I whipped this rod around for ten hours straight, just like I said I would. I’m anxious to describe how I feel about its performance, but I think a little primer is due first…
Roughly ten years ago, one of my fanatical fly fishing friends booked a trip to the Bahamas and stuck me with half the bill – so I went, if only to make sure he didn’t bullshit about all the bonefish he caught. We were out on the skiff day one, and he won the flip for first on deck. A few cruisers were spotted, but my buddy couldn’t reach them. Then I stepped up to the plate, and my bat was a rod (sorry – different brand) I had picked up in Miami just a month before during a secret Biscayne Bay practice session. It was a rocket launcher – nearly impossible to load without half the spool in flight, but when she did the bend right it was sayonara Crazy Charlie. Anyway, my buddy sits next to the guide watching, in awe that quickly turned to disgust – finally he gives, and we spent the rest of the day using one rod. When we returned to the dock, I picked up the gear and he sprinted back to the hotel – when I arrived he was on the phone with outfitters on the mainland, looking for that stick. He finally found one, in California, and had the shop do a FedEx Priority (yes, to the Bahamas).
The Orvis Zero G 906-4 Tip-Flex 10.5 may well find itself in a similar predicament. All I have to do is wind up on someone else’s big trout trip – I’ll demand we fish streamers, and then I’ll pull this puppy out. We’ll make sure there’s a company FedEx account handy.
Here a rock, there a rock, everywhere a rock rock – that’s what I played Saturday, along with mucho bank bashing. It didn’t matter if it was ten or twenty feet out, or forty feet up – I’d make a false cast, maybe two, get the small diameter section of that sinker I was running off the tip, and let it soar. There were several occasions when it got a little breezy, yet still I was able to keep the fly in control and bouncing inches off every bank and choice pocket I wanted. Yep – I adore this rod. Now for the bad part…
The rod takes some getting use to, particularly if you’ve frequently been casting medium and medium/fast trout sticks. I started the morning airing it out across a little spillway, hauling a chunky piece of white rabbit. My first cast bagged a fat crayfish, which I thought was a weed until pulled the fly out of the water. The second cast returned a 19-inch cutthroat. I immediately got cocky, and spent the next few hours fish-less. It wasn’t until the turn, with thoughts of the Millonzi’s salami and provolone sandwich sitting in the truck, that I realized I was getting really tired. On the walk back I slowed things down considerably, and firmed up my grip – the rod seemed to loosen up thereafter, and I picked up three rainbows in the 16 to 18 range. And that reminds me of the other ‘bad’ (if you want to call it that) – don’t buy this stick expecting it to serve general duty. It is stiff, and it manhandled 18-inch fish running against the grain – no sour grapes here, as I was able to hook, net, unhook, and release the fish much faster than I would have otherwise (so good for the fish). But I was using short leaders built of 20/10 lb. test Maxima – if you tried fishing this rod with a 4X (or even 3X) tippet I am willing to bet you’ll be losing some fish.
Summary and rating
It’s sold as a saltwater rod, but it gets a 9 out of 10 in the freshwater streamer department (and it would have gotten a 10 had my forearm not been sore the next day). As a general duty trout rod, it wouldn’t fare as well (no surprise there). I wouldn’t be afraid to use this rod on bass and pike – I’m being prodded to go carp hunting and I’m going to leave the heavier rods at home too. Would I use this rod for light saltwater – probably not, but that’s not the rod’s fault. I know that bones aren’t the only fish in the sea, but people have an inclination to chase them specifically with the lightest thing they can find. Personally, I’ve seen a fair share of bonefish being chased by reef sharks while their mouths are securely fixed to my flies, and I believe if you are going to handicap the torpedos of the flats with imitation crab meat, you should at least have the courtesy of yanking them to the boat with an 8- or 9-weight. As if getting them to eat wasn’t hard enough already.
Conclusion – the Orvis Zero G 906-4 Tip-Flex 10.5 is a clear winner, and it’s won the starting position in my streamer throwing lineup.
Editor’s note: During the morning of testing I was fishing the South Platte just above Eleven Mile Res. I noticed there was a class going on – it was a group of about five students with two guides. On the walk back I found this hole stacked full of smaller fish – I knew they were juvenile because they kept following my (now) burnt-brown bunny, nipping at the tail end (and I was hoping there were larger ones behind them, but if there were they never budged). This guy starts walking past me as I’m standing on the bank, and I could see from his rig he was nymphing – I figured he had a better shot at the fish so I insisted he step in front of me. As I watched, I immediately realized he was part of the class (not an insult, but you could just tell). A minute later his instructor walks up, and it turns he was none other than local guide and big trout magnet Landon Mayer. We exchanged a quick greeting, and I moved up about 100 feet. Not long after that I looked over and saw the student with his rod bent over, and Landon barking out fighting commands and reaching for his net. Congratulations are therefore due to a first-time trout catcher!