Can A Modern, High-Tech Fly Rod Really Turn The Head Of A Cranky, Low Modulus Small Stream Fly Fisherman?

 

I’ll be honest; I was prepared to *not* like the Orvis Superfine Touch fly rod.

We all have our hangups, and mine involves marrying the latest high-modulus technology to supposedly smooth, bendy small-stream fly rods, the idea being the two rarely play nicely together.

A lot of today’s fly rod marketing involves words like “power” and “performance,” and neither is much in demand on a stream you can jump across.

Orvis Superfine Touch fly rod

Small stream wildflowers are a lot prettier than the Superfine Touch, but they don't fish as well...

Still, because I’m a benevolent rod snob, I agreed to test the Superfine Touch, especially once Orvis’ Tom Rosenbauer said many modern fly rods are designed to load well at 30′-40′ ranges (which neatly explains all the overlined rods we see on the river), while these rods were designed to load at normal small stream ranges (15′-30′).

When I had to choose the rod (disclosure: I did an ad trade-out), I tumbled for the 8′ 4wt instead of one of the more exotic lengths or weights, and for good reason.

The 8′ 4wt is the classic small stream fly rod.

Ian Rutter fishes his 8′ 4wt Scott G2 all over the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, John Gierach’s fave small stream rod is his 7’9″ 4wt Walter Babb bamboo, and the 8′ 4wt Winston TMF (Tom Morgan Favorite) is still around after a bazillion years.

In fact, when Chris Raine and I sat down and invested an hour discussing the ultimate small stream bamboo fly rod, we decided it looked like a 7’9″-8′ hollowbuilt, light-actioned 4wt with a tip light enough to curl a leader and a couple feet of line under that overhanging brush.

When I fish small streams, I vacillate between an 8′ 5wt Phillipson and an 8.5′ 4wt Diamondglass, so you can see how the 8′ 4wt was right in my wheelhouse.

While I was still in the shopping phase (I’m a slow buyer), the Superfine Touch in the 8.5′ 3wt or 8′ 2wt formats represented real temptations, but I’m a gruff, slightly crazy, “hey you kids get offa my lawn” kind of guy, and to me, that says 4wt.

What Happened?

Right out of the tube, the rod was something of a revelation — it felt like the love child of a toothpick and my bendy, you’ll pry-it-from-my-cold-dead-hands 8.5′ 4wt Diamondglass fly rod.

(Side note: I’m hearing ugly rumors that the “new” Diamondglass tapers are not the same as — nor the equal of — the old ones. More as we hear it.)

The 8′ 4wt Superfine Touch feels extremely light in the hand, and in fact, it largely disappears over the course of a day.

Because it has so little mass, you don’t feel the rod loading when you’re only casting a leader (that’s because it’s not), but after just a couple feet of fly line escapes the tip guide, the feel in your hand builds rapidly.

By contrast, my 8′ 5wt Phillipson bamboo rod will “load” carrying just a leader; the mass of the rod itself is sufficient to bend it.

Still, the Phillipson’s tip is too heavy for most small stream work (it was designed to fish at longer distances), so while I love my 8′ Phillipson, I was forced to admit the Orvis Superfine’s light tip cast more accurately at small stream ranges.

In this instance it seems the rodmaker’s hype is manifestly true; the Superfine Touch fishes beautifully at knife-fighting ranges.

Orvis Superfine Touch 8' 4wt fly rod

The Orvis Superfine Touch in its natural habitat

The tip is light enough to roll just a little bit of line under overhanging brush, and the taper is slow enough to deliver the fly line with a great deal of delicacy.

This is not an all-around rod you’d want to use on big, windy rivers, but it’s plenty capable of airing out a little line.

Chris Raine and I cast it for distance in his rod shop’s high-performance casting pond (OK, it’s a parking lot), where it hit 40′ pretty cleanly.

With a little hauling, we were able to goose it out to 60′, though it’s clearly not made for those distances.

An added bonus; the 4-pc design makes it very easy to cram it into a daypack or slither through brush, and after falling on it twice, I’d have to say Orvis made it tough enough (they claim their “epoxy–based resin system with plasticizers” makes for a tougher rod).

One bit I didn’t fall in love with were the rapper-bling gold-plated guides and reel seat (the lightweight reel seat features an excellent design, but the gold color practically demands a pair of fuzzy dice).

Apart from the bling, the rod’s cosmetics are understated; the blank is unsanded and the wraps are a nice, conservative orange-red color (to this color-blind writer). It comes in a carbon fiber tube that’s light enough that you won’t necessarily leave it at home when you hike into a lake — a nice touch when you’re terminally clumsy but too lazy to carry a lot of extra weight on the pack.

I Come Clean

I would have loved to test the Superfine Touch against the equivalent rods from other manufacturers, but then, you wouldn’t be reading this for another year.

I will say this; at $475, the Superfine Touch is at least a couple hundred dollars less than the Scott G2 and Sage ZXL, and based on the G2 rods I have cast (the 8’8″ 5wt), it’s hard to see what might account for that difference, especially at the kind of distances I was fishing.

Orvis Superfine Touch reel seat

The aluminum (I think) reel seat is secure, lightweight, and sadly, gold.

In fact, I ended up fishing this rod a lot more than I had to; it quickly became my go-to rod for small streams, though I wasn’t necessarily admitting that to myself.

Finally, a friend wrote and said he’d been reading between the lines in my posts; did I like the Superfine Touch as much as I hinted?

The answer is yes.

Life, apparently, teaches us many lessons.

Simply put, I like this rod enough that if it was my only small stream fly rod, I wouldn’t feel deprived. It simply fishes well at what I’ll term “normal” trout distances, and the net affect is that the rod largely disappeares from the scene, leaving just you, the trout, and the (hopefully) breathtaking scenery.

That’s no small praise coming from someone who can typically take or leave (usually leave) rods built over the last two decades, and while I’m holding onto my 8′ Phillipson and 8.5 4wt Diamondglass, I’m forced to admit they both fish better when you can air out a little more line.

The Superfine Touch is a terrific rod, and at a couple hundred less than its competitors, it’s apparently a terrific deal too.

See you fishing at 40′ or less, Tom Chandler.