When Frontier Fly Fishing brought out a bunch of new rods from their in-house brand Horizon, we stuck our hands up to conduct some long-term reviews. There was definitely an element of nostalgia behind such a magnanimous display of selfless volunteerism. Many of us still have or have had Horizons. It’s been around a while and built a rep as a no-nonsense brand, designed in South Africa and made in Asia (along with most of the world’s rods and iPhones too). But beyond nostalgia, we wanted to find out if the three-part range – freshwater, saltwater and competition – lived up to Horizon’s reputation for affordability, durability and performance.
To properly test the rods, we asked our testers to choose from across the TFS (Tactical Freshwater Series), TSS (Tactical Saltwater Series) and the new addition, the Tactical Competition Nymph Series ranges. The rods tested range from 1-weight and 7-weight TFS rods, the 9-weight TSS and the 10-foot 6-weight competition rod. They were fished for six months and in that time our testers caught everything from redfin minnows and brown trout, to Clanwilliam, smallmouth and largemouth yellowfish, smallmouth bass, grunter, leervis, tigerfish and kob on them.
All we asked is that they fished them hard. Here’s what Leonard Flemming found with the 1-weight.
Rod: Horizon TFS 1-weight
Tester: Leonard Flemming
Test areas: Streams of the Western Cape.
Species caught: Redfin minnow species (six so far), brown trout, rainbow trout, Clanwilliam yellowfish, Cape kurper, bluegill and largemouth bass.
My first proper Cape stream rod was a Horizon TRS 3-weight; it was the best rod I had fished at that time and I still fish it today. I was so fond of the rod that I later also bought the Horizon TRS 9-weight for saltwater fish and I still fish that rod too. I have tried a number of other premium brands and I have found the Horizons equal them in performance. When I pack my gear for a fishing trip, I make sure that I pack in my Horizon rods. They are also often the first ones I rig when we reach a destination. That was reason enough for me to jump on the opportunity to test the new range of Horizon Tactical rods when they were released.
I suggested a 1-weight to test as it is a rod weight that I think is seldom used by local fly fisherman, but is actually very well suited to small stream stuff, and ideal for the many small trout streams in the Western Cape (and many other parts of our country) where short casts and delicate presentations are required. I also wanted to use the light weight rod to target the many redfin species in this province, partly to tick the species boxes, but mainly to create awareness about these striking little indigenous barbs, many of which are hanging on by a thread to survive.
Look & Feel
The Tactical Freshwater (TFS) rods have a beautiful olive green blank that reminds me of the classic Sage XP range. When I assembled the 1-weight for the first time it felt more like a stiff 2-weight; however, once on the water I noticed how ‘softly’ and delicately it fished. While it cast a Sage double taper 1-weight line beautifully, it really struggled to turn over a weight forward 2-weight line, suggesting it is well placed in the 1-weight category.
I find it is a fast rod and very sensitive to takes, as well as accurate on short casts which, in small stream rods, is more important for me than casting distance. This rod is ideal for dry fly fishing and small to micro-nymphing techniques. It even performed fine on the bigger trout rivers of the Cape, where I generally fish a 3-weight.
I was thrilled with the subtle presentations that I achieved with this rod and used it to catch many indigenous barbs, including Clanwilliam yellowfish, as well as trout. I also compared its performance with an Orvis 1-weight, a Scott 2-weight and a Sage 2-weight on the streams and the Horizon TFS 1-weight comfortably fitted in with these more established brands.
For the rest of the reviews (6-weight TCS, 7-weight TFS and 9-weight TSS), read the rest of the article in issue 20 of The Mission below: