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Epic Reference 6-weight 686 FastGlass Fly Rod

Gutsy, but graceful, glass. Epic of New Zealand has created a niche by making rods like no others.
Andrew Steketee author.
Andrew Steketee
November 9, 2023
Epic | Reference 6-weight 686 FastGlass fly rod
product description
“The Reference 6-weight 686 FastGlass fly rod is perfect for tossing big flies, swinging streamers and light saltwater work.” – Epic
company ethos
“We’re a fly rod company that’s obsessed with making the best fly rods on the planet, and we back it up with unbeatable customer service.” – Epic

Why do most fly anglers think, fiberglass fly rods equal small streams and small fish? Is it because we’ve been brainwashed to think that a graphite rod is the only way to deliver flies beyond 20 feet? or that you need graphite to effectively fight fish over 10 inches? We don’t buy that. 

Epic fly rods, from New Zealand, has made that abundantly clear, particularly via its “FastGlass” models that caught the attention of American anglers not all-too-long ago, and have since built a bit of a cult following. “Fiberglass but smoother and more powerful than what you’d expect…” was the mantra.

And it is. We tested some Epic rods, starting with a 4-weight on small streams, because that’s what fiberglass is for, right? Little rod, little fish stuff is, of course, right in the fiberglass wheelhouse. (See our separate review of the Epic Reference 4-weight 476 FastGlass fly rod.) 

The revelation is that, if you really know how to cast and understand how advanced materials can be applied to fly rods, you’ll soon understand how the real benefit of fiberglass can actually manifest in the higher-weighted rods, if done correctly, with some actual backbone in the mix.

We set aside some streamer and late-season dry fly days in Colorado and Idaho to test the 686 FastGlass, hoping to see how it would perform in varied weather and water conditions, as well as its ability to accurately cast dry flies to selective trout, or work heavier sinking flies (and lines) from the boat. Not many rods in our experience have the ability to truly do it all, despite the marketing language. 

Product story

The Epic 686 was crafted with 8 micron FastGlass II, a unidirectional S-2 Glass, to create a durable, smooth-casting and versatile fly rod that hopes to “re-imagine what a high performance fiberglass fly rod could and should be.”

Carl McNeil, the chief rod designer for Epic fly rods, described the genesis of the 686 FastGlass rod this way: “When putting the 686 together the two major considerations were, how would it be used? and what advantages could it provide over carbon fiber rods? particularly given that glass rods, in larger sizes, are somewhat heavier than their carbon fiber counterparts. Strength and durability, and hence versatility, is one clear advantage of modern S2 glass over carbon fiber. We worked to keep swing weight down (4.8 ounces), and the action lively with a shorter length–8’6” rather than 9-feet. The result is an extremely tough rod that will sling just about anything you care to throw at it. Perfect for weighted flies, conehead buggers and big streamers that tend to wreak havoc on carbon fiber rods.”


This rod forms a slightly more “open” loop than the typical fast-action graphite rod. That’s generally a good thing when throwing larger flies like weighted streamers. It flexes a bit further down the blank than the more “tippy” fast-action graphite rod, which is good for feeling the line load on the rod as you make the casting stroke. And it’s good for roll casting. Fiberglass, naturally, doesn’t “recover” as quickly as graphite, so it doesn’t turn the leader over with as much authority as fast graphite, but again, that can be a good thing when you want to make more delicate presentations. (Think targeting large trout in New Zealand.)

And it’s worth noting that compared to other fiberglass rods, which are typically much slower in terms of action, FastGlass is appreciably quicker. The “tracking” (side-to-side accuracy) is exceptional in a fiberglass context but average compared to other graphite rods we’ve tested. We wouldn’t call it a dedicated wind-buster, or distance shooter, but inside 60 feet, in most situations from rivers to lakes, with various flies, it more than showed up. It has a special, unique feel you should experience to fully appreciate.


Epic’s fly rod design aesthetic can be summed up from the manufacturer this way: “Our philosophy is to use the very best materials for each fly rod application. FastGlass fiberglass fly rods are perfectly suited for long lazy casting strokes, presenting dry flies like thistledown or slinging serious weight out on the flats.”

The 686 taper and construction materials were created for slower casting strokes and line speeds, a forgiving medium-to-fast rod action and opportunities to approach fishing situations with a more specialized casting and fish-fighting tool.


While no rod can do it all, the 686 can make long, accurate casts on the windy dry-fly flats, fight and direct big fish with a forgiving mid-section and tip and sling big, weighted flies from the boat on a streamer session. We consider this rod a highly versatile fishing tool.


There’s a lot to like. Advanced, thoughtful rod design, superior workmanship and materials, rod equipped to excel in complex fishing situations, made from durable materials to take the daily punishment.


Not many, but slower rod actions require anglers to learn how to dial in a less “automatic” casting stroke. Heavy sinking tip lines seemed to overload the rod for run-and-gun streamer work. There’s an easy solution, however–throw on a dry line instead of a sinker. At 4.8 ounces, the rod is a touch heavier than most of its graphite counterparts, but still comfortable to cast and handle during long days in the boat.


We’d describe it as a “premium” level rod, with a price tag of $695 (USD), and a Black Friday adjusted price of $521 (USD). That’s about half of what the top-line graphite rods are selling for these days.


Hand-crafted, made-to-order rods with high-end components: FLOR grade Portuguese cork grips, anodized reel seats, Titnaium stripping guides, corrosion-proof, ion-plated snake guides etc. A beautiful fly rod to cast, fish and look at. Fiberglass rod tube also reduces weight and is highly packable.


Epic fiberglass rods are pretty tough (much more so than graphite counterparts) and can take the daily punishment of errant casts, dogs in the boat and big, head-shaking fish.  

A deeper breakdown on material durability from the manufacturer: “S2 FastGlass II has a far higher strength-to-weight ratio than Carbon fiber (graphite) rods. Epic FastGlass rods can endure more acute and severe bends than the equivalent Carbon fiber or even regular S2 glass, tip sections are stronger and far less susceptible to breakages due to high-sticking and problematic rod angles when pulling against load.”

  • Price: $695
  • Dimensions: 8-foot 6-inch 6-weight 4-piece fly rod
  • Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Construction/Materials: FastGlass, modern S3 glass fiber
  • Guides: Premium quality Fuji titanium stripping guide, corrosion proof black Ion-plated snake guides
  • Rod action: Medium-fast
  • Rod tracking: Slight wobble
  • Rod recovery: Medium
  • Warranty information: Epic warranty program

Carl McNeil, the chief rod designer for Epic fly rods, explains slack line casts.

Epic’s warranty program.

“Every Epic fly rod that we produce is covered by our lifetime, original owner warranty. This warranty covers failure due to defects in material or workmanship of our product. 

This warranty is limited to repair and replacement of the rod or blank and does not cover direct, indirect, consequential, incidental or any other type of damage resulting from the use of the product. This warranty does not cover fire, theft, missing rod sections, intentional breakage, modification or customization of the finished rod, or damage during the assembly of a blank into a finished rod.” 

Additional information about how Epic is able to execute some of the fastest rod breakage returns in the industry: “SUREFIT™ Our ferrule system is so precise that breakages can be addressed by simply sending out the replacement part. Gone are the days of having to return a broken fly rod section and waiting months for a repair. We turn around repairs in days rather than weeks and there is no need to return sections to us. Epic fly rod ferrules are CNC ground to extremely high precision, so that all sections, within a rod model, fit perfectly. We can turn around a replacement section in the same day and there is no need to return (broken) sections to us.”

Likely buyers

Here’s the real question, if you were going to buy only one 6-weight rod to fish in most 6-weight situations–wading rivers, floating rivers for trout, stalking carp, maybe chasing bass, even taking it to saltwater flats in light winds–would you be comfortable making this your bell cow? Or, would it be better described as a “novelty” rod and an entree into the fiberglass arena? 

If you told me I could only have this rod for all my 6-weight fishing at home or abroad, at least for the next couple years, I wouldn’t have any problem with that.

If you’re looking for a 6-weight that you aren’t likely to outgrow, and you don’t want to spend a grand, it’s more than fine. In fact, if you’re still climbing the casting learning curve, this rod will help you develop better than a fast graphite rod that will only cover up your flaws. On the other hand, if you are an expert caster, and you have several rods in your quiver, and you want to put more feel and fun into the game, this rod can also do that.

Probably too much rod (price-wise) as a “first and only” fly rod for an absolute beginner, but there’s legitimate cause and appeal for almost anyone else.

What others say 

“Lots of rod makers talk about building ‘versatile’ rods, but Epic has actually done it with the 686. Incredibly smooth to cast, great fish-fighting feedback with the choice of materials, high-end construction. The modestly ‘premium’ price should give a lot of other rod manufacturers pause. Add the quick turnaround times for breakage, and Epic is quickly establishing itself as a marquee rod brand.” – Kirk Deeter


Kudos to Epic for breaking the mold and creating its own niche for fly rods. It’s pretty difficult to make apples-to-apples comparisons with other fiberglass rods, and/or graphite rods (generally much smaller line weights), because the Epic (larger weight) FastGlass use case is so unique. That makes this job difficult, but not impossible. 

Bottom line: more power, accuracy and versatility than your grandpa’s fiberglass rods. More feel, responsiveness and fun than your cousin’s hot new graphite stick. There are bigger specialized distance cannons, dime-droppers and beauty contest winners. But for fun, value, versatility and dependability in real fishing situations, Epic has put fiberglass back in vogue.

Find the Epic 686 FastGlass direct:

Angler walking across field.
Angler landing fish in river.
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