Hardy Ultralite Fly Rod Review (Hands-On & Tested)

Professional fly fishing guide & casting instructor Daniel O'Neil offers a hands-on Hardy Ultralite Fly Rod Review after years of fishing it.

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I’ve been a professional fly fishing guide for the past four years and have used the Hardy Ultralite for the past two trout seasons. In this article, we will provide a hands-on review of the performance, specifications, and potential drawbacks of the Hardy Ultralite fly rod.

In this article, I will present a review of the Hardy Ultralite 5wt9′ fly rod, renowned for succeeding its predecessor, the Hardy Zephrus. Hardy has been crafting rods since 1872 and in my opinion, this is one of their best to date.

Let’s get started.

Our Fly Rod Reviews:

Why Trust My Hardy Ultralite Fly Rod Review?

Before I dive into the Hardy Ultralite review, it should be noted that at Into Fly Fishing, we only review gear that has been comprehensively tested and applied in real-life field conditions. This commitment upholds our reliable insights and ensures that Into Fly Fishing remains a trustworthy, credible source of information.

Me Holding a Trout I Caught on my Hardy Ultralite Fly Rod

I personally have had the privilege of testing over forty fly rods, with fourteen years of experience handling robust gear and pushing rods to their limits. I continually seek to find the best rod on the market, so let’s dive into one of my top picks, and my go-to trout rod for the past two years, the Hardy Ultralite.

Hardy Ultralite Review: How I Reviewed & Tested The Rod

For the majority of the testing period, I paired the rod with a Hardy Ultradisk fly reel that is suitable for four, five, and six-weight rods, and on the reel, I fished with a Rio premier floating line. I typically use the Hardy Ultralite for targeting dollaghan trout on my local rivers, using a variety of wet and dry flies.

I don’t recommend targeting fish over twenty pounds on a five-weight rod, however, I have pushed the Hardy Ultralite to its limit, successfully tackling multiple rainbow trout over twenty pounds in weight.

The rod faired surprisingly well against such powerful fish, presenting little trouble in landing them within minutes. I did notice some strain on the rod spine when the fish made vigorous runs, however, I’m confident with proper technique it could endure repetitive use against such fish.

Watch the Hardy Ultralite Fly Rod Review

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Hardy Ultralite Pros

The Hardy Ultralite’s well-balanced design and responsive action make it ideal for novice and experienced fishermen. This specific rod performs best in rivers and lakes at around 40 ft casting distance.  

Super Lightweight

This rod is an ideal choice for anglers seeking a compact and lightweight travel-size fly rod. It weighs 3.03 ounces and comes with a metal carry tube and rod sleeve. For a travel-specific rod, the Hardy Aydon 6pc might be the way to go.

2 Pieces of The Hardy Ultralite Fly Rod

Versatility

The hardy Ultralite is one of the most versatile fly rods on the market. It is suitable for nymphing, small streamers, indicators, and traditional flies. I have used the Ultralite rod with a wide variety of techniques and am always pleasantly surprised with its adaptability.

SINTRIX NSX Constrcution

The combination of Hardy’s SINTRIX technology paired with a secondary nano-loaded classified material, enhances the blanks feel, recovery, and hand balance. Some other fly rods on the market rely on restrictive material, reducing the overall rod performance.

Craftsmanship

Hardy is well known for producing some of the highest-quality fly rods in the world of angling. Above all else they prioritize craftsmanship and I personally have seen this firsthand in my own Ultralite rod. The rod has alignment dots for connecting each piece together and a ring for attaching your fly’s hook when walking.

Efficient Fight Control

While fishing with the Hardy Ultralite I was very satisfied with its ability to control fish. In other words, I found the power and responsiveness of the rod to be tremendous, especially with larger fish.

Hardy Ultralite Cons

Unfortunately, for very close-range distances the Hardy Ultralite is slightly too fast to remain accurate. Paired with its hefty price tag this may be a deal breaker for some small stream anglers.

Setting up my Hardy Ultralite Fly Rod

Close Distance Accuracy

In my personal experience, when casting to the close side of the river bank, the Hardy Ultralite’s accuracy falls slightly short. The rod’s high-speed action can prove challenging for extremely close ranges. However, I feel this is a common trait of most medium to fast-action fly rods.

Price

At present, the Hardy Ultralite is available on Trident Fly Fishing at a price point of $895. For numerous anglers, this cost could be considered substantial for a fly rod and might be viewed as a potential drawback.

What’s In The Box?

The Hardy Ultralite comes with a rod tube, rod sleeve, and rod plugs. All of which are high quality and great features for traveling. In this section of the Hardy Ultralite Fly Rod Review, I’ll discuss the contents of the Hardy Ultralite box.

Rod Tube

The metal rod tube showcases Hardy branding and is accompanied by a screw-off lid featuring a cork Hardy insert on its interior side. I have spent a large amount of time traveling with the rod tube and it has proved to be durable against scuffs and impacts, managing to hold up quite well over time.

The Hardy Ultralite Fly Rod Tube

Rod Sleeve

The rod sleeve boasts impressive quality, complete with a rod cap pouch, embroidered Hardy branding, and individual slots for each rod piece. Additionally, it incorporates tieable ribbons designed to secure the rod pieces in place and prevent them from falling out.

The Hardy Ultralite Rod Sock

Rod Plugs

The Hardy Ultralite comprises four rod sections, with three of them equipped with metal rod plugs—a rather unique aspect not commonly found in most fly rods.

These plugs serve a dual purpose: they prevent debris from entering the rod at the connection points, while maintaining its shape and reducing the chances of it getting crushed.

Hardy Ultralite Specs

Knowing the specs of a fly rod before purchasing is crucial to ensure the rod aligns with your desired fishing style and ability. Making an informed choice based on these specs will ensure you get the best fly rod match.

  • Available Lengths & Weights: (8ft, 70g), (8ft6, 75 – 78g), (9ft, 80-86g), (9ft6, 100-110g), (10ft 90-112g)
  • Action: Medium to Fast
  • Pieces: Four
  • Blank Material: SINTRIX NSX + classified material
  • Measured Weight: 3.03 ounces
  • Swing Weight: 61.2 gm^2
  • Stripping Guides: Cerecoil – Usually only found on high-end saltwater rods.
  • Snake Guides: Recoil Snake
  • Reel Seat: Laser engraved rod line size found on reel seat
  • Handle Material: AAAA CORK
  • Handle Type: Reverse Half-Wells
  • Rod Tube: Labeled Metal Tube
  • Rod Sleeve: Labeled Soft Fabric
  • Price: $895

Hardy Ultralite Fly Rod Review: How The Rod Feels

I personally am very satisfied with the AAAA cork handle, which offers exceptional comfort during prolonged fishing sessions. Its design not only feels great in hand but also adds aesthetic appeal. Additionally, the rod’s hilt’s robust construction creates a sense of durability and quality when securing the reel in place.

my hardy ultralite rod with reel attached

Overall Weight

The rod’s weight makes it well-suited for extended periods on the water. Moreover, unlike heavier rods, I’ve never felt wrist strain while casting it.

Rod ModelWeight
Hardy Ultralite 8ft 4wt Fly Rod (480-4)2.5 oz.
Hardy Ultralite 8ft 6in 4wt Fly Rod (486-4)2.6 oz.
Hardy Ultralite 9ft 4wt Fly Rod (490-4)2.8 oz.
Hardy Ultralite 8ft 6in 5wt Fly Rod (586-4)2.8 oz.
Hardy Ultralite 9ft 5wt Fly Rod (590-4)3 oz.
Hardy Ultralite 9ft 6wt Fly Rod (690-4)3 oz.
Hardy Ultralite 9ft 7wt Fly Rod (790-4)3.4 oz.
Hardy Ultralite 9ft 6in 7wt Fly Rod (796-4)3.8 oz.
Hardy Ultralite 9ft 6in 8wt Fly Rod (896-4)3.9 oz.

Swing Weight

The swing weight is relatively light at 61.2 G/m². This swing weight is ideal for easy casting and delicate presentation. Moreover, this particular swing weight proves especially advantageous during extended periods on the water, ensuring a seamless casting.

Power

I initially presumed that the Hardy Ultralite, being a compact fly rod, might lack significant power. However, to my surprise, I discovered that the rod actually boasts impressive line speed.

Action

When casting over substantial distances, like on large lakes, I found the Hardy Ultralite to be remarkable. Furthermore, I found that its fast and capable action proves beneficial in these scenarios.

Presentation

The presentation of the Hardy Ultralite is commendable. I am a huge fan of its placement when dry fly fishing and have really appreciated its ability to land a fly gently on top of the water. Furthermore, the Hardy Ultralite is superb for mending the fly line without causing to much disruption ontop of the water.

Tip Sensitivity

Having dedicated numerous days to fishing with buzzers, I’m pleased to note that I’ve been able to feel subtle takes vibrating down through the rod. For instance, I’ve detected numerous subtle twitches while targeting brown trout, leading to successful catches that might have gone unnoticed with a less sensitive rod.

Me connecting the pieces of my Hardy Ultralite fly rod

Hardy Ultralite Warranty

The Hardy Ultralite benefits from Hardy’s lifetime warranty that covers all of their rods built after 2002 for repair or replacement.

It’s important to note that while the warranty covers the rod, there is a handling and repair/replacement charge associated with each claim.

At the time of writing, the repair charge is $75 globally for Hardy rods.

Casting The Hardy Ultralite

Over the past years of testing the Hardy Ultralite, incorporating backcasts, roll casts, and steeple casts into my evaluations, I have been consistently impressed by its performance and versatility.

0-20 Feet

As mentioned previously, the Hardy Ultralite features a medium to fast action, which implies that its accuracy might be somewhat compromised at distances between 0 to 5 feet. However, it excels in accuracy within the 5 to 20 feet range when compared to other fast-action rods.

20-40 Feet

Between thirty-five and forty feet, the Ultralite truly stands out, boasting exceptional accuracy within this casting range. After observing beginners using my own rod, they were able to achieve 25-foot casts within a mere fifteen minutes of practice.

40-60 Feet

The Hardy Ultralite has more than enough power, and in the hands of a skilled caster, reaching distances of 60 feet with this five-weight rod should pose no challenge.

60+ Feet

At just over sixty feet, like most five-weight rods, its distance capability will gradually diminish. Nonetheless, within a practical casting range for trout, this rod remains effective.

Massive Trout Caught On My Hardy Ultralite

Other Rods That Compare To The Hardy Ultralite

If you are in the market for a Hardy Ultralite rod then you may be considering the Douglas Sky, Sage Sonic, or Hardy Aydon fly rods. All of which come with a lifetime warranty. 

The Douglas Sky is one of the most powerful five-weight fly rods on the market. Similar to the Ultralite, this is a fast-action rod, with a price of around $695.

The Sage Sonic is a fantastic fast-action nymphing rod that sells for $550. However, it should be noted that this rod is designed for more advanced anglers due to its lack of feedback. 

If you really desire a Hardy 5-weight but aren’t comfortable with the Ultralite’s hefty price tag, the Hardy Shadow is a great option. It is a medium-action fly rod with a price of $349.

In general, these rods serve as substitutes for the Hardy Ultralite. However, they do fall short in certain aspects where the Ultralite excels, features like Sintrix NSX technology, ceramic-lined titanium recoil guides, and reel seat laser-engraved line size aren’t included in the other options.

Who is the Hardy Ultralite Fly Rod For?

The Hardy Ultralite is best for anglers seeking a premium fly rod to effectively pursue trout using diverse techniques like nymphing, dry fly fishing, and streamers. This rod is particularly well-matched for freshwater enthusiasts targeting trout in both river settings and lake boat excursions.

If you’re an angler who enjoys pursuing fish within the 2lb to 15lb weight spectrum and loves fast-action rods with substantial power, the Hardy Ultralite is a fitting choice for you.

Hardy Ultralite Review: My Personal Thoughts

In general, I consider the Hardy Ultralite to be a good all-around rod. While it does have its limitations, I’ve consistently been satisfied by its capabilities – whether it’s been handling twenty-pound-plus rainbow trout or landing three-pound hard-fighting Atlantic salmon, this rod has truly excelled.

Regrettably, I did experience a broken rod tip while fishing with it this past year. As a result, I took advantage of the Hardy lifetime warranty and received a prompt replacement.

Conclusion

This Hardy Ultralite Fly Rod Review thoroughly addresses the rod’s strengths and weaknesses, included components, Ultralite specifications warranty coverage, casting performance, and comparative alternatives.

All in all, the Hardy Ultralite stands as an excellent choice for the versatile fly angler seeking a high-end rod with convenient travel capabilities.

I love my Hardy Ultralite and I highly recommend it.

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Meet Daniel O'Neill, a writer and angler from Northern Ireland. With a love for fly fishing, he excels as a fishing guide and instructor, bringing abundant expertise to his writing. Daniel has taught beginners all over Ireland and guided anglers pursuing Ireland's mighty salmon. At the beginning of Daniel's angling journey, his fondest memories revolve around the joy of catching brown trout with his friends on his local streams. The thrill of experiencing subtle takes on a dry fly and successfully landing the fish brought them immense satisfaction, regardless of the size of the catch. Daniel's early love for fishing has paved the way for many ventures resulting in impressive catches such as bass, sturgeon, double-figure pike, and Atlantic salmon. His angling journey has taken him to various locations worldwide. Daniel has targeted saltwater bass in the Canary Islands, chub in France, carp in Poland as well as trout and salmon in Scotland. As Daniel continues to journey through the world of angling, he remains committed to sharing his experiences and knowledge through his content creation.

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