After the huge success of the saltwater-ready LPX Coastal, it was only a matter of time before the rod makers at Guideline added more models to the popular series. With the latest members of the LPX family, chief developer Leif Stävmo has outdone himself and created special rods for almost all facets of modern fly fishing.
We talked to Leif Stävmo about the LPX fly rods from Guideline and in the interview the Swede revealed to us what distinguishes the different models.
adh-fishing: Hey Leif! You have been responsible for the development of fly rods at Guideline for many years. My first single-handed rod from Guideline was a two-piece LPXe, which I bought about 15 years ago. For Spring 2022 you are introducing some new rod models under the title LPX. What is behind the abbreviation 'LPX' and what has happened in the construction of fly rods in the last 15 years?
Leif Stävmo: Hey Alex! Yes, it is fun and exciting to have been in the industry and making fly rods for almost 30 years. I remember very well the 2-piece rod you mention. I still have a 9 ft. #6 LPXe for reference, which we rated as one of our best rods at the time. Back then, two-piece rods were considered optimal in terms of action because there is only one 'sleeve' that creates only one 'flat spot' in the rod action curve. It is certainly interesting to pull out these rods from back then and compare them now and then with today's rods. Only to find that rod design has come a long way since then. Not only in terms of components, but also how we have improved the joints to become more flexible and not affect the action of the blank as much as it used to.
The name LPX has been with us for as long as I can remember, and the original meaning of the acronym LPXe was 'Light Performance' with the 'Xe' as a cool suffix, as used on cars and other high performance tools :)
It has remained a fairly fast, light rod series over the years, with ongoing changes and updates to the components and graphite materials used to make the blanks. I like to refer to it as the DNA of our rods. Over the years, this rod family has truly become an icon among Guideline rods and among fly rods as a whole.
LPX - A name with a tradition
With the LPX, we finally entered a completely new era. But we just couldn't break away from the traditional name. The renaming to LPX and the addition of subtitles for the different model groups show that we have created something new that we hope will be as popular and long-lasting as the original LPXe.
In these new rods we use two of the most important ways to improve performance, reduce weight and break resistance: unidirectional fibres and advanced resins that penetrate and saturate the fibres in the graphite fabric more efficiently than before, so that less resin can be used overall. This reduces the weight of the blank. But the strength remains and is even improved. A software calculation programme has also been a great help in determining the individual strength of the different sections of the rod, allowing fine-tuning of the transitions between the parts and reducing the mass in areas where it is not necessary. This is one of the keys to achieving the low weights of the Elevation and LPX rods - while maintaining the strength of the rods! Long-standing partnerships with our factories over the years have also led to a great understanding when sharing information and researching new, better components or processes.
All in all, these are exciting times and the rod development process is now much more detailed than ever before, even in this mid-price/core segment of products. I would say that there has never been better performance, quality and value for money than what is offered today in rods like LPX and Elevation.
Develops fly rods for 30 years - Leif Stävmo
adh-fishing: Last year you already introduced the LPX Coastal. A rod that was particularly popular amongst sea trout fishermen, but also delighted pike fishermen. For sea trout fishing enthusiasts, you have now presented another alternative: The LPX Chrome. And for predator anglers, there is now another interesting option to choose from with the LPX Predator. What are the main differences between these two new rods?
Leif Stävmo: Well, the LPX Predator already differ from the Coastal rods at first glance in that they all have a length of 9 ft. In addition, the series includes the very important #9 class, which is the "GoTo" model for pike fishing here in Scandinavia and in many other countries. Furthermore, as these rods are tailor-made for predator fishing, which often involves larger and harder to cast flies, we have fitted all models in the Predator range with a slightly harder top section to cope with the extra strain of a wet and bulky pike fly. They are still fast rods with enough backbone to put pressure on big fish, but the lower half of the rod loads a little deeper to cast the heavier rigs with a slightly more open loop while using the power reserves of the lower half of the rod with a more open and flexible cast. Here the Coastal rods have a slightly faster flex with slightly softer tips that make the loops a little tighter.
9 ft. #9 - The LPX Predator 'Go-To' Model
We have also increased the size of the rings a little compared to the Coastal rods: The handles in the higher line weights are also a little longer, which offers better leverage when you get a little tired from casting or in the fight of big, heavy fish.
Guideline LPX Predator Fly Rods
adh-fishing: And what about the LPX Chrome?
Leif Stävmo: The LPX Chrome has been designed with single-handed river fishing for salmon and sea trout in mind. In our opinion, these models have the optimum length for efficient casting and good leverage in the drill. They are also long enough to provide good reach when wading and making one-handed spey casts. They work great with our 3D+ and 4D Compact Heads, but are also great to use with a normal WF line (e.g. the Guideline Coastal Evolve) on the coast.
First choice for salmon and sea trout - The LPX Chrome
Being extremely light and having such a low swing weight, they would make a great addition to the Coast rod range for anglers fishing inshore sections where wading up to the thighs and waist would reduce the reach of a normal 9 ft. rod, requiring a shorter head length line to be fished, which in turn reduces casting distance. Rods with 9'9 ft. simply offer that little extra distance between rod tip and water surface here. This makes a difference in practice! Fast, responsive and with a tip section that is easy to control and master, these rods are great fun to fish and cast. A weight of well under 100 grams, titanium stripping guides and Flor Grade cork handles ... what's not to like about these rods?
Guideline LPX Chrome Fly Rods
adh-fishing: In the single-handed rods we not only find the various models of the LPX Chrome and Predator, but also the Tactical range. In addition to the classic 9 ft. rods for creeks, rivers and lakes, the somewhat longer 99 models in particular immediately catch the eye. What is the idea behind these rods and for what do you use them?
Leif Stävmo: I have the privilege of working with some extremely skilled trout anglers at Guideline - Chris Rownes for example. And together, with a new design technology, we started to get excited about the fact that we would be able to make longer, amazingly light presentation rods for fishing with dry flies and light nymphs. So we knuckled down and got to work.... During the development process, not only myself but several of our team members were blown away by the control, precision and crisp action of these super light rods. At an incredibly low 68 to 78 grams in #2 to #5 line classes, their length offers huge advantages in various situations. For example, when it comes to keeping as much fly line off the water as possible for a clean drift. Also, the 9.9 ft. length lifts the cast over high banks and bushes in the back much better. A huge advantage when fishing in difficult spots.
Guideline LPX Tactical Fly Rods
The difference between this and a classic 9 ft. rod is simply stunning when you take either of them on a trip. They do a fantastic job in float tubes too and when wading deep or when you are trying to reach the fish that like to stay beyond the 'normal' casting range. I have to admit that these rods joined me on most of my trout fishing trips last summer and will again this year. In terms of action, these rods are medium-fast in flex and will probably also do a good job when casting or presenting a Euro Nymph rig, but they are really aimed completely at the WF presentation angler!
The LPX Tactical for modern trout fishing - in 9 ft. and 9.9 ft.
adh-fishing: The list of LPX single-handed rods is completed by the LPX Nymph. Special models with which you have responded to the high demand from nymph fishermen for long, sensitive rods for Euro nymphing. At 10.8 ft, this is also your longest single-handed rod in the entire Guideline range. What did you have to consider when building these rods?
Leif Stävmo: The demand for a more powerful range of Guideline nymph rods started to grow after we launched the LPs rods. And with the properties of our CAP M4.0 material, we saw the potential to develop some very good long rods for this type of fishing. In Spain we have a reference group of very experienced anglers who gave me the criteria for the rod designs and actions and did all the prototype testing. The result of this process is rods that are responsive and tip light, that have excellent tracking to cast nymphs accurately and precisely in the direction of the forward movement, and whose tips are sensitive to provide excellent protection for thin leader tips. But what stands out most is the fact that we have managed to create an action that offers a very nice backbone in the lower half, giving the rod a noticeable crispness and recovery speed without feeling stiff and dead when casting. This is where the advantages of the material used really shine through.
Guideline LPX Nymph Fly Rods
We have paid attention to many details in the components. For example, with the ringing. For this we have mounted a small snake ring below the tip ring to optimise the guiding of the line. We also positioned the stripping guide close to the handle to prevent the line from sagging. The downward-locking reel seat optimises the rod's balance point and the 180mm long, slim half-well handle ends in a low diameter at the front to allow a pointed grip position for more sensitivity when fishing. The spiral pattern of the blank is slightly higher to prevent line sticking and, as with the LPX Tactical rods, the blank is finished with a matt, non-reflective surface. An advantage when fishing for shy fish in difficult conditions.
adh-fishing: A key common feature of all LPX models is the C.A.P M4.0™ technology used in the manufacture of the rod blanks. So what's the secret behind it?
Leif Stävmo: With C.A.P (Complex Axial Pattern) the blanks become stronger and more responsive. The carbon sheets used have all fibers aligned in the same direction instead of being woven which makes them cross over each other, creating wear points that potentially weaken the blank. By layering sheets at different angles to each other, fibers run at different directions in the blank, improving flexural and impact strength both lengthwise and sidewise. The M4.0 resin has an incredibly good bond to the carbon cloth and a very, very good ability to saturate the smallest of air pockets that may exist. This efficiency makes it possible to use less resin in the material and is the key to the light blanks. The low resin content allows the fibers to work more freely, and this is particularly noticeable in the recovery speed of the blank, something we have worked very hard with to use to its full potential. You will notice this especially well in the Chrome double hand rods that flex a little more in the lower half than other Guideline rods yet produce a sensational acceleration in the delivery of the line. The same is also very evident in the Tactical rods.
LPX Chrome Two-Handed Rods with C.A.P M4.0™ Technology
Another feature worth mentioning is the unsanded blank that not only reduces the risk of grinding irregularities that cause blank weakness, but also is a more ECO-conscious way of finishing the blank as there is no graphite dust entering wastewater systems or the airways of a machine operator.
adh-fishing: You have already mentioned the LPX Chrome two-handed rods. In addition to the different one-handed rods, you have developed a total of three new two-handed rods: The LPX Chrome as a four-piece and six-piece rod and shorter, lighter Switch models. What are the differences to your NT8 Spey models, which are particularly popular with salmon anglers fishing in Scandinavia?
Leif Stävmo: The Chrome rods offer a slightly different, new approach to rod flex. As I mentioned earlier, the reason for this is the properties of the material we have at our disposal. But also in the conscious decision to offer rods that are even more user-friendly for the angler during long fishing days and forgiving more mistakes. In the two-handed rods, the difference between the NT8 and the Chrome is noticeable in a slightly softer tip area and a lighter load on the lower part of the Chrome, while the NT8 requires more skill from the angler in creating the D-loop and the front stop position in order to fully exploit the potential of the rod and its special Nano material.
LPX Chrome - Benutzerfreundliche Zweihandruten
For the Switch rods, the main difference is the line weight class. The NT8 rods are rated with slightly 'heavy' single hand line weight recommendations for the rods according to our older rating, like the LPXe Switch rods in the past. The Chrome 11'7 rods tend to be short two-handed rods, which is reflected in the line weights, which are true double-handed weights.
In terms of the number of parts in the rods, there are no significant differences in actions between the 4- and 6-piece NT8, nor between the versions of the Chrome range. However, the ability to fit the 6-piece rods into a large travel bag when going on a trip is the deciding factor for many anglers. In Scandinavia, many salmon anglers fish locally and don't have to travel by plane, and for them a four-piece rod is the ideal tool that fits nicely in the boot of their car and saves them the work of checking two more connections ;-)
adh-fishing: With the LPX Chrome two-handed rods you also offer many classes/lengths in a 6-piece version. Our customers are also more and more choosing the travel-friendly splitting. Are the days of 4-piece salmon rods over and have the pre-judgements against the action of 6-piece rods finally been overcome?
Leif Stävmo: We offer the rods in both a 4-piece and a 6-piece version in the two-handed models to meet the individual preferences of our customers. We have a 50/50 demand for both versions, so we offer the angler the choice of what they prefer. When we launched the NT8 we only offered them as 6-piece rods in the two-handed models, but it quickly became clear that we had a core group of anglers who didn't want the 'travel' rods, even though their actions and weights were just as crisp, responsive and light as a 4-piece rod. So we launched them as a 4-piece version at a later date. Yes, some anglers may still walk around with the old misconception that a 6-piece rod is heavier and 'lazier' when casting, but I think most of the younger generation are more open-minded and know that a 6-piece rod is just as good for casting and fishing as a 4-piece.
4-piece and 6-piece two-handed rods
I don't think the breakdown between the two versions will change in the near future, the demand for both will continue to be strong. We might even have to reissue some of the old iconic three-piece rods ;)
adh-fishing: Under the motto "Sustainable Fly Fishing" you have shown in recent years that there is still a lot that can be done in our industry in terms of environmental protection and sustainability. How is your sustainable approach reflected in the new LPX rods?
Leif Stävmo: Yes, that's one issue I'm getting more and more involved in, and we're trying to do 'best practice' and put a lot of time into finding ways to reduce our footprint on Mother Earth as much as possible. With our clothing we have come a long way and have gained a lot of momentum from the good work of the outdoor industry, but with the hardware it is a difficult task because we are still a small player in a big, wide world and manufacturers are hesitating to change their ways and leave their standard. But we are in the process of creating a better understanding among our suppliers that doing the hard work of researching and sourcing 'greener' components, materials and manufacturing processes wherever possible is a win-win situation for both of us. We also have an ongoing project where all our packaging is being reworked to eliminate the use of plastics and reduce the need for them altogether as much as possible. For a number of years now, all the handles on our rods have been supplied without plastic sleeves.
In the LPX range, we use only unsanded blanks, low-pollutant epoxy resins and coatings, and water-based adhesives for the cork handles. We prefer to use PVD-coated single leg rings because this eliminates the need for the chrome process, which may contain more lead.
We use recycled polyester for all rod bags and tube covers, and the tubes are made of polypropylene and are fully recyclable. I hope that we can make more progress with this work in the next few years and we have some exciting ideas on how to achieve some of these goals.
adh-fishing: When you look back at the development of the LPX rods, which model are you most proud of? Which rod from the LPX series puts the biggest smile on your face?
Leif Stävmo: Ha ha, I couldn't choose just one rod!!! There are just too many that I have become 'best friends' with. But in the Tactical range it has to be the 9' #5 rod which gives a totally unique overall feel, plus it's super cool in design and so light it's hard to believe.
LPX Tactical 9ft. #5 - Leif Stävmo's favourite rod
When it comes to Chrome rods, if I can only choose one, it has to be the 13'9 #9/10 6-piece rod that will surely be with me on every trip this season.
When chasing predators, my weapon of choice would be the 9'#9 rod, which always comes out on top both when casting and when pushing big, angry pike, and will kick any predator's butt. Now I'm looking forward to the new season and can't wait for it to come soon!
adh-fishing: Thank you very much for the interesting talk, Leif, and the insights you were able to give us behind the scenes at Guideline. We wish you tight lines for the new season and look forward to spending some quality time on the water with the LPX rods.