The St. Croix Imperial fly rod is in its third generation, and I will pretty much repeat what I stated when I reviewed (both) previous ones: they are among the best-calibrated blanks in the industry. Considering the price, these rods automatically enter the “no brainer” category. Fish one, and you will find that the fly rod lacks nothing.
Generation three, to be made available in early November, is fitted with an upgraded, skeletonized, ultralight reel seat. The golden brown blank color harkens back to generation one, and that blank sports new, extra-hard, stealthy, carbon finished guides and tip top. The result is one of the finest looking rods you’re likely to find, at any price point.
Now about that blank…. New, mid-priced fly rods tend to rely on the same general formula: amped lower half, followed by a moderately stout middle-third, ending with a near-supple tip section. Building on that template is a good start, in that you’ll end up with a blank that appeals to a wide range of anglers. The Imperial modifies that formula slightly and produces what I think is a far superior fly rod for its price category. I’ve always thought that Imperials cast and fished just like premium fly rods, and generation three is no different. The rods’ overall progressive flex comes in large part from a fine-tuned mid-section, which is a touch more supple (and forgiving) than most new-gen rods. The result is rather obvious: tippets will be better protected, strikes will be more easily detected, and negotiating fish becomes more of an exact science. After all, a large part of a rods job is to communicate underwater activity: the 2018 Imperials excel at this.
Imperials have consistently delivered premium performance at far below premium pricing. Generation three continues that strong tradition. Highly recommended.
The new Imperials ship on November 1. Single-handed models come in 2- and 4-piece configurations and retail USD$230 – $300. Switch models retail USD$320 – $330.