In this gear review, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the latest and greatest to come to us from across the pond: the new Hardy Ultralite X Fly rod. Coming in a variety of weights, ranging from 5 to 8 weights, these rods are the newest addition to the Ultralite rod family, and challenge exactly what it means to be a “fast” rod in today’s fly fishing world. We had the chance to spend some time on the water with these new sticks, and see exactly how English engineering fairs when put to the test stateside.
When we were informed of the new addition to the Hardy Ultralite family, we weren’t sure what exactly to expect. Over the last year, new “specialty” rods have flooded the market, and we assumed that perhaps Hardy was jumping on the train a few stops late. However, it was to our delightful surprise to learn that the new Ultralite X line was heading in a new direction with its redesign.
Upon opening, the rods were encased in a standard rod tube, and sheathed in a high-end black sleeve that screamed “sophistication”. Inside each sleeve were 4-rod sections, as well as 4 ferrule caps fastened onto the spigot ferrules for extra protection (not a big deal, but certainly a nice touch by the folks at Hardy).
When removed from their sleeves, the first section of the rod immediately shouts for one’s attention. Starting from the bottom and moving up, a singular, upward locking, carbon fiber, reel seat sits fastened against an elegant burled wood insert. The AAA cork handle of the rod leads to the signature high modulus carbon fiber Sintrix NSX material, that makes up the rod. Like its cousin, the Hardy Ultralite, this rod boasts a unique look, showcasing a glimpse of the rod blank’s graphite composure underneath a clear finish – giving it sort of a new-age look. From there, this rod model has traded in the green finish for a metallic red coloring.
Combined with the aforementioned design, we can assume plenty of anglers are going to be divided on the looks of this tod. If you’re looking for a more traditional look for your fly-rod, this may not be quite as visually appealing as it may be to those who favor the white, blue, green, or grey detailing of the Helios 3 family.
Moving up the first blank, the spigot ferrules, which have fallen out of favor with most American rod manufacturers, add a cultivated look to the rod. The guides of the rod are composed of ceramic-lined titanium, and transition from a ceracoil stripper design to recoil snake guides as you move up the rod.
With all parts of the rod considered, the rod would suggest being an extremely sturdy and high-quality piece of equipment. However, looks only go so far. It was time to thread some line through the guides and see what this rod was really capable of.
The main difference our testing team aimed to take note of was the speed of the rod. The main difference between the Ultralite and the Ultralite X was that the X was noted as an “ultra-fast rod” compared to the “medium-fast” speed of its predecessor.
For those who are unfamiliar with rod speeds and what they infer, slow, medium, and fast are all pointing to how rods reload as well as the flex they’ll experience mid-cast. As one could guess, slower rods will reload slower and will tend to have more flex. Many anglers who are fishing lower-weight rods with smaller flies and more delicate movements may prefer this kind of action. Fast rods, on the other hand, are far stiffer, and will usually deliver a harder punch when slamming big flies down to earth. Most saltwater rods are built to be extremely fast for combatting wind and long, quick casts to moving fish.
In our testing arsenal, we had a #5 wt., a #6 wt., and a #7 wt. of the new Hardy Ultralite X’s. With the water cooling and hatches fading, it was finally time for our favorite activity: tying on something meaty and slapping it down the river until something big decides to turn it into lunch.
Off the bat, there were a few notably impressive observations to be made. The speed of the rod was impeccable, and even the 5-weight had no issue with tossing around a wet sock of a streamer with ease. Regardless of where we were relative to the bank, these rods launched streamers accurately and with minimal effort. From one side of the boat to the other, and with a singular haul, we were able to slam our flies underneath banks and trees without even thinking. In fact, the further away we got, the easier (and notably, more fun) it became to hurl casts. From distances of 50+ feet, we were able to cover almost the entire river, crossing different seams and pockets, leaving almost no water left untouched.
While lobbing a flurry of hero casts one after another, was fun and all – the main feature that had really captured our attention was the rod’s feel. When referring to a rod of this speed, one might commonly hear the term “broomstick” thrown around, as “it’s as stiff as a broomstick”. However, with this rod, that was not the case – at all. With every cast, you can feel this rod load and unload. The feedback of the stick was immaculate, allowing you to feel your fly and where it was heading with every cast. The technological capabilities of this rod culminate together in each cast to deliver a synchronistic harmony of feel and speed, resulting in damn near perfect casting accuracy at almost any feasible distance.
As the day, as well as subsequent weeks, progressed, these rods managed to deliver a plethora of fish to our nets. An optimal tool for casting to, and fighting stubborn, streamer-eating trout, we are extremely grateful to have a rod that could float a bobber, as well as huck a USDA Grade A slab of sirloin, with such similar effectiveness.
Ease of Casting:
Needless to say, we were blown away by the rod’s performance. With none of our team being much of Hardy fans to start with, it’s without any further consideration that we will be moving forward. In the vein of pointing out any shortcomings we encountered, the only places where we’d add critique would be in its short game. With smaller flies and less distance to cover, one might experience the desire for a slower rod, which has more of a traditional 5 wt. feel. If we’re being honest, the 5 wt. Hardy Ultralite X acts as more of a 6 wt., and so on.
This being said, in regards to who we think this rod is designed for: we consider this a near-perfect tool for the streamer junkie who demands the most. If you find yourself drifting down the river every day you can, tossing hand-tied franken-streamers in prospects of roping in the hog of a lifetime, you should take serious consideration towards adding one of these rods to your arsenal.
The Hardy Ultralite X boasts a robust backbone and a highly responsive feel that will leave any streamer enthusiast satisfied. Combined with its lightweight construction, we can spend all day on the water with minimal fatigue and maximum results. Without a doubt, these rods will continue to be a staple to our arsenal whenever the need for speed calls.