Recently I was offered the use of a Kilwell Xantu 9’6” # 8 weight, four piece fly rod to evaluate and review on behalf of Active Angling NZ.
Kilwell has been making high quality rods continuously in New Zealand for a very long time and most anglers at one stage or another have cast, or learned to cast with, a Kilwell fly rod.
The Xantu rod range was released at the Boat Show in mid-2014 but has received little media attention since, especially the fly rods.
The Xantu fly rods are undoubtedly the most technologically advanced rods that Kilwell has yet made and rely heavily on nanotechnology. They have worked collaboratively with another NZ company, Revolution Fibres, to produce the Xantu rods and Revolution Fibres created the Xantu.Layer that is an integral part of the blank construction.
Xantu.Layer is a polymer hybrid of continuous nanofibres with diameters less than 1000 nanometres that has been formed into a non-woven web. If you are interested in learning more about Xantu.Layer click on:-
Kilwell claims that “in a world first, Kilwell has combined Nano resin with Xantu.Layer nanofibre in a fishing rod blank. This layer bonds with Nano resin and carbon fibre to create a rod blank featuring a dramatic increase in flexural lifting power, without increasing weight”. Apparently the addition of the Xantu.Layer also enhances resin toughness and increases impact resistance.
Revolution Fibres posted a video on You Tube to show just how strong a Xantu based rod blank is compared to a conventional blank and while it is not overly scientific it does appear to show that the Xantu blanks are up to 100% stronger.
The Xantu rods are all made in Rotorua. Local leading edge innovation married to local manufacture.
The Xantu fly rod came in a slim, Cordura covered conventional rod tube emblazoned with the Kilwell logo in gold. The rod is covered with a lifetime warranty. In a nice touch a small packet of ferrule wax is attached to the rod tube. The rod comes in a sturdy, good quality cloth rod bag.
The rod blank is an attractive dark burgundy colour and the colour of thread wraps on the guides matches the blank colour closely. Each wrap has a thin metallic gold thread band as a highlight. It is understated livery, simple yet elegant.
The guides are a combination of Fuji Gold Cermet stripping guides and single foot intermediates which are highly durable and from a reputable USA manufacturer. There was the right amount of epoxy on the thread wraps and it also sealed off the gap between the guides and blank nicely.
The four segments fit together with “sleeve-over ferrules” (or “tip-over-butt ferrules”) and these mated well when pressed together. Surprisingly there were no dots or thread wraps to show when the segments were aligned properly.
The cork handle is a full Wells design and was of excellent quality. I especially liked that the cork where the driving thumb often sits was smooth and continuous without blemishes. This shows a lot of thought and care has gone into the handle construction.
The handle circumference is slightly larger (around 8.6 cm) than a similar length rod that I own from a large USA manufacturer. Although I found this strange initially I soon came to prefer it as I have large hands and long fingers and it was much more comfortable to grip the Xantu for long periods.
(In fact I was so intrigued by the ergonomics of the handle design and the effect that it had on casting performance that I did some further research and subsequently wrote an article on how unique it was:- https://activeanglingnz.com/2015/08/14/cork-rod-handle-design-shape-and-circumference-is-important/)
The reel seat is Titanium Nitrite coated aluminium which gives it a non-reflective satin sheen. The seat is heavily cut out to reduce weight. Under the reel seat Kilwell has added a woven barrel that has gold metallic thread running through it. This appears to be very similar to the woven material used extensively on the Snake Skin rod range. The sleeve used to hold the reel is robust and the seat has dual locking nuts. At the base of the reel seat is a small extension butt that is tipped with a small cap of EVA foam.
For a 9’6” # 8 weight rod the Xantu is light at around 120 grams which is almost identical to the other high end USA made rod I mentioned earlier. The interesting thing is that the Xantu has a larger handle and also a wider diameter blank which means that that it not only looks more robust but feels stronger without a weight penalty.
HOW DID IT PERFORM
The Xantu casts differently to any other fly rod I’ve cast and is surprisingly forgiving and crisp. The rod casts extremely accurately between 30 – 80 feet with a single haul. There is no need to double haul to get distance as there is a surprising amount of latent power in the blank. The power was impressive and once I matched my casting cadence to the feel of the blank the results were stunning. Casting long was effortless.
As a test I cast at a leaf as it moved towards me with the current and I could easily get within an inch or two of a leaf on the water’s surface in the range specified. Time after time. It was really easy to shorten the stroke and deliver the fly with pin point accuracy. In short, the rod cast just as well in close as it did at distance.
There was absolutely no ferrule movement or loosening during the session which highlights the excellent build quality.
I had a feeling that this # 8 weight rod would actually be capable of also casting a # 9 weight line with aplomb so I paired it with a # 9 weight forward Airflo Ego distance taper fly line and took it out for a play. This fly line has a massive head of 64′ and the # 8 weight Xantu casts it with ease. Since then this rod has become my all-round distance cannon ideal for stalking saltwater flats.
As the blank is stronger than conventional blanks then it could be possible to replace a # 10 weight rod with a # 8 weight Xantu and use it for kingfish.
I guess the acid test is whether I would buy the rod. Well the answer to this is that I already have. At less than NZ$ 700 it is an absolute bargain and is just as well made and functional as any of the high end rods available in the market from USA or the UK.
If you are looking for a new fly rod then try out the Xantu. It is unbelievable value for money and is made locally by a company that has a proud history of excellence in rod manufacture.
If you want more information click on:- http://www.kilwell.co.nz/products/category/VRSRTGQE-fly/page-2