When I step into the river it rejuvenates me. All I really need is a rod, line, reel, couple flies, crappy waders and boots. My rod is by my side ready to act as if I were to find myself in a speedy gunfight with an aggressive fish. I know that mine will prevail. It is a custom R.B. Meiser Rod and it has been with me through rough and tangled times, like a trusty partner or sidekick. The Meisers have been called the ‘Johnny Cash’ of two handers by a recent Steelheaders mag review, but I call his rods the John Wesley Hardins of the West; the true grit cowboy that prevailed. His rods give me this warm smooth whiskey, darn tough, and soulful feeling. They are sexy with deep flex, a stiff tip, and junk in the trunk; all with a crisp bite towards the end to deliver whatever line suits your fancy. These rods are tough but dolled up like beautiful bordello ladies that line the balconies, cordially waving you in. They are sexy, yes, but functional and intriguing. Always making you come back for more.
Now, we are talking about a two-handed rod… right? Indeed, so let’s get down to it. Below we will go over the history of different rods that Bob and his crew have built in the past and what selection is offered today. I am going to break down the technical talk and try to deliver terms that will better help you understand, compare, and choose your rod with ease knowing that you have chosen the right one.
As a logical angler, I find fishy water and target them with the right tools. I fish in hopes of having a dance with a steelhead, and having the right tools keeps my body and mind connected to the task at hand.
The first rods Bob started building were short two handed rods, and he was influential in popularizing the ‘Switch Rod’ concept. However, about twenty years ago, Bob started designing and building longer two handed rods. Much of their early developments were based on a group effort with feedback given by a broad range of cooperative anglers with skill levels that varied from entry level to seasoned two handed anglers. Several fly fishing camps located in both Canada and the US also gave Meiser rods honest and constructive seasonal hands-on feedback with assistance from not only the camp guides, but also from their fishing clientele as well.
R.B. Meiser Highlander Classic Series – The CX Rods
The Highlander Classics are the original series of Meiser rods. They have gone through three generational material upgrades over the past 15 years. They have just recently been upgraded with new super secret black magic, Jedi materials. This most recent generation is called the Highlander CX series. The major difference that you will notice after casting and fishing Bob’s new series of Highlanders is that they have a much lighter weight in hand. The new CXs are 15-20% lighter then their previous generation. This new ‘Area 51’ technology allows the angler to maximize delivery capability, while utilizing only a minimal amount of expended energy. Bottom line: You simply don’t have to work hard to get these rods to participate! The new material also allows for a stronger, more durable blank. The blanks are not sanded, allowing for a stronger ‘True Grit’ look to the rod. These more sensitive rods have a crisp and ‘feely’ power allowing for a more in-tune cast and fish fight. Feel more and be one with the rod!
The Highlander CX rods are most appreciated by those anglers that will enjoy a fast speed-of-recovery rod, with an action that allows for a very even and incremental increase in power from tip to butt, with an equally even and uniform flex from tip to butt. Bob defines the Highlander CXs as medium action, fast speed-of-recovery rods. They are NOT tip action rods, i.e., unfriendly, wimpy rods with soft tips and stiff butts. Rather, their power will be felt very nicely well into the cork when under line load, with plenty of top end authority. The bottom line is they are caster-friendly rods.
The CX rods are the thoroughbred race horses of the R.B. Meiser series of rods. When you think CX, think light in hand, think even flex, power increase from tip to butt, and a quick pick-up or speed-of-recovery. “The new CX’s are where functional design meets contemporary material … and all the while still representing the benchmark that all other R.B. Meiser family actions have been derived.”- Bob
The MKX rods
The MKX rods have derived from the original MKS rods. This series of rods are named after Mike Kinney, “The Mike Kinney Special.” Bob shared a booth with Paul Miller, Kate Davidson and Bob Quigley at the Seattle Fly Fishing show in 2002. Mike Kinney was in the booth door. Bob describes him as a “grumpy motherfucker with a heart of gold”. Mike gave Bob kind strife about his switch rods. Bob laughed and understood his comment because very few two-handed rods were less then 13′ at this time. Needless to say, Mike’s gritty wit and Bob’s sense of humor hit it off. Mike would go on to tell Bob that he “liked the way his rods looked far more than the way they cast.” From then on he and Mike were bonded and started working together.
After the show was over, Mike and Bob cobbled together a couple of prototype actions until they got an action that was close to Mike’s approval. From this original benchmark, Bob designed several prototypes meeting those criteria and sent them off to Mike. He liked the rods but continued critiquing them until they were exactly up to standard. Thus, the MKS, or Mike Kinney Special, was created. These rods were an immediate success and basically put R.B. Meiser Rods on the map. Still to this day, Bob will send off a representation of the newest generation of the MKS rods to Mike for him to fish.
About the MKX Rods
The actions of the MKX are very different then the Highlander CX rods. Rather than the very uniform progressive actions of the Highlanders, the MKX rods have compound actions which makes a huge difference with their energy transfer. And it is noticeable!
When comparing a Highlander CX to an MKX rod, you will find the top 2/3 will have 15% to 20% more energy (will be stiffer) then would be a comparable CX. The bottom 1/3 of the MKX will actually increase in flex (will be softer) than would be a comparable CX. This allows the MKX to have a deep loading, full flex action with a fast/medium to fast speed of recovery. And again, the most noticeable difference between the new MKX rods and their previous generation will be their actual weight in hand. Like the new CX rods, the new MKX rods are 15% to 20% lighter in hand. They also have increased durability, slightly faster speeds of recovery, increased sensitivity, and broader grain windows.
The MKX rods are favored by those two-handed anglers that prefer an extremely authoritative, deep loading rod with a lot of top end power, and a fast/medium fast speed of recovery. Perfect for those anglers that appreciate stiff in the tip, with junk in the trunk!
Bob describes this rod as “having an older and traditional rod action; the Brits and Scots would call them ‘through-action rods’, glass and bamboo guys ‘parabolics'”. If the Highlanders are the thoroughbreds of the R.B. Meiser series, then the MKS rods are the hard working, reliable Clydesdales. Bob likes to say that the MKX rods have incredible work ethics, allowing the caster to achieve maximum distances with very little expended energy required from the caster. If it sounds like a competition rod … well it is. Many casters are using this type of rod action at the distance casting events like the Golden Gate Spey-O-Rama.
Another perk about these rods is that they are not line specific. They have very broad grain windows allowing delivery for a vey wide selection of lines. Be it Skagit, Scandi or longer bellied classic Speys, they all cast with equal efficiency. The stiffness in the tip creates a lot of top end power allowing the angler to cast heavy flies and Skagits with little effort, while still having a sweetness about them allowing minimal anchor touch-and-go deliveries typically used for lighter Scandi heads. When you hear MKX think deep loading rod with a (slower) speed of recovery, and a huge amount of top end power. Think broader grain window and all around a heightened sensitivity or ‘feely’ rod.
How the Ordering Process Works
Step one: contact the shop, give them a call, or drop an email. When Meiser and his crew builds a rod for an angler they really want to pick their brain. They’ll be lots of questions asked in regards to what waters the angler will fish and the specific gamefish to be pursued. Questions will be asked regarding their history with single handed rods, and their experiences with their presently owned two handed rods. Chosen line systems, flies to be used, delivery styles utilized, etc. These questions will all be addressed to assist in selecting the correct rod/line marriages to best meet the anglers needs.
Another perk that the R.B. Meiser crew offers is their field trial rod program. They will send off a rod (or rods) for the angler to actually try out hands-on. This is really the very best way for you to truly know if the rod will suit your personal casting styles and fishing enviornments.
Humble Heron’s Rant
I have casted many rods and there are so many beautiful rods out there. It is easy to have a quiver of rods and have one for every occasion or for every river. Trust me I am guilty of this. However, as I am growing older and in the process of down-sizing and keeping my life simpler I find myself looking for more universal rods … rods that I can use for multiple applications. As much as we can get wrapped up in the gear and the technical side of things, it is nice and comforting to find rods that can be fished anywhere with ease. I fish Meiser rods because they are beautiful pieces of art, smooth, hardworking and damn fishy, but mostly because Bob takes the time to talk with me and share his knowledge. He is a passionate friend to have.
One of Bob’s mantras is that a well designed two handed rod will not discriminate between various line systems, nor will it discriminate between the applied casting styles. It is the angler that will determine these specifics, and the angler will do so out of personal preference or to meet a specific angling environment. Some people like blondes over brunettes; some prefer scotch to bourbon; cigars versus chew, etc. Bob understands this and takes the time to find your perfect rod/line marriage.
Check out Bob and his crew’s builds at: https://meiserflyrods.com