 2pc version and $125.00 for the 4pc models. I'm a bit more critical, but at that price they are a bargain. The 9ft 5wt rod will flip a fly to roughly 50ft without a haul on the line. Color is brown, and this model doesn't come with a rod tube, but it comes packed in a nice sock.

The bottom of the Albright lineup is a model called Top Water. These babies retail for $69.00 in 2pc versions and $89.00 for the 4pc models. I won't try to compare them to other company's models, but I will say they are a bargain at that price. The 9ft 5wt 2pc model landed a fake yarn fly roughly 45ft away without a haul on the line. I didn't measure my casts on the lower priced models using a double haul. I suspect that these models are more aligned with beginners, and beginners usually don't double haul well, so neither did I. Rod sock is included.

Final notes: None of the rods have extremely fast actions. Moderately fast would be my rating. If you want gut-busting stiffness, this line of rods probably won't suit you. If you prefer something a bit more smooth, I think you'll love the rods, especially the EXS models. All of the rods were accurate, which is something not all companies can claim. The 9ft 8wt EXS rod outcast a 10ft 8wt Gatti I traded to Pete Hiatt last spring (beat it by more than 10 feet on the same course). Don't worry, I'm still a big Gatti and Sage fan too, but I recently added another company to the list.

After Mike left, I grabbed the 4wt EXS for a little more fun. OK, I really wanted to beat his cast. I did, but I'm not telling him. If I did, he would have me out in the snow trying to finish the competition. Actually, the little bit of competition we do have is a lot of fun. So are these rods, and at those prices; well, you get the picture.

You can see more about the rods on the Albright Sponsor Page. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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