I find smaller companies that produce high-end fishing tackle to be really intriguing. Ok, so they lack the square footage and massive marketing budgets of the big names, but to me that just adds to the initial mystique. It also doesn't mean their products are somehow inferior to the more household names. In fact, I've found that the quality and customer service offered by these smaller operations is often excellent when compared directly to the biggest players.
One of the top new companies I came across in 2018 was Mauser Fly Fishing. Based out of North Carolina and led by John Mauser (who's also a guide), they produce premium fly rods that are meticulously crafted with a very custom, special vibe. After dropping by their booth at IFTD 2018, I was not only impressed by the rods, but the crew behind them as well. To say they were SERIOUSLY passionate is almost an understatement. It was apparent they not only live, eat, and breathe fly fishing, but they are dedicated to offering anglers rods that are truly premium. I just HAD to have them send me a stick for testing—so here we are!
Rated Action: Medium-Fast
Line Weight: 8
Measured Weight: Approx 4.24 ounces
Stripping Guides: Titanium Frame/SiC Insert
Snake Guides: Snake Brand ECOating
Reel Seat: Black Anodized Aluminum
Hook Keeper: No
Rod Tube/Sock: Yes/Yes
Like all Mauser rods, the high-modulus graphite blank of our 8-weight tester had an unpainted, hand-sanded finish. I've always been partial to this "raw" appearance for looks and weight reduction, but as a small added bonus it also doesn't produce any fish-spooking flash while casting around ultra-fussy fish. For added icing on the cake, each rod is spined before the build begins to ensure the best guide placement and casting performance possible.
Our rod had two titanium-framed stripping guides with SiC inserts. Running down the rest of the blank are Snake Brand ECOating snake guides that are crafted with a unique shape for less fly line contact when compared to standard guides. Each guide isn't simply just mounted and wrapped/epoxied on in a hurry. For strength and aesthetics, all guides are wrapped to the blank then treated to 3–4 thin epoxy coats over a four day period. Thorough!
To help you get a grip on the Waterman 8-weight, there's a full-wells grip crafted from flor-grade cork. Below that, you'll see a black anodized-aluminum reel seat with double up-locking rings (with Delrin inserts) that turn in a smoother-than-average fashion. Oh yeah, there's also a laser-engraved Mauser logo on the top of the seat, too. Finishing off the 9-feet of goodness is a pretty standard fighting butt. Sorry, there's no hook keeper on this stick, but there are alignment dots at the ferrules.
There were no disappointments with the build quality of our test rod. All the joints fit together perfectly, the blank and guides were straight, and there were no epoxy blobs or questionable wraps anywhere to be found. Let's hope this thing fishes as good as it looks......
I imagined the Waterman 8-weight would be a little different when it comes to casting because it's said to be a medium-fast action. Actually, every rod in the entire lineup is according to the Mauser site. This might not sound too different when it comes to something like trout rods, but in a world filled with fast and extra-fast premium 8-weights, it is unique in that realm.
I first used the rod with an 8-weight line with a 30-foot weight of 210 grains—spot on to the AFFTA standards. While casting, I mysteriously didn't detect what I'd consider a medium-fast action at all, but rather a pretty solid fast action. With this in mind, I even tested the rod with a 9-weight line that had a 30-foot weight of 260-grains. While that line combined with a big 6–7 inch streamer softened the rod up some, the Waterman still handled that large load well.
Regardless of that little curiosity in action designation, the Waterman's blank is a top-notch line thrower. It felt smooth, crisp, and I always had the sensation of reserve power for me to tap into. The tip had enough give to offer decent feel when casting to close targets, but I really enjoyed chucking it at modest to far distances. Fast, tight loops were easy to achieve, and the resulting line speed allowed for a whole lot of distance. Casting big bass flies didn't require as much effort as I imagined, but admittedly some of the bugs I tossed are better suited to a 9-weight and more aggressive line. Still, the Waterman did everything I asked it to.
The lower portion of the rod looked ever-so-slightly thicker than even my personal Douglas SKY 9-weight. There's heaps of fish fighting power down low (I barely tapped into its true potential), but this stoutness likely contributes some weight to the overall package. For me as a whole the rod didn't feel truly lightweight while casting, but it wasn't clunky like a few others I've experienced.
If you're a real stickler for top-quality craftsmanship like I am, the Waterman 8-weight should not let you down. This is a well-made rod with great casting performance to boot. Personally, another cool factor is that it's just plain different. It's no secret that a handful of brands dominate the segment, but I always enjoy hitting the water with something unique that not everyone is going to have. At $695, it also comes in on the cheaper side as far as premium rods go. As crazy as that sounds, it's the truth these days!
Waterman rods are made in North Carolina and come in 9'0" lengths ranging from 5–12 weight (but no 11 weight), and an 8'6" 4-weight for you trout gurus out there. All rods come with an aluminum tube, sock, and lifetime warranty.