Product Reviews

Hexagraph "Miramichi Guides' Choice" Salmon Rod
by Thomas C. Duncan, Sr.

Salmon flyfishers take notice! You may or may not have heard of the Hexagraph Miramichi Atlantic Salmon rod, but if you haven't, you should.

Hexagraph Rods

One of the beauties of flyfishing is the link to the past. The actual art of flycasting has not fundamentally changed since the days of the patriarchs and matriarchs of the form. The shape of flies may be different, but their primary function is the same. Even many of the tactics we use are as olde as olde can be! A great gulf has been crossed in terms of the technology of tackle, however. It is hardly even surprising anymore when we see a new metal, alloy, plastic, or other material being used in the industrious process of tackle making. We recognize a difference in the feel of the older style rods as opposed to the newer variety, and each has its benefits. The disparity, though, is vast. Is there a middle ground to be found?

Cross section of Hexagraph rod

There is, and Hexagraph has found it. Those familiar with this company know that the origins of their unique rodmaking process derives from the desire to have a more traditionally responsive rod formed from modern materials. (Many rod makers these days use the word "traditional" as a substitute for "slow and unresponsive." In this case it is not so as you will see.) The difference between Hexagraph rods and the other graphite rods available today is that the typical rod is simply a 9 foot graphite tube, while the Hexagraph maintains the six-sided, solid construction of ye olde cane rod. Six splines are assembled to become the blank in the same way Tonkin is, but in this case it is carbon fibre that is being used - a graphite rod!

The dressing on the Miramichi Guide's Choice 9'0" 8/9-weight rod is nothing less than stunning. Nickel silver fittings, brilliant green wraps and an REC rope knurled reel seat with hardwood insert are enough to take your breath away. If I could have my picture taken holding any rod just for the rod's sake, this would be the one. I have seen a great many rods in my day, but the full assemblage of this implement ranks very high among the highest in my recollection of style. Even the blank has a deep amber finish which looks remarkably similar to cane. If looks are high on your priority list, this rod will not disappoint!

Miramichi Guide's Choice

If you are more concerned with practical matters, though, you will be asking the same question I did as my eyes feasted on the luscious cosmetics: How does it fish?

I live in the Pacific Salmon and Steelhead country of the great Northwest. These creatures are powerful and difficult to manage. They require finesse, patience, and powerful tackle. The Atlantic Salmon for which this rod was designed are no less so than their western cousins, and the rod intended to be used in pursuit of any of them must be able to throw large flies, mend easily, cast far, handle big fish well, and allow the angler to cast repeatedly without tiring. When combined, this will allow the angler to fish with a variety of tactics under many conditions. The only way to find out if this rod has what it takes it to rig it up and go fishing -- so I did!

I slapped my Galvan 3.5 wide arbor reel spooled with a SA WF8F line on the rod and went to find a silvery critic of its performance. Fortunately, a new run of winter Steelhead had found its way into my home waters, and they would be a fitting test. The water was moderately low, but wide in the area I had selected, so the floating line would be quite adequate if the rod would deliver it far enough. I started with an easy task: a #8 Royal Wulff. The real challenge - aside from getting fish to take notice - is to keep a fly that far away from dragging across the water and ruining the primary purpose of the fly. Mending is critical here, and the Hexagraph did the job. The line was delivered its necessary distance of roughly 65 feet without a complaint. (An 8/9-weight that can't comfortably cast 65 feet isn't worth selling to be sure, but the point is that the rod felt nice at that distance.) The action of the rod is fast for construction of its type, although in contrast to some of the new super-high-speed rods, it is comparatively medium-fast. Loading well into the middle of the rod, it quickly and smoothly sent the fly to its destination. Not that my mending techniques are always pretty, but that end of it was also handled well. At that distance, a stack mend is much more like a long roll-cast than it is at 35 feet, but with a little slack off the rod tip I was able to prevent the Evinrude effect, and managed a proper presentation in the lower water.

The Steelhead evidently weren't interested in my Wulff. I wasn't really surprised since it was a bit late in season for that, so I turned to a more appropriate and demanding fly: a #6 Bomber. These flies have a well-deserved reputation of being difficult to cast, but the fairly large butt section of the Hexagraph gave me a good indication that it would cast it well. It should be no surprise since the Miramichi and its neighbouring rivers are fished most often with these large Bombers and bugs. A short double-haul was added to give the added "punch," and once again, the rod sent the fly to the target as smoothly as a big, blunt, spun-hair fly can be cast. I stepped back a few yards and found that the fly continued to fly well with more line than one would usually need. In case you might have the desire to use this for fly-rodding Bass, I'm sure it will handle just as well with the larger spun-hair poppers, divers, and weighted bugs. Well, I wasn't fishing for Bass, but I might as well have been; no fish cared for my fly.

As long as I was testing out the rod, it was a goal to try to catch a Steelhead, then. A wet #1/0 Volcano at distance will drive the fisher of a weak rod to distraction, but the tactic can sometimes be the best bet for dredging up a fish in the deeper water downstream. The WF8 line was probably not the best bet for this particular facet of the examination, but I gave it a shot anyway. It worked, both delivering and mending the fly, but when I switched spools to a 9-wt. Type IV shooting head, I was very pleased. Casting directly downstream in a straightaway run with the shooting head proved to me that the rod would suit Saltwater distances well, even with a waterlogged Deceiver or Double Bunny. I wasn't fishing for Redfish, but I might as well have been; no fish cared for my fly.

Moving on to more productive waters, (I hoped,) I reeled the sinking head to about 30 feet off the rod tip, tied on a #12 Silver Doctor and cast into narrower water on the way to another holding spot. This wasn't much of a challenge for the rod. After all, what rod can't cast 40 feet? With more thoughts focused on what I would do in the upcoming pool than my actual current presentation, I just let the fly go to the bottom and kept it there as I moved quickly along. That's why I wasn't prepared for what happened.

Before I knew what was going on, the big rod bucked in my hand, something heavy was on my tippet and it was headed downstream fast! I tucked the removable fighting butt under my rib cage and held on tight! The rod flexed deep, but the lower end of the butt section stayed firm and strong, giving me plenty of opportunity to turn the head of a King Salmon that looked to be around 15 pounds. He found a way to relieve himself of the burden before I got him to hand, but after the initial disappointment of the release, I realized something about this piece of equipment I had not previously considered. I wasn't going to want to send this rod back! Later good fortunes proved me correct, finding the rod to be sensitive enough to feel the fish, yet with enough "guts" to control it when needed.

Style, power, class, finesse . . . what more could one want in a rod? I found only one fault in the Hexagraph, and that was in its weight. This is only to be expected in a rod which is made up of solid construction rather than tubular, but we have become spoiled by the lighter densities provided by newer graphite and composite materials. The comparison between a hollow graphite rod and the Hexagraph is the first comparison that inclines us toward its weight, but my mind strayed back, and I went to pull out the 50's-era 8'6" imported 8-weight cane rod from the closet. Suddenly, that Miramichi rod was not nearly so heavy as I had remembered. Admittedly my old cane was clunky rod, but sometimes recalling whence we have come helps to put things in perspective. Additionally, the Hexagraph type of assembly gives greater strength to the rod, thereby preventing for the most part the "shattered rod" possibility prevalent in tubular rods.

I can see this rod being used for a great many purposes; almost any for which you might have the use of an 8/9-weight rod. From my Pacific anadromous species, to those intended ones of the Atlantic, its usefulness has been proven. It has been mentioned that this would also suit the saltwater and warm-water angler, but as an added thought, it would also be of benefit to streamer fishermen. Big Muddler Minnows, wool-head Sculpins, Clousers, and all manner of lead-eyed, bead-headed, cone-headed, and heavily-leaded flies will be handled well by this rod, leaving little to be desired.

The Miramichi Guide's Choice, in all its glory, retails for $695.00 with a limited lifetime warranty through your local retail shop, or by contacting Harry Briscoe of the Hexagraph Fly Rod Co.

2703 Rocky Woods
Kingwood, Texas 77339
Phone: (800) 870-4211
Fax: (713) 464-5290

You can also check out their Sponsor page here on Fly Anglers OnLine. ~ Thomas C. Duncan, Sr.

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