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  1. Default St Croix's Legend Ultra

    Fly Fishing with Doug Macnair:
    Product Updates
    St. Croix’s Legend “Ultra”

    Doug Macnair

    Well, they’ve done it again -- a very good rod has been made better. Revised for 2004, St. Croix’s Legend Ultra now incorporates the same IPC (Integrated Poly-Cure) technology used for crafting the Legend Elite I reviewed not so long ago. At the outset of this review, let me offer my opinion that this latest Ultra will satisfy the most discriminating fly caster.

    But before going forward, let’s review what IPC technology is all about. The majority of today’s high-performance rods are designed using compound tapers that employ several measured transition points along the blank where the slope of the taper changes. However, these same transition points are typically uneven and can create points of weakness in the blank. To counter this, St. Croix pioneered IPC, otherwise known as Integrated Poly- Curve Technology. St. Croix claims:

    • IPC-engineered rods feature smoother actions because the graphite is rolled and compacted onto the rodmaking mandrel in one continuous taper, rather than a series of measured slope changes (as in compound tapering).

    • IPC eliminates all transitional points of weakness on the blank.

    • IPC blanks are stronger because stress is distributed along the entire blank.

    • IPC tapers result in superior graphite fiber alignment along the length of the blank. This ensures better longitudinal strength because the fiber alignment is never distorted at transition points. It also results in more uniform strength, stiffness, and sensitivity along the entire blank shaft for better vibration transmission and enhanced feel.

    After throwing the new Ultra for over a month, I have no reason to challenge the validity of St. Croix’s assertions. Compared to the older model, the new flavor Ultra is without question a stronger, quicker, faster rod. Now, the performance gap between the Ultra and the Elite is slight. Seems to me that there is little question that IPC facilitates a compound taper that forms a continuous curve from the tip to the butt of the rod. By eliminating the relative weak transition points of the traditional compound taper, the end result is a smoother casting rod that’s more obedient to its master’s hand. (My words, not theirs.)

    Fabricated from St. Croix’s high-modulus graphite, the new Legend Ultra also features upgrades in components. For example:

    • Premium, lightweight, high-modulus SCIV graphite.
    • Slim-profile ferrules.
    • Matte green finish.
    • Fuji® Alconite® stripper guides.
    • Hard chrome, single-foot fly guides on 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 wt. models. Snake guides on 6SW, 6/10', 7, 8, 9, 10 weight models.
    • REC nickel silver reel seats with stabilized bird's-eye maple inserts on freshwater models.
    • REC hard-anodized aluminum reel seats on heavier line models.
    • Super-grade cork handles.
    • Rugged Cordura®-covered rod case with divided polypropylene liner.
    • Lifetime warranty backed by unmatched St. Croix service.

    Nothing cheap here. I suppose you could spend more money for components, but as far as durability, the Ultra’s are hard to beat. Call it what you will, but the cork on the Ultra I reviewed is on par with the best I’ve seen in the last five years. If you can truly find a higher grade, I’m not sure it’s worth the increased costs. Years down the road, the Ultra’s components promise to be as serviceable as they are on day one with only reasonable care.

    While many graphite rods are built abroad, the Ultra and its older brother, the Elite, are made in the USA, and I don’t mean Usa, Japan. To make it clear and set your mind at ease, these rods are crafted right here in the land of the Stars and Stripes and carry St. Croix’s lifetime warranty. (Sometimes I find it hard to believe that anything is still made in our country.)

    New for this year in both the Ultra and Elite series is a very special 6-weight, 4-piece rod designed for those of us who venture into the salt. With a slender full wells grip, lifting power in the butt, and a requisite fast action, I figured this rod should be the cat’s meow for those of us who head for the flats, especially when the wind is not blowing a gale force. As it happened, this is the rod I was privileged to receive for the purposes of this review. I couldn’t have been more delighted!

    So how does it perform? Well, as the Munchkins told Dorothy, “The best place to begin is at the beginning.” When the rod arrived I eagerly tore into the package. Out came the green cordura tube (with handle) containing the rod On the cap, there is a clear description of what’s inside: Line 6, Length 9-feet, Model U906.4.SW. The ID sort of makes it hard to misplace this one. Unsnapping the Alice locking device and lifting the cap, I found the surprise of the year: resting on top of the well-insulated rod is/was a small canister of wax - ferrule wax - complete with directions. The first thing that went through my mind was the old Hallmark Card slogan, “St. Croix cares enough to send the very best.” You see, waxing the male ferrule before the rod is first assembled is important (as are other wax applications two-to-three times a year). The wax lubricates the ferrule and helps minimize the chance for scarring or breakage. While I’ve lectured on this for years, the majority of folks put this off as something to be done “another day.” Making the wax immediately available makes it sort of hard not to wax the ferrule, doesn’t it? Simply said, St. Croix is doing its best to help you become a responsible fly rod owner. These things we call fly rods, as you well know, are not designed to be thrown helter-skelter into the back of a pickem’up.

    The 6-weight SW features a fighting butt, a hard-anodized aluminum reel seat, and oversized guides. As this picture depicts, the handle and trim fighting butt for the SW 6-weight. I was impressed with the rod as I withdrew it from its case: nice finish, double up-locking reel seat, quality guides, and great cork, as I’ve already mentioned. Everything about the package deserves accolades; in fact, I like the packaging of the Ultra much better than the Elite. The aluminum tube used for the Elite is traditional but certainly not as convenient as the Ultra’s covered Cordura case with handle.

    Suffice it to say, the Ultra handles just as good as it looks. The Elite may be a tad faster, but this gun is fast enough to make 90-foot casts to any bone that swims. On the Texas Coast, it’s perfect for specks and redfish in anything short of a gale force wind. However, I would suggest you go for some other rod if your goal is to capture Jaws, The Great White. What rod, I know not -- perhaps if you are very good, a 1-weight would be perfect to whip the 30-foot beast…

    With the Ultra, you really get two rods for one: it’s up to either throwing a line a long way or making a gentle and accurate presentation. During the work up for this article, I used several 6-weight lines on the Ultra. I am pleased to say that the rod showed little favoritism among the lines I tried other than for distance. To reach or exceed 90-feet the Ultra, handicapped by my rotten casting stroke, the rod favored (1) a Mastery WF-6-F Bonefish and (2) a Rio WF-6-F WindCutter. So much for the long haul; for the short haul, the Ultra excels in the mid-ranges of from 40 to 60-feet. Expect to make gentle presentations and accurate casts without regard to who made the line (as long as it is a 5 or 6-weight).

    Those of you who follow my meandering in and about the gentle art of fly fishing know that I do not favor overlining a rod other than for very short casts inside 30 feet. Thus, no overlining was considered or attempted during my trials with the Ultra; however, I did try underlining and was pleased with the result. The Ultra SW 6 hit 72-feet with a WF-5-F Mastery using little more than a flick of the wrist. Don’t be afraid to try this technique if you decide this rod is for you – it will enable a shorter leader while enhancing a gentle presentation.

    Frankly, if you do a little work with the Ultra, even the Ancient Fish Gods may come to fear you – you may become a supreme being when it come to besting Friend Fish. With the Ultra in hand, you are apt to be a wicked weapons system to be favored in mortal battle.

    A word about price: St. Croix’s Legend Ultra, despite all of its improvements, holds the line on price. As an example, the 6-weight Saltwater reviewed runs around $300.00. In my view, that’s a bargain and a tremendous value for the money asked. It is very hard for me to believe that anyone who throws this rod won’t come to love it. And this is very important. You see, I believe that any rod you come to love is a rod that should forever be kept. Over the years, I have repeatedly been asked about “obsolete” graphite rods. The fact is there is no such thing. Once a rod becomes an extension of your hand, arm, and, more importantly, your mind, it should remain forever as your most trusted friend when you sally forth to battle adversity on the water. You see, rods do not age, only the owner. For you and me, tomorrow’s rod may not be better, just newer. Try the Legend Ultra … it will be yours for life.

    For more information on the St. Croix Legend Ultra or the Legend Elite, contact St. Croix. Telephone 1 (800) 826-7042.

    - 30 -

    © Copyright: Douglas G. Macnair, 2004-2005.

  2. Default Re: St Croix's Legend Ultra

    Thanks for the article! Steve and I were talking about these rods just today and now I want one even more..

  3. Default Re: St Croix's Legend Ultra

    That's right... The Full Creel has just become a new St. Croix Dealer. We'll soon have the entire line of St. Croix fly rods and reels available on line.

  4. Default Re: St Croix's Legend Ultra

    So I'm confused, did you like it?

    I'm trying a few 8 wt rods on Saturday in the 300-400$ range (hopefully the Sage fli, the Winston Vapor, the G. Loomis Cross Current and this rod) and I'll report on what I liked and what I bought if you'd like.

  5. Default Re: St Croix's Legend Ultra

    I am the definition of a beginner when it comes to fly fishing. Growing up in Ohio, a land renowned for its polluted rivers and land locked status, the spinning rod was king and blue gill and bass were the only real available targets. However, now that I'm in Charleston, South Carolina for college fly fishing is a lot more feasible. Charleston is only a few hours from prime trout waters and only a few minutes away from prime red fish waters. I decided to purchase a nice 8 weight rod to hopefully take advantage of the flats that were so close.

    So after a six hour lesson I asked Mike, a fly fisherman working for the Charleston Angler (an excellent store) to go out to the parking lot with me and help me decide between the Winston Vapor, The Sage Fli and the St Croix Legend Ultra.

    First I tried the Fli (four piece 8wt, 305$) and it was a mess. I couldn't establish a rhythm and at best my casts made it about 25 feet. I simply couldn't feel the rod feed and as such kept trying to over extend my back cast. During the lesson I was casting much better with a base line TFO 8wt rod even though the spool I was casting with had three weight line (something I wish I would have noticed at the beginning of the lesson). I'm sure the Sage is a fine rod, but to say it didn't fit me would be a gross understatement.

    Next up was the Vapor (another four piece 8wt at 295$). It fit a lot better than the Fli, but Mike and I both agreed that there was something off. Half of the time I would get a nice tight loop but occasionally it'd tail and I had no idea why. Mike, who had been fly fishing for about 20 years, experienced the same thing. Also when I tried casting into the wind I was having a very hard time pushing the line through. It's a shame as the rod looked fantastic and the cork only had one or two little spots of filler. There were 700$ rods in the store with worse cork.

    finally I tried the St. Croix and the rod clicked in a way I didn't think was possible. After my third cast I was getting about 60 feet, and this was with lousy old line and a headwind. I only cast it for a couple of minutes but it was eminently clear that it was the rod I wanted. Of course it was also the most expensive rod at 350$ for a four piece nine foot eight weight rod. I had it paid for less than five minutes after my first cast with it, and I am not an impulse buyer, it won me over that quickly. The cork is sub par, but everything else seems perfect.

    The finish of the rod is striking, it changes tone depending on the way the light hits it and there are subtle horizontal bars that can only be seen in particularly bright light.

    It's worth noting that they've moved away from the little ball shaped fighting butts shown in the original review for a more traditional taper.

    Even though I've only spent a few hours with this rod I feel like I've been casting it for a month. It's a shame about the cork but other than that I couldn't be happier. It's not cheap but I certainly thought it was worth the money.

  6. Default Re: St Croix's Legend Ultra

    I have used the "old" model 9 ft. 5 wt. for several years now and can say I cannot imagine a better casting rod. It casts best with a Rio selective trout double taper 5 wt. and I have used this combination for the smallest nymphs all the way up to #2 saltwater streamers without any trouble whatsover. Furthermore it is light which makes a big difference for me since I have back problems. I have also used Rio 5.5 and 6.5 Rio Grande lines with the rod as well as SA 5 and 6 wt. wf lines - even have cast 8 wt wf line on it with no trouble but that's pushing it as far as rod breakage I fear. I have, however, now given my 8 wt. used for Florida largemouth, seatrout and redfish to my son. I have caught Kamloops rainbows up to 10 lbs. and Florida copperhead bluegills over 2 lbs. with it.

  7. Default Re: St Croix's Legend Ultra

    Great rod for the money. To me it casts like the GLX Crosscurrent. Both are fast rods. Great for saltwater.


  8. Default Re: St Croix's Legend Ultra

    Got one myself and I love it!

  9. Default Re: St Croix's Legend Ultra

    i own the 8' 4 wt and the 9' 6wt (both 4 pc) and i love them both. These are great sticks and a great price!!

  10. #10

    Default Re: St Croix's Legend Ultra

    I have three. A 3wt, 6wt, and 8wt. Love them all. I dont think a finer rod can be purchased for any amount of money.
    The best laid plans of mice and men...

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