Review: Montana Brothers Rodworks 904 and 904L Fly Rods | Hatch magazine

There are some fantastic fast action rods out there. Rods that excel at casting heavy flies through a strong wind on a saltwater flat, or casting a nymph and weighted pointer, or casting a Euro three-butterfly rig. However, if you like dry flies and rising trout; if the sheer pleasure of throwing a fly rod is part of the reward, then you should check out the new Montana Brothers Rodworks 904.

Montana Brothers Rodworks is a new rod manufacturer based in Bozeman, Montana. Last October I had the opportunity to put MBR 904 through its paces during heavy BWO hatches on Henry’s Fork. Since then, I’ve been casting both the 904 and its sister model, the 904L, regularly at the Oakland Casting Club. Here are my impressions:

What Works

The 904 is by no means a fast action fly rod. It’s a 9′ 4-weight 3-piece moderate-action rod just a touch softer than most moderate-action rods on the market today. 904 is smooth and silky. It’s packed to the brim, but it’s not at all packed. The top is responsive and wets nicely.

The 904 tracks from butt to tip and is super accurate, especially at normal fishing distances. Another great quality of this rod is the ability to accurately roll the cast throughout its optimal range from 15′ to 50′. The rod is a pure 4-weight in every way, rather than a 5-weight packaged like a 4-weight.

Yeast protection
The smoother action also allows for excellent tip protection both when setting the hook and when playing with the fish. 6x tips and finer are no problem. You can really put the screws on the fish and get them down quickly without messing them up. This saves the fish and the flies!

Line control
Moderate action performs air repairs as well as water repairs with ease. The softer tip and middle allow the angler to load small amounts of line to correct with unmatched precision. The angler can fine-tune the tack and set the slack where it’s needed to get the perfect move; a task where many high-end rods struggle.

The finish is impressive. MBR gives the angler the option to choose his reel seat from a selection of approximately two dozen different types of beautiful wood inserts. The slide bar and pocket flap that closes down are made of nickel silver and are simple and elegant. MBR even allows the customer to select the diameter of the slip ring to optimize the fit for a specific true foot. The snake guides are Snake Brand’s Universal ECO Lightweight model and the stripping guides are custom made with a silicon carbide ring. The rod wraps are burgundy over a black unsanded blank. The grip is a Wells 6” style that has been turned into a slim comfortable shape that compliments the delicate nature of the rod. In short, the bars are more stylish than meets the eye.

montana rodworks brothers fly rod

Photo: Todd Tanner

At $875, the MBR 904 is more affordable than the latest models from other manufacturers.

What does not do

The 904 is not a distance rod by nature. While it has a moderate action that allows for some versatility, at its heart it remains a specialty rod best suited for dry fly fishing within 50′. A good caster can push the rod up to 70′ or more, but that kind of distance requires excellent casting fundamentals, patience and timing. However, if you know what you’re doing, the 904 will throw a loop like a freight train.

MBR is a boutique company that produces bars one at a time. They are not available at your local flight shop and will likely take 6-8 months if you contact the company and place an order.

montana rodworks brothers fly rod

Photo: Todd Tanner

The last word

Every so often a fly rod comes along that is a step – or three – above the competition.

Montana Brothers Rodworks has managed to produce two such rods with their first forays into the fly rod market. The company also makes the 904L for anglers looking for an even softer version of the 904. Ten years in the making, Dan and Doug Daufel, who own Montana Brothers, developed a passion for slow-action rods designed by the late Paul Brown of West Yellowstone. They set out to build a modern version of Paul’s thin dry fly rods. Both MBR 9′ 4 weights are instant classics.

These are the real 4-weights, and in my mind the best 4-weights I have ever fished. MBR is currently working on a 3-weight and a 5-weight, and I can’t wait to see those rods when they’re ready.


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