McFarland 7wt. 8'3" 3pc. (rebuild)
The very first blank I bought from Mike McFarland about 3 years ago was his 8'3" 7wt. I was told this taper was "his best warm water rod" and that it was truly special. I built it out but opted to do a very short 6" cigar grip, which was before I had much experience building fiberglass rods. I did not anticipate the swing weight and certainly a 6" grip is not the best way to counterbalance the rod. I ended up selling the rod shortly thereafter.
About 6 months ago, I contacted the buyer who still had the rod in an almost un-fished condition. I bought the rod back from him with desire to replace the grip and seat to offset the swing weight. I added an inch to the grip and I used a larger all metal seat with a fighting butt. A down locking seat would have helped, but I liked this one as an up-locking seat. I also liked that the seat is anodized aluminum, i.e. saltwater safe. It is one of Joel's champagne colored anodized aluminum seats.
I had some difficulty doing the hook keeper. The first time I tried, my rod turner died and the epoxy was NOT even the next morning. I removed the wraps/finish and rewrapped/refinished the hook keeper-winding check. This time the thread was not the right color....it ended up turning darker. I decided to keep the darker wraps as it kind of reminded me of one of Christian Horgren's builds on a James Green blank where he used a gold color thread for his guides but a darker brown thread on the winding check. His was significantly better than this one, but I found that it still had a similar effect.
After making these adjustments the rod balances perfectly with an Abel Classic reel. I spooled the reel with the newer Rio Powerfly 7wt. line. This rod is really fun to cast. I wouldn't this rod for casting huge hair flies or really heavily weighted flies, unless you were making shorter casts under 35'. But those #2, #4, and #6 cork poppers and #4, #6 and #8 clousers are this rod's bread and butter. 70' casts are obtainable for me. Roll casting is excellent. Fish on feel is good enough that I don't feel over powered on 12" bass and medium sized bluegill/crappie, but hooking into a 3 to 5lb. bass would not leave you feeling helpless.
I am just finishing a Steffen 5/6wt. 8'0" 4pc. rod which I have test cast a couple times (an awesome rod by the way). In comparison, the McFarland reminds me more of casting a bamboo rod due to the heavier feel. The Steffen feels much lighter and has an increased fish on feel as compared with the 7wt. McFarland. But the 7wt. McFarland is much more comfortable to cast when the wind picks up. And the McFarland lends itself to a wider spectrum of flies. I haven't tried it, but I think the 7wt. McFarland would also excel at casting terrestrials to healthy sized trout.