Four stream rods
Fooling around with four great rods on a Swedish river
Before this trip I had been lucky enough to get my hands on a few very interesting rods, and I decided to pack them all and try to get to fish them all during our four day stay. And I would also try to get my friends to fish them and get their impressions.
These were the rods I brought. I'll go into the details in the following sections
- An ECHO-rod. The 480-4X is a 4 piece 8-foot rod meant to carry a 4-weight line
- A Harvest Tackle Traveller 8034B 8-foot rod for a 3-weight line. This one is also 4-piece.
- My trusty Partridge split cane rod. A 4-5-weight and 8-foot. This is a classical 2-piece rod.
- A Scierra MPA 8-foot and 6 inches 3 piece rod for a 4-5 weight line.
Some people might argue that comparing these four beasts is like comparing apples to pears, but my goal was not to do a one-to-one comparison and announce a winner, but to try to discover advantages and disadvantages in these rods under real fishing circumstances.
I brought a number of different lines to try on these rods, from a special dry fly presentaion line from Scierra over a plain Ultra 3 WF from SA to an elderly Double Tapered line from Hardy. I had lines in the range from 3-weight to 5.
As most of the readers will know, the line can do a great difference on the performance of a rod, and I was careful to try different setups on the four rods as well as try them under different circumstances.
I also fished the rods with different leaders - both type and length - as well as different flies and fishing styles, from tiny dries to heavy nymphs with an indicator.
I chose a fairly sturdy 8' rod dimensioned for a 4-weight line, but the program also contains a 3-weight rod, which is significantly gentler in action, as well as heavier and longer rods. One really great thing about the ECHO rods is their price. These rods sure look like true bargains.
Baltic Flyfisher (Germany)
Rajeff Sports (USA)
This brand of rods was brought to my attention through a news flash in a local magazine, and the fact that Harvest Tackle had received two consecutive EFFTEX prizes for Best New rod in 2004 and 2005. This had to be an interesting brand of rods.
A visit to their web page confirmed this. Harvest Tackle is fairly unknown, but can still muster an impressing series of rods at some really convincing prices.
But first and foremost the initial attraction of these rods lies in their very bamboo like finish and slight scent of luxury in spite of their good price level.
Harvest Tackle Co. (Taiwan)
This is indeed a different rod compared to the above three. It's a classical split cane rod made from bamboo and not carbon fibre like the other three. Partridge used to make these but discontinued the production when their rod builder retired and they were unable to find a replacement.
Many of the remaining blanks were sold to Brian Norman, and while he might have some left, they are usually sold without fittings or ferrules, so you will have to fit that on yourself or have a rod builder do it.
My rod is called "The Cumberland" and is a 7' rod able to carry a 3- or 4-weight line.
Scierra is a large Danish manufacturer of fishing equipment. During the recent years Scierra has brought to market several series of excellent fly rods. In my daily fishing I use their HM2 6-weight Saltwater rod designed by Hywell Morgan, and I also own the somewhat more expensive MPA for a 7-weight, which has also been designed by Morgan together with Danish Henrik Mortensen. The MPA series also contains some really nice fresh water rods, and the one I brought to Sweden was an 8'6" for a 4-5-weight line. This is a three-piece rod. MPA is short for Modern Progressive Action, and is the brand name for the softer, but still responsive action that these rods have.
Small dry flies
Both are short lining rods par excellence, and will outcast (if that's the right term) the ECHO and the Scierra in this respect. The two latter can do the job, but have backbone for much more, and seems to perform a lot better with a bit more line out the tip top.
Large dries and wets
All four rods did well with larger dry flies on heavier tippets and longer casts. The first one to give up was the Partridge, which lacks the length and the stamina to be a casting powerhouse. Now, split cane rods are generally very well casting rods, but not to be forced. Let them cast and they will deliver. Force them and you gain nothing. You can lay out quite a lot of line with the Partridge, but it's a different game compared to the carbon rods.
Fishing a weighted nymph on a bare line with no indicator, either as a typical upstream nymph, or with the shorter casting style known from Eastern Europe can be extremely productive. No matter the method, your aim is to get the nymph to float as freely as possible, which usually means rolling and mending a lot. The pickup of the fly is also a critical point. Since the fly is submerged together with most of the leader, you need rod power to lift or roll cast the rig out of the water with as little effort as possible.
While the Partridge has the lifting power, it still lags in mending and roll cast capability both due to its length and it's cane action.
A rod such as the Scierra is perfect for the purpose, while the ECHO can seem a bit on the stiff side for the short Czech style, while it excels on the longer upstream casts and mends quite well.
The Harvest was again a very positive surprise. In spite of its delicacy and lightness it could cast a gold bead nymph with little effort, and the repeated short upstream casts for the short nymph drifts in faster water were easy to perform, not least due to the low weight of the rod.
You might even strain your luck and add a few split shots to bring the nymph down. And there you have it: an unbalanced, wind resistant and heavy rig. Not the perfect companion for a light rod. Unless, of course, you have a rod with a backbone such as an ECHO 4 weight. This little darling handled whatever I offered it with no effort. It can keep a lot of line in the air, even with the strange payload, and it has the power to reach the places you want to reach. We will not discuss presentation here, but considering the fishing style, that is not the issue anyway.
The Scierra does almost as well, as long as you let the rod do the work. Force is not the way to go, but with larger arcs and less speed, it's really good for the job.
While the Partridge can still keep up on the short distance, not least due to it's tip weight, it does not offer much help on the distance. And the Harvest? Well, as much of a gem as it is, it is not perfectly suited for this style of fishing. It can do it in a tight spot, but it's far from perfect for the job.
The Scierra offers a nice compromise: it has the stamina for almost anything, but still leaves a lot of feeling in the fight. The ECHO is the powerhouse of the pack. It will basically haul in anything you can hook, and my personal record is a 6-8 lbs. bream - not a fierce fighter, but certainly a worthy challenge for any light rod. I also used the rod in the salt for delicate fishing for mullet. It's quite well suited for a lot of jobs. In spite of the lifting power of the ECHO, it is still lightly tipped and will protect your tippets during a fight.
Style, finish and packaging
I'm usually not the kind of person, who gives great attention to finish in my rods. I'm hard on my equipment anyway, so whatever finish the rod has when I get it, it will soon be less beautiful.
But these rods are so different, and in essence they represent a spectre of styles, so it might be interesting for you to get a closer look at each rod.
The ECHO rod is dark green, with a nice transparency. The wraps are identical in color and lined with a single silver wrap. This rod has one stripping guide, one-foot guides and a standard size tip top. There's a traditional U-shaped hook rest just above the handle. A really nice touch is the little white alignment dots on each section.
The cork quality is one place where the costs have been cut. The quality is not impressing, and the gaps between the rings are visible several places. The shape is Western.
The reel seat is polished aluminium with a teak or similar wooden spacer. The reel seat has a small wooden butt, which adds a nice touch to the rod.
This rod comes in a simple grey sock and a green cordura-covered plastic tube. Altogether the finish is good compared to the price level, but you will not buy this rod for its aesthetics.
This rod is quite different from most carbon rods. The rod has been enamelled with a light tan color and stripes to mimic bamboo. At the same time it is finished like a traditional bamboo rod with a small agate-style stripping guide, snakes and a smallish tip top. The wraps are clear with a very nice and well controlled layer of varnish. You can, in other words, see the feet of the guides through the varnish and wrappings.
All this might sound a little phoney, but the rod actually looks quite nice, and it definitely has a sense of luxury about it.
The cork is prime quality and the shape is a traditional and simple shape, which fits the rod style perfectly. There is a U-shaped hook rest just above the handle.
The reel seat is polished aluminium with a reddish hardwood spacer. Nothing fancy, but functional and good looking.
Both the box, the sock and the rod itself have small blemishes, which exposes the product as not being quite as luxurious as it seems at first glance, but no matter what: this is a really nice rod!
Of course this rod is quite different from the others. The finish is very traditional. The light, silky surface of the cane is allowed to appear as it is. The only shiny varnish is on the red wraps and the hand printed writing on the rod. The varnish on the wraps is quite modest in thickness and the wraps a clearly visible through it. The rod has one small stripping guide with a jade inlay and traditional snake guides and a small tip top, just as tradition bids it.
Following the same tradition the reel seat is nickel silver and beautifully finished.
This rod is all-in-all very traditional in it's style without a single thing to point out. Not luxurious as such, but still it virtually reeks of luxury.
This is not least underscored by the rod tube, which is made in deep, dark, brown leather. A gem of a rod as are most contemporary split cane rods.
The Scierra rod has a finish in the absolute best class. The rod is a deep, translucent burgundy color and the wraps are a bit lighter in hue covered with a nicely tapered and very well-controlled layer of varnish.
The rod has a large pear-shaped tip top, large, traditional snake guides and two stripping guides, which is quite rare to see on light fresh water rods. It has no hook rest, which I like. I never use it anyway.
Cork quality is magnificent and definitely the best in the pack. The handle is Western style and fairly large.
The rod has a black anodized uplocking reel seat with a maple birdseye wooden spacer.
The rod comes in a sturdy aluminium tube with a screw cap, but as an extra, you also get a zippered cover to pull over the metal tube. The sock is burgundy and has a cut, which leaves room for the reel. Altogether a very well made rod.
Apart from the obvious differences mentioned above, the difference in cost of these rods is enough to alone warrant an apples and pears argument. The ECHO rod is the least expensive of the lot, and at 152.- Euros or about 180.- US dollars it's a true bargain. The if you like the capabilities of this rod, there's a lot to get for a small wallet.
Next in line is the Harvest. This little gem gives a lot of value for your money. It's not luxurious, but it still has an aura of great style.
The Scierra is located in the high price range. At approx. 580.- US dollars it's not cheap by any measure, but it's well worth the money, being a great casting rod, very beautifuly built and fitted and equipped as the best big brand rods out there.
The Partridge then? Well, I honestly don't know the price. The rod was a gift, and since the Partridge rods are no longer in production, there is no current price. But rest assured: it's expensive! Most cane rods run in the thousands-of-dollars price range, and even though this one is not amongst the highest valued rods, it's bound to be fairly expensive.
|Color||Dark green||Tan||Light cane||Burgundy|
|Reel seat||Silver alu||Silver alu||Nickel silver||Black alu|
|Type||Uplock, threaded||Uplock, threaded||Uplock, threaded||Uplock, threaded|
|Inset||Teak or similar||Red hardwood||Teak or similar||Birds eye|
|Hook rest||Horse shoe||Horse shoe||Hinged ring||None|
|Check and hook rest|
|Shooting eye(s)||1, large, SiC||1, small, metal||1, small, jade||2, large, SiC|
|Sock||Green canvas||Tan canvas||Blue canvas||Burgundy canvas|
|Tube/cover||Plastic/cordura||Bamboo, hinged lid||Leather||Alu/screw lid plus cover|