by John Duncan, Telluride Angler
The Scott Flex improves the popular A4 in every category of consideration: action, power, lightness, feel, accuracy, range and the propriety of luxury in a mid-priced fly rod. At the end of the day, Scott just puts more into mid-range rods than any other maker. Many high end rodsmiths focus on limiting their mid-priced rods to create adequate distinction from their flagship rods. Scott takes a different approach by packing as much quality in the blank and components as they can possibly afford. The result is sub-$500 rods that consistently outclass their competitors. The new Scott Flex raises the bar once again.
Leading into our model-by-model evaluation, here are the ways in which the Scott Flex represents a uniform upgrade:
Design improvements in Scott Flex Fly Rods
1) Power with an easy casting stroke. The A4 is a pleasant casting fly rod, but the mid and butt sections of the new Flex have more snap. Distance comes easily with the Flex. The angler has the ability to tighten loops and increase line speed with the natural application of power in his or her casting stroke.
2) Stability. You’ll feel it in your first cast. The Flex is noticeably more laterally stable than the A4, and considerably more accurate than other mid-priced fly rods. It holds up better in the wind, and with large flies, lead and strike indicators. All of this has been achieved without an increase in weight or decrease in the feel of these rods.
3) Componentry. Many $800 fly rods do not bear such durable, handsome components. Scott seems willing to spend more money on components than other makers. The custom machined aluminum bracket reelseat with screened logo insert is a perfect example.
Scott Flex Fly Rods: Model-by-Model Evaluation
We were concerned that the shortest rod in the series would feel too stiff for its line weight, but it does not. The Flex 753-4 has an appropriate action and casting range for a creek rod. It loads naturally and easily from 10 feet to 40 feet. While capable of casting much further, it begins to lose accuracy beyond that distance. While the basic action of this rod is appealing, it bounces more than the higher line weight models. The original grip on this rod felt too big for a 3-wt, but after receiving our feedback, Rod Designer Jim Bartschi put a small grip on this model and also the Flex 804-4. Now, we like the grips. Line pairings: Rio Perception, Rio LightLine or SA Trout Taper
My comments on the 804-4 ditto those for the 753-4. I loved many of the rods in this series, but not the two smallest. The 804-4 is softer than most other models and lacks the characteristic stability. Line pairings: Rio Perception, SA Trout Taper or Rio LightLine
This is one of the most important rods in the series, and Bartschi nailed it. Like the 5 and 6-weights, this is a medium-fast action rod, but the tip is sensitive enough to load with a natural, gentle casting stroke even with very little line. Casting this rod from 15 feet to 50 feet is a pleasure. Loop control and touch are matched by line speed and command. Line pairings: Rio Perception or Gold, SA Trout Taper.
The 9’ 4-weight is a surprisingly tricky fly rod to design. Anglers expect a 4-weight to feel noticeably lighter than a 5 or 6-weight, but most 9’ rods have similar swing weight because of their uniform length. To many anglers who fish 8 ½’ 4-weights, all 9-footers feel a little heavy. In the past, our favorite 9’ 4-weights have generally not come from Scott, but this one is a beauty. Every caster will love the light feel and springy, resilient action. The Flex 904-4 offers perhaps the greatest casting range of any rod in the series. It’s fantastic in short, but when you reach back and haul, the butt section responds like a 5-weight. Our favorite aspect of casting this rod is the loop shape. Line pairings: Rio Gold, SA MPX or SA Trout Taper.
This model is slower action than the rest of the series, designed for nymphing specialists who prefer a rod with great sensitivity. The stiff tip forces the rod to flex into the mid-section. The Flex 1004-4 roll casts very well, but feels a bit pondersome on overhead casts. Line mending and high sticking ability make this an excellent nymphing specialty rod. Line Pairings (all WF4): Rio Gold (Intouch or regular), SA Trout Taper (reg or Wavelength), SA MPX, SA GPX Sharkwave, Rio Aqualux, SA Sonar Stillwater
A wonderful light 5-weight with great feel and surprising range, the Flex 855-4 is also a stellar roll caster and will turn over both long and short leaders. Anglers who seek a 5-weight of less than 9’ will be highly satisfied. Lines: Rio Perception, SA Trout Taper
This rod evolved a bit from the first prototype to the finished article. Originally, the FX 905-4 erred on the strong side, like a 6-weight masked as a 5-weight. Bartschi lightened up the tip-mid, however, to allow the same ease of casting found in the other models. Now, the Flex 905-4 casts with the ease of a 4-weight and power of a 6-weight. It is much better at distance than its A4 predecessor and offers terrific stability and accuracy throughout its range. This is a rod that will be equally suited to streamer and nymph techniques as to dry fly fishing. Line pairings: Rio Gold, Perception, Aqualux sinking lines and the full complement of sink tips. SA MPX, Trout Taper, Sonar Uniform Sink, Stillwater and Sonar Sink Tips will all fish nicely on this rod.
This model relates to the 1004-4 and 1005-4 more than the 956-4 and 1006-4. It is medium action with lots of tip play, but still quite stable, castable and fishable. Roll casting and line mending are a dream. The rod feels neither light nor heavy when overhead casting. The patient action is made practical by the rod’s stability. I prefer this model to the 1005-4 for its lower swing weight, but neither are favorites in the series. I feel differently about the 956-4, 1006-4 and 1007-4. Line pairings: Rio Gold, Rio Perception, Aqualux Sinking Lines, SA Trout Taper, SA Sonar Sink Tips
The 9’ 6” and 10’ Flex models for 4 and 5-weight lines are much slower action than the long models for 6, 7 and 8-weight lines. Like the Flex 1004-4, the FX 1005-4 is relatively soft. It’s a great rod for keeping your fly in the water with single handed Spey and roll casts, but overhead casting with awkward nymph rigs and streamers will not be its forte. Both the FX 1005-4 and FX 1004-4 are more stable than their predecessors, however. Line Pairings (all WF5): Rio Gold (InTouch or regular), SA Trout Taper (regular or Wavelength), SA MPX, SA GPX Sharkwave, Rio Aqualux, SA Sonar Stillwater
My favorite rod in the series, the Flex 906-4 forms loops magnificently, starting with just a rod’s length of line. The casting action tightens just exactly where I had hoped: in the tip-mid section, tightening the loop and kicking out fantastic line speed. The springy action of the middle part of this fly rod is wonderfully proportioned to the length of line and amount of applied power. The caster works the rod with equal ease from 20’ to more than 70’. This is a mid-priced fly rod, yet one of the finest 6-weights I have ever cast. The rod is powerful and stable in the butt section, but never loses its sense of feel and loop control. Line Pairings (all WF6): Rio Gold (InTouch or regular), Rio Grand, SA MPX, SA GPX Sharkwave, SA Sonar Stillwater, SA Sonar Freshwater Sink Tip, Rio StreamerTip
Much more stable and powerful than the comparable A4, the Flex 956-4 is one of the models that marks clear improvement from the previous series. Big river anglers will find plenty of power and control in this model. Like the 9’ 6-wt, the 956-4 has a perfect flex profile for a 6-weight rod. I tried to throw bad loops and failed. I left the casting pond sure that any angler would like this rod. Line Pairings (all WF6): Rio Gold (InTouch or regular), SA MPX, SA GPX Sharkwave, Rio Aqualux, SA Sonar Stillwater, SA Mastery Expert Distance Taper, SA Sonar Freshwater Sink Tip, Rio InTouch Nymph Indicator
This rod lacks the lightness of shorter models, but offers tons of power and control for the big water angler. Steelheaders will find a highly qualified 6-weight in the Flex 1006-4. The butt section is very strong and the upper rod is equally adept in roll casts and line mending as with overhead casting. I tested it with the SA Mastery Big Fly Taper, which it cast with accuracy and ease. Line pairings (all WF6): Rio Gold (InTouch or regular), SA MPX, SA GPX Sharkwave, Rio Aqualux, SA Sonar Stillwater, SA Mastery Expert Distance Taper, SA Sonar Freshwater Sink Tips, Rio InTouch Nymph Indicator, Rio Salmo/Steelhead and SA Mastery Steelhead Taper
Like the 906-4, this is an easy casting 7-weight with excellent loop control and balance. Saltwater anglers should choose the Tidal 907-4, but bass, pike, carp and heavy trout are ideal species for the Flex 907-4. The rod flexes somewhat deeper than the comparable Tidal model. Line Pairings (all WF7): Rio Gold (InTouch or regular), SA MPX, SA GPX Sharkwave, SA Sonar Freshwater Sink Tips, all popular bass and carp tapers
An excellent single handed steelhead/salmon rod, the Flex 1007-4 casts for distance with great power and control. This is one Flex model that illustrates the fundamental improvement in torsional stability and reduced tip bounce found achieved in the flex series. We tested the 1007-4 with the SA Mastery Big Fly line and found plenty of power and control to work with the aggressive head and great mass of the taper. Line Pairings (all WF7): Rio Gold (InTouch or regular), SA MPX, SA GPX Sharkwave, Rio InTouch Nymph Indicator, Rio Salmo/Steelhead, Rio StreamerTip, SA Sonar Stillwater, SA Sonar Freshwater Sink Tip, SA Steelhead Taper, SA Mastery Distance Taper
The Flex 908-4 is tuned to freshwater angling. Whereas the Tidal 908-4 has a stiff butt and mid-section with a soft tip, the Flex 908-4 has a stiff tip, slightly softer mid-section and a strong butt. The rod flexes somewhat deeper than the corresponding Tidal model. It will handle just fine in saltwater, but the stiff tip drives through the cast in a way that will help throw wind resistant bass flies and sinking tip fly lines. Line mending, roll casting and tippet protection are all superior with the Flex 908-4, whereas pure casting power is superior with the Tidal. Each can cross over for the other’s purposes, but overall, the Flex is a better choice for anglers who will fish primarily for bass, pike, salmon, steelhead and other freshwater species. Almost all 8-weight lines will fish well on this rod, but stay away from those designed specifically to cast with fastest action saltwater fly rod actions. Bass tapers, salmon, steelhead, pike, bonefish, redfish, full sink lines and most standard taper sink tips will fish great on the Flex 908-4.
While this model can’t be considered light in weight, its command and power will make it highly popular among winter steelhead anglers. Loop control, ability to hold up a long back cast, roll casting ability, line mending and fly steering capability are all strengths of the Flex 1008-4. This rod, like the 1006-4 and 1007-4, has real guts in the mid section. We tested the model with the SA Mastery “Big Fly Taper and found no wobble in the casting and excellent line turnover. Line pairings (all WF8): Rio Gold (InTouch or regular), SA MPX, SA GPX Sharkwave, Rio InTouch Nymph Taper, Rio Salmo/Steelhead, Rio StreamerTip, SA Sonar Stillwater, SA Sonar Freshwater Sink Tip, SA Steelhead Taper, SA Mastery Distance Taper