Goin’ Fishin’ in 2012

A few updates, with punctuation, although this will again be a free association of sorts. That is what happens when the time available diminishes and the list of things to do grows, something suffers the consequences.

I went fishing a few days ago. In a storm. A big storm. Mostly wind, in the 45-60 MPH gust category. Fair amount of rain too. It was glorious. I was excited to be out there, rain sheeting sideways across the water, fishing a place I have not seen for darn near forty years. Parts of the river have changed, for the worse, much of the access is gone, but in the storm, in wind and noise and the last few hours of daylight, it was as if I was there all those years ago. I had the same anticipation, knowing there must be steelhead there, but not knowing if it was so.

I didn’t catch anything, of course, but I didn’t fall in while wading, and I had the river to myself for those few hours. I fished indicators and Starlight Leeches though little pockets, around snags, under cut banks, and through one perfect pool.

Yesterday I got out for an hour at dusk. A Bald eagle was out hunting too, like me. Those great predatory birds were not in my decades-past memory banks; a success story in the conservation world. I doubt that salmon and steelhead have increased in this river the way the eagles have here, but I really don’t know.

There is much we do not understand about our anadromous fish. Time marches on. Trophy homes have replaced farms and moldy cabins along streams. Public access has been denied in many places. The rivers and fish have endured floods, hot summers, fishing, and in some places, hatchery fish. I look at our rivers these days and see them in quite a different way than I did when I was 18.

I found a beautiful river tooth on a gravel bar last week. A remnant of giant Spruce trees that populated this river valley. All gone. Wood in those trees was precious to manufacture of British Mosquito Bombers in WW II. The war was won by the good guys, the world is a better place than if the bad guys had won, but the great trees are gone.

I drive the roads along any coastal river, and see places where my route has cut the river off from its flood plan, forever, stealing winter rearing habitat from young salmon and steelhead. Without deliberating the harm done by logging, farming, fishing, hatcheries, seals, and the long list, I see rivers forever changed from what they were before whites came and began taming the land and the waters. I have no tears, no blame, and no use for regret. I am able to sit here in my little cabin, with my propane stove, looking out at frost on the grass, wood smoke raising from neighbors homes, cows in the farm across the gravel road — because of everything that happened before. I sit here at my computer where Native American Indians had a village, a century ago. Today I will work on installing a new water heater in an unheated closet and worry about whether or not it will freeze on me.

Meanwhile, coho eggs are nestled in the gravel, and maybe even some chum eggs too. Young steelhead are finding shelter from the high water we are enduring, while fresh, chrome adults stage in tidewater, ready to surge upriver. The runs of salmon and steelhead are not what they once were, I sincerely believe, just as our world, for all of our civilization, is not what it was. I am certain that my time here is waning. I have no patience for lamenting change that occurred over the last century. I think I understand some of it, but have no way of prognosticating what would have happened if different choices had been made. I do care about choices we make today, and choices we will make tomorrow. Anyone who is attracted to movie themes about time travel can wonder how much our individual choices make in determining the future; the future of the world economy; the future of our friends and families; the future of salmon and steelhead.

Fate? The future is what we make of it. Or have made of it already. Heaven and Hell? If you are reading this, if you have a computer and a place to live and can turn on the tap and get clean water to drink and have food every day, most likely you are living in heaven, a place that about five billion human beings would trade their life for yours in a heartbeat. Hell? Hell is all around us too. Sometimes it is close, sometimes far away, clear around the world. We probably don’t need to look five minutes from where we are right now to find women and children who are abused. I walk to my refrigerator and lament the left-overs on the menu today, but a billion people may not eat at all today.

Sorry. This was going to be about fishing. This was going to about a river still alive after four decades. About wild steelhead and salmon. About hope for the future. And it is, it really is. The wild steelhead’s spirit is strong and resilient. If given half a chance. The Human spirit is strong and resilient under the most desperate conditions. Those of us who really care about steelhead and salmon need to keep fighting for their future.

We should pause, for a moment, to remember that today, someone will die in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Iran, or Syria, or Somalia, or Jamaica, or in our cozy little USA town – someone will die from neglect, starvation, violence, illness, or some condition that we, today, are immune from. Tomorrow, we might not be immune. Tomorrow, the future of salmon and steelhead might not be number one on our list.

But today, it’s OK for us to obsess about catching a steelhead, or saving a steelhead, or cooking a steelhead, or tying a steelhead fly, or some new rod or reel or hook.

It really is OK. It’s what I’m going to do today.

God. I did it again.

Jay Nicholas
January 27, 2012

The Mother of all Echo Fly Rod Reviews, January 2012

The MOAEFRR – otherwise known as the Mother of All Echo Fly Rod Reviews

For anyone who follows trivial pursuits, this blog post provides more detail to complement a general fly over on some of the Echo fly rods I have fished over the past several years, that is posted on the Oregon Fly Fishing Blog.

Blatant commercialism is a fact of life these days. My friends know that I happily fish any fly rod that has a wiggle. Sage, Winston, Redington, Beulah, Loomis, Scott, Tenkara, and even an old Fenwick and St. Croix. More often than not, however, I have a boat-load of Echo and Burkheimer fly rods that I am doing my best to step on, tangle in nets, and otherwise find ways to test the warranty tolerance envelope. Honestly, truly, it broke while I was casting, playing a fish, sleeping, or some such excuse.

The MOAEFRR post represents a brief accounting of my experiences with specific Echo fly rods. I may not be objective, entirely, but I do not make up stuff to the point of saying nice things about a product that I have fished and not liked. My experience with Echo fly rods has been wonderful in this respect. I liked each and every one of the rods I fished, with slight reservation for two rods, and my reaction to these is detailed following. No bull. Echo represents what is, in my experience, the best intersection of performance, price, and warranty.

Echo Shadow PE Fly Rod Review: This is a 10 ft. 3 wt. 4-piece single-hand fly rod.

The Echo Shadow PE (inspired by Paul Erickson who is some famous guy I have not met – imagine that will you?) offers to deliver high-stick nymph fishing excellence. The Shadow delivers on the promise. This fly rod gave me the excuse to delve into the world of high-stick nymphing without an indicator. I had read about the Shadow and even cast it with Tim Rajeff at the Sandy Spey Clave in 2011. I remember thinking that this rod had far greater potential than the special niche market for which it was engineered.

I started out thinking that the Shadow could be a great fly rod for all around conditions, to heck with the specialized functions, but I changed my mind. For a general purpose rod, the Shadow is a little on the heavy side. I didn’t notice this unless I fished my Shadow right alongside my Echo Edge 9 ft 5 wt. In this situation, I covered the water perfectly with the traditional fly rod, and found the Shadow a little on the cumbersome side.

Lake fishing applications. I fished the 3 wt Shadow from a boat in a coastal lake too. This included plopping weighted nymphs and buggers around downed trees and lily pads, into little coves along the shoreline, and change of direction presentations to trout that showed themselves behind me, in open water, just as I was about to make the perfect cast to a shoreline target. Not surprising, the Shadow excelled at pin-point presentations anywhere from 10-50 feet away when I spotted a cruising or raising fish. The Dapple over shoreline structure was an area where the Shadow excelled. For simple Bugger-trolling or stripping, the long rod did not offer any advantages, but the extra weight of the Shadow was only noticeable when I picked up the traditional nine-footer to make a cast.

An unexpected advantage. One completely surprising feature of the Shadow, in addition to the ability to swing-a-fly-over-obstructions, was the tippet protection offered by the soft tip on this long rod. Not that a 9 ft 5 wt rod is incompatible of fishing 6x tippets, but the 3 wt. rating on the Shadow fairly indicates it’s ability to fight big fish on 2 lb. tippets.

Echo Edge Fly Rod 590-4 fly rod review: This is a 9 ft, 5 wt., 4-piece, single-hand fly rod in the Echo Edge Freshwater series.

I fished this Echo Edge fly rod in small Oregon Cascade streams with dries, soft hackles, and strike indicators. I fished wide-open water on the McKenzie and Willamette with dry flies, soft hackles and Buggers. Then I drove to the coast and fished dry lines, full sinking lines, and sink tips for sea run cutthroat. Lately, I have fished coastal lakes with bead-head leeches, buggers, and chironomids. In my mind, the 9 ft. 5 wt. fly rod is the core fly rod in the world of trout fishing: the first rod to build a trout rod collection around. I have fished a ton of rods in this class over my lifetime. I started with Eagle Claw and Shakespeare and Herter’s back in the 1960s. I progressed to Fenwick glass and graphite in the 1970s. I have fished Orvis, Winston, Sage, Scott, TFO, Loomis, Lamiglass, and probably others since then.

This Echo Edge fly rod ranks among the most pleasurable of the trout-class fly rods I have ever fished. Short and long casts, small and large flies, full sinking and floating lines, wind and calm, shallow and deep presentations: this rod is fun to fish, is what I would refer to as a medium fast action, is light in hand, and performs under as wide a range of environments imaginable.

Echo Ion fly Rod: 990-4 fly rod review: This is a 9 ft, 9 wt., 4-piece single-hand rod in the Ion Saltwater Series.

I fished this Echo ION fly rod in estuaries for king salmon, and in the ocean from a Dory for Black Rockfish and silvers. I fished poppers for Silvers in tidewater too. The Echo Ion series of fly rods is built to take harsh treatment. The Ion series, if it is anything like the 9 wt. I fished, casts well and is an excellent value at its price. If it were not for having Edge and Echo 3 fly rods strung up in the boat at the same time, I might just fish Ions exclusively. No complaints whatsoever. I experienced first class performance from this Ion.

That said, when I picked up both the Ion and Echo 3 in a similar rod weight, the latter rod was noticeably lighter and crisper to cast. Here is my overall take on the Ion series of Echo fly rods. These fly rods are built to be the unfailing back-up rod or the failure proof single rod for the fly angler who wants to test the waters in a particular rod/line class. If you are off on a trip and want back-up insurance in case your first-choice rod gets smushed, the Ion is your rod. If you are dipping your toes in any waters and want to see if you are going to stay the course, the Ion is your rod. If you need to have 5 rods strung in the boat with different lines to cover all the bases, a few of them ought to be Ions. But if you are looking for light-in-hand, high line speeds, tight loops, stunning components, and an overall high-end performance specialty rod, the Ion is a tad less than you are seeking (You want the E3 series to meet these specifiations.

Echo 3 SW fly Rod 790-4 fly rod review: This is a 9 ft, 7 wt., 4-piece Single –hand fly rod in the Saltwater series.

I caught 30 Lb kings on this 7 wt Echo 3 Saltwater fly rod. Not because it was my rod of choice, but because I had loaned my Ion out, and had to have 4 rods in the boat, each with different lines. I also fished the 7 wt. Echo 3 with Poppers for Coho, trolled Bucktails for silvers in the ocean, and chucked Clousers with T-14 heads to lure Black Rockfish and small Lings in the Kelp beds.

Keeping my comments short, (ha ha you know me better than that) this Echo 3 fly rod showcased features of the series. These rods cast an incredibly wide range of fly lines and fly line weights. They are fast but not scary fast, they cast long and load short if you need it, they are Echo tough, but light, very very pleasurable to cast, an absolute blast to feel the bend of a fish, and dependable.

Echo 3 SW Fly Rod 990-4 fly rod review: This is a 9 ft, 9 wt., 4-piece Single-hand fly rod in the Echo 3 Saltwaterseries.

This Echo 3 SW fly rod is the core of my Chinook fly-rod arsenal. The rod was in hand for all of my offshore fishing adventures too, but there was never ever a day during the autumn in the estuary when this 9 wt. single hand rod was not strung with one fly line or another and a salmon fly.

Like all of the Echo 3 SW series fly rods, I give the 9 wt. the highest marks. I treated this rod rough, day after day, week after week, and month after month.

Echo 3 SW Fly Rod 1090-4 fly rod review: This is a 9 ft, 10 wt., 4-piece Single-hand fly rod in the Saltwater series.

Next to the Echo 3 9 wt, the 10 wt. is my second favorite salmon rod here in Oregon. Some choose the heavier rod as their first choice, and I probably would also if my fish were running in the 35-plus lb. class more often. They do not. Most of the fish I have been tangling with are in the 15-25 Lb. class, and the ten wt. just isn’t necessary. Too, making five hundred casts with a nine versus a ten-weight rod – hoping to hook one fish, gives the 9 wt the nod of preference every day of the season.

The Echo 3 SW 10 wt rod is always going to be in my Pram when I am fishing the estuary, even when I am mostly chasing sea run cutthroat. The Echo 3 9 & 10 wt fly rods are what I consider indispensible when salmon fishing, and I cannot imagine any advances in technology are going to change this, ever.

Echo 3 FW 7100-4 fly rod review: This is a 10 ft, 7 wt., 4-piece Single hand fly rod in the Echo 3 Freshwater

Coming off a several-season fixation with two hand fly rods, I decided to step back to the single hander and swing flies for winter steelhead the way I once did. My choice for going retro was this 10 ft. 7 wt Echo 3 freshwater fly rod. I wanted the extra length in case I reverted all the way to fishing egg patterns, and wanted to have the line mending ability that the 10-footer offered over a traditional nine-footer. My intention was to fish Type-3 sink tips in soft water and focus on the close casts. These are situations, often during high water, when steelhead will lie in 3-4 foot deep water, with gentle current, and they can be so close to our feet that presentations with a two hand rod are awkward, as this is about where our sink tip starts to emerge from the rod tip, and I, for one, am usually focused on working my Spey line out of the rod to start making epic far-bank casts.

This 7 wt. Echo 3 Freshwater rod is pure fun to fish, and it is a highly versatile tool in my winter (and summer) steelhead arsenal. I had almost, but not quite, forgotten just how simple and fun it is to fish single hand rods for steelhead. A few of my friends still poke fun at my Spey rods on the Deschutes, as they tromp off down the trail with their single hand rods. We return to camp in mid-morning, and after dark; each of us has fished effectively, each of us has had fun, and sure, I may have covered the distant runs more effectively, but I wonder if perhaps they have fished the close water more effectively, because we both catch fish.

I will add, though, that if you are looking for a fly rod that will double as a wading staff, the Spey rod, and specifically a heavy Spey rod, is a better choice than a single hand rod. Not kidding. The single hand, 7 wt. fly rod, Echo or otherwise, is not up to the challenge of breaking the fall of a 225 pound fumble-footed guy like me. Not even close.

Overall, this 7 wt. Echo 3 freshwater fly rod is a wonderful reminder that traditional approaches to fly fishing still make sense. I will add that this rod fishes as a switch rod with Spey style casts, but you gotta plan ahead and string it with an Airflo Skagit Switch line in about 360 gr, (you can tip it with an Airflo Polyleader or Airflo Custom Cut T-7 tip of about 10’ – 12’.

Echo Switch fly rods. Like all of the rods in the Echo Switch
family, have what I would describe as a full action, one where I can feel the rod load through the butt section. I find this an advantage, given my casting skills, with two-hand casting strokes, and this 8 wt rod can really send my sink tips anywhere I want to send them with a short D-Loop behind me if I am constrained by brush or rock.

For overhead casting with full fly lines and shooting heads, the characteristic full-flex action of Echo Switch fly rods is great for Spey casting but the action is not so hot for my overhead casting with shooting heads and full fly lines. Specifically, the full-through-the-butt action requires me to really slow down my backcast, giving the line plenty of time to straighten out behind me, and then driving the cast forward smartly. The length of the Switch rod, compared to my usual 9’ single hand rod, plus my casting ineptitude, usually leaves me with a pretty open loop, and I just deal with that.

Advantage in windy conditions. There are plenty of days when I am anchored, fishing with a brisk, right-to-left cross wind howling. As a right hand caster, these conditions find me with hooks embedded in the back of my head, square in the middle of my back, in an ear, or sailing past my left ear. The Echo Switch fly rods allow one to overhead cast from either side, so I work my cast from my left side, using mostly lower hand power and my line and fly stay on the downwind side where they are not a threat to life or limb.

Shoulder relief. Anyone who has cast single hand rods for days on end, double hauling shooting head fly lines, is vulnerable to shoulder injuries, or at the very least, to shoulder soreness. I often reach for my Echo Switch fly rods and keep right on fishing shooting heads and full fly lines – casting two handed with 95% of the power from my lower hand. This is quite a relief on days/weeks when my right shoulder is talking to me.

Echo Switch Rod SR 81010-4 fly rod review: This is a 10 ft 10”, 8 wt., 4-piece Switch rod.
I fish this Echo Switch rod in two ways: 1) overhead casting for Chinook in tidewater with shooting heads and full traditional floating and sinking fly lines; and 2) with a 480 gr Airflo Switch fly line.

Echo Switch Rod SR 4106-4 fly rod review: This is a 10’ 6” 4 wt. Switch rod.
My experience with this Echo Switch rod
has been fishing from a drift boat with strike indicators and nymphs. I would recommend this Echo Switch stick to anyone, and I do mean anyone, who is going to fish nymphs and indicators. This rod made nymphing easy, effortless, and delightful, which is saying something – because anyone who has dredged nymphs knows it can be dirty business. This 4 wt Switch rod exercised trout well, without beating them up, and we caught natives in the 18” down to 10,” having fun with ‘em all.

Echo Dec Hogan Spey Rod Reviews.
I’m gonna keep this section short and to the point. Dec got these right and Echo has produced a series of Spey rods that are friendly to both beginner and expert alike. The following are quick snapshots from my days on many rivers with these rods.

Echo Dec Hogan 5120-4 fly rod review: This is a 12 ft, 5 wt., 4-piece Spey rod.
Light summer steelhead special. So light you find it difficult to believe that you have reached out waaaaaaay across the river and are swinging a damp, dry, or sunk fly. Fun, fun, fun, and the summers have an equal footing with this rod.

Echo Dec Hogan
6126-4. This is a 12’ ft, 6” – 6 wt. 4-piece Spey rod.
The absolutely perfect summer steelhead rod in the Dec Hogan series. I fish this rod in winter too, with Airflo Polyleaders or RIO MOW tips and it has plenty of authority to fish dry and Skagit lines.

Echo Dec Hogan
7130-4. This is a 13 ft, 7 wt., 4-piece Spey rod.
If you are a new Spey fisher and want advice on your very first winter steelhead stick, this is the one I would send you out the door with. You will cast tips and big flies right off the bat. The rod is light for the power it carries and is able to convince good chrome to “come to pappa,” at least some of the time.

Echo Dec Hogan
8136-4. This is a 13 ft. 6” – 8 wt., 4-piece Spey rod.
Reach for this rod if you have king salmon in mind. Some favor this for heavy winter steelhead and pushing heavy tips, but not me. I find this rod has the guts to engage in serious conversation with kings. Unequivocally, I have decided that this is more rod than I am comfortable with fishing for winter steelhead; I keep kept going back to the DH 7130-4 or the TR 7130-4 to cover the same water with tips and weighted flies.

Echo Tim Rajeff Spey Rods 0product review: The TR 7130-4 is a 13 ft, 7 wt., 4-piece Spey rod.

This is the only Spey rod in the Echo Tim Rajeff Spey rod series that I have fished for days on end. This is a rod of surprises. Reading the literature on the beast, I was a little afraid that I would not measure up to the skill needed to cast it well. Not even. This rod is as intuitive as any Spey rod I have cast, and the power of the 7 wt made me think that I would be comfortable fishing kings on this rod and would probably reach for the 6 wt Tim Rajeff Spey rod as my first pick for winter steelhead, and then the 5 wt Timmie for summer steelhead. Lots of conjecture here, but I can tell you outright that the 7 wt fished 15’ tips up to T-17, cast long and short, and had a responsive feel through the butt that amazed me. Not quite as limber in the lower nethers than the Dec series, but the Tim Rajeff series of Spey rods are not the broom-sticks that you might imagine from reading the promo literature.

Time to quit writing, in my case, and reading, in your case – and go fishing. See you on the river, maybe, possibly, hopefully, or maybe not.

Jay Nicholas
January 2012