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September 20, 2011 / flogginwater

Indecision – again!

Just when I thought I had my new rod(s) picked out – I got and muck it up again by wiggling MORE rods, and some of the previous rods again.

I’ve been in the local fly shop three times this week, trying rods out. What I’ve come up with?

The Cabela’s LSi is still at the tip top of the list as far as castability and lightness.

The Echo Carbon is right up there trying to squeeze the LSi out for top dog.

Then there is the Fish Field – a rod imported by an Oregon company, and it’s the “store brand” if you can call it that, for the fly shop in question.

Then there’s Wright & McGill, with some of their more upscale offerings.

Top of that, is the St. Croix Imperial. I haven’t gotten to cast an Imperial lately, but they’re light in hand, lively, wiggly, and really pretty. I need to cast one of these!

Lately I’ve been focusing my efforts on casting 5-6 weight rods – figuring that at this point in the season, the heavier rods make more sense than the light weight #3’s I’ve been looking hard at too.

Of the 6 weight rods I’ve tried, each has been unique, each has been wonderful, and each has had features the others didn’t. It’s damn hard to pick one because of that! No one rod stands out head and shoulders above the best.

The LSi, for example, is the lightest, thinnest blank of the rods I’ve tried. It feels lively, and casts great. All pros. Down sides? Mostly cosmetic, for me. I’m not big on gold-finished hardware, of which the LSi uses. At $189 it’s still under my $200 target. 25 year warranty.

The Echo Carbon, the next best rod in my mind, utilizes a full wells grip on the 6 weight, and includes a fighting butt. Nice touches on a 6. The blank is fatter, but it’s still light weight. Tim Rajeff makes rods for casting, and it’s very evident in this rod. It also utilizes single foot guides, vs. traditional snakes on the LSi – which is neither a pro nor a con, but a simple observation. I like the looks of this rod – the only thing I’d like better, would be a wood reel seat instead of the engraved aluminum seat. And I’m not sure I dig the copious amount of composite cork on the handle, from a simple aesthetics point of view. It looks funny, but casts great. $169 is what it takes to bring one of these home, $20 less than the LSi. Lifetime warranty.

The Fish Field rod tested was a 9′ 4 piece that uses a fancy aluminum skeleton reel seat with a carbon fiber weave insert, like the LSi uses but fancier. This rod utilizes undersized snake guides, fancy lock rings, a fancy winding check. It’s one of the prettiest rods of the bunch. Casting, I’d rank it just under the Echo. It is a bit heavier than the Echo or the LSi, but not what I’d call “heavy” at all. The grip is a bit thin, but has a sculpted area for the thumb that has an EVA composite insert pressure pad. I’d rather see a full wells grip, but this thumb shelf is an interesting touch. $150 is the price tag on this one. Lifetime warranty, warranted through the store vs. sending the rod in to the maker. Nice touch.

The Wright & McGill rod tested was a 9′ 4 piece with spigot ferrules, fancy wood reel seat, fancy lock nuts, beautiful metallic trip wraps, undersized guides, and a swelled butt. The most beautiful rod of the bunch, but the heaviest and stiffest. It still casts well though. Regular price is $200, but the rod is currently on sale for $150. Lifetime warranty.

The St. Croix Imperial is another contender in the 9′ 6 weight. It features a rosewood reel seat, a light weight blank (I’d say it’s about in between the Echo and the Fish Field weight wise), traditional snakes. Nice wiggle, but I need to cast it. Price was $169.00 with lifetime warranty.

The TFO Professional Series offers some nice rods, a 6 weight with full wells grip, traditional snakes, etc. But the blank is a bit heavy, the action not on par with some of the other rods. I’m also not a giant fan of black anodized aluminum reel seats on expensive rods. It’s a cheap move. I’d rather see a fancy skeleton reel seat, a carbon fiber insert, or better yet – wood. If a $30 Cabela’s rod can have a real wood reel seat, a $200 rod should at least come with one too.

The Sage Vantage was nicer than the Sage VXP – which seemed odd since the VXP is much more expensive. The Sage rod just didn’t leave me with that super warm and fuzzy spark though. It was really…mediocre. On the other hand, I did tenderly wiggle one of the Sage One rods – if I had the cash, I’d own a bunch. But I’m a piss poor tow truck monkey – and I couldn’t save enough money in a year to buy a Sage One. If I did, I’d be too scared to fish it, even with the warranty.

The Winston Passport was likewise nothing special. It was actually pretty clubby feeling. NOT what I’d expect from Winston. I know they won’t make a $200 version of the BiiiX but seriously – for $200 they can roll a way better rod (especially considering that Tim Rajeff sells his Echo Solo rods, which are much better than the Passports, for a hundred bucks.)

For $200, a guy has a LOT of options. And of course, there’s the temptation to try building a custom rod also, and make it exactly what I want.

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2 Comments

  1. John Montana / Sep 20 2011 20:58

    For what it is worth, I would go echo in that price range. I have an echo 2 saltwater that I love…great rod. Mime is a 6 wt with a fighting butt and was perfect for AK.

    To make matters more confusing, you can probably get a sage vt2 (discontinued) on eBay or craigslist for around $300 or so. I have one in a 7 wt, great rod. As for st Croix, try the avid. I have an 8 wt avid…good rod.

    You are welcome to swing by my place sometime mark. I have a variety of rods you can try (including some cane rods that are in need of a little tlc). Let me know if you want to cast a few.

  2. Cofisher / Sep 21 2011 11:29

    I'm a big fan of the St. Croix. Best fly rod for the money in my humble opinion. Same for the W&M. Unless you specifically want a 4-piece though, I'd stick with some of their 2-piece rod. W&M is usually under-rated.

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