Nicholas’ ECHO EPR fly rod review

Strip set on a 10 wt Echo EPR fly rod.

Strip set on a 10 wt Echo EPR fly rod.

Just returned from fishing a week at La Ventana with Gary Bulla. I took my permitted four fly rods with me on the trip, including an 8 wt and 10 wt ECHO EPR in the Winston rod case. These EPR (extreme performance rod) rods had only been cast in my local park in Corvallis, but my years of experience and a few short sessions on the grass gave me confidence to place 50% of my fly rod quiver in ECHO territory.

Line run out after the hook set. Echo EPR.

Line run-out after the hook set. Echo EPR.

Fly line on the reel, now keep calm.

Fly line on the reel, now keep calm. ECHO EPR fly rod.

I’d racked up plenty of experience fishing ECHO 3 SW rods, ECHO Boost, and ECHO Prime rods in saltwater for species including black rockfish, lingcod, salmon, and Pacific albacore.

A big dorado gets air time on the ECHO EPR fly rod.

A big dorado gets air time on the ECHO EPR fly rod.

That said, I was not really sure what to expect from the EPR. The rod’s catalog description led me to think that this would be a stiff, harsh rod to cast. That is how many specialty saltwater rods strike me. But my brief pre-trip casting seemed positive and I decided to go all in, and took consolation in that I had two high end fly rods in my trip tube, so if the EPR turned out to be disappointment, I knew I had great fly rods to fall back on.

Good lifting power here with the EPR.

Good lifting power here with the EPR.

Lift now.

Lift now.

Keeping the pressure on.

Keeping the pressure on.

Well, from day one, the only motivation that led me to reach for a rod other than the EPR was the fact that I had different lines loaded on each rod, and sometimes I needed a sinking line or a line with a more gradual taper that allowed me to pick up a lot of line to re-cast.

After a little fiddling on the first day, I had floating and intermediate head lines loaded on the 8 and 9 wt EPR rods. The 8 wt had a Cortland Precision Tropical Compact 350 gr floater and the 10 wt had a 10 wt RIO Tropical Outbound Short Intermediate line. I also fished a Bruce Chard Tropical Punch floating fly line by AIRFLO and found it very pleasing at both short and long distance deliveries. One more line I fished on the EPR rod was the SA Sonar Sink Saltwater Hover fly line. This is a great intermediate fly line but it is far lighter than I prefer and so the best match for my 8 wt was the WF 10 and for my 10 wt EPR I preferred the 12 wt SA line. he circumstances of our fishing found us with fish that were often close aboard — and just as often the fish we were casting to were quite a long cast away. From one moment to the next, I found myself alternately making 40 ft casts and then 70-80 ft casts.

Fortunately, we only rarely found it necessary to cast into the wind, as we were usually drifting in the panga with the wind. Still, the presence of a stiff wind made the back-cast a challenge, so the compact head fly lines I preferred helped penetrate the wind on the back cast and then I was able to launch fairly impressive (for me) wind aided casts with only one or two back-casts.

I know I’m probably overdoing the discussion on the fly lines here, but still, I was impressed by the fact that both of my EPR rods were able to load well to make short casts and then wind up and launch really long casts downwind when the fish were breaking well away from the panga.

In fact, our captain often urged me to make casts far beyond where the fish were breaking, thus drawing my fly through the rampaging dorado or skipjack. It seemed more effective to strip a fly through the school than to land the fly in the middle of the school and then begin retrieving.

Here are some things I liked about the ECHO EPR fly rod:
* light weight
* nice oversized full wells cork rod handle, a real nice design for me
* composite cork ends at top and bottom of handle – this will pay dividends in the long haul
* very powerful butt that afforded great lifting power when fish buried under the panga
* fast tip – not at all stiff, that allowed me to load the rod easily and make short casts as well as long ones
* super sized guides and tip tops (there are some great casting rods out there with sadly undersized guides)
* high modulus graphite generates high line speed with low rod weight
* delivered big wind resistant flies mostly where I intended (the line can only go where your arm tells it to go)
* great looking rod (black on black on black with copper tip on guide wraps)
* solid reel seat, alignment dots on rod and reel seat, square rod case

Here is what I didn’t like about the EPR:
* nothing at all

These fly rods are, in my opinion, lighter and ultimately more versatile and powerful than the E3 SW, Boost, and Prime fly rods. All of those mentioned fly rods by ECHO are solid performers in the salt, but the EPR pounds out the fly line and battles hard charging fish in great form. Anyone who knows tackle and fishing probably shares my opinion that it is really difficult for all but a very small handful of experts to detect the fine points of different performance that exist among the range of high quality tackle we have at our hands these days. I’m first to state that I’m not among the few expert-experts. All I can do is tell you that I fished the EPR a lot in my 6 days in Baja. I fished these rods hard. I pushed the lines, flies, and fish hard. And I was entirely, totally, positively, fiercely admiring of these two rods.

Captain's hand on the leader.

Captain’s hand on the leader.

Further, from my perspective, the EPR performed to the same level as fly rods in the same class that cost twice the price. Those rods may have had slightly nicer reel seats, rod tubes — but I never felt that the more expensive fly rods gave me something in the way of performance that the EPR lacked. I will say, however, that some of my companions were more impressed to see that I owned high-end price-point fly rods. These rods gained me more attention and “respect” than my humble ECHO rods. That’s ok with me. I was there to fish, not show off my tackle. My bottom line is performance. If I need high-end tackle to get great performance, that’s where you’ll find me. In this case, I fished Hatch fly reels on both of my EPR rods, and they performed at the highest level. I also fished Nautilus fly reels on my High-end fly rods, with great performance, but that will be the subject of a different post.

My prize of the trip, a big bull dorado, came to the 8 wt EPR and a Cortland tropical precision Compact floating line. The fish took my ballyhoo fly close aboard and was over 200 yards into my hatch premium backing before Fedilito was able to get the panga under power and follow the fish. Many leaps and deep dives later, this fly rod had been well tested and proven in my mind. The tip was sensitive and absorbed the shock of repeated jumps and head shakes. The butt (of even the 8 wt) was exceptionally powerful and allowed me to lift the fish from deep under the panga.

I think this is enough said about my agreeable opinion of the EPR fly rod. Thanks Tim, this is another winner.

Jay Nicholas, May/June 2017

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