Thursday 13 May 2021

Vision Salmon Hero

Moving Targets

 Looking back over the past decade or so of Just One Week, it always seems to be the case that no sooner have I tested and reviewed a Vision rod than it becomes obsolete and is withdrawn from sale.  I've got used to it now and it hasn't put me off trying new rods and writing about them.  In the 2021 product cycle there are some real surprises.  Over the past year Vision has completely changed its range of double-handed rods:

  • The premium XO has been succeeded by the XO Graphene, with the same name, style, finish and performance
  • The long-serving Tool has finally been retired
  • The entry level Onki range has been reduced to single-handed only, pending stock run-down
  • The six-piece Sisu Siks remains, but will probably end shortly
The price-point positioning and range below the XO has been shifted and dramatically focused:
  • The Custom series, pitched at £700 - £850, comprises 4 general purpose salmon rods at 13, 14, 15 and 16 feet; and two specialist Skagit rods of around 13' 6".  The Custom range hasn't yet arrived in UK, but is scheduled for delivery in late May.  In that respect it's worth noting that Vision are not alone in having supply timing issues - presumably owed to the effects of Covid on supply chains - as Sage's new entry level double handers won't be available until after the season has ended.
  • The Hero is now their entry-level range, comprising just two rods, an 11' 2" #7 switch at £399, and a 13' 7" #8 general purpose at £449.  Both are now available in UK, and as soon as I could I got hold of a 13' 7" to try out.
After last week's left-handed session at Sleningford I was keen to blow the cobwebs out of my right handed casting, so I booked a lesson with Brian Towers and the rest of the day on Thoresby, which would allow me to achieve the double purpose of practice and trying the Hero.

Hero - First Impressions

Continuing Vision's long established tradition of eccentric presentation, the Hero comes in a cheerful primrose yellow tube with internal sub-dividers.  You're not likely to leave it behind!  Nevertheless, the cheerful colour is entirely in keeping with the Hero's happy demeanour and what it does for the user's morale.

The down-locking reel seat is a value engineered version of the design found on the XO.  The main nut is easy to screw down tightly on the coated thread, and the locking nut does its job simply and efficiently.  The combination provides a bullet proof hold on the reel: there wasn't even a hint of movement at the end of a day's casting.
The coated thread is silent and smooth in operation.  Altogether it amounts to an outstanding reel seat that approaches the Alps in quality and function.
The cork is at the standard you would expect at this price point - neat, well finished and with a moderate amount of filler.

The appearance is understated in every respect. The blank is semi-translucent black, and like the XO, has an un-machined surface.  The effect at distance is gloss black.  The whippings are neat and well finished with epoxy.  There are two stripper rings and the remainder are chrome snakes.
The rod balances nicely with a reel in the range 230-260 grams: during the day I used a variety - Lamson Guru 4, Vision Rulla and Danielsson L5W #8/12 - all of which were in the ideal weight span.

it's interesting to bear in mind that 13' 7" has a long pedigree as a Vision idiosyncracy, featuring in the Nite and Cult predecessors.  The profile of the Hero's blank bears a close resemblance to the Cult 13' 7".  Certainly the ferrules match (I had my Cult in the car).  However, the blank walls are substantially thinner, at least 10-15% and possibly more, which shows how there has been progressive trickle-down of the new resins from the premium ranges.  As a result the Hero is much lighter in the hand than the Cult, and feels correspondingly more lively.

On the Water

I tried a wide variety of lines with roll, single Spey, Snap T, Snake Roll and Double Spey casts, albeit I encountered some serious problems with my injured left shoulder in the Double Spey:
  • Scandi.  The rod has a wide weight window of 30 - 38 grams.  In the event the middle figure of 34 grams proved absolutely delightful, loading the rod fully and responding nicely with every cast, from short range rolls to full distance Single Spey.  I was able to cover the entire fishing width of the tail section of Frodle Dub without any wading.  Performance with a 38 gram line was competent but dull in comparison with the joys of the 34 gram.
  • Skagit.  The Hero was in its element with the Skagit, loading down to its boots before sending 10 feet of T11 and a brass tube the full width of Frodle Dub with minimal effort.  It also performed very well in extracting the sunken head from a slack back-eddy.  I didn't have the specified 580 grain line, but it was equally competent with both 550 and 600 grain lines.
  • Sinking Head.  Alan Maughan always held that extracting a sinking head was one of the most searching tests of a rod, in which strongly tip-raised actions were often found wanting.  The test line was an over-weight #9/10 Guideline 3D S3 with a 2" copper conehead tube.  The Hero rolled it up neatly before despatching a good single Spey.  I suspect that the Hero could have done a direct extract and cast with an on-weight #8 line. 
  • 55' Spey.  As I had a Unispey in the box I thought I'd give it a go.  However, its #9/10 weight seriously overmatched the Hero (and my ability).  I suspect that it would be happy with a #7/8, but there again, I only fish a full line once in a blue moon, and it's so much fun with a Scandi, why bother?


In total I spent nearly 5 hours casting and fishing with this rod.  Unfortunately, unlike my test of the Onki and Tool, I failed to catch a salmon.  Nevertheless, I ended a long day with a broad smile on my face.  Quite simply, the Hero is an absolutely delightful rod, which combines forgiveness for novices and inexpert casters with entertainment for the more skilled.  I don't like bling on rods, so the Hero's modest appearance appeals strongly to me.  The icing on the cake is the superb reel seat, which is as good as anything on the market.

The through action is exceptionally well-judged for an entry-level rod.  It clearly communicates everything that's going on in the cast.  The sensation under load during the delivery stroke is amongst the best I've encountered, and certainly far superior to many other rods at this price point that I've tested.  Its performance with a 34g Scandi is pure joy.  The action design also makes the Hero a superb Skagit rod: I would happily have spent longer fooling around dredging the deep head of Frodle with all manner of ironmongery on super-fast tips, but there were other lines to try for the purposes of this article.  I was similarly impressed by its ability to roll up and deliver the over-weight Guideline 3D sinking head, a task that regularly defeated my old Cross S1.

If I didn't already own the utterly divine 'Yar' 13' 6" XO (double the money), I would certainly buy the Hero.  Indeed, of all the rods I've tried in this length range over the past 5 years, the XO is the only one that I like better than the Hero.  That is praise indeed.


  1. Great review, I will try it! Thanks, eliot

  2. Would this be a good first rod for an ecperienced single handed fisherman (but complete double handed novice). To be fishing the Tyne, Wear and Coquet. Big fan of Vision (have three of their single handers)

    1. This is an ideal first double handed rod with a very forgiving through action. Indeed, its action help to mitigate the effects of "trout fisher's top hand disease", which with stiffer and more tip action rods can be a real cast-killer.
      It's a perfect length for the Tyne and the Wear, but a bit big for most of the Coquet. In due course you might like to look at its little Switch brother for the latter water.
      I commend this rod to you as a committed angler without hesitation or reservation: it's lovely. But if at all possible, do try before you buy.

  3. Thanks. I am actually going to try the Switch this weekend. Been advised by the head bailiff in the club I have joined that a switch rod would be the better choice for the beats they have.

  4. Michael,
    How does it compare to the Vision Mag 13'?
    I enjoy the Mag with a 34gram head (bought the rod based on your review!) but I wouldn't mind a slightly longer rod and the 13'7" length is ideal for the rivers I fish.

    1. Don,
      it's not quite as crisp and fast as the MAG, but it's a smashing delight to cast and handles a wider variety of lines better than the MAG. Yes, the MAG is lovely with the 34g Scandi, but the Hero is superior with Skagit and sinking heads.
      I recommend the Hero 13' 7" without reservation. If I didn't already have the fabulous XO 13' 6" I would have bought the Hero. You'll love it.

  5. Hi Michael,
    Thanks for another great review. I mostly use the 13ft Onki these days for much of my fishing. I notice that the Hero has the same line rating. Perhaps difficult to remember from your review of the Onki but would you rate the Hero to be the better rod? Thanks, Graham

    1. The Hero is a brilliant rod for the money, with a delightful feel in the hands when casting and fishing. It's different to the Onki - not least nearly a foot longer - but perhaps half a generation step up in carbon and resin technology. If you're looking for a rod for bigger rivers, it would be a great choice `and I recommend the Hero without hesitation, but I wouldn't regard it as a direct swap for the Onki 13 for smaller waters on account of the increased length.

    2. Thanks Michael, funnily enough I measured my Onki today and it is in fact 13'1" so only 6 inches longer in fact for the Hero. I also notice that the Onki has a higher modulus carbon but I guess how they construct the blank and with perhaps advances in resin technology makes the difference..

  6. An excellent review. I already have a similar length/weight rod and cant justify another at the moment. Have you tried the latest Hero 14' 7" version yet, or heard anything about it ? Thank you.

  7. How would you describe the action of the rod?
    Tip or 1/2 or 1/3 ?

    1. it's a full actioned rod that brings all of its sections into play when well loaded. You feel exactly what's going on, right into your hands on the butt during a single Spey cast, which makes it delightfully easy to use. So on your scale, which I don't fully understand, my answer would be at least 1/2.