Echo PRIME One-Piece Fly Rods: Interview with Tim Rajeff

Among the fine new fly rods introduced in 2012, our friend Tim Rajeff has created an intriguing new Echo rod, the ECHO PRIME. The Echo Prime is a one-piece rod designed for use in a saltwater. I fished Prime 8 wt and 12 wt fly rods this Autumn for Silvers, Rockfish, Kings and Albacore. I fished little Clousers and Comets, 10 inch Buck-tails, 6 inch baitfish, and Poppers. I cast short and long with full floating lines, shooting heads, integrated intermediates, and 400-500 gr fast sinking saltwater lines. These rods are noticeably lighter, faster, and easier to cast than the Echo 3 series of already great fly rods. I fished Echo ION, Hatch Finatic , and Sage 8000 Pro fly reels on Prime rods. I am honestly impressed with these rods. They are fun to cast, fun to fish, fish and fun to fight on, when you actually connect with one of the pesky beasties.

Sadly, I must now return these PRIME Demo rods to Tim so that he can share the love with some other less deserving guy or gal, but I am on the first-to-ship list when they are available at the end of 2012.

Other New Echo Fly Rods for 2013 include the Echo Classic Spey Rod ($269.99 offered in three line classes – 12 ft 6 in #6; 12 ft 9 in #7; and 13 ft #8 to cover the key Spey fly fishing bases.

A Cosmetic upgrade to the Echo SR Switch rod series: the blank color has been changed to a now attractive slate gloss from the original pale olive that no one liked but Tim.  Good move.  The updated SR series includes hard chrome snakes and tips, plus an anodized black aluminum reel seat – a deal at $329.99.

The Echo Carbon is also being image and weight upgraded for 2013.  The cork composite sections of the handle have been reduced to lighten the overall rod weight by simply retaining right-sized composite tip and butt of cork elements.  At $169.99, this Carbon is an extremely thrifty and popular Echo performance fly rod option.

Echo Ion fly rods have been lightened up by trimming handle and reel seats without the teensiest bit of structural diminishment.  The Ion Rod Shafts are now a slate gloss instead of the original most unattractive (sorry Tim, but it’s true) olive. The ION remains at $189.99 and is still practically indestructible in the hands of sincere fly anglers.

Echo Solo Complete Fly Fishing Outfit: a new deal on fly rod, reel, line, leader, and padded case in 4 wt, 5 wt, 6 wt, and 8 wt packages for a mere $169.99.  Amazing

Echo Ion Fly Reels: We now have two new sizes in the Echo Ion 2/3 and 7/9 for 2013.  We are most excited about the 7/9 for steelhead and salmon fishing, and the 2/3 will rock the mountain streams.

PRIME Interview note: I decided to pose a series of questions to Tim, with the purpose of helping fly anglers better understand these new Echo rods. Forgive me, Tim; any errors of substance or omission are your fault, not mine.

JN: Why should we consider fishing fish with the Prime, a one-piece rod, after years of learning to love the convenience of 4-piece rods?

TR: Prime rods are lighter by nearly 20%, lighter, they are faster, They are so strong it will amaze you, and they cast easier than any comparable 4-pc fly rods. It’s just that simple.

JN: I know that can transport these rods around my home waters here in Oregon, but what can I do if – for example – I want to fish Tarpon this fall in Mexico?

TR: Prime rods, in their tube, can be shipped to most destinations via UPS, and be there when you arrive. You can also carry these as checked luggage on any airline. And you already know, because that’s how we shipped your demos, that two PRIME’s will fit in one tube for shipping.

(JN Note:  Chris Daughters has shipped one piece rods to Florida for roughly $35 so that should cover the east coast and Texas and Southern Cal destinations as well.  We are not experienced yet at shipping to Mexico or Cuba, but with the right carrier, the trip of a lifetime should be do-able with a one-piece fly rod.  Need advice?  Call Chris at the Caddis Fly.)

JN: Any downsides to the Prime?

TR: If you are willing to put up with the inconvenience of owning a one-piece rod, you can benefit from the weight savings, line speeds, and improved strength of fishing a rod with no ferrules.

JN; What is your base material in the Prime?

TR: We are using what I would call a very high modulus, high end graphite.  (JN note: near as I can tell this material is “virtually” GLX graphite).

JN: is it more difficult to manufacture a one-piece rod than a 4-piece rod?

TR: Yes. And no.

JN: How so?

TR: Lets start with the complexities of building a 4-piece rod. Each section of a 4-piece rod has to be engineered to compensate for its mate. Take the butt section, for example. The butt actually has to taper from larger to smaller diameter, creating the male ferrule. To compensate for the smaller diameter of the male ferrule, we have to increase the wall thickness in the male ferrule. Then think about the female ferrule that fits over the male section. Our overall engineering of both male and female ferrule wall thicknesses has to be balanced to reduce flat spots or knuckling in the rod when it is under tension. Sorry if this sounds complicated, but it is. We have to mess around with adjusting wall thickness of both male and female ferrule thicknesses to achieve an overall smoothing effect when the sections are mated.

JN: OK, now tell me bout the issues of building a one-piece rod.

TR: Building a one-piece rod is difficult, but in different ways. We no longer have the challenges of messing around with increasing and decreasing wall thickness and ferrule diameters. We have the advantage of designing a taper that smoothly transitions from butt to tip. This may sound like all the challenges are removed, but it turns out that it requires more skill to roll graphite onto an 8’ 10” mandrel than it does to roll graphite onto a 3’ section of mandrel. That is one part, simply rolling the material onto the steel rod. The long mandrels are also a challenge, because they must be handled very carefully to avoid accidental damage in the rod factory. Then there is the fact that the graphite sometimes tries to un-roll on that long mandrel, and we have to keep it snug before we can apply the cellophane spiral wrap to secure the material before we put the raw shaft in the oven. Finally, and this is something almost no one wants to talk about, is rod spine. Building four separate rod sections will result in 4 different spines but none of them will be particularly noticeable,  and and partly because the extra material rolled on each short mandrel to create and compensate for stiffness of the ferrules tends to make it difficult to even notice a spine on any individual section.

Rolling graphite on a mandrel to create an 8’ 10” rod must be done to perfection, in terms of the quality consistency of the material, how precisely the material is cut, and how smoothly the material is rolled onto the mandrel. We have very strict quality control inspections, and we have been able to craft absolutely perfect straight shafts for our PRIME fly rods.

JN: Why the 8 ft. 10 inch length? Why not 8’ 6” or 8’, or even a one-piece 9’ rod?

TR: 9 ft rods dominate the psyche of fishermen, the Fly Fishing Tackle Reps,  and the shelves of fly shops. We can’t easily ship a package that is over 9’0” so we had to shorten the rod by two inches to be able to ship the rods to our customers. By making the rods as little as 2” shorter we’re able to lighten it up, helping the rod recover quicker and to lessen the effort a caster needs to throw heavier saltwater lines and flies.

JN: If I hold an Echo PRIME side by side with an Echo 3 Saltwater rod, will the average angler be able to detect the differences?

TR: I think so. The Prime will be about 18% lighter than the ECHO3 family of rods. They are not necessarily slimmer but you will definitely notice how stupid light the rods are. (For those readers not up to date with modern fly fishing lingo, the term “stupid” in this context is a good thing: JN)

JN: Materials: are Echo PRIME fly rods built with the same high modulus material as you use in your Echo 3 saltwater rods?

TR: Yes. ECHO PRIME fly rods are made from high modulus main fibers and a carbon fiber scrim just like all of our ECHO3 rods. Our material is virtually GLX-class.

JN: Do Echo PRIME fly rods really throw tighter loops than your Echo 3 Saltwater rods?

TR: With a slightly faster action and less tip deflection because of their lighter weight, PRIME rods will help people throw tighter loops.

JN: Do you expect to see other rod makers follow echo in the one-piece rod production line?

TR: There are already a couple of other people doing it. We took our time to make sure that when we did it we rocked. Will others jump on the bandwagon? Maybe.

JN: Do you expect to see one-piece rods break less-frequently than your 4-pc rods?

TR: The one-piece rods are slightly stronger than our 4 piece rods. The most common break-point on a fly rod is in the tip section – caused by the fly hitting the rod or from the rod tip getting injured in the car or on the boat. In that respect we don’t expect the ECHO PRIME to be any different from a four-piece rod. If you smack your Prime with a lead-head fly or jam the tip into the dashboard, you might break it.

JN: Does the warranty for Echo PRIME differ from your standard warranty?

TR: Yes. We would have to replace the entire rod if it is broken. Contrast this to a multi piece rod where we can replace an individual broken section. The difference is significant, making the warranty cost of a one-piece rod higher. We charge $150 to replace a broken ECHO PRIME rod – still a heck of a deal. These rods are not fragile, so they don’t requiring “babying.” That said, it makes sense to take normal care in casting and carrying your Prime, and all of your rods to and from the water.

JN: Echo’s catalog mentions Permit and Tarpon as species the Prime is built. What about Salmon, Stripers, Blues, Shark, Tuna. and Billfish?

TR: PRIME are perfect rods tor anything that swims. Our catalog has space limits, and we just chose a few species to mention.

JN: What fly line recommendations would you make for the PRIME rods?

TR: Use the same lines for a PRIME that you would have used on any other rod of the same line rating.

JN: Will the PRIME rods throw traditional shooting heads that we old-school salmon anglers prefer?

TR: You betcha.

JN: Are Prime rods going to be hot sellers for steelhead and salmon anglers fishing in rivers?

TR: Probably not. While they will work for steelhead in a river environment their 8’10” length might not be optimal for many folks, especially for those that are accustomed to fishing 10 foot rods to optimize line mending. Guys like you who fish estuaries and tidewater will probably love the Prime.

JN: Is lifting power of the PRIME any different than your Echo 3 saltwater rods?

TR: PRIME rods have similar butt power and therefore similar lifting power. Shorter rods offer an advantage when fighting a fish so I guess you could say that the PRIME rods are a little stronger due to their shorter length and lack of ferrules.

TR: on the subject of lifting power, check out this youtube video at: Echo PRIME Break Test

JN: Why not offer a seven wt PRIME?

TR: Not enough demand for seven weights at this time. We want to see how these rods are received and then consider designing lighter Prime rods.

JN: When are we likely to be able to purchase Prime rods?

TR: January 2013 is our expected delivery date.

End of interview September 2012. Thanks Tim.

Who’s going to fish the Prime? I asked a friend who reps in the fly fishing industry, how popular do you think these one piece rods will be? His answer was blunt.  No one is going to buy these rods.  They’re a dead end.  The only people who will buy one-piece rods are a handful of freaky guides who live in a grass hut on the beach and fish 300 days a year.

That’s a pretty bleak outlook, if true. Personally, after fishing two Primes, casting a bunch of lines, fighting fish, and transporting the rods in my 4-Runner and boat, I can’t wait to get two more. These one piece rods are something I think must be experienced to fully appreciate. Will they be inviting to everyone? No. Would anglers who have the pleasure of fishing a rod like the Sage ONE trade-out for an Echo Prime? I just don’t know. My guess is that any such hypothetical angler (I’m one) will want to keep and fish both the the Sage ONE and the Echo PRIME. I think that anyone who fishes from boats or windy beaches will love PRIME rods: they cast traditional shooting heads, integrated shooting heads, and the entire series of coldwater and tropical lines by Rio, Airflo, and SA. If this sounds like you, I firmly believe that you will enjoy the PRIME.

Technical Details

Price: $449.95.

Length: 8 ft 10 in.
PRIME Rod Options: 8 wt, 9 wt 10 wt, 11 wt, and 12 wt.
Titanium coated snakes, tip top, and SIC Stripper guides
High density Cork Handles with HI-D rubber end cap
Triangular rod tube with zipper end and foam in both ends
Rod Sock (two Primes fit into one Tube for shipping
Silver-tips on Midnight Black thread guide wraps.
Up-Locking Metal Reel seat is saltwater-safe
Two dots on reel seat and locking ring make foot-alignment easy

Jay Nicholas, overworked field tackle tester: November 2012

Post Script: Echo makes great fly rods that perform significantly above their price range.  The performance aspect is directly attributable to Tim Rajeff’s technical expertise in casting and rod design, fly fishing passion, work ethic, and freaky intuition where graphite cloth, resins, mandrels, ovens, and human hands intersect to create a great fly rod.  Tim Rajeff’s mind, heart, and hands are responsible for the performance vs. price combination that benefit fly anglers at all experience levels.

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3 Responses to Echo PRIME One-Piece Fly Rods: Interview with Tim Rajeff

  1. Two Dogs says:

    Good write my friend…….lots of good info jammed into this article. – Mitch

  2. Rod Brink says:

    Am interested in an 8 wt single piece saltwater rod… more info please.

    Rod Brink

  3. Oregon Fly Fishing Blog says:

    Rod: I have fished ECHO PRIME one piece rods for two very full years now, and my season with single hand rods extends from March fishing lingcod, then spring chinook, then sea bass and silver salmon, and albacore in the ocean and then fall chinook and silvers back in the estuaries. I fish the 8 wt PRIME for spring and fall chinook, silvers, sea bass, lingcod and it covers all those bases on fish up to 35 lbs (not the tuna though) with highest marks. These rods are tough, I’m not gentle on my gear and these rods take a beating. Never had a blow up and I fish up to 20 Lb. tippets on the 8 wt. this rod will cast lines anywhere from 350 gr to 600 gr, no kidding. I wish Tim would make the PRIME in a 7 wt also, but he declined. Questions? In my opinion, I believe this is an absolutely exceptional single hand rod that you can not possibly go wrong with. For Tuna, though, I fish the 10 or 12 wt for our albacore in the 16 – 30 pound range. Let me know if you have other questions. JN

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