Let me just start by saying that this was a loaner rod and it didn’t feel right for me to unwrap her. Just wanted to get that out there for all the yahoo’s about to give me crap about it.
Recently our Thomas and Thomas rep was kind enough to leave a couple demo rods at the shop for us to play around with for a couple weeks. We thought this was a great chance to really put these some of these rods to the test in real world situations since the brand was fairly new to us at Fishwest. The first rod I had an opportunity to play with was the 590-4 Zone Series Rod.
So I headed out, with the rod paired up with my SA Amplitude MPX 5-weight fly line and generation 1 Ross Animas. I feel the MPX is a great all-round taper for anglers looking to cast a range of rigs, from dry flies to moderately sized trout streamers. I started the day off throwing small buggers and leaches, streamers are typically my go-to when there aren’t hatches. I much rather deal with a single streamer then the mess of multiple nymphs getting tangled from time to time.
Initial thought heading out was the rod was very light for many of its equivalent counterparts, making the rod a little bottom heavy with the Animas. (This was not a surprise since the 1st gen. Animas is much heavier than most 5-weight reels)
The casts were smooth and accurate with a size 6 Bead Head Bugger, the MPX allowed the rod to load up well with minimal back casting room and with a good haul shot the line where I wanted it to be. .
The fish were not biting on the streamer, so I reluctantly adjusted and switched over to a nymph rig. Tied on a double nymph dropper with two pieces of split shot and after a couple of drifts, finally, I get to see how she handles a fight. The Zone performed well, allowing me plenty of power to steer the fish where I wanted it and pull it in relatively quickly.
Finally the day was winding to an end and we came across a fairly large hole, I decided I really wanted to push test the limits of what the rod can handle, both rig wise and hopefully what it would produce. I tied on a Conehead Double Bugger and started working the pool. Casting was clunky and awkward but was possible, wouldn’t win any casting competitions but delivered the fly about where I needed it. Cast was a little short at times, I had about pushed it to its limits. Making my way up to the head of the pool, I gave it a few last casts before heading back to the truck, after a couple of swings through the run, my line went tight, and the rod bent deep.
I could tell this was a larger fish from earlier instantly, once it made its first leap my assumptions were confirmed. The rod handled the fight really well, the connection to the fish was very sensitive, I could feel where he was trying to go, when he changed directions, and when he was rubbing his nose on the bottom. The Zone had plenty of lifting power in the bottom half of the rod to counter the powerful dives but was a little worried about the tip when netting hit. (I brought the Rising Brookie, should’ve brought the Lunker)
A little summary of what I touched on above for those who want the quick run-down.
- Lightweight for a moderately priced rod
- Powerful mid-lower section for lifting control and casting heavier rigs
- Softer tip allows for good dry fly presentation and great tippet protection
- A little softer than I like my all-rounders but not enough to outweigh the price (Could change with different line)
- The aesthetics of the rod, not a fan of the Zone badge on the blank nor the blue reel seat.
All in all, the Zone is a great rod in the moderate price range, especially when you factor in it’s made in Massachusetts and not overseas. Retailing just under $500, it’s a great option for anglers looking to upgrade from their beginner kit rod and wanting an American Made rod without breaking the bank. If you’re in the market for a new 5-weight fly rod this season I highly suggest test casting the Thomas and Thomas Zone alongside others that interest you.