Hardy Zenith is the Best Premium Fly Fishing Rod

Posted March 26, 2014 by Duy Le in Fly Fishing
Hardy Zenith Fly Fishing Rod

Hardy Zenith is the Best Premium Fly Fishing Rod 

The Hardy Zenith is one of the lightest and fastest rods on the market. It is a real joy to cast. Whether you are fishing for bluegills, trout or small/medium bass, this rod will do it all. If you can only have one fly rod for trout, a 5-weight is the most versatile choice. In this review, we tested an 8’6 5-weight Zenith.

Why We Love This Fly Rod


Incredibly light. 3M and Hardy produced the Sintrix carbon fiber technology for their current high-end premium fly fishing rods line-up. 3M engineers and rod designers worked with many different blends, and after two years of experimenting, they moved forward with Sintrix. This new material makes their rods much lighter and stronger than your typical graphite rod. Hardy is the only company using this unique blend of resins for their fly rods. Their test results show that Sintrix increases strength up to 60% and decreases weight up to 30%. The 8’6 5-weight weighs in at 2.7oz. Why does lightweight matter? Lightweight rods make smooth and effortless casts.


This is a very fast action rod. The 8’6 rod gives you more room to work in tight quarters and is a bit lighter than the 9’0 rod. The 8’6 is especially perfect for dry fly fishing for medium sized trout. If you are european-style nymphing, there is a 10’0 version. If you don’t know what european-style nymphing is then consider an 8’6 or 9’0. The 9’0 is better for those who fish more streamers and nymphing rigs than dry flies. Most people will agree that 9’0 is the most versatile length.

In terms of casting performance:

This rod casts so smoothly. At short range it will deliver tight, accurate loops, but it’s a very stiff rod and so a delicate presentation will take some finesse. At mid-range, a decent caster can generate incredibly fast line speed while maintaining good accuracy. At long range (we hope you are not fishing at long range casting distance with an 8’6 5-weight), it remains fast and accurate, but at this point you are just practice casting because most applications where a 5-weight is ideal do not require long distance casts. With that said, it can definitely cast a long distance with ease, which says a lot about its power.

In terms of fly selection:

The Hardy Zenith will present a dry fly with a fast, tight loop while maintaining accuracy and a delicate presentation. Nymphing with this rod for trout with light rigs is easy. Surprisingly, the 8’6 5-weight is even stiff enough to chuck medium sized foam/deer hair poppers to smaller warmwater species like Guadalupe Bass in the San Marcos River. The stiffness of the rod will present size #8-10 streamers with ease and accuracy.


Hardy Zenith Fly Fishing Rod Logo

This fly rod comes with premium components. The rod features contrasting dark gray ferrules on an olive blank fitted with a premium grade cork handle and the Hardly logo etched on the butt cap. The original Zenith had a very futuristic looking reel seat that definitely made it stand out from the rest of the premium rods. The new Zenith is the exact same rod in terms of performance but features a maple burlwood insert reel seat. The REC and Fuji brand guides are made of titanium. The rod also has white alignment dots to make assembly easier. It comes with a rod sock and a rod case, as well as a sock for the rod case. The rod case sock is overkill, but it is a premium fly rod and so it comes with all the bells and whistles.


The Zenith is surprisingly cheaper than most of its top competitors at $649 retail.

Hardy Zenith:

G. Loomis NRX LP: $755 retail

Sage One: $775 retail

Orvis Helios 2: $795 retail


We recommend this premium fly rod be lined up with a premium fly line. Rio Perception, Rio Gold, or Airflo Super-Dri Elite in WF5. No need to overline or underline. Since this rod is so light, it needs to be balanced with a light reel. We tested this rod with the incredibly light Lamson Litespeed and found it to balance well with the rod.


It is going to be hard to break this rod, but if you do, repairing/replacing a $649 rod is not cheap. With shipping costs to the Hardy USA headquarters, a $25 handling fee, and an additional 10% retail cost of rod fee; expect to pay around $100 when all is said and done.

Here at Rugged Individual, we firmly believe that the Hardy Zenith is the best premium fly fishing rod on the market, but here’s what others think about it:

What Others Think

“What impressed us most about the Hardy Zenith, was its uncanny ability to do everything well.  Without a doubt, the Hardy Zenith is the most universal 5 weight rod we’ve ever tested.  Until the Hardy Zenith, we’d never seen a 5 weight rod that could not only cast delicately and accurately in close, but also have the guts to knock the cover off the ball, throwing the entire fly line.” -Yellowstone Angler

“For me, however, the ability to throw a wider range of flies outweighs the extreme accuracy in close. Thus, I’m declaring the Hardy Zenith, the winner, and reigning king!” -Trident Fly Fishing

The Zenith was the 2012 Total Fly Fisher Tackle Awards Winner of the Best Stillwater Rod Category

About the Author

Duy Le

Duy is a rock climber, fly fisherman, backpacker, and paddler. He has climbed in some of the most spectacular places in North America from Yosemite and Zion to Squamish, BC. During the summer, you can find him guiding anglers to big beautiful fish in Alaska. His experiences in these remote places have inspired him to share his passion for the great outdoors with others. Duy believes in quality gear that is built to last. He believes buying less is better for the environment and loves to yell, “No duct tape? No respect!” at opportune moments around friends and strangers alike.


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