Is TFO's "Half weight"?
really a half weight?

I have closely kept up with ultralight rod, reel, and line development since the early 1980s when the first true ultralight from Orvis -- the Ultrafine 2 weight was available. Having specialized in ultralight fly gear since then, I have over 5000 hours on ultralight fly tackle. I am always interested in checking out the latest and greatest gear concerning ultralight fly fishing.

A few months ago I heard about the "new" TFO "half weight" ultralight fly rod. An avid ultralight fly fisher friend of mine in Texas bought one of these rods told me that he fished a WF2F line on this short, light rod, so I wanted to see for myself. According to him, a 2 weight line produced a much better load on the rod. So I phoned TFO and had one shipped for evaluation.

According to TFO: The Finesse Series Half Weight is engineered with the same materials and taper that facilitates such accurate and delicate presentations that the TFO Finesse family is known for. At a featherweight 1.2 ounces and 22 inch pack length, this is a little 5 foot rod that is guaranteed to make you smile - to conjure up memories of small fish past ... and future. The Half Weight features a cigar-style grip comprised of flor grade cork and is handsomely finished with a burled cork butt. Two adjustable sliding rings enable varying reel placements for finding the perfect balance. Of course it is light on your wallet too at $159.95 and is covered by TFO's industry leading warranty.

To my surprise this 5 foot 3 section rod showed up looking very short and feeling very light. It reminds me of an ice fishing rod. Being a so called "half weight" I estimated the proper casting line should weigh less than a 1 weight line.

Based on my many hours of fishing rods down to 3/0 weight, I slid on a reel spooled with an ought ( 1/0) Sage (Rio) line. When I false cast I realized the line wasn't loading the rod. Then I added 10 feet of line and still had very little rod load produced.

Next I attached a 1 weight line and false cast it. The rod loaded better, but not very fully in casts 10 feet to 25 feet.

Then I attached a reel with a DT2F line, and false cast. The rod loaded at 10 feet, but 30 feet was an overload. That gave this combination a 5 to 20 foot casting range based on line without a fly attached.

Even with the 2 weight line, this "rod's" casting characteristics are at best incongrous. With a 2 weight line it didn't have the backbone to crisply lift my 2 weight fly line from the water, and with a medium bluegill on, it was not really adequate to land the fish and felt was over matched. Yes, the next fish was a large bluegill, and I felt a lack of bottom end power in the rod.

I hate to give negative opinions on equipment but you readers expect an honest evaluation from me. To be certain that I wasn't missing something important in this evaluation, I asked a VERY experienced ultralighting friend of mine to test this rod on the water. I told him nothing about the rod, except that I wanted his opinion.

My friend is a fly fishing companion, a person who is employed in the industry, who is an instructor, and who has also fished just about every ultralight fly system available. He independently cast this rod and confirmed my evaluation. With all of the really good, tried and true, excellent casting rods out there, where does this rod fit in? For me, and for my friend -- it just doesn't.

Could I cast it? Yes. Did it feel right? NO! I kept thinking "if they had just sent me the rest of the rod, maybe it would cast better." Of course there is NO rest of the rod. Another feature I personally don't care for -- it has a cork and ring reel seat with nylon rings. I really don't like this style of reel seat, especially on a round grip - with plastic rings. These reel seats have a tendency to let the reel creep around the reel seat, and loosen up to fall off the rod at just the wrong time.

In evaluating this rod I remember what Jerry Siem has always said about the ultralights that he has designed: He wanted the same familiar feel of casting found in his heavier rods, just in a MUCH lighter system. He has always achieved that feel in the 4 families of ultralights he designed, the SPLs, SLTs, TXLs, and now the TXL-F rods.

I own several TFO rods including their 6'9" 1 weight, and enjoy them all. This "half weight" does not have the familiar feel of any other TFO rod that I have cast. If it had a strong butt section, it would probably truly cast a 2 weight line. Currently it feels to me that this is a confusing fly rod. It won't cast a 1 weight line well, so it obviously is NO "half weight". To me it isn't even a very good casting 2 weight. It is at best a very quirky short rod that a lot of fly fishers couldn't cast well enough to enjoy fishing.

In speaking with TFO this rod has sold well. It is still in the Finesse rod lineup, and is expected to be there into the future.

I ran some searches on the web to see what "bloggers" had to say about this rod. Of cource, I take into account their general ultralight experience levels, and the old addage: ....Opinions...everyone has one. However if you love this rod, by all means fish and enjoy it. I have a friend who likes his "Half weight...." or "two weight" as he calls it. He likes it with reservation.

There are so many other good ultralight fly rod choices available to us. I appreciate the attempt in this case, but as my most experienced fishing friend said about the TFO "half weight" ..."this one needs to go back to the drawing board."

With so many excellent TFO rods in their rod family, and so many other ul rods available, this is probably NOT a fly rod for the inexperienced weekend warrior. Still TFO is expanding their company and product line ups. They are steadfastly producing rods in the light/ultralight categories. I'm very glad to see committment in this area.

Bill Byrd