“While three inches added to or taken away from your old fellow might dramatically change your life, on a fly rod it’s not such a big deal.”
So said my late friend Andrew Brzoz, owner of The Australian Fly Fisherman shop, many, many years back when I asked for his advice while trying to choose between a couple of different three-weights that were identical in casting talents, but separated by three inches in length.
Sound advice or a quick one-liner? Either way, it’s a question that’s crossed my mind recently after thinking I needed a new four-weight for bigger local streams and flicking dry flies on the Mitta Mitta River over summer. I also have a trip to New Zealand in mind for Autumn 2017, where I’m thinking a four-weight would make the perfect light rod partner to my usual pair of fast fives.
I had a sniff of the Radians over the off-season thanks to Darren at Untamed Tackle who let me park test the 9’ 5-weight and 7’6 3-weight with a few different lines and both left lasting impressions that the Radian series was indeed something special.
There are three models in four-weight; eight-and-a-half-foot, nine-foot and the big ten-footer that’s no doubt designed for float tubes and big-water nymphing. With Andrew’s advice in mind, and given that my favourite five-weight is a nine-footer, I chose the eight-and-a-half as a good balance between fact, fiction and compensation.
Test-casting in the front yard, it’s the same instantly agreeable balance between feel and power that I remember from the three- and five-weights, with great tip control and smooth recovery.
Every line I tried, from the very supple and silky Scientific Anglers WF#4 XPS to the stiffer and more punchy RIO Perception, seemed to fit the blank perfectly.
Out on the Little Snowy Creek—a small river by Australian standards—the rod, matched with the WF#4 Perception line, was simply amazing and any cast from virtually right in front, to nearly the full line, was dispatched with little thought and minimal fuss.
Accuracy, probably the main benefit of the shorter eight-and-a-half length, and one of the Radian’s main talents, is off the charts and I would say, even after the first day I had the rod out, that there would be few, if any other rod and line combinations I’ve owned in four- or five-weight that can match it on the water. Roll casting is in a whole new league compared to most light rods.
On the much bigger Mitta Mitta River, I did my usual trip up my favourite section with a bushy dry fly and then tied on tungsten-bead Woolly Bugger in size eight and turned around for some down-and-across action on the way back.
With the dry, the rod was right at home and with the exception of mends at the end of long casts that required a little more thought, everything about the shorter four-weight felt good compared to the nine and ten foot five-weights I normally fish here.
Surprisingly, the bigger and heavier Woolly Bugger was no real issue, though I doubt the eight-and-a-half four-weight will ever become anyone’s favoured streamer rod. Yes, it will do it, but it’s still a four-weight.
For a second option I handed the rod to guide Jim Jackman for a recent day on Wheelers Creek –
“The radian feels crisp in the hand and yet has the sensitivity of a brain surgeon. Pick up and lay down was effortless and 40 ft roll casts almost childs play. Scott have a winner here.”
Getting the rod back was no small feat either.
To quote Scott: “We dramatically increased recovery speed with our new ReAct technology. By minimising energy-sapping vibrations, ReAct creates fast-action, high line-speed rods with all the nuance and feel of a presentation rod.”
Whatever they want to call it, Scott have definitely set a new and very lofty benchmark for intuitive casting where feel, accuracy and flat-out grunt sit well together in a mid-weight trout rod.
In terms of build quality, the Radian is every bit as good as you might expect from Scott, who have, in my opinion, always made beautiful fly rods. Starting from the back, there’s a black anodised Reel seat with a very sexy little bit of box elder burl timber and intricately machined up-locking hardware. The grip, an exaggerated full Wells, at first felt a little large even with my big hands, but after a few casts started to feel right at home particularly when applying pressure at my thumb for driving longer lines. Next, the wraps: black over mid-grey with an orange detail at the ferrules and dark grey over Snake Brand titanium-framed SiC stripping guides sit well on the lightly sanded dark grey blank and give the rod an overall classy, yet unpretentious feel. The handwritten script logo, serial number and twelve-inch marker are nice touches as well.
Price? Yes, a bit ouch at around $1200 in Australia ($795 US), but surely that’s to be expected for anything that so successfully delivers on all it’s promises?