Ho, ho, ho — Santa’s got an Echo

Maximize your deer-hunting opportunities by taking advantage of the state’s generous muzzleloader seasons.

If the excuse for not having a rod or reel on your Christmas wish list is because you’ve been waiting for the 2005 models to come out, then I’ve got some good news: I just saved a bunch of money on my insurance by switching… no just kidding, the good news is that most of the 2005 product lines are already out.

From an equipment standpoint, there’s never been a better time to get into the sport of fly fishing. Companies are finding ways to keep costs down and make rods more affordable, either through offshore production or by use of cutting edge technology.

Competition is strong across all product lines, and quality at a moderate price point is the best it’s ever been.

Of course, if you’re looking to spend $600 on a fly rod, no problem. The high-priced, premium rods will always be there, driven by loyalty to a handcrafted tradition. Yet the bulk of offerings is now under $250.

Let’s not confuse inexpensive with cheap. Cheap is that fiberglass fly rod at Wally World with the EVA foam grip.

There are two things you should never do. First, never get in a boat with Scott Peterson. Second, never buy a cheap fly rod.

Consider that an inexpensive graphite fly rod back in 1986 cost me $75. It had no replacement warranty and couldn’t hold a candle casting-wise to today’s Temple Fork S1 rod, priced only $15 more.

I’ve been bragging on Temple Fork Outfitters for several years now, and it seems with the addition of Lefty Kreh to their design team that their rods have kicked it up a notch.

In the upper weights, the TFO rods are tough to beat. If you’re looking for distance, look no further than the TiCR model. Proficient casters can consistently put 100 feet of line out using the 8-weight. I’ve used this rod to battle medium-sized tarpon; it has unbelievable big-fish fighting capacity.

In fact, I’d recommend using the 6- or 7-weight in any of their models for specks and reds. The four-piece TiCR sells for $225, the four-piece Professional series starts at $135, and the two-piece S1 only $90.

Echo Rods are quickly becoming the next TFO. Designed by casting champion brothers Tim and Steve Rajeff, these rods come as four-piece travel rods with cordura cases. I’ve been told Santa even has an Echo, or perhaps an Echo-ho-ho.

Prices range from $130 to $160. The warranty is the same as with TFO rods: Send it back with $25 and receive a new one.

St. Croix has long been an industry leader in high-performance value rods. In 2004, St. Croix reinforced their position by introducing the Premier series of rods for under $100, and upgrading the St. Croix Legend Ultra with their patented IPC Technology. IPC basically means no spines to the rod.

For 2005, St. Croix has added new models to the Premier and Legend Ultra, including a 7-foot, 9-inch, 3-weight Ultra that is one of the smoothest four-piece ultralights I’ve ever cast.

In between the Premier and Ultra series are the Imperial ($150) and the Avid ($200) series. All St. Croix rods come with cordura cases, and are made in the USA.

Orvis has introduced the seven-piece Frequent Flyer rods. The Flyers range from 4-weight to 9-weight, and despite so many pieces, cast surprisingly well. Imagine having a quality finished rod, that you can carry in your briefcase, and only costs $200. Little wonder these are flying off racks!

While Sage is known for its premium fly rods, its DS2 and LE models gave those on a budget an opportunity to experience the great “Sage action” that its patented tapers are known for.

For 2005, the DS2 and LE has been replaced by the Launch and FL1 series, respectively. The DS2 was my favorite, but the new Launch is more my style. This progressive-action rod loads easily and smoothly, and yet can throw lots of line. The 9-foot, 8-weight, four-piece at $200 may be the best among new inshore rods.

Other value rods worth getting a serious look are the Bass Pro CV2 ($149), Cortland CL ($100), Diamondback Americana ($140) and Heritage ($130). The 3-weight CV2 is a really sweet rod for bluegill.

The real news is with reels. Among the new offerings are the Orvis Pro Guide Mid-Arbor, the Redington CD, the Echo Graphite and the TFO Large Arbor.

The epitome of value is the Orvis Pro Guide. For many years, the Orvis Battenkill, a diecast reel with a limited offset drag system, was the most popular reel used in the Louisiana marsh.

The new Pro Guide offers center-line drag, one-way clutch bearing, 720 degrees drag adjustment, composite glass drag surfaces, and is machined for barstock aluminum and hard anodized to either black or gold. A vast improvement over the Battenkill, yet the 8-weight model sells for exactly the same price — $125.

Sage’s acquisition of Redington has resulted in vast improvements of both products and customer service. The new Redington CD reel is much like the Pro Guide, but uses a cork drag instead, and sells for $139. The large-arbor Brakewater represents one of the best values in an offshore-capable reel, with a large cork/teflon drag and a price tag under $270.

The new large arbor reel from Temple Fork won’t hit the market until just before Christmas. I had the opportunity to examine a prototype, and with its extra-large carbon fiber drag and ball bearings, it was as smooth a reel as I’ve held. The drag was able to crank down to 10 pounds without any jerkiness. (It could’ve been set higher, but my scale only measured up to 10 pounds). Even submerged in water, it maintained the same amount of drag. Price point is expected to be about $200.

Looking for a super value to get started in saltwater? The Echo 69 composite large-arbor reel features teflon/stainless steel drag, sealed bearings, a no-slip roller clutch, and sells for an incredible $69.

Whatever your tackle needs are, don’t wait until spring to get them filled. There’s a lot of good fly fishing between now and then.

About Catch Cormier 275 Articles
Glen ‘Catch’ Cormier has pursued fish on the fly for 30 years. A certified casting instructor and renowned fly tier, he and his family live in Baton Rouge.