In the modern nymphing technique, the 10’ #3 is the most standard fly rod used for white-water fishing. This kind of rod gives you a perfect control of the drift but also enough reactivity for dry fly fishing. They are particularly multipurpose and very popular amongst anglers who like fishing in small to medium sized streams. In this review, we compare 12 references in the 10’ #3 market:
- Airflo Euro Nymph
- Baetis Precision 2.0
- Echo Shadow X
- Greys GR80
- Hanak Superb XP
- JMC Pure Equipe
- Maxia SX4
- Sage ESN HD
- Soldarini Hydropsyche Elite Competition
- Syndicate Pipeline
- Thomas & Thomas Contact
- Vision Nymphmaniac
STATIC TESTS AND MEASUREMENTS
Airflo Euro Nymph
This recent Airflo rod has been specifically designed for euro nymphing. The brown dull coating of the blank and the red wraps provide an original look. The cork handle is followed by an aluminium black reel seat up-locking overcoming a fighting butt made in EVA black foam. This rod is 4-piece and delivered with a cover and a cordura protecting tube. The price of 1 single element (in case you’d break it) is 42€, not including delivery fees.
Baetis Precision 2.0
For its Precision 2.0 series, the brand Baetis broke its usual gaudy look of the first generation. They decided to introduce sobriety and clean aspect : blank with scrolled pattern, not varnished and wraps become black. Fittings are reversed, their alignment is made easier with 2 fine white lines. The guides are single leg and the penultimate has a shape designed to limit twists in the line when euro nymphing. This 10’ is made with 12 guides + 1 spare in a blister in case you would add one on the first piece. The aluminium reel seat is darker and keeps a graphite insert and becomes down locking. The cork handle is still cigar shaped. This 4-piece rod is delivered in a cordura tube with a compartment for each piece.
Echo Shadow X
Unlike the Shadow II series, the new Shadow X are sober with a dark set: a slate grey blank and black wraps, as the down-locking reel seat and the carbon insert. The first SIC guide is followed by hard chrome single leg guides. Like all the rods from the series, this model is equipped with a fighting butt made of cork that is removable. You can add a kit of 4 weights (2 of 5g and 2 of 10g), in order to balance the rod, whatever the reel you use. This 4-piece rod will be delivered to you in a cover and a transport tube.
The Greys GR80 keeps the olive green from the GR70 on the blank and the wraps are dark. Two chartreuse trims bring to the first piece a touch of flashy. A new resin named Powerflux 1000 brings to the blank mechanical properties while fishing. The GR80 blank has a first SIC guide followed by 10 single leg. Small dots on the fittings make the alignment easier. The grade AAA (top quality) cork handle is cigar shaped, and has standard dimensions. It overcomes a gun metal reel seat made of aluminium with a wooden insert and a fine butt with a cork fighting butt. This rod is 4 pieces, sold in a cordura tube with 4 compartments.
Hanak Superb XP
The Superb XP series has an original look: the matt blank is dark olive green, just like the wraps of the Recoil Titanflex memory guides. The starting SIC guide is followed by 10 single leg. The cork handle has an elegant wooden finishing, matching the insert of the black aluminium reel seat. The fitting of the strands is facilitated by small white dots. This 4-piece rod is sold in a compartmented Cordura case (unconditional guarantee with participation of 75 €).
JMC Pure Equipe
With its dull blank, black wraps and carbon reel seat, this JMC rod is definitely sober. Like all rods in the Equipe series, a tricolour (blue, white, red) wrap appears at the base of the first guide. It symbolises the link between the brand and this series of rods in particular, to the competitive practice of fly fishing. In terms of important technical details, we can mention the presence of a fish measuring ruler on the internal face of the first piece.
For its SX series, Maxia changes the yellow wraps of the MX and goes green ! These trims are near the fittings and the first guide. The blank is still raw, unvarnished and equipped with classy dark guides and black wraps (12 guides including 11 single leg for this 10 '). The grey aluminium reel seat has a bottle green insert, the shape of the handle stays the same as the MX. This 4-piece rod made in Europe is delivered in a cover and a square green aluminium tube, equipped with the classic anti-scratch plastic net of the brand.
Sage ESN HD
The black gloss finished blank benefits from the Konnectic HD technology, also present in the LL series. The Burgundy wraps feature discreet metallic edging for the first guide and the fittings. The Fuji ceramic stripping guide is followed by 11 hard chrome single leg. The dull black anodised aluminium down lock reel seat tops a premium Half Wells cork handle (flor grade) typical of the brand. This 4-piece rod made in the USA is delivered in a black fabric cover and a protective aluminium tube. It has a Sage lifetime warranty.
Soldarini Hydropsyche Elite Competition
The Hydropsyche Elite Competition series designed by the former French competitor Thibault Guilpain has a thin blank with a night blue gloss finish coating. Dark blue wraps with 12 guides including 11 recoil single leg. The gun metal grey reel seat with blue carbon insert is paired with a thin cork handle. This 4-piece rod is delivered in a cover and a rigid tube.
Syndicate Pipeline P2
The Syndicate brand has established itself as the most popular manufacturer in the United States when we talk about nymph fishing. Regarding the look, the Pipeline series is characterised by a dull olive blank, equipped with two starting SIC guides followed by 10 tiCH single leg, a 4A cork handle and an aluminium reel seat with wood insert. This 4-piece rod is delivered in a compartmentalised tube and has a lifetime warranty (something rather rare in this price range).
Thomas & Thomas Contact
This Contact series is built with a dark gray blank, the trims and wraps are brown olive, very pragmatic and change from the usual black. The weight of the rod is written by the joint between the two first sections which makes the set-up easier. Part from the aesthetical side, it is important to note that all the components of this Thomas & Thomas Contact 10’ #3 are high quality and tend to reduce the overall weight. They include a high-quality cork handle (extra flor), an aluminium built and anodised reel seat with a burled black ash spacer and a titanium-frame ceramic stripping guide followed by 11 single foot RECoil guides. Last but not least, the handle ends with a fighting butt which will bring you comfort and balance while hooked on serious fish. The Thomas & Thomas Contact 10’ #3 is a 4-piece rod shipped with a made in USA protective cover and an aluminium tube.
This rod has a raw, unvarnished blank. The reel seat mixes black anodized aluminum and cork insert. Keys of green, signatures of the Nymphmaniac series, singularize the product, especially at the level of inscriptions on the first piece and wraps of the joints. On the cigar cork handle, a green thin ring marks the first 7.9" from the butt and graduation goes on from 3.9" to 3.9" with green wraps up to 19.7". This model has a relatively large number of guides according to its size (13 guides with olive wraps), the penultimate of which is snake guide, so as to limit the tangle of leader around the tip when euro-nymphing (with a long tippet leader).
Discussion of the results
Regarding the power, the rod reviewed in this test can be classified in two different categories:
- Those with overrated power (measured power is inferior to the announced power by the manufacturer). This is the case of the Vision Nymphmaniac 10’ #3 which is a real #2, the Soldarini Hydropsyche Elite Competition, the Greys GR80, the Sage ESN HD and the Syndicate Pipeline Pro which are all #2/3. They will allow you to cast lighter nymphs than the rod in the next category.
- The rods with an announced power similar to the measured power. Like most of the rods in this test: Airflo Euro Nymph, Baetis Precision 2.0, Echo Shadow X, Hanak Superb XP, JMC Pure Equipe, Maxia SX4 and the Thomas & Thomas Contact that are all real #3.
The action is characterised by the Action Angle (AA) and two categories are found in the bunch of rods tested.
- Fast action, with the majority of the values being between 68 and 70°. It is the case for the Airflo Euro Nymph, Baetis Precision 2.0, Echo Shadow X, Hanak Superb XP, Sage ESN HD and the Vision Nymphmaniac. There is not any ultra-fast rod in this test, which is rather logic because we are talking about nymphing rods and white water dry-fly fishing.
- Moderate-fast rods, some references in the review have an AA = to 65° which is typical for modern nymphing rods. The Greys GR80, la JMC Pure Equipe, la Maxia SX, la Soldarini Hydropsyche Competition, la Syndicate Pipeline and the Thomas & Thomas Contact are moderate-fast action rods.
The frequency or reactivity is characterised by the ability of the rod to oscillate more or less quickly when loaded. We quantify the reactivity in cpm. It is indicative of the fishing capacity in dry fly (the higher the frequency, the more the rod will cast efficiently). No surprise at this level, the logic is respected :
- Rods with ERN in the middle of the #3 power have a frequency near : 76cpm for the Airflo Euro Nymph, 77 cpm for the Baetis Precision 2.0, the Echo Shadow X and the Hanak Superb XP, 78 cpm for the Thomas & Thomas Contact and the Maxia SX4. The most reactive rod is the JMC Pure Equipe with 80 cpm, its ERN is 3.72 which makes it a #3/4 and explains its good ranking. The CFF of the Vision Nymphmaniac which has a real power of #2 is 77 cpm.
- For the models with #2/3 power, two frequencies are measured. Logically, the highest frequencies are correlated to the weight being a #2 : 81 cpm with a weight of a #2 line and 75 with a weight of a #3 line for the Greys GR80 and the Sage ESN HD, 80 cpm and 74 cpm for the Syndicate Pipeline. The Soldarini has only been tested with a #3 line, its CCF is 73.
In terms of manufacturing, if we measure the distance between the first guide and the handle, the rods that allow optimal use in nymphing (first guide located less than 15.5" from the handle) are only 4 : the Airflo Euro Nymph, the Echo Shadow X, the JMC Pure Equipe and the Maxia SX. With these 4, there is no risk of forming a belly in the line when fishing with the rod in a high position.
Regarding the reel seats, the Echo Shadow X, the Baetis Precision 2.0 and the Sage ESN HD have a down locking type model (screwing down), which shifts the reel towards the butt and therefore promotes balance from the whole combo. However, this penalises the use of semi-automatic reels as the ring finger is no longer in direct contact with the trigger (especially if the handle is relatively long, i.e. more than 6.7"). This is the case of the Echo Shadow X, whose very long handle (7.4") associated with the down-locking reel seat makes it impossible to attach a Vivarelli reel. A manual reel will be preferred for this reference.
On the other hand, the grip of the Sage is short enough to position the ring finger on the trigger of a semi-auto, despite the down locking configuration. All the other rods in this comparison have classic screw up locking reel seats.
As for the handle, the one of the Vision is particularly thin (0.87"). The others are standard (between 24 and 26 mm). In terms of length, the Thomas & Thomas and the Sage ESN are the shortest (6.5"). The best score for length goes to the Echo Shadow X with 189 mm.
About the comfort while fishing, our ranking system gives the best mark (8/10) to the Sage ESN HD: the 73 gr and the down-locking reel seat promotes balance allow to take the lead in the ranking!
It is followed by the Echo Shadow X (7.8/10). The balance of this model is impressive and due to the large gap between the reel and the hand that holds the grip (down locking reel seat + very long grip). We have previously seen that this is not necessarily an advantage, except for those who use a manual reel.
The Baetis Precision 2.0, whose reel seat is also in a down-locking configuration, completes the podium.
For the other rods in the test, which all have up locking reel seats, here is the ranking:
The most comfortable classic reel seat rods in this test are the Airflo Euro-Nymph, the Vision Nymphmaniac and the Soldarini Hydropsyche Elite Competition (all 3 at 7.3 / 10). Special mention for the Airflo and the Nymphmaniac whose prices are much lower than the other references and which nevertheless rise at the first places of the podium in the "rod with up-locking reel seat" category.
Other models reviewed are really close in terms of comfort with marks being between 6.5 and 7.1/10. The last rod in the ranking is the JMC Pure Equipe (5.9/10) which has a slight trend to “go south”
As usual, we will not discuss the appearance of the different models, this criterion being completely subjective. Photos will help each and every one of you to make your opinion.
About the technique now, the choice between those models will really depend of the ratio of your nymphing or dry-fly fishing. Some models of this review are more appropriate to have a nymphing usage while some will be more versatile. So, let’s see what are the optimum choices according to each kind of technique:
- If you are looking for the best quality-price ratio, the Airflo Euro Nymph is the cheapest rod but definitely not the worse. The data are clear: its manufacturing makes sense for nymphing (first guide at 12.6" from the handle, seat can have a semi-auto reel), its comfort is excellent and its retro look will seduce any amateur of this kind of vintage rod.
- Those who are after a nymphing type rod designed to fish very light (beads from 2 mm) or dry fly at short distance, with a natural fly line parallel would be happy to use: the Greys GR80, the Soldarini Hydropsyche Elite Competition, the Sage ESN HD or the Syndicate Pipeline. They are best suited with their real power #2/3. The choice will be made above all according to fairly subjective criteria (look) and your budget. For those who would like an even less powerful model, the Vision Nymphmaniac has a real power tested at #2. It makes it the rod that will be able to fish the lighest as possible. Perfect for summer conditions.
- Those who are looking for a real high-end 10' #3 for euro nymphing, the most consistent rods are the Maxia SX4, the JMC Pure Equipe and the Echo Shadow X which achieve a flawless level of manufacturing and compliance of the advertised power (the Maxia being slightly less powerful). Their actions are similar, of a moderate fast type, ideal for Euro nymphing. Advantage to the Maxia when considering fishing comfort. For its part, the Echo Shadow X is faster than the first two and its particular "American-style" manufacturing (very long handle and down locking reel seat) penalises the use of a semi-automatic reel (famous in France). It won't be a problem with a manual reel though. If the stripping guide being close enough to the handle does not put you off for dry fishing, remember that these rods will easily cast a #3 line if the need arises.
- Those who are looking for a more versatile 10'#3 rod, with a non-specific Euro nymphing manufacturing, would have to choose between the Baetis Precision 2.0, the Hanak Superb XP or the Thomas & Thomas Contact. The decision will depend on your budget, the look and the type of action you are looking for. Obviously, on a technical level, the Thomas & Thomas is the most accomplished in this category : it is very comfortable given its classic reel seat, it is the most responsive of the #3, and it has the delicious moderate fast action without any hard point on the blank, trademark of the Contact series.
Finally, note the perfect similarity of the power / action / reactivity values of the Thomas & Thomas Contact and the Maxia SX4. These two blanks have an almost identical behaviour in fishing action, only the manufacturing changes: the Maxia is more typical nymphing, while the Contact is more typical dry fly fishing.
Good luck to make your mind !