Al Campbell, Field Editor

December 1st, 2003

A New Fly Rod
By Al Campbell

I had a chance to use my snow blower over the last week. In fact, I got to push it around for a total of about ten hours in the last seven days. The snow was so deep I had to clear a patch of lawn for my basset hound to use so he wouldn't get high-centered. We had five-foot deep drifts in places, and after settling, some are still about four feet deep. Maybe we'll have water in our streams next year.

That doesn't mean I have a lot of free time to play though. Life on this side of the screen has been busy. In the last month, two of my uncles died, and one ended up in the hospital in serious condition. A former son-in-law tried to kidnap my grandson while he was playing on the school grounds, even though there is a protection order against the former son-in-law for abusing his own son. It's hard to think of anything positive to write at times with all that going on.

I do, however, have something I think is positive to write about. In fact, I think it will eventually be something that could have a big impact on fly-fishing, so I want to tell you about it. That something is a new technology in fly rod design that I think will impact how many rods are built in the future.

When Redington was bought by Sage last summer, Jim Murphy (Redington's former CEO) didn't go with the company. Instead, he formed a new fly rod company called Albright. That move allowed some new ideas and new technologies to sprout. The newest technology is available in their EXS fly rods that vary between $325 and $395 for three-piece rods from 3wt to 12wt. I won't try to paraphrase the information I received but rather, I'll just include it here in the exact words it was written.

EXS Fly rods

Design Goal:

To construct a high performance fly rod with the sensitivity, lightness-in-hand and a swing weight that rivals the best rods available today. Also, to introduce a new level of durability that will address the continuing breakage rate problems and poor impact resistance of this high performance class of fly rods.

Materials opportunity:

Using new materials for scrim available from the aircraft industry for bullet proofing fuselages we sourced a non-woven scrim with appropriate aerial weights (grams of scrim per square meter) for use as the final material wrap around a high modulus graphite core. We tested Kevlar, s-glass, carbon and fused silicate for specific application to our design criteria and found the fused silicate to satisfy the Design Control Criteria.

Tapers and actions:

Fused silicate is the most appropriate material as it can be easily tacked to prepreg, (editor's note - the stuff wrapped around a mandrel to create a rod blank) and the light aerial weight non-woven configuration does not crack or buckle given the narrow diameters of fine tapers necessary for sensitivity and tip casting. The actions of light rods until now tend to require line overload and then hinge at high-speed distance casting. The fused silicate and high modulus core construction allowed us to build a fast, durable and light rod that will oad properly at all distances.


Impact resistance tests address the tendency of carbon to fail at light impact. Non-woven fused silicate scrim is a high density ceramic designed by the military to address the specific failure of carbon in this instance. By a factor of four the impact resistance of the rod is improved by the external scrim application.

Dead lift tests and term stress in both destructive and non-destructive testing show a 15-20% improvement in strength. This is at least partially attributable to the thicker walls we can build with a much more efficient weight per strength value.

Plans for the future:

We are currently developing four piece EXS rods to be available to the market in early spring. We are also working on conventional surf, offshore and spin and casting rods using this new material configuration. These models will be introduced in Fall '04."

What that means is they found a way to make fly rods more durable, and especially so when it concerns impact. That should thrill the guys who like to cast bead-head nymphs and worry about shattering their rod tips. It also means the rod is less likely to suffer from an accidental drop on the rocks. It doesn't mean the new rods will be bulletproof though. They'll just handle accidents better than the current high-end offerings.

Right now I have several of those new rods in my basement waiting for weather that will allow me to play with them. I can definitely see the difference in the way they look, and a shake test tells me they should have power, but the real test will be casting them. I plan to do just that as soon as possible. I'll give you a complete run-down on my findings as soon as I get to play with them. Will the rest of the rod building world follow their lead? I don't know. However, it's refreshing to see someone willing to try new things to make a better rod and keep the price within a more reasonable range.

You can see photos of these new rods on the Albright Sponsor Page, HERE.

I'll tell you all about it when I get to test them. For now though, the snow blower and the four-wheel-drive feature on my Blazer are getting a real workout. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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