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May 7, 2011 / flogginwater

Gear Corner – Eagle Claw Featherlite 7′ 5/6 Weight Fly Rod

It’s been a couple weeks now since I broke down and paid my $24.99 to Dick’s Sporting Goods for my Eagle Claw Featherlite fly rod. The Featherlite series has been around forever, there’s been some changes in the line up over time, but very few, and most of those have been cosmetic, for the most part. They still use the bright yellow fiberglass blank that some folks love, and some folks shudder at (I happen to be one of the former.) They still use matching yellow wraps for the guides. The latest rods feature nice hardwood reel seat inserts and brass hardware, with traditional snake guides that are gold in color. Some previous versions utilized single foot spinning rod guides. The newest versions have cork grips with neat sheet-cork high lights, to give the grip a two tone look seen on a few much higher end rods.

There are a few versions of the Featherlite in the series, a 6’6″ 4/5, a 7′ 5/6, and an 8′ 5/6 (at least these are the current ones that I’ve seen and only ones I can find info about). All rods are two piece.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not going to say that these rods are THE best rod out there – not even close. I’m not going to say that EVERYONE should run out and get one (though if you don’t, you’re going to miss out on what all us cool kids are getting into). I’m not saying that these rods are going to make you a better fisherman (though you might have more fun fishing with one of these, than with some super stiff, soul-less graphite stick.) What I am saying, is that these rods are pure fun to fish with.

I’ve had two short trips out with this rod, and although I haven’t hooked into a fish (yet) I’ve had plenty of casting time with it (and that’s really what a rod review should focus on, right?) both over water, and on the lawn (and in the drive way.)

My first impression of this rod was that it had a surprisingly nice wiggle to it – not stiff and cheap, nor was it too noodly. Pairing it up with my Argus 5/6 reel loaded up with a short WF 6 floating line, I went to work seeing what it could do in the driveway. I was able to cast as short as 10′ (just the leader) and just as able to boom out a 50′ cast.

Taking the rod out to a local pond during a carp fishing trip, I tried a few small dry flies and bead head nymphs, along with my much loved #8 bead head olive bunny buggers. The rod did great. I wish the fish had cooperated!

Then just this past Thursday, I took the rod out to Hagg, for the maiden voyage of the new Scanoe, in search of bass and panfish. The first fly I tied on was a #6 black and yellow deer hair popper. A nice wind resistant fly – the little Featherlite punched the popper 40 feet across the creek channel to the shallow weeds on the far side no problems. The fish weren’t interested in my popper, so I switched back to my #8 bunny bugger – again being shut out by the fish, but not the Featherlite.

Casting in the back yard, I decided to try simulating fishing in heavy cover. What better place to try this, than the filbert (hazel nut) orchard behind the house? Lots of brush, narrow casting lanes, and lots of ready made targets to choose from to simulate pin point pockets of water!

The little rod did great in the close quarters tests, and only when I opened up my casting loops, or threw a high back cast, did the line grab the brush – just as it would if I were fishing on some of my favorite small streams (I can’t get pictures fishing these streams just yet, since they don’t open up here in Oregon until May 28th.) Short, pinpoint casts worked great, and so long as I aimed right, kept my line speed up (and thus my loops tight) and kept the casting plane low, I could lay out a 40′ cast easily.

Changing things up a bit, I swapped reels and lines – taking the Okuma Sierra 5/6 off of my much loved WW Grigg Heritage Series fiberglass 5/6 weight. The Okuma is loaded with a #5 floating double taper line. First trials were short casts – 10′ (this is a common casting distance on the small streams I had in mind when I bought this rod) – again the Featherlite performed with no problems. Then I stripped off another 15′ of line, and let the rod show off the 25-30′ range, which it also handled with no problems. Finally I pulled off more line, to see if I could duplicate the 50’+ casts that were possible with the WF line. Watching the line unroll in the air behind me on the back cast is a pleasure, then watching it straighten ahead of me, landing softly on the water (and the lawn) proved to me what this rod really can do. Reading some forums and reviews of this rod – it’s left me scratching my head. There’s a number of folks who’ve complained that this rod is only good for short range work and small fish – I’m not sure what they consider short range.

For a sense of scale, i’ve included a couple photos: My work truck – an International Navistar 4300 extended cab, with a Jerr-Dan 21 and a half foot roll bed – is exactly 35′ from the front bumper to the trailing edge of the tow bar. Standing at the back edge of the truck, I was able to launch a cast, using both the WF6 and the DT5 lines, out into the middle of the road I live on, 15′ past the nose of the truck as she sits in the driveway. Simple math tells us that 35′ of truck, plus 15′ of driveway and roadway = 50 feet.

While it’s not long distance, it’s most definitely on the longer end of mid-range casting distance, and only about 10 or 15 feet short of what I can do with my more expensive Grigg glass rod, and my graphite rods. That’s really more than can be asked of a $25 el-cheapo rod, and it makes me happier than a pig in shit that the little Eagle Claw performs so well!

For another sense of scale, I took a couple lawn-casting photos with my Grigg Heritage rod, using the WF6 line. With no effort, I could cast into the backing with the Grigg using that short WF line.

The Eagle Claw requires a bit more effort to pump out such a cast – it’s doable, but it does require a bit of extra effort. That’s the difference though, between a $25 rod, and a $70 rod. I’m sure a $300 custom rod would require even less effort – they better for that kind of money!

I do think you’d be hard pressed to find a rod with a dollars:fun ratio better than these little Eagle Claws. Some folks might give you grief over the bright yellow black, or that your rod didn’t cost $100, $200, $300, or $1000 dollars – but I’ve never once had a fish ask me how much my fishing rod cost, I’ve never had one say “you know, I really like the looks of that green colored Sage rod the other guy is using more than your yellow fiberglass rod”, and I’ve never put much stock in to what others think of my gear. It works, it works well for what it is, and if I ever break my little Eagle Claw, I can march down to Dicks, or the local general store, or hop online, and get another one for $25 or less. A rod costing 10 times more could not give me any more fishing fun than this one can. The other neat thing with these rods – they’re perfect for introducing a child or beginner to fly fishing, without spending too much money on a first outfit. Some folks just seem bent on pushing $100+ rods on beginners, and to me that’s just wrong. Spending that much money on something you’ve never tried, and don’t know if you’re going to like or not, is foolish unless your name is Bill Gates or Steve Forbes.

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6 Comments

  1. Cofisher / May 7 2011 21:21

    A very fair and accurate review of the Eagle Claw Featherlight. I prefer the older Featherlight, like from around 1964 or so because they weren't yellow. Just my preference. The only really bad ones, in my opinion, are the 1980s I believe because of the yellow blank and spinning reel guides. May have even had foam grip. Good job.

  2. John Montana / May 8 2011 09:07

    I have an old fen wick glass rod. Fun to fish but I mostly stick to the ponds with it. I get into some brunette on the river and want to make sure I am not under gunned. Magic wrench (carping legend Keith Meyers) does 100 percent of his carping on glass…usually with one of his small dogs cradled in one arm. It is crazy to watch.

  3. Cofisher / May 8 2011 09:51

    John, Keith is the man and along with Maddie Sue posts frequently of his trips on Fiberglass Flyrodders in case you're not a member there. Great site.

  4. Mark / May 8 2011 17:49

    John – I can understand not wanting to be under gunned. I'd be killer to find a GOOD old 8 weight glass rod – would be great for steelies, salmon, tossing huge bass bugs that I just can't do with a 6, and of course, hunting big carp with.

    Fiberglass Flyrodders is an awesome site 🙂

  5. brandon4455 / May 10 2011 00:52

    thats an awesome review mark. I wanted to buy one of these but did't know if it was worth it or not. looks good enough to me!

    brandon

  6. gfen / Feb 23 2012 14:32

    The older series rods, with the graphite seats, are a different taper design and rumour has it they're no good. I dunno, I've only got the newer ones.

    The 7' is a sweet rod, the 8' is a dog. The 7' seems to like a 6wt better than a 5wt (or a non-aftma spec 5wt line). The 8' rod is most assuredly a 6wt, or a 7wt even. Its also amazingly tip heavy.

    If you're only buying one, buy the 7'.

    There's also the Water Eagle series or some crap out there. Same sweet yellow blank, EVA grips and I think blue thread. I haven't experienced it, but I'm pretty sure its not in the same ballpark as the FL-300-7.

    As for durability? Good luck trying to break it. I've smashed it full force into stone pylons over a year ago, and let it roll around in the back of my vehicle in full sun. Unstoppable.

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