New 2018-19 fly fishing gear: Standout rods

Notable new rod offerings for 2018 and 2019
Thomas & Thomas Zone fly rod
Photo: Hatch Magazine

A few weeks ago, the fly fishing industry gathered as it does each year, to showoff its best new products at the annual IFTD (International Fly Tackle Dealer) show in Orlando, Florida—before the show moves to Denver, Colorado in 2019. As always, a bevy of new rods were introduced. What follows are some of this year's standouts.

Thomas & Thomas Zone

Thomas & Thomas has long been known for making some of the finest rods in the world of fly fishing, many of which feel more like family heirlooms than just high-end rods. But, with that pedigree has always come a price tag. Buying any Thomas & Thomas rod has typically meant spending as much as you would for other rod brands' top-of-the-line offering.

T&T, seeking to make its offerings accessible to more customers is, with its new Thomas & Thomas Zone (pictured above), for the first time building mid-price point rod. The early buzz on the Zone is all positive and the brand's first mid-range rod took home the prize for the best new saltwater fly rod this year at IFTD.

Winston Pure

Winston's latest Boron III creation and newest dry-fly specialist has Winston aficionados chomping at the bit to cast one. A replacement for Winston's excellent BIIIx LS, and winner of IFTD's best new freshwater fly rod for 2018, the new Winston PURE is aimed squarely at lovers of the "classic Winston feel."

Sage Igniter

Incredibly quietly, Sage introduced the replacement one of its most popular rod series in recent years—the METHOD—with its new IGNITER series. The METHOD is still one of our go-to permit rods and we know Tierra del Fuego guides that prefer it above everything else for punching through the island's preposterous winds. Meant to tackle these and other conditions similar to those that its predecessor was aimed at, the IGNITER has big shoes to fill. But, if the addition of KonneticHD does for the IGNITER what its addition did for similar Sage evolutions (think the X and the SALT HD), Sage should have another favorite on its hands.

Sage DART fly rod
Photo: Hatch Magazine

Sage Dart

Another new, application-specific KonneticHD rod offering from Sage, the DART is aimed at small-stream applications. Available at 7'6" in weights 0-4 and a 6'6" 3 weight, the incredibly lightweight DART, according to Sage, is intended for delivering flies in extremely tight conditions with accuracy.

ECHO Full Spey, Compact Spey and Trout Spey models
Photo: Hatch Magazine

ECHO Full, Compact and Trout Spey

ECHO is one of the most tenured and respected two-hand rod makers out there. For this coming year, ECHO is retiring its flagship, E3 line of spey rods and, as part of an effort to add some much needed simplicity to the world of two-handers, introducing three new models—the ECHO Full Spey, Compact Spey and Trout Spey. These new 13', 12' and 11' models are ECHO's new premium, application-specific two-handers. When talking about the new rods with Tim Rajeff, you can tell that ECHO is excited about the simplicity in the lineup and somewhat up-tempo action in the new models and—judging by the initial feedback from those that have had a chance to cast and fish these new two-handers—there sounds like there's plenty of reasons to for the rest of us to be, also.

ECHO River Glass fly rods
Photo: Hatch Magazine

ECHO River Glass

Glass is most certainly not dead and this year a number of rod makers introduced new fiberglass offerings. ECHO has compiled a lot of glass experience over the years and produced numerous excellent fiberglass rods (including its incredibly fun line of glass spey rods). While the brand has been touting its saltwater-aimed B.A.G. (bad-ass glass) for the last few years, ECHO decided to show freshwater anglers some love with its new River Glass line of rods, available in 6 models ranging from weights 2 through 5.

New Redington Butter Stick
Photo: Hatch Magazine

Redington Butter Stick

Though Redington didn't attend IFTD this year, the brand announced several new offerings in line with the opening of the show. One of its most attention-grabbing introductions was the revamp of its well-loved Butter Stick. The wallet-friendly Butter Stick has been a favorite for years and while this new incarnation's revamped styling (think of finding the most oh-so retro pair of 70s knee socks at your local thrift store) will no doubt catch a lot of eyes, it will likely be the Butter Stick's newly refined but classic action that keeps glass lovers raving about it.

Scott F Series

Scott is excited about its new F-series and so is pretty much everyone else. Building on its 40-odd year pedigree of building fiberglass rods, Scott introduced its newest glass offering built for the smallest, most intimate fishing conditions one might tackle. As Scott puts it, the new F-series rods are "very light fiberglass rods that are stable and form sweet loops with just a few feet of line out of the tip. That way you can accurately cast into the next plunge pool or along overgrown banks even on creeks you can step across. That’s not something your graphite rods can do easily."