Over the past few years, fiberglass fly rods have made a huge comeback. Once considered an outdated technology in fly fishing, advancements in material, design, and construction have allowed fiberglass to get a new look. I'm an admitted gear junkie, so I've had my eye on firberglass rod makers for a while, and as I researched around Blue Halo was consistently in the brands mentioned. After looking into the company's products a bit more, I decided that their RetroFlex 3 line would be a good place to give fiberglass rods a try. This review is for the RetroFlex 3, 7'6" 3 wt. rod.
To give some context, I was specifically looking to use the RetroFlex 3 for smaller streams, especially tighter canyon creeks with tight casting conditions, but I also wanted to use it on mid-size streams where hooking into larger fish is a common possibility. Over the past years, I've used Orvis, G-Loomis, Sage, and Cortland rods on these types of waters, all of them made of faster action graphite. The slower action on fiberglass was sure to take some getting used to.
To my surprise, after a few casts directly up the stream to get a feel for the action, I settled right in with the RetroFlex 3 and quickly adjusted to the feel and flex of the rod. I turned and shot a cast across the river, mended, and BAM! I had a fish on. I barely had time to reflect on the cast, but I did notice how delicately my line laid out at the end of the cast.
That's the first big thing I noticed about fishing fiberglass. As your cast ends, the leader and fly tend to lay out rather than slap the water. This comes as a result of the high flex in the rod, which gives a smooth delivery to your casts. As I've gone between graphite and the RetroFlex 3, especially for dry fly presentations, the difference between delivery is easy to notice.
Fighting fish on the RetroFlex 3 is what really sold me on fiberglass. With the easy and deep flex offered by fiberglass, smaller trout were able to really put some bounce and bend in the rod. You can really feel a fish's head shakes and rolls as it transmits through the full length of the rod. Larger fish were still controllable and I feel more confident landing a 20" brown on my RetroFlex 3 than any of my 3 wt. graphite rods. You're truly getting the best of both worlds here: fine enough to make small fish fun, but enough strength to handle large fish.
For tight quarters, the 7'6" length of the RetroFlex 3 is a good fit. For overgrown creeks or canyon streams, longer rods simply won't get the job done. Roll casts, bow and arrow casts, or any other tricky cast you need to pull off happens with ease.
Obviously this isn't going to be the best rod for throwing streamers or for launching huge 60 foot casts with weighty nymphs, but you're not going to find any 3 wt. that is suitable for that task. I have found success throwing smaller streamers (crystal buggers, conehead bunny leeches, zonkers, etc.) on the edges of lakes or on smaller streams and the RetroFlex 3 performed well. If you're looking for a streamer rod, look for a heavier weight, but for small streamers, the rod is capable of doing the job. Just know that your casting range is going to be more in the 30-40 foot range on a good day.
Performance and capability aside, there's a lot to be said about how enjoyable it is to use a piece of gear. And really, this is where the RetroFlex 3 shines. This rod is flat out fun to fish. Fighting a fish on fiberglass is just guaranteed to put a smile on your face, be it a little sunfish or a healthy rainbow charging up a run. It's impossible to put into words how fun it is to feel the fish you're fighting without feeling like your rod is undersized.
The RetroFlex 3 runs $279 at the 3 wt. size. It comes in a 4-piece design, which makes it easy to pack. Included with your purchase, you'll also get a high quality rod sock and carrying tube. There are a bunch of colors to choose from, so decide if you want to go bold or traditional with your look.
- Excellent feel
- Great build quality
- Delicate presentation
- Surprising amount of backbone for handling larger fish
- Small learning curve to adapt to slower action (this con is mitigated with some practice)
- Shorter length limits casting range