Burkheimer 7115-4 Fly Rod Review, February 2011

Cf Burkheimer 7115-4 Two-Hand Fly Rod Review, February 2011.

In the traditional CF Burkheimer fashion, this two hand fly rod is designated as a 6-7-8 wt. Spey rod.  At 11’ 5” it is light in hand and powerful beyond what the numbers alone suggest.

I think it appropriate to ramble a bit about how I came to add a Burkheimer 7115-4 fly rod to my Spey rod line-up.   Think Sandy Spey Clave, 2010, and imagine me and my son hanging out with Kerry Burkheimer, his family, and a handful of close fly fishing and rod building friends.  We are sitting on the grass, chatting with folks wandering by to admire a full line of Burkheimer fly rods ranging from 3 and 4 wt. trout rods up to an 18’ Spey rod.

My mind was set on purchasing two fly rods to fish Oregon King salmon.  I wanted a single hand rod and, get this, a two-hand rod adaptable to overhead casting with traditional shooting heads and a variety of weight forward taper and integrated head shooting fly lines; these are the lines I had been most accustomed to fish for Chinook in tidewater reaches of Oregon rivers.

Deciding on the single hand Burkheimer fly rod was pretty straightforward.  I fish traditional shooting head and integrated fly lines in our bays and tidal reaches.  Under normal conditions, fishing from my Pram, Drift Boat, or Jet sled, overhead casting is the ticket; actual Spey casting with tips is not; or I should say, has not been thus far. (I reserve the right to be arbitrary and change my mind on this at any time, thank you very much.)

Kerry makes single hand rods suitable for Chinook and about any imaginable saltwater species, a fact that many Spey rod addicts overlook or ignore.  After casting several rods and discussing options, I settled on a 9’ 5” nine wt single-hand rod with DAL (Deep Loading Action).  A previous review of this rod is at https://fishingwithjay.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/jay-nicholas-cf-burkheimer-salmon-fly-rod-995-4-10112010/

Next task was to choose a two-hand rod for my Chinook fishing.

Here is what I wanted.

First, a two hand rod under 12’. Fishing a longer rod from a boat is possible but I have found that rods in the 9’ – 12’ range are preferable for my tastes when fighting fish from the boat and when bringing the fish close to release.  Longer rods are OK, but I just feel more comfortable with a 12-footer than a 14’ rod.

Second, and this seems a small thing, I wanted a two hander with a handle proportional to the rod.  Not too long, not too short, just right, as the saying goes.

Third, I wanted a two hand rod capable of loading properly overhead casting fly lines in the under 300 gr. To over 400 gr. shooting heads and integrated fly lines.  I fish Airflo, Rio, and SA fly lines of both types, and many Spey rods require a lot heavier lines than I fish in order to load properly when overhead casting.

Finally, and this was almost a contradiction to condition #3 above, I wanted a Two hand rod with sufficient power in the butt section to allow firm hook setting and the ability to apply reasonable pressure to tire Kings in the 15-30 lb. class, in Oregon bays and tidewater river reaches.

I put my Spey rod wish-list to Kerry and Nate Koenigsknecht.  They pondered.  They looked at each other.  And then they spoke.  Almost simultaneously, the words sprang forth into the spring air of the Spey Clave.  You want a 7115-4.  That’s it.  Yeah, the 7115-4 will be just the rod you’re looking for.

Ok, I said, build me a 7115-4 when you roll-up my 995-4.  How’s that for decisiveness?

I want you to try something first, Nate said, a big mysterious grin on his face.  Common over here and let’s get a Scandi compact to cast on that rod, he said.  Nate selected an Airflo Scandi Compact, strung the rod, and pointed down the trail to the Sandy.

As we trekked riverward, Nate expounded on the 7115-4.  We call this a 6-7-8 rod, he said.  This is not my favorite rod for true Skagit casting, because it has such a stiff butt that it takes a more experienced caster to feel the rod load.  But the relatively light tip makes it perfect for overhead casting shooting heads in the 300 gr. Class, and, you better believe that this is a fantastic dry line two hander for tight quarters like the Siletz, Klickitat, Grand Ronde, and John Day.

Ok.  Fine. I wasn’t looking for a dry-line steelhead Spey rod, but sure, I was willing to make a cast or so, and off across the gravel bar we went.  Well, long story short (as if) Nate was right.  The Burkheimer 7115-4 casts Airflo and Rio Scandi heads with authority.

I hear that my application of the 7115-4 as a two-hand rod to target Chinook salmon has a few of the folks at Kerry’s shop muttering under their breath.

But here’s the situation. This Burkie is really a unique fly fishing tool owing to the combination of a firm butt and responsive (not limp) tip.  This is a formula that many rod makers have flubbed-up.  But this Burkie is a winner.  It is light.  Overhand casting with this rod gives my right shoulder a rest during 4-straight months of casting shooting heads in the bay.  The Butt of the 7115-4 will not flex to the cork and has plenty of power, to fight modest size king salmon in the bay.  Using 12# Maxima Ultra Green leader, and keeping a low rod angle, I feel like I have plenty of power to fight tidewater Kings.

Dry line Spey casting with Scandi Compact heads, Muddlers and damp flies is a pure joy.  And guess what?  I have also found that this rod is a pleasure to fish with t-11 MOW tips and Skagit Compact heads.  I have fished tight quarters and wide-open runs, caught little fish and big fish, and had fun everywhere with the 7115-4.

The key, I think, to fishing Skagit heads with tips on the 7115-4 is to maintain smooth acceleration during development of the “D” loop; accomplish this and the line rockets; pause mid-cast and things will get messy.

The Burkheimer 7115-4 is a specialty two hand rod, and in my opinion, is an extremely versatile Spey rod.

Is the 7115-4 a Switch rod? No.  Let me quote Kerry. Jay, please don’t call my 7115-4 a Switch rod.”

Fly line recommendations for Burkheimer 7115-4 Spey fly rod.

I listened to the line recommendations issued by actual expert casters, then I went fishing to see what felt right to me.  Here is what I found.  Please remember that I am basically a casting hack (full disclosure and all that).  The actual grain wt. window for the 7115-4 is wider than my preferences indicate.  Kerry vouches for this.

Fly Line Favorite Line wt. Next Favorite wt. Tips
Airflo Skagit Compact 480 510 10-12’ MOW T-11
Rio Skagit Flight 475 500 10-12’ MOW T-11
Airflo Scandi Compact 450 480 Airflo/Rio 10-14’ Floating
Rio Steelhead Scandi Not tested Airflo/Rio 10-14’ Floating
SA Skagit Extreme 480 10-12’ MOW T-11
Airflo Skagit Switch 480 510 Airflo Polyleaders; Rio Versi Spey leaders; 10’ MOW T-11
Rio Switch 6/7 Airflo Polyleaders; Rio Versi Spey leaders; 10’ MOW T-11
Airflo Speydicator #6
Shooting heads (30-35’) #10 N/A
Airflo 40+ WF7 WF8 N/A
Rio Outbound WF7 WF8 N/A
SA Streamer Express 300 gr 350 gr N/A

Hope this completely personal review helps anyone interested in this Burkheimer 7115-4.

Jay Nicholas, February, 2011.

10 thoughts on “Burkheimer 7115-4 Fly Rod Review, February 2011

  1. Six months ago when my nephew got married, I asked Jay to recommend a fly rod for the bride. She had just started flyfishing with him. The requirement was I wanted her to have flyrod that her lovely husband would lust after.

    Jay sent me to Kerry. Mission accomplished. They loved the experience from start to finish. Thanks Jay and Kerry.

  2. I have an early version of this rod. I bought it for Scottish/Irish style loch drift-fishing for Atlantic Salmon from a boat as tendon problems made the more traditional long (11′) single-hand rods too painful to use.

    I too experimented with lines and found an old Wolff TT 7/8 line was perfect. One o/h cast of the head and out went all 90′ – every time – with two flies on the end. I am intending to use this rod for grilse fishing on rivers in low water and also for sea trout fishing in this area (Tweed river in the Scottish Borders).

    Regarding fish taming ability I have caught a few reasonable summer salmon around 8-9 lbs. The rod handles them very firmly and allows a faster than average time to get the fly out and the fish free again in the water. This is important in C&R fishing. Too many people wait until the fish is virtually dead in the water before attempting to land them. I prefer that they get free again with the maximum energy intact. And this rod allows for that.

    1. Brian: Pretty cool to think about these Burkheimer fly rods being fished all across the world. Thanks for your perspective and yet another testament to the versatility of these rods. I wouldn’t want to fight big Kings or Atlantic Salmon in heavy water, but for modest size fish in tidewater, they have the muscle I need to bring the fish to hand and release in good health. With a low rod angle, that is. Best fishing to you sir. JN

    1. Given that this is an atypical Burkheimer Spey rod, I would not recommend fishing a mid belly on it. I think the rod is too short and too stiff in the butt section for that sort of Spey line. A Skagit “short” head fishes really well, in my opinion, on this little rod. I have fished the SA Skagit Extreme head at 480 gr and it would cast even more intuitively with a 500+ head. Stay tuned, Kerry is allowing this rod, which excels as a “crossover” for a guy like me who fishes shooting heads overhead casting in tidewater — to evolve into a slightly longer spey rod that will display more of the Burkheimer “feel” in the lower section. This rod will be easier to fish two handed for light steelhead work, but will not be even close to the butt power the 7115-4 has. Anyway, more goodies from Kerry are in the chute, so to speak. JN

      1. Above I mentioned using a Wolff TT 7/8 trout line from a boat.

        I have now fished the rod a fair bit on rivers and after trying several lines have gone with an Airflo DELTA (the mint green with lighter colour shooting line) in 6/7 floating style and although I cannot stand the coily nature of Airflo shooting line it really does rock. The only problem comes with speeding it up too much as the loop can narrow too much. That said a friend who is an international level caster tried the rod and really muscled it – but with immaculate timing – and was throwing the narrowest loops I have seen without once having the fly hit into line or leader! He was VERY impressed with the rods capabilities.

  3. Hey Jay –
    Have been sitting on and reviewing…and reviewing….and reviewing….this post since April. Am in the market for this rod, or the evolution that Kerry is probably working on as I write. This past spring, Fishing with Tom Larimer on the Sandy and Clackamas, got an opportunity to play with the 7115-4, swinging tips and big flies for steelhead. Casting performance, was exactly as you described. After adjusting my stroke to the rod, 60-70′ casts with a 510 Skagit Switch was basic stuff. As expected, crammed up under the banks of brush, et al,, perfect application. The only thing I didn’t get to do was test it against a big winter buck. That was saved for my Burkie 8139-3. 🙂 I walked away thinking I had it “all fig’red out” as to the next rod I would be acquiring… Then I read your blog….And Kerry responded to an inquiry…regarding the stick that will be evolving this summer out of the 7115-4. Crap….just what I needed, more choices……..

    Am seeking your input and thoughts on this rod vs. the rod it will morph into, relative to the applications I’ll put it through. This rod will be used for winter and early summer steelhead on the coast and the Clack/Sandy/Hood River. Summer steelhead on the Deschutes/Grande Ronde/John Day in the tight spaces the rod was designed for. I will also be using it for chasing big bull trout in my home waters (using winter steelhead techniques) here in south central Idaho – 3 to 5 lb’rs. And this fall, chasing the Kings you love so much on Elk River. And maybe the occasional over hand casting for pinks and coho in the salt up in Puget Sound. 90% of the time, however, it will be used as a two-handed casting tool, split equally between Scandi dry line fishing and Skagit head tip fishing.

    Essentially – conditions that both rods will probably excell at, just with a different feel… As you’ve had more time with this stick, do you have any more thoughts or input on it’s performance, et al,? Has Kerry given you a sneak peak at what is evolving? Appreciate your comments. And yes, think I’ve answered my own question, but am looking forward to your response… (oh yeah, the other Burkies in my stable – 8139-3 and the 10130-3)

    Thanks for your time, enjoy your blogs and your perspective!


  4. Jay,
    After reading your review, I was lucky enough to pick this rod up used/mint 🙂 I’m in the Boston area where spey rods are not very popular. This rod seems perfect for the majority of my fishing…estuary stripers either from my 18′ lobster boat or wading plus Atlantic Salmon in New Brunswick. I was used to my old stiff butted Sage RPLX. The 7115 has the same power with fineses. Your review really helped me. Thanks Jeff

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