Product Review: Echo Dec Hogan Spey Rod and AirFlo lines – by Jay Nicholas

Let’s cut to the chase. If you are looking for an outfit to begin a transition from single- to double-hand fly fishing, and especially for fishing summer steelhead, buy an Echo Dec Hogan 5122, an AirFlo Skagit Compact 420 grain line, and several Airflo Poly leaders. Oh yeah – add a spool of AirFlo Miracle Braid shooting line and go fishing. Need a reel for this outfit? The Ross CLA reel is a great value to round out this rod/line combination, I have fished these reels for a full season and they are great performers.

AirFlo loop -- Jay Nicholas

There – how’s that for being opinionated?

Entering the leading edge of my fourth year of Spey fishing I offer this advice on the Dec Hogan rod outfit, because, well, here’s why – a recounting of my first three years fishing a two-hander.

Year-one: I fished four high-end Spey rods, studied Spey casting in an out-dated brochure, had no idea how to match a line with any of my rods or what a good cast might look or feel like, wrapped the leader around my head on several occasions, and seriously injured my right shoulder with bad casting technique. I made a lot of overhand casts and caught a few fish. I also had a great time with the two-handers and kicked myself for not learning to Spey cast years earlier. I was determined to learn this Spey “thing” myself. No lessons. Not me. Nope.

Year-two: Pretty much like Year-one, except that I took some advice from a few friends on line weights and asked one of them for a few pointers on my casting. I tend to be a slow learner and the coaching I got didn’t really sink-in very far.

Year-three: My Spey casting had improved to the point where I would occasionally make a respectable cast and I was having progressively more fun. My nine-year-old son, Jackson, bought me the Rio Spey Casting DVD. Finally, pictures! I was able to visualize two fundamental casts and the basics started to make sense. “D” loops became my focus for day-dreaming. I purchased a Dec Hogan 5122-4 (#5 weight, 12’ 2”, 4-piece Spey Rod by Echo). I lined this rod with an AirFlo Skagit Compact 420 gr line, Miracle Braid running line, and a 10’ fast sink AirFlo Poly leader.

Oh-my-gosh! Who just made that cast? Couldn’t have been me! I cast again. Same thing. It seemed like everything came together. The outfit was light, effortless to handle, and made the cast I had dreamed of for the last three years. The rest of the day was a delight, I felt like I was finally fishing the way I had been trying to, and yes, I even caught a summer steelhead.

AirFlo loop -- Jay Nicholas

Although this is a product review, I am not going to puke up technical details about this rod. I will only note that it is beautifully crafted, has cool hardware, and looks every bit the peer of my pricey rods. Two features combined to make this rod a joy to fish: it’s lightness and the deep, into-the-handle flex. Suddenly, I could feel the rod load; a feeling that often escaped me when I was casting faster action rods. The rod felt more like a light trout rod than a steelhead rod, but I was making 80 and 90 foot casts, mending line, and swinging my fly across good steelhead runs with consistency. My casting and fishing was relaxed and effective, and I was able to move past the angst of inconsistent casting to the joy of expecting a “tug” on every cast.

Was this newfound success simply a product of practice – or did the new rod/line combination really perform better than the others I had been fishing? Probably a little of both. My casting stroke with all my rods continues to improve with other rod/line combinations, but for now, the DH 5122 is my favorite summer steelhead rod. And yes, I have fished it effectively for winter steelhead too. Yeah, a 5-weight winter steelhead rod!

I prefer the AirFlo 420 gr Skagit Compact on the 5122 but the guys at AirFlo tell me the 390 is also a good match for this rod. I fish the AirFlo Poly leaders in both 10’ and 14’ with this rod, and add 3-6 feet of 8-10 Lb. Tippet.

AirFlo loop -- Jay Nicholas

The AirFol Compact Skagit lines run from about 23 to 27 ft. The loops are color coded, duh, so even I can tell which head I pull out of the drawer. The lighter lines like the 420 gr are shorter and therefore customized to the (shorter) #5 and #6 Spey rods, while the heavier heads are a little longer and proportionally better suited to (longer) heavier #7-9 weight Spey rods.

I fished a friend’s DH 7130-4 and found it every bit the same joy to cast and fish. There is something about the Echo Dec Hogan rods that matches well with my casting skills – probably the deep flex of the rods. The Skagit Compact line and a sinking leader that is not overly heavy probably help me too. I have also fished 6-8’ T-14 tips with my 5122 but do not find this as pleasing a combination as the 10-14’ Poly leader. A 10’ T-14 tip was a bit much for the 5122 and my skill level.

While I’m at it, here is a final suggestion. Don’t be a silly-head like I was, insisting on learning to Spey cast on my own. Pester an accomplished Spey caster to teach you. Don’t just go fishing with them; really ask for their help. Watch them cast. Try to mimic their casting strokes. Cast short lines to get the movement down. Practice your casting strokes in the den, with only the butt-section of the rod. TAKE A SPEY CASTING CLASS. Yes, do it. It will take at least 3 years off your learning curve.

And one more excuse (like we need one more to buy this rod) – it makes an absolutely delightful strike-indicator rod. Yeah, fish your steelhead nymphs and egg patterns with a ThingamaBobber on this two-hander, you will love it.

See you on the river soon!


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3 Responses to Product Review: Echo Dec Hogan Spey Rod and AirFlo lines – by Jay Nicholas

  1. Eric says:

    Not sure comments from old ones get checked, but just in case…
    I was happy to come across this article, as I just ordered a Dec Hogan Echo 9wt 13’6′. I’ll have airflo ridge running line, and a compact skagit head, as well as a few sinking tips. Anyway, being completely ignorant of the lines involved, I’m curious if I simply need to take of the sinking tip in order to cast indicators with my leader right off of the compact skagit head, or if I need a floating tip first, or another head entirely?

  2. Slow Joe says:

    Jay, I know what you’re talking about. I am the founder and Chief Crash Test Dummy of the Institute of Empirical Blunders, and my spey casting learning curve has closely paralleled yours.
    Eric, I have the DecHo 13′ 3″ 8-wt, and my normal line is a Beulah (because it was given to me, otherwise it’d be Airflo) 540 grain Compact Skagit. What a beautiful cannon to cast! But for indicator fishing, I bought the Airflo 8-wt. Speydicator, and it does even better. It is SO much fun to throw, and it will fly most any junk I want to put out there, then mend and behave. The Speydicator is considerably easier to use than the Compact Skagit for that. The folks at Echo/Airflo really know what they’re doing.

  3. Kent Schick says:

    I am taking my first spey casting clinic on June 9, 2012 from Bill Lowe up in Sacramento, CA.-he is a Sage guy. I am waiting to see what pops when I first cast. I presently use a Winston 9’5 wt BIIMx and love the action. I am researching the rods, but have no clue as to what to buy or use. I have a lot of respect for Tim and his Echo line-have been to many of his clinics. I would love to try one of the Echo Dec Hogan rods.

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