I had a winston b2t and I kick myself in the rear for ever parting with it. So, I'm out on the hunt for a replacement.
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I understand there is an upgrade/replacement coming soon for the BiiT, you might want to add that to your list of rods to try since it sounds like you like the Winston. I have the 486 BiiT and if the updated model does actually improve on that rod it will be one amazing rod.
9' 5 weight. I'm looking for a fantastic trout rod. Considering the marksman as well.
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Up until this year the Yellowstone Angler fly shop's "5 weight shootout" ranked the Zenith 9x5 as the best rod on the market for the versatile combination of close-in sensitivity and long-distance accuracy.
This year, however, it ranks the Loomis NRX LP (for "Light Presentation") and the Loop Opti Stream higher, and says the others are more sensitive than the others at close range: 2013 5 weight shootout - Yellowstone Angler The Sage Circa and Orvis H2 tip-flex were close competitors as well.
A word about the Circa: I haven't tried the Circa but I hear it is a much softer rod, reminiscent perhaps of the original Orvis, Winston and Scott graphites from the 1980's.
A word about the Loomis NRX LP: it is a different taper the original NRX, designed exactly for that balance of close finesse and distant accuracy that you are looking for. It is also available with a choice of dark green thread wraps instead of the original sky blue that many people found too garish.
A word about Orvis: The H2 is a noticeable improvement on the original Helios. If you didn't like the original you should still try the H2. The 9' tip flex is even better than the Winston Biit (I think) in balancing backbone for distance and tip sensitivity. Or if you aren't going to be making heroic casts most of the time, try out the 8 1/2' 5 weight H2 mid flex as well. I found it to have an easier casting, more delicate feel than the Zenith 9' in the range where I do most of my trout fishing up to about 45' or 50', although it loses out to the Zenith at longer distances.
I own a 486 Zenith and love it. I have casted the 590 a lot and like it as well. The zenith is a great balance for power and touch.
I have to agree with Utah. I own the same rod and it is everything that Anderson claimed it was when it won the 2012 shootout. The Zenith 9' 5wt. won the year prior. Having limited experience and the type of fishing I do,Trout in small and medium streams, the Zenith is more rod than I need so my go to rod is a 7 1/2' 3 wt. ZXL with a Hardy "Featherweight". I don't regret buying the Zenith, buy my next rod on order is a Kabuto 764-3 glass. I have a variety of rods in various lengths, mostly Sage, but my preference lately is for a short and slower action like the ZXL. Enjoy and good luck in whatever you buy.
I'm stuck in between the Ozarks and the driftless area (it's 4 hours to the ozarks and 5ish hours to beginning of the driftless area). Where I live, I'm surrounded by this tanic-stained, mud-infested water and if you stuck your hand in the water, you couldn't see your fingertips.
So, I do a lot of traveling to satisfy my need to trout fish (and other cold-water species, of course). Anyway, I would go for a shorter rod if I were strictly fishing the low-hanging tree area streams of North Central Iowa, but I'm not just doing that. I fish a variety of streams from the North Fork of the White in South Missouri, to Spring Creek, just south of Osage, IA. So, having a rod that will bomb a cast across stream and the ability to make small, gentle casts in close to spooky trout with light tippet is essential.
I love winston, but I don't want to cancel out other rods. I hear great things about all of the rods mentioned above. I will be casting a few this week and fishing a couple as well.
Dave from Utah has it right...Zenith (9'/#5) is a brilliant combination of power with feeling, a great yet intuitive fly rod. Few rods are this well designed and executed. Do I love my Sage ONE #5? Absolutely but it is a much more technical rod requiring focus...which it rewards. I also just spent a lot of days fishing NRX 9'/#4 (original version with blue wraps and a straight RIO Gold #4). This is a 4-weigth that does the work of a #5 on a calm day and blows many of them away in the process...and I insist on the flat grey with bright blue wraps so it can scream its NRXness from a distance (it also features the densest cork in the business and super light nickel titanium guides).
With these three rods in my quiver complimented by a specialty little #4 and big #6; I gracefully handled any dry fly opportunity Montana and Idaho offered me over the past month. Not that I would want one rod that could do it all but the Zenith could.
This is definitely not a "do it all" that I'm looking for. Mainly, for dry flies, small streamers, nymphs, etc. I don't expect to put a streamer express line on and toss large chickens to 70+ foot. I do want that ability with a floater and some dry flies, however.
Please re-read my post; do it all DRY FLY rod. While increasingly popular on many great rivers, you will find no bushy flies with nylon knotted to their bend trailing weight and sub-surface patterns beneath them much less full-on spherical "bobbers" (is this actually fly fishing?) in my camp. To paraphrase the great Lee Wulff; trout and salmon that do not rise to the surface deserve their watery sanctuary.
I have the 9' 5 wt Zenith, the 9'4 wt Zenith, and the 9' 5 wt Loomis NRX LP. I love them all, but they do differ. The Zeniths are powerful, fast action rods that handle big flies and gusty winds, which we have in CO and WY. The Loomis NRX LP is a more delicate beast, suited well for dry flies, and smaller streamers and nymphs. If I want a "big gun" I go with the Zenith; if I want to fish dry flies, I go with the NRX LP.