What is the Hardy Zephrus FWS?
The Hardy Zephrus FWS is a range of high-end fly rods aimed at the trout fisherman who is fishing rivers or stillwaters. It sits alongside the Zephrus AWS range, which are heavier rods with fittings designed to be suitable for use in either freshwater or saltwater.
What's special about the Zephrus?
The Hardy Zephrus is made from their proprietary Sintrix 440 technology. The blank is finished with a dark olive green gloss paint which looks great alongside the black rod fittings further up.
What is the action like?
The Hardy Zephrus has a pretty fast action. It's apparently not as fast as the Hardy Wraith, which is another step up the product line from Zephrus, but it's still pretty quick.
The impressive thing though is the incredibly low swing weight. It's already a light rod but it feels impossibly light when casting. If I were blind folded, I'd probably say my #5 felt more like a #4.
What reels suit this rod?
You need to carefully match it with a very light reel to ensure the whole outfit feels suitably balanced. I tend to pair mine with an Orvis Battenkill III for most of my fishing, but also have a Greys GX900 reel which suits it well, despite being rather bigger and heavier than the Battenkill.
Which model do you have?
I got the Hardy Zephrus 8'6" #5 in January 2016, just a few weeks after it was released. I'd actually ordered a heavily discounted end-of-line Hardy Zenith from John Norris of Penrith, which the Zephrus replaced.
However, John Norris called me on Boxing Day to let me know they'd oversold on the Zenith and were wondering whether I might like a £550 Hardy Zephrus for £200 instead. It was an easy decision to make and brilliant service from John Norris!
What line does it suit?
Line choice does make quite a difference with the Zephrus. I initially used a Barrio GT90 fly line on mine. I rather like the GT90 and it's got a reputation for being a great line, but although the Zephrus cast it fairly well, it lacked a bit of feeling.
To be honest, I'd not really spotted this myself. I'd assumed that was just the rod's action. However, at a British Fly Casting Club event one of the instructors who used my rod suspected that a different line might suit it better, so lent me his Lamson reel equipped with a Snowbee XS fly line.
The shorter head of the Snowbee XS made a massive difference to the rod, giving it much more feeling and greatly improving the loading. I went from getting about 75-80 feet to casting well over 90 feet, and the rod felt like an entirely different animal. I had to get one!
With the Snowbee XS the Zephrus has much more feeling, loads better and is more practical to use at closer range than the rod was with the Barrio GT90. Odd really, because the GT90 is a great line, but it didn't suit this rod at all and the Snowbee XS was much better suited.
How does it cast?
Now it's got a line that suits it my Zephrus casts much better. I can throw really tight loops with it and get great distances if I need to. It's also pretty good at mid range too. It does still lack a bit of feeling at close range, so it's better suited to medium or long casts than short ones.
All in all, it's a really nice rod to use. My son, George, who is eight has borrowed it a few times and absolutely loves it too, so it's hard to prise out of his hands once he has it. He too can throw lovely loops with it, especially with a bit of a haul.
My 8'6" #5 model can cope with small to medium sized bead-headed lures or teams of buzzers with indicators, but doesn't have the backbone for flies much larger than this. It handles wind fairly well for such a light rod, too.
How are the fittings and build quality?
The build quality is superb. Mine is flawless and I can't really fault it at all. The fittings are great quality too. The first stripping guide on the butt section is a larger Fuji titanium SIC lined one, while all of the others are thin REC black pearl single leg guides. These look great but can be a bit noisy compared to other guides.
The reel seat is an smart up-locking anodised aluminium one, which neatly slots into the cork handle. The cork quality is better than you get on most rods these days, with what appear to be only minor traces of filler to even things out.
The only bit I'm not keen on is the slightly odd looking burl wood spacer on the reel seat. Although made from wood, it looks a bit tacky to my eye and I'd personally have preferred something a bit more subtle.
How does it handle fish?
Unsurprisingly, it handles fish very well. I've had a number of good sized trout on it between five and eight pounds and I've always felt in control. There's quite a bit of feeling through the rod during the fight and although it feels light, there's power in the butt area that prevents you feeling under-gunned.
Does it come with a rod tube?
Of course. The tube provided is a very stylish looking matt grey metal tube, with the Hardy logo on one side and smart aluminium end caps with laser etched rod specs on the end. It would be hard to design a cooler looking rod tube.
Inside, there's also a rod bag (or rod sock) and the individual rod sections each has a beautiful but in my opinion somewhat pointless metal ferrule plug. There's also a little pocket in the top of the rod bag in which to store these while you're using the rod.
How many models are there?
The Hardy Zephrus FWS range includes about ten different models, starting from an 8' 3# and going up to a 10' 5# or 9' 6#. All of them are four piece, fast actioned rods, so you're only choosing between the length and the line weight. If you want to cast heavier lines, have a look at the Zephrus AWS range.
These retail for around £500, but you can already get them with a good hundred knocked off if you shop around. They're great rods, but I still love my Orvis Helios more!