Review: Montana Brothers Rodworks 904 and 904L fly rods

Every so often a fly rod comes along that’s a step—or three—above the competition
montana brothers rodworks fly rod
Photo: Ken Takata

There are some fantastic fast-action rods out there. Rods that excel at throwing heavy flies through a stiff wind on a saltwater flat, or launching a weighted nymph and indicator, or slinging a three-fly Euro-rig. However, if you enjoy dry flies and rising trout; if the sheer pleasure of casting a fly rod is part of the reward, then you must check out the new Montana Brothers Rodworks 904.

Montana Brothers Rodworks is a new rod manufacturer based in Bozeman, Montana. Last October I had the opportunity to put the MBR 904 through its paces during heavy BWO hatches on the Henry’s Fork. Since then, I’ve cast both the 904 and its sister model, the 904L, on a regular basis at the Oakland Casting Club. Here are my impressions:

What Works

The 904 is not by any means a fast-action fly rod. It is a moderate-action 3-piece 9’ 4-weight rod just a touch softer than most of the moderate-action rods on the market today. The 904 is smooth and silky. It loads all the way to the cork, yet it’s not at all clubby. The tip is responsive and dampens beautifully.

The 904 tracks from butt to tip and is super accurate, especially at normal fishing distances. Another wonderful quality of this rod is the ability to roll cast accurately throughout its optimal range from 15’ to 50’. The rod is a pure 4-weight in every way, rather than a 5-weight packaged as a 4-weight.

Tippet Protection
The softer action also allows for great tippet protection both setting the hook and while playing a fish. 6x and finer tippets are no problem. You can really put the screws to the fish and land them quickly without breaking them off. This saves fish and flies!

Line Control
The moderate action executes aerial mends as well as water mends with ease. The softer tip and midsection allow the angler to load tiny amounts of line to mend with unparalleled accuracy. The angler can fine-tune mending and put slack right where it’s needed to get the perfect drift; a task where many high-end rods struggle.

The finish is impressive. MBR gives the angler the option to pick their reel seat from a selection of roughly two dozen different species of beautiful wood inserts. The sliding band and down-locking pocketed cap are made from nickel silver, and they’re simple and elegant. MBR even allows the customer to choose the diameter of the slide ring to optimize the fit for a specific real foot. The snake guides are Snake Brand’s Universal ECO Lightweight model, and the stripping guides are custom-made with a silicone carbide ring. The rod wraps are burgundy over an un-sanded black blank. The grip is a 6” Wells-style that is turned into a comfortable slender shape that compliments the rod’s delicate nature. In short, the rods are classy rather than flashy.

montana brothers rodworks fly rod
Photo: Todd Tanner

At $875, the MBR 904 is more affordable than the top-of-the-line models from other manufacturers.

What Doesn’t

The 904 is not a distance rod by nature. Though it has a moderate action that allows for some versatility, in its heart of hearts it remains a specialty rod best suited to dry fly fishing inside of 50’. A good caster can push the rod out to 70’ or more, but that type of distance demands excellent casting fundamentals, patience, and timing. If you know what you’re doing, though, the 904 will throw a loop like a freight train.

MBR is a boutique company making rods one at a time. They are not available at your local fly shop and will likely take 6-8 months if you contact the company and place an order.

montana brothers rodworks fly rod
Photo: Todd Tanner

Final Word

Every so often a fly rod comes along that’s a step—or three—above the competition.

Montana Brothers Rodworks has managed to produce two such rods with their very first entries into the fly rod market. The company also makes the 904L for anglers looking for an even softer version of the 904. Ten years in the making, Dan and Doug Daufel, who own Montana Brothers, developed a passion for the slow-action rods designed by the late Paul Brown of West Yellowstone. They set out to build a modern version of Paul’s exquisite dry fly rods. Both of the MBR 9’ 4 weights are instant classics.

These are true 4-weights, and to my mind they are the finest 4-weights that I have ever fished. MBR is currently working on a 3-weight and 5-weight, and I can’t wait to see those rods when they’re ready.