Just when you thought you were safe from the continual onslaught by the Fly Fishing Military Industrial complex and blatant commercialism – here we go again.
Seriously, ha ha, I do enjoy sharing my thoughts on gear when I take on the self imposed challenge of fishing new rods, reels, fly lines, leaders, hooks, fly tying materials, and associated gear. Like the saying goes, it’s tough work but someone’s got to do it.
Unlike some reviewers, I tend to lean in my temperament and comentary towards the average consumer/angler/caster/tyer in the sense that I am not impressed with overly technical details and am especially loath to use trendy sales terms that have been concocted to hypnotize (see Fly Fishing Book of Revelation) us into buying more stuff. I’m going to resist providing concrete examples here because I don’t want to unnecessarily single out and offend any of my friends in the FFI (Fly Fishing Industry) but you probably have a few terms in mind, made up words and descriptive phrases created out of thin air and designed to spur sales.
What I do like to do is fish new tackle and then share my delight when something goes right. Same deal with apparel, fly tying materials, tools and such forth. By the way, I’m quite aware that writing “what I do like to do” is stupid, and should be replaced by something literate like “I prefer to”, but – see – I have the freedom to use sub-par english in my writing just as I apply illogic to my fly selection and most aspects of my life as well.
If I really honestly understood some of the finer points of the gear I’ve used I would probably feel more comfortable using techno babble in these reviews. Fact is, however, that I’m not smart enough or don’t have the interest in most of the technical details like ball bearing counts, the ratio of boron to titanium, to graphite, to fiberglass in our rods, and how many little bubbles of floatation per cubic inch there may be in our fly lines.
What I do care about, and have fun reporting, is when a new fish pole and string feel good in my hand and allow me to “huck” my fly way out onto the river/lake/estuary to lure a fish. I like a fly reel that feels good, spins nicely, has a “decent” drag system, and holds up under my low maintenance philosophy of “fish it and forget it.” I do not throw perfect tight loops. I fish. I fish hard and long and cover the water, so any gear that allows me to fish more effectively, or with less effort – is a winner.
Another factor that distinguishes me as a reviewer is that most of what I write is based on long term use of a product, not just a quick run to the field and back to the keyboard. Take these here ECHO GLASSS and Dec Hogan rods, for example. I probably have forty days with the former and twenty five of so with the latter fishing this season. Then add in a solid thirty to forty days with the GLASS Switch rods in hand and I’ve had opportunity to get down and dirty with these rods.
OK, on with the review at hand.
In addition to the rods that are focus of this review, I also fished an ECHO GLASS 7 wt Switch Rod a lot this winter, companion to my Burkheimer 7115-4 and an ECHO PIN. That’s right, I fish a wide range of gear and techniques, depending on my mood, the fish’s mood, the place, water conditions, and circumstances. As the season progressed, I transitioned into fishing the longer ECHO GLASS Two Hand rods: the 7 wt FG 7129-4 and the 8 wt FG 8130-4. I had a wonderful time fishing upriver with these rods swinging flies on FLO and iMOW tips.
I’ll add a special note here that the Skagit Intermediate compact is an amazing line that will allow your un-weighted Micro Intruder (see Intruder Essentials) to swing a little deeper and swim beneath fast surface currents.
Why these two spey rods, the GLASS and the Dec Hogan II?
The GLASS rods are new and I wanted to see what they are like. If these rods had not delivered something remarkable, like a smile and a giggle, I would have remained silent on the subject. Well the new ECHO GLASS long rods did more than just making me smile and so here we are.
The DH-2 was a last moment, oh yeah, I ought to see if I like the new Dec rods as much as I liked the first gen versions years ago. My how time flies!
First, on the topic of the GLASS Spey Rods - I can not imagine anyone who would find these rods anything but pleasant. Pleasant to cast and darn fun to fight fish on. These rods take me back to when I was a teenager, when fast had not been invented for fly rods, and the casting stroke was quite different from what we have come to use with fast, ultra fast, and light-speed graphite blend action rods.
I fished the 3, 4, and 7 switch rods with WF floaters and light sink tips all winter, in still waters, tidewater, and rivers plus the GLASS Two Hand 8 and 8 wt long rods. My flies were bit by more steelhead this winter than ever and for those of you who know me this is not only referring to the lake-bound summer steelhead, but also to fresh run winter fish plus a fair number of kelts.
So these reviews are NOT just heading out to the river, making a few casts, and dong the barf it up on the internet report. Nope, this is based on four months of 3-5 days each week on the water somewhere, rain and shine, low and high water, slugging out the casts and swings and strips and drifts, sliding down muddy banks, falling down in the boat, getting holes in my waders that still need patching, leaving early, getting home late, soaking wet rain gear, need more flies and leaders, and the usual fare of day to day fishing challenges.
If I fished the GLASS 7 yesterday, I’ll fish the 8 today. Swing one run with a GLASS 2H 7 and Skagit Switch ; then grab the DH2 with a Skagit Intermediate for the next tailout. Fish FLOS and MOWS and iMOW tips. Big flies and small flies. Fall in, get wet, assess the damages and get on with it. Real world trials.
Here is what I found, bottom line.
The ECHO GLASS long rod series is rated wonderful. Sorry, I know I overuse that rating, but I don’t waste time writing about gear that isn’t anyway.
My preconceptions about the rods were that the action would be very slow, very deep into the cork, and that the casting range would be less than with faster action graphite rods. While this might be true for champion class casters, for me, on a practical basis, I was able to achieve every measure of distance with the long GLASS rods that I achieve with my usual Two Hand graphite rods. In practical terms, I’m not on the Dean or the Skeena, and I’m able to cover every inch of our coastal rivers with ease.
That said, the graphite rods I fish tend to the slower action, like the DH series and my Burkheimer rods that are well known for their ability to flex down into the butt section and enhance the caster’s sense of rod load feeling. I do on occasion fish faster action graphite two hand rods, including the ECHO TR, the SAGE ONE, and the SAGE METHOD. These are all faster rods and frankly, I have not devoted sufficient time to any of them to be able to do more than state my confidence that each and every model is a fine rod, designed and refined by people who know a whole lot more than me about such things. When it comes to faster action Spey rods, I tend to need to use lines higher in the grain window of each rod and then take time to get the feel of each rod/line/tip combination.
Not so withe the GLASS and DH series rods, like my Burhheimers. With these rods, I seem better able to just pick one up, line it with a head on the low end of the grain window, and let fly – with entirely satisfactory results. This I like.
I think (remember I’m not the expert certified casting instructor) that I tended to overpower the GLASS rods at first. I didn’t realize just how well they would transfer energy from me through the line. When I slowed down a little, eased up a little, my casting was fluid and effortless. I think that a beginning two hand caster could learn to Spey cast more easily on the GLASS (and the DH2) than they would on a relatively stiffer, fast acton graphite rod. I watched Tim Rajeff’s video on the Glass two hand rods some three months into my trials, and guess what? He explained it! He said that the upper 3 seceions of the GLASS Spey & Switch rods are indeed “soft” (not a bad thing when we are talking about fly rod performance), but the lower section (the butt) is much more powerful. In my case, I assumed that the deep flex of the rod would be similar throughout and so I was overpowering the cast at the last instant, not realizing that there was so much reserve power in the butt section. Ah ha! That is why my casting improved when I relaxed, eased off the throttle a little, and let that butt do its work for me with a lighter pull on the lower hand.
At a price point under three hundred bucks, any new spey caster would be very pleased learning to cast on any of the long GLASS rods. Why choose this option over the ECHO CLASSIC? Good question. Both are good options and very reasonably priced. The GLASS is slower than the Classic and I think it would be a more intuitive process to feel the load and execute the cast with the GLASS compared to the faster action Classic – but the economics of both are admirable.
I’m going to shift gears and make a few remarks about the Dec Hogan 2 spey rods now.
I fished the first generation DH spey rods years ago, back when was fishing the valley streams for summer steelhead, and principally fished the DH6 and DH5 Spey rods. I loved them. Intuitive to cast, fun to play fish on, no complaints whatsoever.
When I received my new DH2 rods, I decided to fish the 6.5 and 7 wts, and expected to be as comfortable with the new Dec rods as I was with the originals. Well, I was surprised indeed. I started out fishing the DH2 7130-4 with a 510 gr Skagit Intermediate head. I then fished this same rod with a 480 gr Skagit Intermediate and found that I liked it even better. Finally, and this was really fun, I fished unweighted flies on the DH26.5129 with a 450 gr. Scandi Compact.
It seemed impossible to do anything but execute great cast after great cast. I didn’t need to think, I seemed able to compensate for inexpertly composed casting stroke anywhere throughout. That last sentence may not make sense to anyone but me, so let me try to explain. My casting tends to include a wide variety of open loops and up or downstream angled curves as my tip lays out, plus a few tips that fall to the water in piles. I just let it fish, see if I get grabbed, and make a better cast the next time. This is true when I fish my Burkies and SAGEs too. I’m just an average caster who puts my time in and works on making a higher percentage of good casts while I’m actually fishing.
But I thought, think, and still do, that the DH2 upped my game at least two notches, whatever that means. I guess it means I think the DH2 allows my casting to shine. I hear that some people are saying that the DH series is too slow. Well it seems faster than the GLASS to me, and I fish the GLASS just fine thank you very much, and the DH2 seems like a rocketship to me, so what else can I say?
In mid April, I ventured upriver on the Nestucca with an old friend, Steve. Yes he is old, and yes we have been friends many years, so old qualifies in more than one way. We were only planning on some spey casting lessons for Steve, who fished an ECHO TR7 rod with a mis-matched line. He is the stubborn type, a manly man who didn’t want to try a different line, so he struggled with what he had, and failed to adopt most of my most helpful suggestions. Never the less, he got the fly out there and hooked a beautiful wild hen – proving once again that one need not be a pretty caster to catch fish. I also connected with a fresh run winter steelhead that afternoon in the sun, on a smoothly executed cast I should add, and we were both thrilled to have time together with fish pulling at the end of our lines.
ECHO GLASS and Dec Hogan II long rods are personal favorites, both intuitive to cast, and both tremendous fun to play fish on. I’m convinced that any Spey fishers pursuing steelhead, salmon, and trout will enjoy these rods and experts will find them respectable additions to whatever tackle collection they be amassing.
I fished days on days on end with AIRFLO Skagit Compact, Skagit Switch, Skagit Intermedite, and Scandi Compact lines. The latter was swinging Gurglers, and the only line I have not yet fished on these two rod series is the RAGE, but I will soon.
And no, I did not mention components and finish because all these rods are very nicely outfitted and finished. This isn’t 1964 when rod manufacturers had a tough time gluing on guides and making parts fit. With ECHO, as with any of the big names like SAGE, WINSTON, SCOTT, BAUER, ORVIS, Burkheimer, I have come to expect high quality components and finish, and I have not been disappointed of late.
One thing I will add concerns the handle on ECHO long rods. I like these handle shapes. I find them comfortable and pleasant to hold all day long.
Hope this helps tip you over the edge. If you are thinking about an ECHO GLASS or DH II long rod, you will be glad you pulled the trigger the very first time you are on the water. The line recommendations from ECHO are spot-on too.
Jay Nicholas April 2015 (this is a link to my books on Amazon)