What is the Loop Cross SX fly rod?
The Cross SX is the fastest-actioned fly rod in Loop's top of the range Cross S series. Loop says these models use the Cross Core Technology Syetem - a proprietary mix of high-tensile carbon fibre and nano resin - to produce fly rods that combine strength, power and pinpoint accuracy.
They're all four piece rods and come in both single handed and double handed formats and sizes ranging from a 9' #5 to a 10' 8# in the singles, or a 12'4" #7 to a 14' #9 in the double handers.
What models are in the Cross SX range?
The Cross SX single handed fly rod range includes nine models, two #5s, two #6s, three #7s and two #8s in 9', 9'6" and 10' lengths.
All are pretty light - noticeably lighter than my Loop Evotec rods. My Evotec 690-3 F weighs in at 115g, but my Cross SX 690-4 F is just 104g. Most models in the Cross SX range are a good 10g lighter than the old Loop Evotec series rods and feel it when casting too.
What other actions are available?
Fast action rods aren't for everyone, I know, and Loop doesn't recommend the SX range for novices. They're often not that forgiving if your timing or casting stroke isn't spot on. Thankfully, Loop also caters for these tastes and produces other Cross S models with a slower tempo.
If a slower rod is your bag, then you need to check out the Loop Cross S1 models. They're basically a medium-fast version of the Cross SX and will be easier for less experienced casters to handle. The Cross S1 range also includes #3 and #4 models not covered in the Loop Cross SX series, which are generally better suited to a medium paced action.
As the Cross S1 models don't need as much carbon in them to make them a bit stiffer and faster, they also come in a fraction lighter than the Cross SX models. The 9' 5# Cross S1 weighs 93g compared to the 98g of the Cross SX, while the 9' #6 weighs 101g versus 104g.
What is the finish like on Loop Cross rods?
The finish is as good as you'd expect to find on a high-end fly rod. The Cross SX looks very stylish without being too blingy and the colours used are smart and understated. The blank is a matt "smoke" charcoal grey colour, while the whippings are gloss black.
As with older Loop models, there's a dot on one section of the blank to help you line up the guides with the next section and this helpfully uses the rod's code number. If like me, you own several similar Loop rods, that means you won't accidentally mix up the sections.
What guides do these rods have?
The Cross SX fittings are all very high quality and look great. As you would expect, there's a mixture of the standard snake guides on the upper parts of the rod, with stripper guides lower down. The snake and tip guides are subtle black nickel ones which blend in well with the understated look of the rod.
The stripper guides are fancy titanium ones. They all look top notch and the whippings and varnish couldn't really be any neater. Unlike similar looking ones used on some other rods (i.e. the Hardy Zephrus), these ones are very quiet in use and line noise is minimal or non-existent.
What sort of handle is used?
All of the rods in the Loop Cross S family use round cork grips made from very good quality cork which is reinforced for protection at each end with a cork-resin band. The handles are very comfortable to hold and mine fits my hand perfectly for the size of rod.
The 9' #5 has the usual reverse half-wells handle used on smaller rods. The 10' #5 and all of the other models have a full-wells handle featuring a small fighting butt.
Unfortunately, fans of the excellent hexagonal X-grip handle Loop used to use on its rods will continue to be disappointed, as it's not been brought back in the Loop Cross S family. I'm guessing most people just went for the traditional round cork grip and it wasn't worthwhile for them to continue making it, which is a shame because the X-grip was actually really good.
Coming from a collection of X-grip Loop Evotecs, I found myself needing to grip the round handle a bit more than usual to prevent rotation.
What is the reel seat like?
The reel seat is very unusual and I've not seen one like it used by any other manufacturer. It still uses the characteristic triangular handle common to Loop rods, but it exposes the blank by connecting everything together with three aluminium pins. The all aluminium seat is finished in gunmetal grey and looks great, with the Cross SX logo poking out from the bare blank.
It's hard to fault the Loop Cross SX. It's beautifully made, casts brilliantly at all distances and has the characteristic Loop feel that is so addictive.
What is Loop Cross SX like to use?
Regular readers will know that I'm quite partial to a Loop fly rod. I've got six others - all Loop Evotec models - in various line weights. I absolutely love their action, so was expecting the Cross SX to be just as good, and hopefully a bit better. The rod did not disappoint!
The Cross SX feels like it's got plenty of backbone in the butt and lower three quarters, but like the Evotec, also has a flexible tip which increases feel when casting and fishing. You can really feel what the rod is doing and casting the rod is seriously fun. The tip feels softer than that of the Evotec, and the rod faster and lighter.
The softer tip gives the rod good accuracy when making shorter casts around the 25-35 foot range, which is surprising given the amount of power it has tucked away. A lot of fast rods wouldn't cope so well at close range, but the tip on this one gives so much feel that it covers short casts very well indeed. Roll casts are particularly easy with this rod.
It feels best around the 45-60 foot mark. Given that this is the typical distance most fly fishers are aiming for when fishing stillwaters, the fact that it excels here is rather good. Casting it is pretty effortless and extremely enjoyable - it's hard to put it down.
The power reserves lower in the blank also mean it can wang a fair line out a much longer distance, too. It was very capable at distance - certainly on par or better than the Evotec and arguably as good, if not better, than the Orvis Helios.
You can punch a line out really well with this rod. While I was getting used to the rod, I did throw a few dud tailing loops, but I soon got used to the rod's action. It handles wind quite well, but I think the Helios is hard to beat when it's blowing a gale.
Does it come with a rod tube?
Yes. While the run of the mill Loop fly rods come with a cool looking Cordura tube (hexagonal if you have a rod with an X-grip handle) the top dog gets an aluminium rod tube, as well as the usual grey Loop rod sock. The tube looks and feels expensive and is strong enough to protect your investment from damage.
What warranty is provided with Loop rods?
Loop offers a one year unconditional warranty on these rods. Providing you don't lose it or have it stolen, Loop will ship you a free section completely free of charge during the first year, without any postage costs. Loop says that once outside the first year you can purchase replacement sections for $60. That's comparable to the experience I had with my Orvis Helios, in which the snapped section was replaced a few years after purchase for a £50 handling charge.
How much do these cost?
It's hard to fault the Loop Cross SX. It's beautifully made, casts brilliantly at all distances and has the characteristic Loop feel that is so addictive. As you might have gathered though, the Loop Cross S series rods are not cheap to buy. The Cross SX starts in price at around £687 for the 9' #5 model and rises to nearly £800 for the larger models.
Overall, the casting capabilities and the feel do match the rod's price tag, but given the price difference between this and the Evotec (i.e. several hundred pounds) it really shows just how exceptional in value the Evotecs are. The Cross SX is a superb rod, but the Evotec is also very good and far less expensive. Many people might be more than satisfied with the performance of the Evotec, I think.
Available from: Amazon