The ALL NEW Riverworks Rod Company ZX Micro
After 4 plus years of testing, research and tweaking, I am happy to announce the development period for our newest rod is over. I spent a long time perfecting my version of the perfect small stream fixed line fly rod. Of course no rod is truly perfect for everyone, that is why I used the term "my version" of the perfect small stream fixed line fly rod. But I know for some of you out there, our tastes in gear and the way that gear performs on the water is similar, otherwise no one would have bothered to buy a Riverworks rod.
To say that the journey for this little rod has been special for me is an understatement. In essence, this project has returned me to the place where it all began for me in the Fixed Line Fly Fishing side of my business. As some of you may or may not know, the inspiration for all my fixed line rods started on a small headwater stream way up in the Great Smoky Mountains named Raven's Fork. This is a really special stream for me, and over the last 4+ years, I have been developing a rod that would perform to my expectations on this type of water. While I have spent a great deal of my time working on our Tactical Nymphing Rods, this little rod has always been on my radar.
Whenever time has allowed, I have been working with different blank prototypes, grip materials, hardware packages, etc. The closest I have ever been to having a really viable small stream rod in my lineup has been with the Midgee prototype. The Midgee fell short of expectations in a few different ways, so the concept was scrapped and I went back to the drawing board.
In the end, the rod that had everything I wanted with my version of a "perfect" small stream rod looks like a scaled down version of the ZX360, but make no mistake, the ZX Micro a totally different animal. The carbon fiber grip, the blank, and all the componentry had to feel just right before moving forward to production. Coming full circle, I chose to concentrate on what I do best, and that is carbon fiber grips on high performance blanks. The real challenge was finding a "no compromise" blank that fit the task of performing at an extremely high level in small headwater streams in the Appalachians.
What are the benefits for a carbon fiber grip on a small stream rod?
For me personally, I just like the way a carbon fiber grip feels in my hand. I really like the way the grip interacts with the blank. I feel that the relationship between a carbon fiber grip and the blank has had a very positive effect on my casting. After testing various forms of EVA foam, cork, and other synthetic grip materials, only carbon fiber adequately maintains the relationship between my hand, the blank, and my particular casting motion. I feel like the carbon fiber grip has made me a more accurate caster. On a small mountain stream, being able to accurately present the fly, in my experience, is a very important ingredient in the success I have enjoyed on my favorite type of water. Another thing I have learned in rod building is the weight of a grip does a great deal to aid in balancing a fixed line rod perfectly. With the blank I chose as the production blank for this rod, the grip core density and the overall grip weight really balance the rod very well (maybe not the absolute perfection I always strive for, but pretty darn close). Having a really well balanced rod maximizes a rods cast ability and the overall light in the hand feel I was looking for during the design process. A final consideration on why I chose a super expensive carbon fiber grip for the ZX Micro is the exceptional durability. The high elevation backcountry takes a toll on equipment. A carbon fiber grip is without question the most durable grip on the planet. I wanted to build a small stream rod that could be passed down to my children, and eventually my grandchildren. Lesser grip materials have proven to break down quicker and just haven't stood up to the challenges of my style of hardcore fishing in the mountains. I beat up gear trudging to places where the fish rarely see a fly. In a "no compromises" mentality of designing fly gear, a carbon fiber grip was really a no-brainer for me and for this little rod. The grip measures 9.5" (as opposed to the 11.25" on the ZX3) and has a maximum diameter of 24.28mm (as opposed to the 29.48mm on the ZX)
Is this a "scaled down" version of the ZX Tactical Nymphing Rod?
Besides the grip material and the obvious similarities in the way it looks, the ZX Micro is not designed to do the same things as the ZX Tactical Nymphing Rods. Although the rod will deliver small weighted nymphs when necessary, its design purpose is clearly not the same as the specialty Tactical Nymphing Rods that I offer in the longer lengths. First of all, at 9'2" (280cm), it is not designed for the same water where the ZX3 shines. The overall goal for the ZX Micro is to focus on delivering a wide array of flies on small, mountain headwaters utilizing the lightest level lines you can realistically cast. A 9'2" version of our ZX Tactical Nymphing Rods would be counterproductive to what I was trying to achieve with the design of the ZX Micro. Same styling, way different rod.
What about the new rod blank?
The new blank was the real challenge when designing the ZX Micro. I wanted a blank that would accomplish a number of different things for the overall package. I wanted a blank that would compliment the grip. I wanted a blank with a crisp, balanced taper to accurately cast flies with light level lines in hard to reach spots. I wanted a blank that would maximize the enjoyment I would experience with 5" Brookies up to 10" wild Rainbows (insert your particular species here) on 6X and 7X tippet. After a very extended testing period and many failed prototypes, the new blank for the ZX Micro accomplished everything I wanted it to. I generally develop and use fast action blanks on my rods, whether it is a 12WT Tarpon rod or the ZX Tactical Nymphing Rods. A fast action rod generally suits my fishing style and tactics 99.9% of the time. The production blank that I chose for the ZX Micro is different than anything I have ever used in the past. In fly rod terms, the new blank would be described as a Medium-Fast action. Using the traditional Japanese flex rating system (which is not a really good gauge in today's market, IMO) the new blank would hover somewhere between a 6:4 and 7:3 action. It is a progressive action blank meaning it gets slightly faster as you get closer to the tip. A true progressive action is exactly what I was looking for and goes back to the casting accuracy requirement I spoke of earlier. The action that we got with this blank length (9'2") is really great at landing trout in the 5"-10" range, although it will certainly not shy away from a larger fish if needed. During testing I used a 2.5 Level Line and 6X tippet almost exclusively. This is the backcountry line setup that I like to use for the Raven's Fork headwaters and other mountain streams here in the southeast. A perspective blank for the ZX Micro had to excel at delivering flies on this line/leader setup and that is what the production prototype blank does very well. The first time I used the current blank (the one I chose for the production rods), it was one of those "wow" moments. Everything just seemed to click immediately. I chose a Matte Black finish for the production rods to eliminate any arguments on how the flash of a gloss finish causes flash and spooks fish, and plus this matte finish just seems like a perfect match with a carbon fiber grip and the signature Riverworks silver hardware. All in all, I couldn't be more pleased with the finish quality and performance of the new blanks. If I were in the market for a new small stream rod, this blank sports everything I would want.
What about the hardware, and other cool stuff?
After testing out dozens of sets of hardware (I think I used just about every style on the asian market), I thought that the Signature Riverworks Anodized Aluminum Butt Cap and Insert worked to balance the rod precisely. This is the same hardware set used on the ZX3 and is machined and finished in the USA. Something I am pretty proud of setting up. With this said it is DEFINITELY the most expensive hardware group in the industry, but it is my favorite design and complements the grip, winding check and nose cap really well.
I am going to bring along another concept a little bit ahead of schedule for the ZX Micro. I have been talking with Daniel Coleman out of Huntington Beach, CA on a new rod bag we are going to offer. The ZX Micro will come standard with a new very high end Neoprene Rod Bag. The neoprene bag offers standalone protection for the rod and finds itself right at home strapped to the side of a backpack. The new bag will be black with the Riverworks logo in charcoal. It is a really tremendous upgrade to the standard $.50 bag found with the vast majority of the production fixed line rods on the market today. I'm really excited about the new rod bags. I know a lot of people would say, "an upgraded rod bag, big effing deal", but I think this new bag will actually change the way we transport fixed line rods in the backcountry. I am really excited about this addition to the package, and I can't think of a better rod to launch the new rod bag with.
How you can buy this rod....
Seems the standard practice these days in the Tenkara/Fixed Line industry is when you have a new rod, you launch a Kickstarter campaign. I know that the big corporations (and a few of the smaller ones) have had some pretty phenomenal success using this practice. Riverworks is a really small company and we are not building rods for the mainstream market here. We are a niche company and we build specialized rods. As a small company, I don't have a ton of cash lying around for new product development and eventual production. One of the reasons it took me so long to bring this rod along is because I funded the development and testing out of my own pocket when I could.
So it is my goal to raise enough capital using a more localized, grassroots style Kickstarter for the ZX Micro. We will avoid the usual KS fees and Social Media circus that seems to accompany super hyped product launches and make things more simplified for the folks who have supported us from the beginning.
We need to PRE SELL 20 of the ZX Micro Packages to fund our blank order with the factory overseas. Normally we would just buy the blanks as we need them here in the US. The blanks are being produced overseas and the factory requires a minimum order quantity to build our custom blanks. This necessitates an investment of cash. So we are doing this as an Appalachian crowd-funded launch of the ZX Micro. Be one of the first 20 people to buy the rod, get $70 off the retail price. The PRE-SALE Price is going to be $159 (Normal Retail will be $229). The capital raised from this PRE-SALE program will allow us to immediately place the order for our blanks and this will "kickstart" the desired timeline for this project (detailed below).
I am hoping to get the first 20 rods pre-sold in less than 2 weeks (lofty goal, I know), but I like to see things optimistically. The second that we have PRE-SOLD rod #20, the order will be placed at the factory for the production blanks. Note: I MUST PRE-SELL 20 RODS IN ORDER TO PLACE THE BLANK ORDER. If we don't get to 20 pre-sold rods, I cannot make the order in the necessary timeframe (see below).
Our blanks will take a minimum of 60 days to produce plus the transit time from the factory to the US. During the time we are waiting for our blanks to arrive, I will be busy producing the grips and getting our other peripheral items ready to assemble. My goal is to have our first 20 rods built and shipped in time for a Christmas delivery for our customers who help get this rod into production.
I have set up a link to purchase in our store, and the target delivery date is shown as December 15.
I am really excited about ZX Micro and how it fits in our existing line of handmade, high quality rods. I will build every one of the ZX Micros with strict attention to detail and the utmost in quality control you simply aren't going to find in an "off the shelf" rod. I think the rod will bring you a great deal of enjoyment on the beautiful headwater streams that lace our landscape so beautifully here in the southern Appalachians.
This little project has been a labor of love and one that is really special for me personally as a rod builder.
Thanks to each and every one of you who have supported Riverworks from the beginning. You guys have made this and all the rods that I have had the honor to design possible.
If you have any additional questions, please don't hesitate to contact me directly: