RADIAN 5 WT FLY ROD REVIEW ~ MARCH 2014
of 33 backcountry brown trout I landed with the Radian
on two outings during the 2014 cicada season
Scott S4s 9wt is my favourite fly rod for chasing kahawai from a
kayak. So I was excited when Scott brought out a new freshwater
fly rod series in 2013, especially when it won best fly rod and
best product awards at the 2013 IFTD show in Las Vegas, USA. The
“fast meets feel” marketing slogan suggested the 5wt may have
more feel in-close than my Hardy Zenith, making the Radian a more
versatile rod. Fortunately the crew at Manic Tackle were able
lend me a demo model for a couple of weeks in February 2014.
finish and hardware on Scott’s top end rods are about as good as
it can get. Scott rods have a pleasing hand crafted feel, which in
the case of the Radian is accentuated by the hand-painted serial
number and 12” and 20” length markers on the butt section -
incidentally I found the 20” marker extremely useful.
with the S4s series, Radian blanks are unsanded and thread wraps
are an appealing understated grey; although highlights on the
Radian series are orange, instead of S4s blue, to match the hue of
the dyed burled box-elder spacer in the self-indexing reel seat.
While the Radian uses the same titanium framed SiC stripping guide
found on the Zenith, the rest are snake, instead of single foot
guides, and the cork grip is a full wells instead of inverted half
wells. For information
on the technical aspects of blank construction check out the Scott
from the aesthetic aspect of an un-sanded graphite blank, which I
appreciate, the unsanded finish has practical advantages on
backcountry streams. Firstly, it reduces rod flash, and secondly
the ridges actually protect the blank from scratches and nicks
inflicted by boulders and rocks, usually sustained when slipping
and falling, or when placing the rod down to release a fish.
When setting the Radian up alongside my Zenith I noticed it was a
good inch and a half shorter. A tape measure confirmed the Radian
was actually 8 foot 10.5 inches long, instead of 9 foot as indicated;
not that it felt any shorter when fishing it.
fished the Radian on two separate outings during the 2014 cicada
season, landing a total of 33 backcountry brown trout up to six
pounds. I used the
same 5wt Airflo Bandit line, 15 foot leader and #8 Silicone Wing
Cicada that I used on the Hardy Zenith.
Radian 5wt is buttery smooth, like my 9wt S4s, and a real pleasure to cast at
regular fishing distances. Although swing weights of the Zenith
and the Radian are very similar, the Radian has a more progressive
taper, being less tippy, resulting in considerably more feel and
accuracy when casting to sighted targets within 50 feet.
The 5 wt Radian and Bandit fly line proved to be a deadly
combination for backcountry trout fishing when cicadas are about.
Radian lacks the explosive power of the Hardy Zenith,
and those casts beyond 60 feet with big cicadas and heavy nymphs on 15
foot leaders, were not as easy - notwithstanding my casting
ability. Being slower
than the Zenith, the Radian was also not quite as efficient at
punching big dry flies into a headwind on a 15 foot leader, or at
casting a size 8 Cicada with two weighted nymphs attached to the
bend - a trick I use when fish fail to rise to the dry. In saying
this, I am by no
means implying that the Radian is a close distance presentation
tool, as it is a very versatile rod, it just does not do
the long distance big fly stuff as well as the Zenith.
a fish on, the Radian bends well into the butt section providing
lots of shock absorption and a rod that fights the fish. Netting
large brown trout on my own, was noticeably easier with the fully
bent Radian than with the tippy Zenith. Generally I prefer the
smooth, relaxed experience of fighting fish with the likes of a
Radian, over the high impact affair with a stiffer rod. But there
were a few instances, when fish dashed for cover or over the
rapids past the tail of a pool, that I missed the brutal head
turning power of the Zenith.
complete this review I tried casting smaller dry flies on the Hutt
River, using an Airflo Tactical Ridge line, which is essentially a
standard trout taper. Presentations in the calm conditions of slow
pools and no wind, were consistently more delicate than I could
achieve with the Zenith.
also tried casting the Radian alongside my 5wt Streamdance, which
is currently the best 5wt rod I own for casting dry flies to
sighted fish inside 50 foot. The
Radian has a noticeably lighter swing weight, it is a tad smoother
and a little faster. This translated to marginally better feel and
accuracy, and an extra 5 or 10 feet, and better capability with
I were asked which 5wt rod I would choose, a Radian or a Zenith,
my answer would be one of each. I’d use the Radian for mayfly
hatches on lowland rivers and fishing the cicada season on back
country and high country streams. I’d use the Zenith for heavy
nymphs, big rivers, lakes and windy conditions. And if I had the
misfortune to break either rod I would have a reliably solid
whatever the conditions.