The Austin blanks from All Star Rods are quickly gaining a reputation among custom rod builders as being among the best performing blanks on the market, regardless of price. Bob Petti had a chance to build and fish a 4wt recently.
Reviewed by Bob Petti
"I was able to control my loops, perform arial mends, and shoot line with ease."
It was not love at first cast.
Late last year, Sharon Johnson at All Star sent me one of their premier fly rod blanks to review, a 9 foot 2-piece 4 weight Austin. I was pretty psyched, since these rods have garnered a sparkling reputation among rod builders. It seems like every time someone comes along as asks for a recommendation for a top-of-the-line blank for any application, All Star Austin is one of the first blanks recommended.
I was genuinely curious to see if the actual rod lived up to the buzz.
At first wiggle, the rod felt a bit bouncy. I've had a couple other bouncy rods where it seems you spend most of your casting efforts trying to keep nasty waves out of your line, so I wasn't impressed at first. The first few casts on the lawn left me cold. The tip of the rod was much softer than my other favorites, so I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy it or not.
As you know, lawn casting is not fishing, so I held off judgment until I could take it fishing a couple times.
I'm glad I did, because if I had tossed it back into the corner after lawn casting, I would have been missing out on one heck of a fine fishing rod.
Just this past weekend, I treated it to a day on the Beaverkill, where the norm for me is to constantly be adjusting my casting, from close in to relatively far out, because Lord knows where the next fish might rise. It's a good river to test fish a rod, because you can try all the classic fishing techniques - dries, nymphs, wets, and streamers - and try them all I did.
I can easily say - the All Star Austin passed each fishing test with flying colors. I'll give you a couple anecdotes to describe how the rod helped my fishing that day.
I was fishing a big flat area downstream from a riffle and a trout rose in front of me, maybe 25 feet away. I covered the rise, but didn't get a take. There was another rise about 10 feet upstream, which I covered as well with the same result. Then another rise further upstream yet. Guessing this was a cruiser, I put the next cast well upstream of the last rise and was rewarded with a beautiful take from a wild fish. What was nice about fishing with the All Star is that not only did I feel the rod load at the short casts, but I didn't sense any loss of control with each increasingly longer cast. Some rods are great casting machines, but you sort of gotta fiddle with your casting for up close work. Not so with the Austin. I was able to control my loops, perform arial mends, and shoot line with ease. It was a great rod for fishing dry flies.
The next day brought some clouds and a mild breeze, but no rising fish. I only had a little while to fish, so I thought I'd work a pool with some streamers. This time I got to work the butt section of the rod a bit, as I was casting as far across stream as I could. Man, this rod is powerful. My timing was good that day, so the line was just rocketing through the guides on the forward shoot and my trusty tailing loop was nowhere to be seen. I could pick a spot between a couple rocks on the far shore and fire a cast through the breeze right to that spot. Every time. Man, it was awesome.
Sharon should rightly be proud of these fine blanks. All Star no longer offers the Austin as a finished rod, only as a blank to custom rod builders. The blanks are lightweight and laser beam straight. Give one a try. You won't be disappointed.