I spent a few months in Florida over the winter, ostensibly for work. But with Tampa Bay just around the corner I decided that was as good an excuse as any to update my gear selection. After a bit of test casting and chatting with guides, I decided a Scott S4S 908/4 would be one of the new rods in the lineup. Unfortunately, Florida experienced a really bad, lingering cold snap, and I only got one day of wind-blown redfish chasing in before heading back to Colorado. Now, with a week of Andros Island bonefishing under the belt, I’ve had enough time with the rod to offer semi-credible thoughts.
What you should be looking for in a saltwater rod is a combination of casting and fighting performance. That’s correct…a quick test run in the shop parking lot alone doesn’t necessarily cut it – you need controllable power to push flies through stiff wind and tippet-safe force to turn those noses once you hook them. You also want a rod to have the general toughness to withstand a lot of time banging around in a rod well, being dropped on the deck, and finding itself on the receiving end of a liquid that can eat through steel-reinforced concrete like I eat through pepperoni pizza. Scott hit all points spot on, which means the folks in Montrose are either really fishy and whip-smart, or they have a spy camera hidden somewhere in my dining room.
First things first: How does she look?
There was a time when I was a motorcycle fan. Then I saw a few motorcycle wrecks and took up fly fishing. (Editor’s note: now it’s a train wreck). When I look at the S4S, however, I don’t think of body parts smeared across the pavement – I think of a certain bike: the Ducati Monster. It is elegant in its minimalistic design, with an exposed frame and overbearing tailpipe that says “watch out…I can move!”
The S4S carries on
Ducati’s Scott’s trademark bare-bones persona, and follows up similarly (to those Italians) at the tail end. Scott’s rod builders look at sanding and painting blanks as a very inexact science, and I for one tend to agree. Ever cast a rod that feels mushy in spots, or one that always seems to drop your flies two feet to the right no matter the wind? For me it’s just that I can’t cast for shit, but for you the reason could be uneven sanding, topped off by too much clear coat on random portions of the stick. It’s hard to imagine this can happen to your premium fly rod, but nobody’s perfect, even in the shop. The S4S (like most all other Scott rods) is missing those steps – as a result the chance of oversanding or overcoating is thereby nixed. The rods wind up looking drab, but in an 1100cc fire breathing crotch rocket sort of way. The bottom line: You’re there to win the race, not the fashion show.
There is an added benefit to carrying a rod that looks so dull – it’s stealthy. All of the guides are nickel-titanium, not shiny chrome that light glints off of (and really spooky fish undoubtedly see). Further, the guides are wrapped with clear thread, adding to the plain Jane appeal.
None of the above is news to anyone who’s fished Scott rods, but the reel seat is. I’ve always had a problem with cast aluminum reel seats (from manufacturers who shall not be named), and those with cutaways and skeletonization. First, they mar quickly, and the threads get locked up when you crank them down tight. They chew up reel feet, or don’t hold them firmly enough. Yes, I sound delusional, but I KNOW you’ve seen this all happen. When I got ready to mount a reel on the S4S, I almost thought I was getting the same. It turned out anything but. The S4S’s reel seat is machined aluminum, with flat sides to keep the rear coupling in line. It is hard anodized for additional durability, and after a solid week with a reel stuck weld tight, getting the crap kicked out of it in the boat, on the flats, and everywhere in between, the seat still looks brand spanking new (click for closeup)…
Ok, so Scott sold me with ugly, and I’ve since found out it’ll survive a few spins around the block.
But how are you gonna feel in the morning?
I haven’t mentioned it yet, but this rod is light. (INSERT DUMB JOKE HERE -> And I do not say that lightly.) There has been a lot scrapping going on regarding fly rod weight – it’s turned into a featherweight title bout. Most of the claims are based on a single notion: marks on the scale. The S4S 908/4 weighs in at an even four ounces, which means it’s not the lightest spec’d 8-weight available, but when handling it you’d swear it was a seven…maybe even a six. The weight wars have created another dilemma too – finding a reel that doesn’t deaden the feel of the stick. I put a Lamson Litespeed 3.5X on for my testing, and I’d have been hard pressed to go any fatter. Combined with the 8-weight Rio Tropical Clouser (which has quickly built a reputation as a nail driver) the setup swings like a Russian gymnast, and was downright deadly on the track.
I’d done some practice casting in a local park before the trip, and the buddy I was with noted that loops were tighter that a race-tuned suspension. Score one for the graphite. When it was game time the rod controlled in-flight direction with pinpoint accuracy. In my case that means I didn’t hit a single human all week, myself included – for you that means from a range of 40 to 70 feet you should be dropping Gotchas in Dixie Cups. I had no trouble lifting a lot of line off the water for recasts, and without causing a stir (albeit after the guides bitched at me about proper pickup). On that note, I spent a lot of my days listening to orders: 10 o’ clock, 30 feet…pickup…11 o’clock, now 40 feet…cast! A boatload of pressure, and a dock-full of egos waiting for afternoon reports. A whole lot of confidence is what I needed, and after my first 20+ bonefish day I realized the S4S had delivered.
What I really like
– Manageably light – I wouldn’t want a rod much lighter.
– Extremely accurate at intermediate to long-distances – Where you point it is where it goes. Period.
– Handles stiff wind with ease – Has the power, but use the right line to release it.
– Superb fighting tool – Can bring ’em in, fast (although I did lose one fish to a very hungry shark).
– Impeccable build quality – Absolutely flawless. Its blandness is mezmerizing – it convinces you it’s beautiful.
What I don’t like
– Not the best rod for shots inside 25 feet – You might try overweighting for that.
– Raw, ribbed graphite finish picks up particles like…uh…rod well paint? At least it’s tougher than the boat.
Despite it’s overwhelming deficiencies (I’ll find them some day…I swear) the Scott S4S 908/4 is now the first rod I’ll pull out for bonefish, and then some. I don’t buy into the idea of gear being fit only for salt OR freshwater, and believe with its speed and toughness this rod can serve dual missions – it will definitely see time dealing with bigger carp, pike, and anything else I’d rather not risk a lighter stick on. For a while it seemed Scott was almost missing from the heavy-gauge rod category, but whether that’s just my imagination or not, they’ve definitely found their groove with the S4S.
MG signing off (to seek out that which I can throw an 8-weight at)
UPDATE: FTC disclosure…the author bought this rod after hocking two wholly inferior sticks and skipping the bar hopping for seven days straight.