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Home EQUIPMENT XO GRAPHENE NYMPHING ROD

XO GRAPHENE NYMPHING ROD

by Guide Blog

STEVE CULLEN TAKES A CLOSER LOOK AT THE VISION XO GRAPHENE NYMPHING ROD'S

I took possession of a fly rod two weeks ago, and I’ve been lucky enough to use it several times, after each session, it leaves me gawping, slack-jawed and astonished at what just took place!

When I received the XO Graphene nymphing rod, mines is the 11ft 4inch, 3-wt, the first thing I noticed is the actual cosmetics and look, it screams quality! Yes, it looks gorgeous, unsanded or painted, reducing weight and allowing the blank to perform unhindered, but really it’s the feel of the rod and just how lightweight it is, it’s unreal, to be honest! Given the fact that this is an 11 foot 4-inch rod, it’s nuts how delicate it feels. In hand, it’s like a smaller, lighter rod, more like a 7 foot 3-wt, how is that possible?

Well, it’s the Graphene. Graphene is a wonder material – see below – and has been used in the construction process making the blank super strong but at the same time incredibly lightweight. This addition makes for a more durable blank, but it also means less carbon is used, so there’s less weight! These XO nymphing rods are so much lighter than anything else you’ll find where traditional rod manufacturing techniques have been utilised.

Graphene is a single layer sheet of carbon atoms, tightly bound in a hexagonal honeycomb lattice. Even though it is the thinnest compound known to man at one atom thick, it is one of the strongest materials in the known universe with a tensile strength of 130 GPa (gigapascals), it’s 100 times stronger than steel. Not only is Graphene extraordinarily strong, but it is also very light and flexible, adding this wonder material to Vision’s high-performance XO blanks creates an incredibly light rod with unbelievable strength and increased performance!

My rod, along with its 10ft 3-wt counterpart, has been designed explicitly for nymphing, the whole gamut of nymphing techniques from heavyweight bugging to distance, single fly presentations can be covered with these beauties. The men behind the rod’s design know a thing or two about nymphing. Having been in the fishing industry and also involved in high-level competition for some time, their combined knowledge and expertise of this style of fishing is very evident to see when you pick up this rod and start playing with it.

If you look closely one or two things, stand out on this rod which would make anybody, who knows their onions, sit up and take notice. There are no stripper guides, that’s right, none. The two guides which you’d see above the reel seat on most rods, are gone, no more. Instead, they are replaced with single leg guides, not any old guides either; these are patented single-leg REC nickel-titanium alloy, so light they are barely there!

Unlike regular fly rods, the rod features a guide which is far closer to the reel than you’d expect. The reason for this is that it offers a more direct contact when nymphing with a level or tapered line. The closer it is, the less sag there is, less sag= more contact. With this guide being closer to the reel, trust me there’s more feel at your hand, but also there’s more chance of detecting takes either distance or with close quarters fishing. 

Another thing to note is, and this really impressed me and will impress you, is the wraps all the way up the blank. This wrap is elevated above the blank, and the reason for this is unique to nymphing. By having this raised whipping, with the wraps becoming closer towards the tip section, the nylon or mono which you are using doesn’t stick to the actual blank when wet; again this improves take detection. Attention to detail people, Vision have Vision!

To go with a very small tip ring, there’s a sneaky little snake guide just below it, and the reason it has been included at that position is to avoid line wrap. This wrapping of the monofilament towards the tip of the rod can happen a lot when nymphing, ask anyone that does it often enough! But the design feature of the tip ring along with the cheeky snake guide means that this is drastically reduced, allowing you to spend more time on the water fishing and less time dealing with tangles. How clever is that? 

To go with a very small tip ring, there’s a sneaky little snake guide just below it, and the reason it has been included at that position is to avoid line wrap. This wrapping of the monofilament towards the tip of the rod can happen a lot when nymphing, ask anyone that does it often enough! But the design feature of the tip ring along with the cheeky snake guide means that this is drastically reduced, allowing you to spend more time on the water fishing and less time dealing with tangles. How clever is that? 

A few other things to pick up on, the blank is un-sanded and not painted, so the blank is dull; there is no rod flash, which you can get on other rods during bright, sunny conditions. No rod flash, means less fish spooked! The reel seat too is different it’s down-locking rather than up locking that we see on other rods, and it’s made from precision-machined aluminium with the exposed blank running through it, very neat!

Now, you may ask why the down-locking reel seat, well it’s simple; it balances the rod, even more, something crucial to nymphing rods. Get it wrong, and the rod just feels weird and tip heavy, get it right, and they (Vision) have, it feels like nothing in the hand, so impressive! The fact I can fish all day with a rod over 11ft and not get sore is something I never thought possible, but it is now. And, get this, the slimline handle isn’t AAA cork. Oh no, it’s quadruple! A full, AAAA, you get an extra A! It also features the inclusion of rubber cork as a reinforcement to make it even more long-lasting and durable.

Okay, the fishing, summed up…

The rod is hard to compare to anything else, and I’ve used pretty much everything! The lightness is evident but also the length, this particular rod at 11ft 4 inch, opens up a whole world of opportunities. I can reach otherwise unreachable places and fish at a great distance with ease, the extra length allowing me to track back far easier than with a shorter rod. 

I must highlight the finesse side of things as it’s unbelievable. I’ve tried this rod with two different level lines, 0.30mm for all the practical work, this is my typical setup when fishing, but also with 0.18mm monofilament for technical situations. This rod performs with both to a very high standard, the blank letting you feel everything. When nymphing, you must be in contact with the flies at all times, the XO, from the second the flies hit the water until the lift at the end, allows constant contact and ‘feel’ all the way through the drift!

In a nutshell, this rod will allow you to catch more fish but not only that, I have found that given the action, the whole rod comes into play, when you’re fighting fish! My hook up to ‘in the net’ ratio has increased dramatically. With this new XO nymphing rod, I know I not only have a stunning piece of kit but one which allows for extremely technical presentations in a host of situations but – and here’s the key – it lets me catch more fish!

It’s more enjoyable playing your quarry with it too; there’s no deadness in the rod, I need to qualify that. Deadness, it’s a weird one to explain, but with some rods, they get to a point, often when the fish is close to the net there’s no more ‘give’. It’s at this point the rod needs to work the most, if the trout or grayling makes a mad dash and the drag isn’t set right on the reel, a rod with some ‘give’ and life, will tolerate that lunge without burdening the tippet. I’d also highlight the fact that this movement and flex in the blank lets you enjoy the fight so much more to. Every turn of the fish’s head is felt right through the blank. Importantly, I never worried about fish coming off after my first outing with the XO.

This rod has blown me away; it’s improved my presentation, my fishing and my catch rate!

The XO is magic!

Steven Cullen

Steve Cullen Fly Fishing

Steve Cullen YouTube Channel

 

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