A few months ago, disaster struck our little household:
I was in the backyard practicing with my Orvis Clearwater 704 (a rod I liked quite a lot) when my toddler decided to have a bit too much fun. A quick jaunt down to my local Orvis and, after dealing with their exceptional warranty department, I realized I wanted to trade up. Originally I was looking at the Recon, but with some convincing from Jack, an oldtimer who is every Phoenician’s favorite Orvis employee, I decided to try something a little out of my comfort zone: a full-flex superfine carbon. He was right.
Any discussion of the superfine should answer an obvious question: is it superfine?
I’m happy to report that the answer is yes, the superfine is very superfine. The blank is un-sanded, as all blanks should be, giving the superfine a distinctly old-world charm. The bright silver up-locking reel seat is finely textured in all the right places and spins effortlessly along it’s track. The grip, which is a little on the small side, is expertly shaped. My only real complaint about the rod’s looks are that the cork is almost too perfect, as it is so tightly grained to almost looks featureless from a distance. That being said, this is clearly a rod that was put together by a person who cares about doing their job and a rod you’ll feel good about handing down to your kids. If they don’t break it first, that is.
None of that matters, however, if the thing doesn’t fish well. Seven foot 4-weights can be a tough cookie. For one, as a 4-weight it has to be a capable general purpose rod, strong enough to throw any reasonable fly you can tie. On the other, being just seven feet doesn’t give you a lot of leverage to work with, which means all that power has to be fit into a comparatively tiny space. I’ve called these rods “snub-nosed rocket launchers” in the past, and I still think that description works well: they are powerful and useful rods, assuming you can hit anything with them.
The superfine is full-flex, which mitigates these problems slightly. Because the rod flexes deeply you aren’t reliant on having absolutely perfect timing to keep your loops in shape. This is especially important on small streams, as brush and cover means you will almost always be casting from odd angles, ruining your long perfected casting stroke.
That being said, if you need to boom out the rod, you can. I am by no means a casting expert, but I haven’t had any problem throwing reasonably accurate 65-75 foot casts with the superfine. With a little patience and a light double haul, 75-100 foot casts are possible, but the little guy really starts running out of gas at those distances. You’ll want to be careful to keep your hauls reasonable as well, as this is a rod you can overpower.
What you give up at stupid, non-realistic casting distances, however, is incredible accuracy up close. This is a point and shoot rod that is willing to flex at the distances you actually fish. Best of all, the superfine doesn’t have to be overlined– I’ve found that mine pairs well with an Orvis Access 4-weight and hates my (beloved) Airflo Xceed 5-weight. In short, if you can’t hit what you are aiming at with this rod, you better look it right in the cork and say, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
If you are looking at the superfine series, there is a good chance you are trying to decide between the carbon and the fiberglass. Full disclosure, I don’t own the glass rod, and my whole life I have fished carbon. All that being said, I do think it is possible to have too much of a good thing. I love how the carbon bends deep, but I would not want it to go any deeper. In my limited time playing with the glass versions at the store I found it to be a little too heavy, a little too soft, and, at 7.5 feet, a little too long.
Perhaps that is the best way to think about the superfine carbon: it is faster than glass but slower than all the new-fangled ultra-distance rods that everyone seems to love. It is a compromise. Sure, you could buy a sweet new H3 and cast to the moon or you could buy a glass rod and really feel the close in shots, but the existence of the superfine carbon begs a simple question: why not have a rod that is good at both?
That is what the superfine carbon is. It is good without being pretentious, handsome without being gaudy, and uniquely competent at everything. It is the kind of rod that shows up for work, does everything you ask it to do, and the patently waits for the next trip. Maybe you want to go through rod after rod, ever chasing something faster or more retro. If so, this is not the rod for you. If, on the other hand, you want a constant companion, a rod that will stick with you for years, the superfine carbon is your new best friend.
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Max Wilson is a graduate student studying ecology at Arizona State University. He writes here at Lesser Places, has occasionally written for Backpacker.com, and even more occasionally written for scientific journals. You can follow him on twitter @maxomillions.