I WAS FORTUNATE to have the new Hardy Proaxis 4-piece 10-weight on my June trip to Key West, where for the first few days cool weather lowered the water temperature to the point where big permit were showing up on the deeper grass flats. Over the course of three days, we had approximately 30 shots at permit, and we had a chance to play with multiple rods—some old, some new, but all rods that I would consider well-suited for throwing heavy permit flies and fighting fish. At the end of the three days, the Proaxis had become my favorite. Here’s why:
Most of the lighter rods that are being manufactured now do seem to present a trade-off between lightness/sensitivity and stiffness. Slinging big permit flies on weight-forward lines—especially in the strong blow typically of good permit days—means stressing a rod beyond what we might do when fishing for other species. It challenges a rod’s ability to get it done and get it done fast. (Most of what I teach when I introduce someone to fly fishing for permit is about timing: You want to react quickly, deliver the fly, and be able to re-cast with a single haul.)
Though we had only a light breeze in June, I came away impressed by the Proaxis’s ability to quickly deliver and pick up the fly and honestly disappointed by some of the other rods’ casting abilities. One rod that had become my favorite bonefish and light permit rod felt a bit flimsy when I started to push it as hard as I was pushing the Hardy. Others felt too slow. We didn’t get to fight a permit (too bad, because they were all big), but we didn’t need to put a big bend in the rod to realize it was plenty strong.
I’ll have to land a few fish and see how the rod performs in a 25-knot wind to give it my unequivocal endorsement, but from the fishing I’ve done so far, the Proaxis 10-weight is as close to a perfect casting permit rod as I’ve fished.
It’s not an inexpensive rod ($685 to $745 depending on size), but then I’m still fishing some rods that have been my favorites since the 1980s. (A good fly rod doesn’t wear out, in my opinion.) And this rod has all the goodies: titanium recoil guides, super-durable Sintrix resin construction, and a lifetime extended warranty for the original buyer. It even has elegant silver “plugs” that fit into the ferrules to prevent crushing during storage and transport.
You’ll want to include the Proaxis in any test-casting of premium permit and small tarpon rods.