On a trip to dry fly heaven (Lesotho’s Bokong River), The Mission art director Brendan “Bod” Body put the Thomas & Thomas Paradigm 8’4” 4-weight to the test.

Last November I had a lucky break when a chance to fish the Bokong River in Lesotho came up. It’s one of the premier draaa flaaa destinations in the world. With a heavy heart, Tudor (The Mission editor) insisted that, because he could not go with me on the trip (one-year-old twins had the man more tied up than usual), his T&T 4-weight Paradigm should go with me in his stead.

Thomas & Thomas Paradigm 8’4” 4-weight

“The underlying subtext was clear: DO NOT FUCK IT UP.”

It’s always a big risk being lent a rod for a trip… Especially if you don’t really need to borrow one. You see, I have a quiver of old trusty broomsticks for freshwater. A battle-hardened hand-me-down 7-weight, one ancient bulletproof 4-5-weight that I bought for a R1 000 15 years ago, and a 3-weight with one eye missing which can still throw a semi-tight loop. I’ve fished with them for years. I’m used to their out-of-date fast actions. And, until one snaps or crumbles, I’m happy to keep fishing with them in most circumstances. Byborrowing the Paradigm, there was an implicit promise to look after it like it was my only child. To make sure it arrives back safely in perfect condition. The underlying subtext was clear: DO NOT FUCK IT UP.

Until this point, Tudor had only tested the Paradigm on our local Cape streams. It had performed with aplomb, but a 4-weight is a bit heavy for those skinny rivers. The Bokong however is comparable to the sort of smallish US rivers the Paradigm was probably designed for. So how could I say no?

Thomas & Thomas Paradigm 8’4” 4-weight

“We happened to be there at a time when the dry fly fishing was ridiculously good.”

Setting the rod up upon arrival, and being the seasoned rod expert that I am, I was very impressed to see the Paradigm had all the features I look for in a borrowed rod. To quote Thomas & Thomas, “Lightweight titanium-alloy single foot REC snake guides, titanium frame stripping guides, matte titanium finish roll-stamped hardware, USA-sourced figured maple spacers, and a beautiful new semi-gloss blue surface finish.” Sure, the sum of those premium components was very pretty to look at. But what I really wanted to feel was… the feel, specifically, its mid-flex action.

I had a feeling that, in theory, this elegant bad boy was going to be the perfect weapon for throwing dries and pounding yellows on the Bokong. So, for the next five days I tried to put this US gold standard of a rod through its paces. We happened to be there at a time when the dry fly fishing was ridiculously good. With vast numbers of fish smashing dries, I threw Balbyter ant patterns and LeRoy Botha’s hoppers at anything that swam, and the Paradigm did not disappoint.

“The Paradigm doesn’t pretend to exist for anything other than dry fly fishing.”

I loved the medium action instantly. It forced me to leave the over-powering casting style used on my fast action broomsticks behind and slow down to let the rod do the work. I could see the results as, with each cast, I appeared to present flies better and better and it was particularly good in the 10-20m range. I found the soft tip extremely forgiving* and perfect for protecting the light tippet both from the aggressive dry fly eats and heavy runs these Bokong fish give you. Being a 4-weight, it also had a decent amount of backbone for when some harder pulling was required. That gave me a little more confidence with some of the harder-fighting yellows. At 8’4” while it could handle some nymphing if you really asked it (I didn’t), the Paradigm doesn’t pretend to exist for anything other than dry fly fishing.

In fact, other than it not being mine, I found it very difficult to fault this rod at all. There’s a reason the Paradigm of old is always mentioned among the top dry fly rods of all time and, while I never got to cast one of those, I can assure you the modern iteration maintains that reputation. I’m not a dry fly purist, but I’ll admit that after a week spent with this as an extension of my arm, picking up my old reliable broomsticks again just felt wrong.

Available at upstreamflyfishing.co.za in South Africa or thomasandthomas.com.

*Ed: Due to his renowned over-exuberant trout striking and aggressive fish fighting style, Bod once broke a 10-weight fly rod hooked up to a fish-fighting machine at The Mission’s first birthday party. He then spilled a drink on an advertiser’s head, lost his wallet and phone, and did some other silly shit. Point? He needs forgiving tips.

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