I’ll start out by reporting that I devoted a full 10 days this winter season fishing the new ECHO OHS (One Hand Spey) rod nearly exclusively. Nearly means that I occasionally fished my Scott Switch or my Burkheimer 7115-4 in order to provide a frame of reference to the new rod, comparing the relative performance of rods I’ve fished extensively in past seasons versus the new OHS rod.
I started out with the 7 wt. OHS and an AIRFLO Scout head in 270 gr (if I remember right) as recommended by my friend Tyler Allen. I fished this with a 12 ft. 132 gr OPST Commando tip. This match didn’t fit my double spey casting stroke at all.
Next day, I called Tyler and he got me on the phone with Tim Rajeff, who set me straight. Thank you. Tim was enthusiastic and as usual his expertise in rod design and line performance is daunting for mere mortals to absorb. As always, he kindly walked me though the technical aspects of the OHS rod’s origins and capabilities.
Tim started out by reminding me that the OHS was developed with one hand spey casting in mind (OK, I missed that) and therefore the head weight recommendation was based on the inclusion of a “haul” at the initiation of the casting stroke, thereby loading the rod to its full potential. In contrast, I was NOT using the rod single hand—I was entirely using a two-hand traditional spey style using snap T and double spey style casts. Consequently, the 270 gr head was not adequately loading the rod and I also figured out (with Tim’s coaching) that the 132 gr tip was near the limit of the light head’s turnover ability. Heavier heads generally have more mass at the line tip, affording greater ability to turn over big tips and the 270 struggled with such a massive tip
With Tim’s coaching, I set out on my second day on the water with a 330 gr Scout and 10 ft T-10 tip. Oh my, what a difference! My first cast with this head/tip combination on the 7 wt. OHS produced spectacular results. I was all smiles. My two-hand casting shifted like a switch from a chore to a pleasure.
I’ll note that I also fished the 6 wt. OHS (matched perfectly with a 270 gr Scout and 8 ft T-10. I assume that the 8 wt. OHS would sing if matched with a 390 gr Scout or similar weight super short head. The 330 gr. Scout cast the Airflo 10 ft T-10 and the 12 ft. 96 gr. OPST tips beautifully.
I often remind people that I am not an expert Spey caster. Far from it. I have friends who are capable of providing far more insightful detail on the mechanics of rods and lines. Still, I probably represent the intermediate skill level among fly anglers, so if a rod and line combination works for me, it is likely to work well for a wide range of anglers.
Here is my overall assessment of the ECHO OHS rod: fantastic.
At 10 ft 4 in. this rod is a huge advantage when fishing close quarters like I often do. I was able to cast under trees, with trees to my left and right, and cover steelhead water in comfortable style in places where I would be frustrated with rods even a foot longer.
Surprisingly, when I stepped into the open, my casting range was also excellent, and I was able to cast as far (with no obvious additional effort) as I could with my Scott and Burkheimer rods that are roughly a foot longer.
The OHS is shockingly light compared to most switch rods in the 7 wt. class even though they are but a foot longer. I found myself able to make both short and long casts easily and cover the water exactly as I wished.
The OHS handle is shorter than you will find on switch rods, but it seems just right to me, as I normally place my top-hand immediately above the reel no matter which two hand rod I’m fishing.
I’ll remind you that I only fished the OHS as a two hander (exception in the following paragraph) so the line weights I have noted will probably need to be adjusted downward if you are a full-on single hand caster. The haul to load the rod is not in my repertoire as of this writing – but I bet you would love this rod series if you are a single hander using Spey style casts.
OK – I fished one day from a boat this winter, drifting down the Nestucca with friends while fishing an egg pattern under a strike indictor. I fished the 6 wt. OHS with a 7 wt. Indicator line. I found this to be a fantastic rod for bobber-dogging, executing roll and overhead casts while delivering my rig to the slots and ledges just as intended. Is the OHS superior other rod options? It just might be. I do not do enough single hand nymphing to be as confident as I am when this rod’s performance as a two-hander is concerned. As a two hander and a single hander, I was very pleased with the rod. As a two hander, I am still amazed at how well I was able to cast and handle my swing in every circumstance I encountered.
The OHS rod comes with a screw-in butt section that is a little longer than usual. In theory, the longer butt would only be used in the two-hand mode, but I found I preferred it all the time.
One matter about casting the OHS in two-hand style is that I was very comfortable keeping both of my elbows close to my side, and never ever pushing out with my top-hand. The rod’s relatively short overall stature combined with the shorter than usual handle might seem to lure a caster to extend their hands while casting, but I did not find this to be necessary or desirable.
For truly big water, I would still choose a longer Spey rod with longer head, and may be leaning towards a FIST style head that would allow me to dig the swing under the surface turbulence. But for the vast majority of places I fish on typical Oregon coastal rivers, the ECHO OHS rod performs superbly.
I asked Tyler Allen of ECHO/AIRFLO to give me his take on the OHS to back up my review, and the following is his response.
“Jay: as requested, here’s a bit of info about our new ECHO OHS and its applications:
In single-hand mode, the OHS is an incredibly versatile fishing tool, allowing the angler to incorporate a haul into their single-spey or roll cast. The additional casting distance afforded by a well-timed haul – and additional leverage provided by the 10’4” length – mean than single-hand anglers can drop their fly on the far bank without special superpowers and still be able to mend effectively. The rod’s tip isn’t feeble – it’ll pick up tons of line and a large indicator without issue. Bead anglers in Salmon Land: this is your new rod. Anglers with lots of backcast room will be pleased; the OHS’s action is designed to perform as well overhead as it does with water-loaded casts. The rod received a single-hand rating to minimize confusion, so the #7 loads with a regular #7 line while overhead casting.
In two-hand mode, the OHS allows double-hand anglers to tuck into tighter quarters than one would be able to with a standard switch-length rod. This ‘middlin’ length is unique in the industry and is a true happy-medium between a long single-hand rod and a two-hander. Efficient swinging, skating, and indicator fishing are all possible while in two-hand mode. The rod’s backbone doesn’t scoff at heavy tips and will turn over as much T-material as your head can handle.
Tyler Justice Allen | Marketing/Pro Team Manager”
I feel confident that anyone who picks up this OHS rod will find it perfectly suited to steelhead (winter and summer) while fishing a wide range of conditions.
Jay Nicholas, winter season 2016/2017
Post Script: for a report on whether or not I ever caught a steelhead on this rod and if so how did the 7 wt. OHS manage the poser of a winter steelhead—you’ll have to check out my WordPress Blog fishingwithjay.