The Free-Flex rods from ArcticSilver don’t look like traditional fly rods, but that’s the only reservation we have regarding this innovation. If people can get past this hinder, then we quickly believe that a 50-year-old from Fauske, Norway has revolutionized the traditional and difficult fly rod market. One can say a lot about both fly fishing and fly fishing equipment, but most will agree that the traditional fly rod has always kind of looked the same. The rods have quite rightly been built with different materials, where everything from split cane to steel has been represented, but the handles have basically stayed the same.
The norm is a handle consisting of glued on cork with a simple reel seat, where one screws the reel in place. There has been different alternatives, both spinning and sliding variants, but the brand new Free-Flex handle is something the fly fishing world has never seen. It’s exactly this special handle that gives that extra dimension to the new rod series from the ArcticSilver Team. The idea behind the Free-Flex handle is the logical principle that the power potential of the rod is stored in the blanks butt section. The ArcticSilver handles are hollow, something that allows the butt section the bend freely in the handle.
This sounds fantastic in theory, but we all know that theory and practice don’t always go hand in hand. Though luckily in this example it does. We have tested the rods under relatively windy conditions, and with relatively heavy streamers, and they work formidably. Long, precise casts in tough Western Norwegian headwinds is no obvious ability, but with the 6-weight rod from ArcticSilver was actually non-problematic. The first casts with the Free-Flex handle were a little unfamiliar, but it doesn’t take many casts before you get used to it, and you end up liking the deeper than normal action. Fly fishing is as much about precision as it is distance, and even though the Free-Flex rods excel at bending then energy translation, they are extremely sensitive.
Hitting a rise with small dry flies on a flat calm works just as well as herling out heavys in 10m/s winds. We tried both examples with just a few hours between them, and we were amazed that the same rod had two different qualities. Surprises are not always fun, but when they are positive, there are not much better.
When you hold a Free-Flex rod in your hands for the first time, there are three things you notice. Firstly is the hollow handle as I have described above. This can be experienced larger than most other contemporary handles but you get used to it pretty quickly. The casting comfort is good too. You really feel that you are gripping the fly rod, and then after 2-3 casts, you don’t think over it anymore.
The second thing you will notice is how light the rod actually is. even though it is heavier than the lightest rods on the market, the weight difference lays in the handle.
The rod feels well balanced, and to compare with other rods, it isn’t especially heavy whilst casting. It’s crazy to think how much power is in a rod that hardly weighs anything at all, but that’s how it’s progressed. The third thing that really stands out from more traditional rods is that special reel seat. Here there is nothing left to chance. The so-called ‘Quick-Lock system’ is a spring-loaded reel lock, and it seems so simple that it’s rather strange that this has been a standard on fly rods for years. We have only tested three different reels in the reel seat, but all have sat firmly. The maker informs us that they have tried hundreds of reels to get to the point of a perfect lock. It seems that they have succeeded.
After a great deal of testing this summer, we sit with very few negative points. The rods are light, strong and precise. As well as being a dream to fight fish on. We are also in no doubt that the Free-Flex rods have been our first choice when the opportunity has arisen. The rods cost a couple of yearly road taxes, but you get a lot of rod for the money.
Endre Hopland, Hooked.no