Two years ago Scott Fly Rods’ chief designer Jim Bartschi to some extent took the world by storm with the release of the Radian freshwater series of rods. A culmination of years of work, Bartschi was quick to point out that there was no secret sauce, no groundbreaking new technology, which made Radian such a great rod (and it was great–collecting many awards including a Fly Rod & Reel Kudos). Instead, Bartschi explained, the Radian was a product of craftsmanship, or in other words of an especially well-tuned application of available techniques and technologies.
One of the things I have always liked about Scott as a company is this focus on (indeed, maybe “admission” is a better term here) the fact that most new fly rods are not radically new. If a rod is really good, it is so because the craftsman did a good job, using the best materials available, certainly, but with the acknowledgement that any “technology” in the rod could only be incrementally better than what came before. The carbon fiber and composites industry can only produce so many whiz-bang new inventions a year, after all. Most of the “technological” advantages of new rods simply derive from better strength-to-weight ratios in the resins used to make the graphite prepreg which is rolled into the blank of the rod. This “upgrade” represents a few percentage points of change per year, at most.
Now, two years after the Radian hit the market, and building on the success of last year’s midmarket Tidal offering, which used some of the same techniques but with less refined materials, Scott has released the Radian’s big brother, the saltwater-specific Meridian.
Some changes are immediately obvious. The Meridian has a much narrower overall blank diameter basically throughout the rod when compared with the Tidal, and a somewhat narrower (maybe 10%) diameter when compared to its flagship predecessor the S4s. Thinner blanks essentially represent confidence from the designers: they now feel the available materials are strong enough that they can step down the burliness of the rod wall in order to impart greater performance at the same total risk of breakage. It will be interesting to see if this gamble pays off, and the only way to know if the Meridian will see higher breakage rates is to watch and wait.
Like the S4s (but unlike the G2 series), the Meridian features a standard sleeve-over ferrule, although these too are narrower than in the past. In fact these may be the thinnest sleeve ferrules I have ever seen on a heavyweight rod.
In hand, the Meridian is exceptional. It immediately calls to mind its brother the Radian. A few months ago, when I got my demo copy under media embargo, I practiced throwing a few loops in the front yard. I am very comfortable with the S4s and fish it frequently for carp, so I have a good working familiarity with how tight my loops usually are. With the Meridian my loop tightness noticeably increased without any effort whatsoever from yours truly. The rod just plain throws tighter loops; I can’t explain it.
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I posted the video above online and one commenter challenged me (as a joke, I think) to try tossing those same loops with a book under my arm. I obliged him.
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As you can see, the Meridian is capable of tossing an entire fly line even with an abbreviated stroke. Good rod. Best ever? Who knows. Scott is not known for making claims like that.
Fit and finish is exceptional as always. Scott has a nice new reel seat with inscribed rod weights, which is very convenient for boat anglers. They have gone back to a composite cork buttcap, which is mostly cosmetic (although I have always preferred EVA foam personally).
Breakage and repair is always an issue with a high end rod, since the cost and fine tuning of the product eliminates the possibility for the manufacturer to simply send a new tip in the mail, as budget rodmakers can sometimes do. I unfortunately snapped my demo Meridian in a tragic rod v. push pole T-boning. Scott had it back in my hands within a month, which should be characteristic of their repair times going forward.
Rating: Five Stars
Models: Available from 6wt. all the way to 15wt. with Scott’s characteristically unusual lengths (9 feet, 8’4″ and 8’10” depending on model).