Hardy’s chief rod designer, Howard Croston, won the fly-fishing world championship. So whether you think competitive fly fishing is a bunch of hooey or not, there’s no denying that the guy knows how to fish, and the lineup of rods he’s been engineering in recent years has been eye-opening. Today’s Hardy rods aren’t your father’s (or great-grandfathers) Hardys. Let’s be honest, to American fly fishers, up until several years ago, Hardy rods mainly appealed to Anglophiles and other traditionalists.
But now, because of the resins and other materials Hardy uses, its rods have generated a loyal following among those who want a beefy (durable), cast-friendly stick that can turn big fish, and at the same time, drop a fly on a dime. This phenomenon almost ironically (given the Alnwick, England Hardy HQ) started on the saltwater flats and migrated to freshwater designs, and that’s exactly what happened with the “Marksman,” which is the de-facto freshwater version of the “Marksman Z,” which debuted first, and won “best fly rod” honors at the 2023 ICAST fishing trade show.
In either case, the “Marksman” moniker plainly shows what Hardy is driving at–it’s all about accuracy. So we decided to play Robin Hood on some western American rivers, banging banks with hopper flies, as well as dropping Trico dries on some morning risers, and by and large, we were impressed by the versatility. The rod does “recover” remarkably fast (meaning, it snaps back into form, quickly, without wobble) as you false cast and deliver shots. The action is intuitive. The 5-weight we tested was on the quick side, meaning it generates line speed with easy effort, and it isn’t the most dainty for a spring creek situation.
And there are other rods that can “reach out and touch someone” at great distances (but who really cares?) with more effect. In terms of real FISH-ability, we found it to be pretty damn versatile in throwing any bug between a size #8 streamer and a size #18 BWO. And it’s an honest rod that isn’t a crutch, rather a tool that augments the efforts of someone who actually knows how to cast a fly rod.