The 8-weight fly rod is definitely the majority favorite heavy freshwater and lighter saltwater fly rod, but I've always had a big soft spot for the 9-weight. Despite being less popular overall, that size has always played a key role in my arsenal for fish like stripers, false albacore, and largemouth bass. The 9-weight's advantage comes in the ability to handle a little more wind, larger flies, and bigger fish, yet if you choose your rod wisely, casting one is not much different than your favorite 8-weight.
Being a 9-weight fanatic, I was lucky enough to acquire one from Douglas Outdoors' SKY rod series last year. If you've gone wayyyyy back in our rod review archives, you may have noticed that I already reviewed a 7-weight SKY fly rod around the time this site first launched in 2016. Not only has our review format changed a TON since then, but different line weights within the exact same series can vary pretty drastically in feel and performance. For these reasons, I really wanted to also give the 9-weight a thorough shakedown and a more expansive review here on Demystifly.
Line Weight: 9
Measured Weight: Approx 4.51 ounces
Stripping Guides: Titanium frame/Torzite insert
Guides: Chrome single-foot snake guides
Reel Seat: Anodized Aluminum
Rod Tube/Sock: Yes/Yes
SKY fly rods offer an excellent array of components and an equally excellent appearance. Crafted using Douglas' proprietary X-Matrix next generation carbon matrix material, Douglas says the blanks offer unbeatable strength, weight, and sensitivity. Finished in a flat pearl-grey (aka "platinum") with glossy black wraps, there's also handy alignment dots at each ferrule.
The guide set is really quite unique and interesting here. The "snake" guides are durable single-foot REC titanium Recoil guides. In addition, the two stripping guides boast titanium frames that are swept forward (for better line flow and less tangles I'm guessing) along with Fuji's premium Torzite inserts. Absolutely top notch stuff.
Douglas uses AAAA flor cork in the grip/fighting butt and a generous palm swell in the main grip. It's nice overall, but some filler can be seen. I do really like the composite cork trim at each end to add some looks and help resist chipping. I always like to see a hook keeper on any fly rod regardless of size, and at first glance you'd think this rod is void of one. There actually are two hook keepers hidden at the top of the reel seat—one hole on each side that you can slide a hook into.
The reel seat is your pretty standard anodized aluminum with double up-locking rings. It holds a reel well, and the nylon bushing on each of the rings helps them tighten down with a nice, firm action.
This year I've been able to take the Douglas out for both freshwater stripers (though unfortunately small) and largemouth bass. Fishing for these two species has been a great test of the SKY's casting abilities because it has involved throwing heavy 350-grain sinking lines, floating lines, and big flies. The SKY has smashed through all of these tests without breaking a sweat.
This is a surprisingly powerful rod and can huck a 350-grain striper line and weighted fly with authority. While targeting big bass in the residential lakes near my home, it also did extremely well delivering some big 6–7 inch bluegill flies on a floating line. While capable of delivering the big stuff, this rod would also be right at home for windy days on the flats chasing bonefish and redfish with smaller patterns. It's got all that great reserve power, but it's still super castable without feeling clumsy or overbuilt.
The floating line I tested on this rod was the new Scientific Anglers Amplitude Infinity Smooth WF9F. At 260-grains for the first 30-feet, it's rated a half-size heavier than AFFTA 9-weight standards. Despite all the reserve power the rod has, it did well with this line and the tip has enough "give" for decent feedback at closer ranges. Casting at modest distances is plenty good, yet there's still an abundance of pep left for working even more line out of the guides. Want to cast the whole enchilada? This rod will zing the entire fly line easily. It's a really enjoyable rod to cast and feels both precise and refined.
Casting comfort was pretty good overall. The generous palm swell of the grip took a little getting used to, but it does contour to the hand well and I grew to like it. While casting, the rod's swing weight didn't feel heavy.
While this rod's $695 price can't exactly be classified as "affordable," it is at least a hundred bucks or so cheaper than comparable premium offerings out there. That is impressive considering you're getting advanced graphite technology, high-end components like those sick titanium-framed Torzite guides (not exactly commonplace), all with some strong casting performance for the cherry on top. Now with my second test of a SKY rod behind me, I have yet to be disappointed by this series. If a premium 9 weight is what you want, this SKY delivers!
Douglas SKY Fly Rods