Here it comes folks. Blatant commercialism. Deal with it. Fact is, I got a chance to fish some fly rods, fly lines, and a fly reel that are either new in 2011 or at least new to me. People are genuinely interested in product reviews. I know that because I find myself answering a continuous stream of emails asking advice about this rod or that, which fly lines are best for specific applications, fly reels, value/cost ratios, leaders, and so on.
The Caddis Fly Shop inventories and confidently recommends a slug of fly fishing tackle. All I can do is report on the gear I have fished, and do so with the understanding that I consider myself an upper-average fly fisher. Not an expert. I have friends who can tell you about the relative properties in each of 4 fly rod sections and the why and what it does and such forth. Not me. Well, sometimes I can, if given a little coaching. Overall, I just go fishing and see if something works. I don’t report the bad tackle matches I occasionally run into, or the rod tips shattered when I push the tip of an 800-buck fly rod into a tree trunk or the back of a seat in my 4-runner. If I fish a combination of rod, reel, line, or find something that works, I write about it. Simple as that.
This article is considered general guidance for folks considering heading to the Oregon Cascades to go trout fishing. Following generic listing of appropriate fly rods, reels, lines, leaders, I will review a few specific products I fished recently; mostly Echo fly rods, fly reels, and Airflo fly lines. I didn’t fish a Sage One fly rod. I do have every confidence that these are AMAZING fly rods. Buy one. Buy a dozen and give them for Christmas or graduation gifts.
I fished two Echo fly rods on a recent multi-day Cascades trout adventure, The Echo Edge and the Echo Shacow; these are the two rods I will address here, after noting general tackle recommendations for Oregon Cascade trout streams. I fished two Echo Ion fly reels too. And two Airflo fly lines. And a few Rio leaders. And I wore some Simms waders too, so brace yourself for some wader drivel. And I wore a Simms sling pack. All of these served me well, and here for your amusement and boredom are my observations.
The fly rods and reels that one waves around while fishing for Oregon Cascades trout do not need to be expensive. On the contrary, and after my most recent venture into the boonies, I would recommend that one AVOID taking the thousand buck rod/reel combo into the bush. I fell down, slid off rock bluffs, face planted, got tangled up in vine maple and Devil’s Club, stumbled on gravel bars, and just plain sat down hard in the water. My rods went flying around and clattered and banged into all sorts of obstacles. Now, if you are nimble and not prone to any of the above mentioned antics, by all means, take your finest gear into the wilderness. Otherwise, keep it simple and modest where the rods and reels go.
Fly rods, generally. Oregon Cascade trout streams and the fish they harbor are a perfect place to fish any rods from 2 wt through 5 wt. I have, at times over the years, preferred 3 wts and 4 wts. I fondly remember a couple of high end sub-9′ 3 and 4 wt rods that were wonderful to fish. Nowadays, I find myself keeping it simple, and finding that the Industry Standard 9′ 5 wt fly rod is my day-in, day-out favorite to fish these cascade streams, at least for dry fly fishing.
The 5 wt rods we fish today are as light as the 3 wts we fished two decades ago, and they give smallish trout plenty of opportunity to pull hard. The 9′ rod will make the 20′ cast one minute, and then reach out 70′ to roll cast across to where we thing Mr. Big might be ready and waiting for our fly to light. Anyway, my overall choice for these streams is the trustworthy 9′ 5 wt. An alternative would be anything shorter or lighter that you wish. Don’t throw a 6 wt rod here, though. Do it if you have to, but you will enjoy a 5 wt or lighter rod, at least I do.
Nymphing presents both similar and different challenges than dry fly fishing these Cascades Streams. Until recently, I just fished my dry fly rod with a strike indicator, or with a wet fly or bead head suspended from a bushy dry fly. That was fine until I discovered the intriguing possibility of letting several weighted nymphs swim through some of the deeper, swifter slots in the canyon pools that are common in Oregon Cascades rivers. Truth be, this was my opportunity to fish an Echo Shadow PE fly rod. These are new-fangled fly rods that are specifically designed to drop one or more weighted nymphs on a dime, swim them through the delicious feeding zone, detect subtle takes, and set hooks decisively. My personal experience of Indicator-less nymphing dated back to the Deschutes in the 1970s, before I had learned about strike indicators, so it was fun to check out these relatively new Shadow rods on the water.
Echo Edge Freshwater Fly Rod 9’ 5 wt. This is a fly rod that is full of wonder for me. I fished this rod several days on the coast with an Airflo Ridge Clear Intermediate fly line for sea run cutthroat, put it to the test with wind, long casts, size #6 – #10 wet flies, chucked casts up under brush, and stripped streamers across sand flats. The conditions in the Cascades were worlds apart, and this fly rod was proof positive that Tim Rajeff really got it right with the Echo Edge. This 590-4 fly rod is light, it makes the shortest cast and the longest, it fishes in wind, it roll casts, it will double spey and circle spey with a size #14 dry fly and a 9′ 6x tapered leader, and it makes great fun with trout from 6″ to 16″. Honestly, the rod is a little much for a 3″ trout. Frank Moore would have been proud of the 70′ roll casts I made with this rod, and then a moment later, I could drop my dry fly into a 2′ x 2′ window behind a boulder for the two seconds it would fish before the current took my fly speeding off downstream with a trout or two in hot pursuit. This is a fly rod that can not possibly disappoint.
Echo Shadow Fly Rod 10’ 6” 3 wt. This is a great fly rod to fish the big deep canyon pools and heads of larger swifter pools where trout lie deep or under swift bubbly curtains for cover while feeding. In these situations, the Echo Shadow excels at both the ability to accurately cast weighted multiple nymphs, and to detect takes and make hook sets. I fished this rod in true “high stick” style as well as with casts that placed 30 or 40′ of fly line, sans-indicator, on the water, watching my line closely for sign of a trout sniff. The rods seem large, the 3 wt being 10′ 6″, but feel light and the extra length really made the process of achieving a dead-drift with my nymphs a more achievable goal. The tips of these rods are firm, allowing a no-nonsense hook set, but are flexible enough to clearly transmit the pull of a 6″ trout to your shoulders. One caveat, the Long Shadow rods are an advantage when nymphing big pools where there is overhead room. Back-cast space is not much needed as single hand spey casts work like a charm with this nymph rod, but when trees start to encroach overhead, leave the Echo Shadow in your rig in favor of the shorter fly rod. If you plan on honing your nymphing technique, the Echo Shadow PE is a great rod. As a bonus, this long rod has the maybe not too surprising quality of making it easy (OK a little easier) to “dapple” a dry fly across a current and get a hopping skipping almost irrestable presentation in pocket water.
Echo Ion Fly Reel – 6/7. I fished the Echo Ion 6/7 on my Edge 9′ 5 wt. This is a great reel, at an amazing price at well under a hundred bucks. I also fished the Echo Ion 4/5 on the Shadow rod and have fished the 10/12 Ion in the estuary and ocean for salmon and rockfish. These reels are cast aluminum and then the casting is machined, rather than machining the reel frame and spool from solid bar stock metal, as it the practice on the high end fly reels. Given the low price, and the presence of a much shunned “plastic” cap on the gizmo that keeps the spool on the reel, these are very nice fly reels. Fact is, side by side with a six hundred buck, cork drag, fully machined from meteorite-proof plastic-less fly reel, the Echo Ion had a smoother drag, with absolutely zero startup friction, and the drag was more easily and precisely adjustable. Same deal on the trout reels as I had experienced fishing salmon and offshore rockfish on the Ion 10/12. Again, buck for buck, these Echo Ion reels deliver way more in performance than they cost, and they still work when they have been sat on and tossed on the beach.
Airflo Sixth Sense Fly Line This fly line has been around for a few years. I fish this line in a 7/8 or 8/9 with a single hand rod anytime I am on the North Umpqua with Frank Moore. To do otherwise would get me ejected to the dog house for sure. This was my first venture putting a 5/6 Sixth Sense to work for trout for days on end. There is something very good about this fly line that i can not quite explain. I was able to make looooooong roll casts, single hand spey casts, short little pocket drop casts, and absolutely routine 25′ casts with a tapered trout leader. My casting and therefore fishing ability, on my most recent trouting adventure, was almost enough to make me think I know what I am doing. This non-ridged Airflo fly line is a high floating winner.
Airflo Ridge Tactical Trout Fly Line. My experience with this Airflo fly line was limited, using it on the Echo Shadow, stringing a 4 wt Ridge Supple Tactical fly line on a 3 wt Shadow rod. I found that this line roll cast well with three weighted nymphs. When faced (backed) with brush and tree limbs or solid rock, I found it was the perfect opportunity to use my Spey casting skills, with a Double Spey the preferred option, to launch my nymphs into the trouty waters. In the afternoon, I replaced my 3-dropper Indicator Leader with a 12′ Rio Tapered Trout leader and a single dry fly. The 3 wt Shadow, Matched with a 4 wt Ridge Tactical Trout fly line, performed very well. At first, I wondered if this could be a pure double purpose nymph and dry fly rod, but shortly decided that it was not, as it simply had a little too much weight – especially compared to the 5 wt edge. This might make a great lake float tube rod alternative, but that experiment will have to wait a little until I can fit in my float tube again.
Rio Indicator Leader 10’ Tapered Leader (4X – 6X). This leader has a relatively short orange-tinted butt section followed by a long un-tapered body – making it perfect presentation tool to allow weighted nymphs to penetrate the depths and complex currents to where the trout, and I mean the big trout, are likely to lay.
Rio Trout 9’ Tapered Leader (4X – 6X). This Rio tapered leader is at home on any Oregon Cascades trout stream. In some respects, a shorter leader is fine, but i like the 9′ because the longer tippet section allows my dry fly to float drag free a little longer while the slack in the leader tightens in the current. When fishing the largest pools, and where the casting situation permits, I will fish a 12′ leader, like I do on the Metolius, for the explicit purpose of extending the drag-free drift.
Simms Stocking Foot Waders. Use cleats, use grappling hooks. Hire a helicopter. Consider getting a pair of Simms wading pants instead of chest-highs or keeping the waders at waist height. You will need waders, but gosh it can get hot in August and gosh there is a lot of brush to whack through, and gosh you should not be going in deep here. Some of these pools are a one-way ticket to disaster if you take a swim.
Simms Headwaters Sling Pack. Nice alternative to a vest. Helps keep you cool with less cloth on the back. Helps cushion fall if you learn to fall on the pack instead of your butt. Section, that is.
Measure Net. A light net is nice to help control little and big trout, and reduce handling before they are released.
Hope this wasn’t too painful. Grab your old tackle or preferably, invest in some cool new gear, and most importantly, go fishing, there’s wild trout in them thar hills.
And some unexpected fishy surprises too.