_by Kirk Deeter
G.Loomis recently announced that it would be offering its NRX rod series in a slick new green finish, which I find interesting, because that tells me that aesthetics might be more important in marketing fly rods than I had assumed. After all, the original NRX with its robin-egg-blue wraps is hands down, without question, one of the hottest-handling, best-casting, and all-around fishable fly rods ever made. It’s just that a lot of folks think it’s ugly. Yeah, I’ll concede that the blue on the rod is a funky color, but I don’t think they’re ugly rods. Instead, I’d call them “aesthetically awkward,” in more of a white socks and black shoes, or striped shirt and plaid necktie kind of way.
To be honest, when it comes to looks, different is often good. For example, when an angler is holding that big world record fish, and the rod with the odd blue wraps is in the photograph, everybody knows the fish was caught on an NRX. Now, green, we’ll wonder, “Is it a Sage TCX or an NRX? Or is it a Winston?”
And can we agree that Winston has the fly rod beauty contest won already? Or would you place the tiara somewhere else? Orvis Helios is a very pretty rod. And the new Sage “One” is distinctive and sharp, but with the black motif it’s definitely more Darth Vader than Princess Leia.
I have a couple Winston rods, and now and then I take them out of their tubes just to look at them. They cast great too, but I sometimes feel like fishing with a Winston is like playing baseball in penny loafers. That doesn’t stop me though.
To that end, my friend Michael Gracie says he thinks the uglier a rod is, the better. He says that unpainted blanks and simple wraps tell him that the rod company put the money and effort where it belongs–in the design and construction of the blanks themselves. I would tell you what Gracie’s favorite rods are, but by doing so, I would also be saying they are very ugly rods, so I’m going to avoid going there.
But I do wonder, when it comes to purchase time if you care what a rod looks like–a whole lot, a little bit, or not at all? I wonder if there will be a rush on the blue NRX “classic,” or if it goes away entirely and becomes a fashion relic, like the powder blue “leisure suit” of the fly fishing industry.