Rod review: Scott S4 905/4

gear bagIt’s closing on two years since I first dropped a bug on the water with a Scott fly rod. The G2 905-4 is a staple of my quiver, unequal in terms of delicate presentation capability. Unfortunately, I’m prone to throwing meat, particularly at dawn and dusk (and midway between 8am and 10am, at 12pm on the hour, and every 15 to 30 minutes between 1pm and sunset). The G2 is a true medium action stick – certainly not impossible, but it is ill-suited for tossing tandem streamers or streamers with tandem hooks. Using another 5-weight which is stiff as a rail for the “dirty bird” methods, I’ve found myself carrying two rods an awful lot.

Circa the time I purchased fiver number two, I’d also spent some time test casting the Scott S4 905/4. Investment difference aside, there’s been slight regret since, which turned into deep anguish a few months back when I was handed the same S4 and told to play with it the rest of the day. Less than 86,400 minutes later it was a permanent addition to the lineup.

What follows are my thoughts…

Build and Finish

The rod came in a solidly constructed all aluminum tube – it’ll be scuffed before I know it, but will probably look just as good. The sock is black, with the Scott Performance Fly Rods logo emblazoned on the flap. Each divided section of the sock is sized for a particularly piece of the rod, so those of us who tend to hustle at the takeout are forced to think – not a strong suit of fly fishing types, but maybe the extra moment will force owners to take better care. I tend to my gear with the kind of TLC usually reserved for first dates, but since I rarely make it to Valentine’s Day I’m giving this little detail a thumbs up.

Now, for the rod – a long piece of graphite, chopped into four shorter bits:

I didn’t expect to find anything wrong with the S4’s construction, and I wasn’t disappointed. There were no blemishes on any of the sections. It is a natural finish, meaning zero paint and very light on the clear stuff, so the rod is essentially gray. The guides were set in place precisely, with tight clear wraps, and epoxied flawlessly as well. The titanium is fully exposed:

The Plain Jane look of the rod doesn’t appeal to everyone. Then again, gear painted and/or anodized in lime green and purple polka dots doesn’t do it for me, but it seems like all night raves are the new black nowadays. Face it…I’m boring. But I think the Scott modus-beautification is stunning in a utilitarian sort of way. I look at the stick and it stares back with an “all business” gleam in its eyelet. The only place where Scott decided to go for flair was with the reel seat, which is a combination of buckeye burl and nickel that says “I am wicked, but I’ve got a gorgeous streak.” Usually it’s the other way around.

This rod is light, at 2.9 ounces. So I slapped a similar reel on it – a Waterworks/Lamson Litespeed 2.0, wound with a Rio Gold 5. The rig may see some other lines, but the rod/reel combination will remain in place until I either 1) catch a marlin on it (extremely unlikely), or 2) it gets stolen out of my truck because I was using a different setup (impossible).

Business or Pleasure

I’ve heard plenty of complaints about fast-action rods, and the S4 isn’t immune to them. Most often it’s the rod being too unforgiving for dry flies, but I’ve also heard the S4’s tip is too soft for streamers. As I was looking for do-everything graphite, I had to run it through the ringer. After a half-dozen outings, dropping tiny midges on the film, stripping double buggers, and dredging my little heart out, I won’t be paying attention to anyone else’s complaints. Note: that does not, however, preclude you from listening to each and every one of mine.

First and foremost, the rod is extremely sensitive – I suspect part of the reason is the lack of coatings on the blank, and the rest is just Montrose-ian Magic. You don’t need to imagine tight loops because the load signal is instantly transmitted into the hand – in my case that means I KNOW I’ve snagged the tree branch behind me, but for you that means cutting through stiff breezes like warm butter. I almost think you could underweight the rod and it would still be cast-able; in other words overweighting is entirely unnecessary (I think line manufacturers are doing a bit of that for us anyway) – I could turn over microscopic dries on a 10 foot leader with ease. With bigger, heavier nymph rigs and streamers I was looking for mending capability and enough quickness to get flies into forward motion without breaking for a nap. A rare combination (and probably asking a little too much), but with the S4 I got both.

I don’t do a lot of fancy mending, but I often find my line in hydraulic conundrums. All I’m looking for then is simple drag relief. Sometimes that means high-sticking (and the S4’s light weight does make that more palatable), but if you’re long lining it’s just not possible. Hence, you’ve got to be able to quickly read the current and get those mends in before the fly hits the sweet spot. A broomstick doesn’t cut it, unless you want the fly bouncing all over the place as you lift large sections of line off the water. Always a challenge with my old Eastfork, the S4 won’t be starring in any Harry Potter films. But it might still win an Oscar – for Best Supporting Actor in a Deep Swirling Pool.

I also had a chance to toss some streamers (before I actually purchased it, as those bullet heads have a nasty habit of clipping rod tips mid-flight, at least when I’m throwing them). While I haven’t fished the rod with a sinking line (my fav), I will pick up a 150g and report back in pictorial glory. Nevertheless, based on what I’ve felt so far, the S4 has all the power one would ever need to throw big fat flies (marlin rigs notwithstanding – I think I’d need to shorten the leader for those). I banged some banks with amazing ease, and while I didn’t pick up any fin I’m now supremely confident it can do the intended job even if the fly fisherman himself can’t.

Judge or Be Judged

As far as trout rods go (for big Western water), I’m calling the Scott S4 905-4 as close to perfection as you can get. I haven’t fought any sizable fish with it yet (and of course that can always be a long ways off, especially with yours truly), but in my [not so] humble opinion it gets a 9.9 of 10. In fact, it’s so impressive that I’m now looking at my old gear, saltwater included, and feeling some of that once familiar regret.

MG signing off (to wonder why Scott couldn’t have released the S4 a decade ago – I might have actually caught a fish by now)


Do you own like 60 rods now? Nice review, if I had a) the need for a western big-water trout rod b) disposable income and c) actual impending opportunities to fish, I might buy one.

or 2) it gets stolen out of my truck because I was using a different setup (impossible).

Uhh, where do you park your truck again? Make & model?

Nate says:

Many a trout are having sex in Colorado…

@Pete – I passed 60 long long ago.

@TC – It’s on the corner of Chestnut and McCloud right now. Go get it!

@Nate – With you I take it.

Fishbum says:

Great review! I’m also a Scott fanatic, and plan to have their custom shop build me a S4. Can’t wait…

Thanks kindly. Yea…Scott really does make a superior stick, and I’ve heard great things from people about the Custom Shop.

Jack says:

I certainly appreciate your self-deprecating humor, but you definitely hit the nail on the head! You wouldn’t want to marry a woman as bland as the S4, but it is still one sweet piece of equipment. It ain’t cheap, but for the serious angler, it’s worth every penny!

I am a fly tackle distributor in South Africa, with an exceptionall large range of my own rods. However, with no shame I still fish Scott rods. I hav an early G864 2 piece, which I love to bits for dry fly, and I have just decided on the S4s 905/4, a 5 wt. salt water rod that is unbelievable. It lods at 10′, 30′ 50′ and at all times right on the button. But for streamers and sinking lines, 2 false cast and the rods casts across the state! Try one. It’s a true gem!

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