Rod Review: Thomas & Thomas Zone 10' 4wt
In my post last week, I wrote about taking a trip to the West Branch of the Delaware with my brother and cousin. I mentioned I would be doing a rod review of the Thomas & Thomas 10’ 4wt Zone rod. I’ve been using this rod on my own a fair amount and it’s been a workhorse for me guiding the streams and rivers for trout (I also use the bigger sticks in the salt). My brother has also borrowed the rod a time or two, as he did on the Delaware. Without wasting more of your time, let’s jump right in!
The Zone is T&T’s entry into the mid-priced rod market as it comes in quite a bit less than the Contact, Exocett, Avantt, and Paradigm selections. I don't know that T&T has offered a mid-priced rod since the old Emerger Series. The Zone is offered in anything from a 7’6” 3wt to a 9’ 10wt. The 10’ 4wt model was a new addition to the lineup in 2020. It was a welcomed addition, at least for me, as I feel the 10’ 4wt is the perfect all-around trout fishing tool. Sure, there are different rods and sizes that do one thing better than others when it comes to trout fishing. For modern nymphing techniques, the Contact 10’8” 3wt comes to mind. Throwing big streamers big distances, the 10’ 4wt is not my first choice. For an everyday rod that does a little bit of everything well, this rod might be the best option.
One of the first things we notice when pulling the rod out of the tube and sock is the craftsmanship we’ve grown accustomed to with Thomas & Thomas fly rods. While it’s not finished quite as nicely as its more expensive counterparts, the Zone is a beautifully handcrafted rod. It’s crafted right here in the U.S.A. as well, and that’s important to me. The rod near the handle is a beautiful dark blue while the rest of the rod is a dark gray with dark blue wraps. The rod has a nice natural appearance and finish, much like the Contact or older rod series like the Solar, as opposed to the smooth matte finishes of the Avantt or Exocett. The 10’ 4wt Zone comes with a comfortable cork and cork composite handle. It also comes standard with a cork/composite fighting butt. The reel seat is a dark blue fiberglass to match the color above the handle and the reel seat hardware is clear anodized aluminum. I've always been a fan of nice wood reel seats and would have preferred to have seen something different here on the freshwater models, but it is a mid-priced rod and the existed reel seat is rolled in house at T&T. Moving up the rod, it comes with a chrome hook keeper just above the handle. The rod’s markings near the handle are the same Thomas & Thomas label seen on other rods, with the rod model directly underneath. The serial number of the rod is handwritten on each of the four sections of the rod. The stripping guide has a titanium frame and zirconium insert, while the remaining guides on this model are single foot chrome guides.
The rod looks great, but how does it perform? As I mentioned above, it’s a great all-around trout rod. At 10’, it’s got extra reach and tippet protection to jump into modern nymphing tactics. If you’re indicator fishing, the extra length helps with line mending. The advantages of line mending carry over to the dry fly side of things as well. Tippet protection is excellent into 5x and 6x. Protection at 7x is still very good but does require a bit of finesse and care. If you Bill Dance or Jimmy Houston bass set, the result probably won’t be great. That said, on days I plan to utilize modern nymphing techniques, I pair the rod with Cortland’s double taper competition nymphing line at .017 diameter, an 8lb. mono leader and sighter to a tippet ring, and then 6x-7x fluorocarbon tippet. It’s been a great setup. The setup is similar to what I use for my T&T Contact rod, but the Contact is the ultimate nymphing stick and handles a finer leader and tippet much better.
A weight forward 4 weight floater throws well when casting dry flies. The rod is comfortably in the medium action class and throws exceptionally well and accurately in short to mid-range distances. However, you will not win any distance competitions with this rod. Distance is not the rod’s intended use. As I mentioned above, I feel line control, mending, and drift management are simpler with the 10’ stick. The rod roll casts very well and it has the backbone and power to throw a weight forward line and a small indicator rig. Start small though, as a weighted fly or two, an indicator, and fly line can weigh it down quickly. It throws a dry-dropper setup nicely as well.
Moving onto the streamer game, the rod handles small streamers with ease. Whether you’re jigging small streamers, swing them down and across, or stripping them back, this rod does it well, especially with the jigging aspect. It does not throw big streamers nicely, but again, its intended use is not throwing 6” articulated flies. One area the rod does work well with bigger 4”-5” articulated streamers is flipping or pitching these larger patterns on small creeks. Many of the streams I fish daily are quite small and very brush and tree lined. Overhead false casts are rarely an option. Pools and pockets are small and a 30’-40’ cast isn’t needed or even an option as streams aren’t always 30’ wide. Being 10’ and fairly light and controllable, it’s easy and effective to flip or pitch big streamers a short distance, placing them exactly where you want them, and then twitching or swinging them through the target zone.
A few other things I've noticed over the course of the year is the swing weight is, naturally, a little bit heavier than a more expensive model with more technology and lighter materials such as the Avantt. The recovery speed is good, but not great. That type of lightweight technology and ultra fast recovery is only found in the high end rods. If you're after a super light rod and very fast recovery, the Avantt might be the rod to look into, but it's also $300 more. Unless you're used to throwing high end rods and know what you're really looking for, the Zone will fit most people well.
All in all, the T&T Zone 10’ 4wt is a very good all-around trout fly fishing rod. It has the balance of touch, feel, backbone, and finesse to handle large fish and small tippets. It does many things very well, but nothing exceptionally well. There are rods far better suited for modern nymphing. There are rods far superior for streamer fishing. There are rods more accurate when throwing fine dry flies, though I am a believer that accuracy is and can be learned with the rod you’re holding. It’s a matter of adapting. Certainly, there are rods that help you achieve accurate casts more consistently, but I feel the caster should be able to adjust to their rod and learn how to cast accurately with the stick in their hand. If you aren’t a guide or a fly fishing junkie who can afford to own all kinds of rods for all kinds of occasions, this rod is my recommendation for a mid-priced all-around trout rod. I have loads of confidence in this rod every time I put it in my hand. My guests who have used the rod have had nothing but good things to say. I like the rod a lot and it will continue to be a workhorse and go-to rod in my arsenal.
Just don’t leave the rod on the roof of your car and drive away… I did, and when I realized what I had done, it was too late. Circling back, I saw the rod in the middle of the road, pulled over to rescue it, and watched helplessly as the car behind me sped out and around, giving me the finger in the process, and proceeded to run the rod over. All 4 sections were smashed to pieces and the rod was a total loss. I've since replaced it.
Thanks for reading and I hope this review helps anyone in the market for a new rod. As always, please feel free to reach out with any questions.
Until next time, CHECK THE ROOF OF YOUR TRUCK!