Hardy Ultralite X 5-Weight Fly Rod Review
Updated: Jun 30, 2022
Fly fishing can often conjure up images of softly casting to rising trout on a small mountain stream or maybe sight-casting to bonefish schools on a slicked-out Bahamian flat. While these picture-perfect scenarios certainly do happen, the reality is that things can be much more demanding. When the wind is blowing, casts are distant, and flies are heavy, the average fly rod can come up short. In these situations, higher performance is required...and that's precisely what the Hardy Ultralite X offers.
Ultralite X rods are designed with extra grunt to cast aggressive lines and make long presentations. Unfortunately, all of this makes these rods sound like they are about nothing but stiffness and raw casting power. Well, at least in regards to the 5-weight model, I can say that's not totally the case. Testing reveals that this stick offers a much more well-rounded experience than initially anticipated. Sound interesting? Read on!
Line Weight: 5
Measured Weight: Approx 3.1 ounces
Stripping Guides: (1) REC Cerecoil
Snake Guides: REC Recoil Single-Foot
Reel Seat: Aluminum / Wood / Carbon
Rod Tube/Sock: Yes/Yes
Hardy's Ultralite X rods use a "greater percentage of high modulus carbon fibre" along with their new proprietary Sintrix NSX technology. In a nutshell, this tech allows Hardy to modify the blank in targeted areas, resulting in an overall lighter, stronger, more responsive rod.
This rod features a reversed half-wells grip made from AAAA-grade cork. The cork quality is quite nice, and the shape is comfortable enough, but I'm a little disappointed they didn't go with more of a full-wells style grip like some manufacturers have gravitated to. I understand this is totally personal preference, but I just prefer the feel of that grip style in my hand.
Out of the rods I've fished, the short list of my favorite reel seats includes the Orvis Helios 3, Scott Sector, and now the Hardy Ultralite X. The aluminum components, burled wood, and carbon look very refined, but the way the seat actually functions is what makes it so good. The strip where the carbon is exposed acts like rails against a reel's foot and keeps it locked firmly in place. In addition, the single up-locking ring is an ideal size/shape and tightens with a very satisfying feel. Good stuff!
If you like subtle rods, this one probably isn't for you. Hardy gave the blank a bold "red metallic" color scheme over most of its length, but to my eyes, it comes off as more of a coppery red. At any rate, the finish is smooth, shiny, and certainly eye-catching.
In my opinion, Hardy chose the sweetest guides for these rods—REC Cerecoil strippers and Recoil single-foot snakes. These lightweight, flexible guides aren't cheap, but I can think of none better to attach to a premium rod like this. Each guide is secured with red metallic wraps, and white alignment dots are located at each of the spigot ferrules.
After a close examination, my Ultralite X tester's overall quality and craftsmanship proved to be top-tier. This rod has somewhat of a "busy" look as a whole, but it all works quite well and increases the fun-to-fish factor.
I tested the rod exclusively with a RIO Elite Gold WF5F line which has a 30-foot head weight of 146 grains. This puts it at the very upper limits of 5-weight fly line specs based on AFFTA fly line specifications.
Although Hardy rates these rods as having fast actions, my 5-weight feels like it edges more towards an extra-fast action. Despite this, what surprises me most is how well the rod performs at close range. Of course, a softer rod would be a great choice for close-in fishing, but the Ultralite X offers very good feel here. This was unexpected with such a fast rod, especially with a line that's still within 5-weight grain specs.
This rod starts to shine when casting at more modest distances of, say, 30 to 50 feet. It is crisp, responsive, accurate, and capable of casting extremely narrow loops with ease. Some of my fishing and lawn casting has been during some breezy conditions, but this rod delivers the line speed needed to cut through it all. Despite the name, the swing weight doesn't exactly feel ultralight, but it is on the lighter side and pleasing to fish for long periods.
I'm not an expert distance caster, but this is one of the easiest long-casting rods I have thrown. Thanks to precise tracking and ample power down low, shooting line out to 90 feet and beyond just takes less effort than other rods. It's pretty crazy that the X can be so efficient at long bombs yet avoid numbness at close range, but it magically does just that...somehow.
Let's just keep things simple here and call the rod what it is—impressive. The color scheme may not be for everyone, and I wouldn't mind a different style grip, but that doesn't take away from the fact that this rod downright performs. Some rods are worthy of being called premium, and this is one of them!
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