For those of you who don't own an HT yet...or maybe you own a pre-built HT, I'd like to offer some observations about the quality of the bare blank before I detail the overall build specs. The blank I received was quite straight. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it was better than most of the upper-end high modulus blanks out there. I hate to say this like it's a surprise, but it actually is! Kudos to the manufacturer because this is not always easy to achieve. Ferrule fit and finish were perfect, and the subtle matte black paint job appeared to have no drips, or runs, and was even and consistent along the entire length of the blank. Regarding the action, my first inclination is to say that it is quite fast. I compared the stress profile against similar 8wt blanks, including a Composite Developments Tactical Distance (which is one of my all time favorite tapers), and the HT was by a varying margins, the fastest of all of them prior to any guides being wrapped in place.
Regarding my build-out, I will preface this by saying that I am a pragmatist at heart. In my early days of rod building over 25 years ago, like most custom builders, I engaged in a fair amount of fancy and colorful decorative thread work. I quickly realized however that the only time I actually paid any attention to the decorations was while I was in the process of applying them. Once I got on the water, I never actually looked at it again. I finally concluded that spending hours and hours on fancy decorations is (for me at least) like spending hours and hours decorating a hammer that you're going to use to do a construction job....it's a nice touch, but certainly not necessary to execute the task, and once it's been used for a year or two, will probably look pretty ragged anyway.
These days I base my component choices primarily on rugged reliability and pure functionality. For close to 20 years now I have always used composite reelseats in place of anodized aluminum. They're more cost-effective, don't scratch up the foot of an expensive reel, there is no anodizing to wear off, and they don't lock up when salt gets in the threads. And, perhaps most importantly they weigh substantially less than their anodized aluminum counterparts. I know not many fly rod builders like these types of seats from an aesthetic standpoint, as many think they look cheap. But from a functional perspective, they are absolutely BOMB proof. MY perspective was confirmed by none other than the VooDoo Daddy himself, famed tarpon Guide Captain Rob Fordyce of the TV Show the Seahunter. When I fished with Rob back in 2003. He took one look at my rod and said "I can't tell you how glad I am to see that FUJI composite reelseat on there!"
Historically I have always used Fuji Alconite or SIC stripping guides in sizes 20 and 16 followed by a guide train consisting of REC Recoil single foots out to the tip. This configuration has always worked very well from both a casting and long term reliabilty standpoint. However, the year before last I built out an 8wt. for my son utilizing Fuji's new K series guides that feature a slightly canted frame design that gently decreases the angle between the line and the guide for increased casting and line handling performance. I have to say, I am a believer. There does seem to be some merit to this design that allows for a slight but noticeable increase in casting performance (less angle between line and first stripping guide), along with a drastically reduced chance of line becoming tangled around a stripping guide on a hot running fish. i have also used the K style guides on spinning rods with great success as well.
I will be the first to tell you that I am NOT a fancy threadwork type of builder. I am much more enamored with subtle elegance and classy understated detail than I am multi layer weaves and diamond wraps. As much as I admire the patience and creativity it takes to do that type of work, it is not "me". To that end, threadwork will be minimal and any decoration will be subtle. Meh....who am I kidding. threadwork will mostly likely be solid jet black to go along with the matte stealth finish.
Anyone on the fence about ordering either an HT blank or finished rod should have no hesitation about the quality of workmanship or performance these blanks offer. I have spent close to 25 years in and out of rod factories, and doing distribution for many of the upper-end, boutique blank manufacturers, and I can say with confidence, the HT blanks from a quality of workmanship standpoint are among the best I have had the pleasure of laying my hands on. And, I have no dount that the performance will be equally as outstanding. Now on to wrapping!
Hope you're having a great week,