Fishing the Hexagraph Elk Meadow
by Bill Byrd
I began fly fishing in the late 1960s. At the time, there were two types of fly rods. Fiberglass rods which were heavy, not sensitive, and smoothly slow, but would take a physical beating. There were cane or bamboo rods, some production line cheaper rods, and then there were the bamboo hand made works of art, crafted by artists. From that time, I had a curiosity about bamboo or cane rods, but I never owned a fine quality cane rod.

When I returned to fly fishing in the late 1980s, it was a revelation. Those huge, heavy glass rods had been replaced with graphite rods that weighed ounces, not pounds. Their sensitivity was through the roof! Since I was returning to fly fishing from ultralight spin fishing, these new generation rods offered me what I wanted. I researched the possibilities.

The Orvis Superfine 2 and 1 weight rods designed by Howard Steere and Jim West took us a step farther into ultralight fly fishing, and they were supposed to immulate the feel of cane expressed in graphite. What these tubular graphite rods lack is the physical look and strength of a real cane rod. Meanwhile, there were other fly fishing pioneers quietly at work on that challenge.

The first that day I heard about the Hexagraph Fly Rod Company I was intrigued. For years rod designers and builders had tried to create a rod that would combine the best characteristics of cane with the lightness and strength of graphite. In England Jim Bruce and Ken Walker of Bruce and Walker, Ltd. were trying to create light weight, strong alternatives for the long and heavy two-handed wood salmon rods.

At the same time, Walton E. Powell, son of the US bamboo and rod pioneer, and a genuine pioneer in synthetics, had been working on building fly rods applying cane tapers to graphite materials. Bruce, Walker, and Powell teamed up to create the HEXAGRAPH fly rod.

The challenge -- build a graphite rod with the smooth casting feel of cane, but without its negative characteristics. To me the primary negatives of cane rods were: (1) Maintenance -- keeping them from taking a set. (2) Physical weight: The materials weighed much more than their graphite counterparts. (3) Overcome cane's "noodly" action -- making them somewhat difficult to cast, and unnervingly slow action rods. (4) Breakage -- used improperly, you can break the tips readily. (5) Cost -- high quality cane rods can be VERY expensive.

I asked Harry Briscoe, current owner of Hexagraph rod company how he came to own the company. "In about September of 1989 I came across a guy trying to interest folks in a new rod building concept that Walton Powell was trying to get off the ground. He wouldn't leave me alone. In January I had a ticket on Continental Airlines that was going to expire, so I flew to Somerset New Jersey where Walt was doing a trade show.

I met him, heard the story, and brought a rod home. I wasn't sure that I liked the rods, because I'd never cast anything like them, and like most, I was bound and determined to "work too hard" casting them. For quite a while I couldn't "get it to work".

Then in late Spring 1990 I was standing in the Eagle River in Colorado in the midst of a very active caddis hatch. Fish were rising everywhere. There were so many my attention was diverted all over the pool by one fish after another. I was casting like crazy and catching one fish after another, when I realized that I was not false casting at all. I was changing directions and distances on every cast - and the rod was throwing exactly where I wanted it to, every cast, without effort. It was like magic! I was just picking it up, "thinking about a target", and laying it down. I was amazed. I went back home and worked out the deal to initially sponsor Walt to get the business off the ground, and then about 18 months later exercised an option to purchase the company. I've owned Hexagraph outright since 1993.

I was "converted" that day on the Eagle - discovering in an almost religious experience, how wonderfully Hexagraphs cast. Since then, I have developed this joy in casting them, and graphite rods just feel hollow to me now. I liked Hexagraphs because they were different and unique - a merger of both worlds, with many of the best qualitites of both cane and graphite, but also addressing the shortcomings of both types of rods."

According to Jim Repine, noted fly fisher and writer, from an article in 1996 "the Hexagraph rod was made from the highest quality graphite, split into six strips the same as cane, fabricated into a blank with a light inner core for added strength, and finished with a lovely "split graphite" rod rivaling fine bamboo in appearance. Though lighter, it feels and casts like cane." It is the essence of modern design with the grace, feel, and elegance of the past. The space age center with flat graphite bonded to it using the Powell tapers makes this a very strong, smooth casting rod.

The 3/4 Elk Meadow rod features a long seat that allows you to tune the balance of reel and rod, and holds the reel securely without creating compression marks in the reel seat cork. This Elk Meadow also sports a full handle -- even my large hand fit on this handle well!

Right now, we fly fishers have the greatest selection of fly fishing equipment and tackle ever! The Hexagraph contribution to fly fishers is building a fly rod that mostly gives the feeling of a high quality cane rod, without the negative characteristcs. I'm not ready to get rid of all of my other rods, but I now own three Hexagraph rods, including a one-of-a-kind Elk Meadow 7 1/2 foot, two piece 1-2 weight that was just custom built for me. It currently is the only 1-2 weight Hexagraph in the world. All of my Hexagraphs are a REAL pleasure to fish, but I am ESPECIALLY fond of my new 1-2 weight!

Hexagraph rods represent another great opportunity to fish high quality fly fishing rods. They are not mass produced, and are literally built one rod at a time. You can have your rods customized for your own particular desires. Once you start fishing these rods, you probably won't own just one!

I have fished my 8-foot 3/4 on the Hooch in the DH areas. On several occasions, other fly fishers asked about my rods, so I handed them the rod and let them fish for a while. Then I asked for a reaction. The typical reaction is "where can I get one of these?"

I have fished my 4-weight 8 and a half footer, and my 3/4 weight 8 foot Hexagraphs and for their niche they are tops! I just had the opportunity to fish a brand new Hexagraph Elk Meadow 7-1/2 foot 3/4 weight Hexagraph, and found it a joy on the water. I fished the Elk Meadow featured with either a 2 or 3 weight line, and it cast both lines well. The Elk Meadow smoothly bends to wear out a fat bass and protects my 4 pound tippet while transmitting every tick, head wag, and pull on my line. Hexagraph rods are VERY sensitive!

If you fancy fighting fat trout, scrappy big bluegills, or battling bass and you appreciate the unique charm of a hand created custom built fishing rod, I suggest that you check these rods out. Hexagraph is building Elk Meadow light stream rods in 3-4 weight, 2-3 weight, and now the 1-2 weight Elk Meadow model. All certainly function in the Light rod category, but being solid core they have uncommon strength and sensitivity.

From Hexagraph's light stream rods to burly salmon rod series, Hexagraph has rods for your kind of fishing!