Rod review: Mystic M-Series (Parts 2 and 3)

A couple of weeks back I showed you the Mystic M-Series 593-4 and 693-4 in all their detail obsessed glory. I’ve since consumed copious amounts of alcohol with Mystic’s owners (Chris and Dennis) at Fly Fishing Retailer, and have to say it’s a fine bunch of folks up there in Michigan. I’ve also been reminded by Jeff Cooke (guide wunderkind, Mystic Rep, and generally great dude) that despite what I say about looking good being numero uno importante, how the rods fish is actually what matters. That thought hadn’t really crossed my mind, but I took heed of Cooke’s word and worked them as much as I could.

The lowdown on both rods follows. That makes two parts for the full review, not three as previously promised. Readers get luckier by the moment around here.

The 693-4

I’ve fished this rod one way, big. Like quite a few other freshwater-oriented six-weights I’ve seen over the past few years, the Mystic 693-4 comes with a fighting butt – going big just seems natural. From a venue point of view, the rod saw two types of water while in my hand, a Gold Medal trout stream and a sweet bass pond that sits inconveniently in the middle of a private country club that I have verbal permission from the land tenants to fish. The lines that were used: Scientific Anglers Streamer Express in 200 grain, and the Rio Bass WF6-F. As for flies, it was a whole lot of fat streamers and poppers, neither of which are known for their aerodynamics.

Mystic bassThere were two occasions on the trout water, and moderate winds to go along with the visits. Streamers ranged from Sex Dungeons and Circus Peanuts to very small minnow patterns. Sinking lines were the norm, along with Maxima-built leaders. At first I thought the rod would be too soft for this, but I found it both loaded with ease and remained fairly responsive all the way through the casting stroke. There was a lot of bank pounding done, with the usual quick strips and another shot a few feet up. I picked up several fish, but none that could be considered pigs (and that’s only because every time the water management officials hear I’m coming they cut the flows – thanks guys!). Still, the rod handled the heavy line, leader, and flies much better than expected.

The last trip was to test the rod’s bucketmouth prowess. The flies were a bit lighter this time – my favorite portion of bass habitat is the surface, and my preferred bait is fat deer hair poppers. They feel small in hand, but their drag coefficient is twice a Mini Cooper’s. The Mystic threw them with proficiency, albeit I found (being a broomstick lover) that I really needed to slow down my casting stroke to get them out there. I used 4X tippets, and as dark approached I took to stripping the poppers very quickly and the moment the fly hit the water. This stroke of brilliance bagged me quite a few fish in serious need of exercise. The rod had just enough backbone to whip the bass into shape, but not too much that I was ever worried they’d haunt me in a future life as Navy Seals I was going to pull a hook.

The 593-4

I’ll come right out and say the 5-weight is a strange bird, and I don’t mean ostrich. I fished it on two waters too, a popular freestone as well as the prize-holding tailwater mentioned above. The overall results were mixed.

On the first outing (which lasted a full day) I started the morning tossing dry dropper rigs (stimulators followed by X-wing caddis). The area was a little tight and I wound up doing a lot of roll and water tension casting. The rod performed about average, and that’s mostly because I was hung over and stumbling around in rubber soles. In the afternoon I moved to heavily weighted nymph rigs with 6X tippet holding the bottom (tiny midge) fly, and hooked up quite a few times. The fish ranged from 10 to 15 inches, and were exceptionally feisty. A few got downstream from me lickety split, but the rod had more than enough backbone to get their heads up and tip was just soft enough to keep that 6X intact. I’d started the day scratching my head over the rod, and ended the day feeling pretty comfortable with it.

When I got to the tailwater my opinion changed once more. Decent winds existed, and I was heaving nymph rigs again. This time however the space was wide open, and plenty of opportunities existed for longer overhead casts. There were times when I felt I was dropping flies inches off the bank with no problem, and others where I was making my back cast and simply couldn’t feel the rod loading at all. In other words, it lacked consistently, which some might think should have been a match made in heaven considering who was casting it. I also found it didn’t take well to hauling – I’m used to fast rods and I don’t mind wind, but this rod felt like it loaded prematurely when applying the techniques you’d generally find useful in a stiff breeze. It was almost as though the middle sections were built a little too soft for it’s medium-fast action specification. I did, however, catch a lot of fish. They were mostly small, but even the intermittent chunky rainbow was fun on this rod. Again using 6x down low, I didn’t pop a tippet all day.

Caveats and Conclusions

Ok, so I like the 693 a lot more than the 593. But I still haven’t found the perfect 5-weight either, and that’s not for lack of trying. My fast five is the G. Loomis Eastfork and the softy is a Scott G2 – the Eastfork is way too stiff for delicate dry fly action, and I’ve found myself on the losing end of quite a few decent fish as a result of the G2s lack of fighting power, particularly when strong currents come into play. Seeking something in between, the Mystic 593 still didn’t quite cut it for me. I’ll also note for the record that the 6-weight was brand new upon delivery while the 5-weight had seen some battle time in the hands of the rep and clients. It didn’t look like it had been severely abused, but looks aren’t everything, right? In addition, my go-to 6-weight for throwing streamers over the last year has been the Orvis Zero Gravity 906-4 Tip-Flex 10.5 – it does a great job, but it’s also a lot of work. The Mystic 693-4 does a great job too, and it’s simply a pleasure to play with.

Would I take either of these rods fishing if I wanted to enjoy a relaxing day out? Yes. Would I pull them out if I was with a bunch of fishy types and wanted to hand them all their hats (after serving them up a happy helping of my tequila bottle)? The 693…indubitably. The 593…not unless I brought two bottles. Would I change anything on either rod? Cough, cough…stiffen them up a tad. But just a tad.

On my ultra-scientific government certified performance scale (which does not take into consideration that these rods retail for a paltry $400), the 693-4 gets a 8.5 out of 10 while the the 593-4 gets a 7 out of 10.

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