I’ll have to start by saying that this, and all our reviews are written from the point of view of a casual fly fisher. We aren’t the guys out fishing every weekend (OK, maybe some months) or experienced guides. We’re just regular guys who love fly fishing and tend to work on moderate budgets. You won’t likely see many reviews of Sage or G. Loomis rods here. Having said that we can give an honest opinion on the effectiveness and ease of use of a pretty wide range of products that we’ve tried. Also, we do not do paid reviews, every review we do is for gear we’ve bought and paid for and is totally unbiased.
Having said all that, I love the Fenwick HMX 8 wt fly rod! I bought this rod on a bit of a “deal” (more on that later) to use primarly for pacific salmon. I’m a west coast guy and even in the interior of BC there aren’t many rainbows that need an 8 weight rod. This rod is for pink salmon, coho, and hopefully the occasional chinook or steelhead taken from a local river.
First, the specs. This particular rod is the HMXF 908-2E , a 9′ / 2 piece 8 weight rod. This is a fast-tapered, fast-actioned cross-scrim IM7 (stiff, moderatly fast action) graphite rod. It has chrome plated stainless steel guides paired with the DPL frame guide with TiCH insert. For me the only downside to the specs is that the HMX line of fly rods comes with a 5 year warranty while rods of comparible price can frequently be found with lifetime warranties.
I found the rod extremely easy to cast both for distance and for the short roll casts we were using when targeting pinks. The line flows nicely through the guides and strips nice and smooth. I’m a novice caster but when I gave it to an experienced friend to try ii actually took him a while to get used to how easy the rod is to cast. He kept overpowered his casts until he got used to how much less effort it took to cast even a moderate quality floating line. I know that I was able to cast for pretty much 6 hours with few breaks and while I was tired, my arm certainly wasn’t ready to fall off at the end of the day.
The first trip out we were targeting pinks, which may seem like overkill but the pink salmon running on the Mamquam River (near Sqaumish, BC) in 2011 were monsters a far as pinks go. Pinks may average 2 – 5 lbs but these were all easily 5 – 8 lbs and running in farily fast water. I was lucky to be running a 12 lb salmon leader as fishing buddies running 8 lb kept getting broken off. The pinks would take lightly, and then bulldog down to the bottom in fast current and stick hard. I’m glad I had the 8 wt as some of them really needed to be horsed in. The rod that was crisp when casting still gave me plenty of spring when hauling on those stubborn pinks.
The next trip out was on the famed Vedder River targeting Coho. Again, the sensitivity of the rod was great for sensing hook ups and still forgiving enough that when an excited newbie like me sets the hook with a bit too much enthusism it doesn’t rip the hook out of the fish’s mouth.
I mentioned price above. While Fenwick’s MSRP on this rod is around $185 I’ve seen it anywhere from $120 online to $174 in retail stores. I’ve seen it compared favorably to $400 to $500 rods. It’s generally sold complete with a really nice (though a bit heavy) brown cordura case embroidered with the Fenwick logo and HMX name. As far as what I paid for it, eat your hearts out… I got super lucky to win an auction on eBay for a brand new rod, for $28.51!
I’d recommend this rod to anyone from a beginner to an experienced fly angler who’s looking for a rod to target fish in the 5 – 20 lb range.