Gear That’s Good – Fly Rods

Scott 845/5This is not a review of any of the latest fly rods. Rather, it’s a look at the collection of rods that I’ve spent a lot of time fishing on small streams. I still own each of them. They are all discontinued or superseded by something fancier, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy.

The cast of characters:

  • LL Bean Streamlight 6’11” 4 weight
  • Sage FLi 9′ 5 weight
  • Winston WT 7′ 3 weight
  • Scott G 8’4″ 5 weight

All of them excel at various things. From least to most desirable…

LL Bean Streamlight 6’11” (4 weight – 2 piece)

The little Streamlight is an inexpensive and surprisingly good small stream fly rod. With a four weight line it leans toward the faster end of moderate action, but it still throws small dry flies well enough, especially when the wind kicks up a little. It’s only a two-piece rod, but that’s kind of nice when you’re gearing up, just twist it together and go. For durability and carefree bashing-through-the-woods kind of fishing, it’s been great and still gets some use. Props to LL Bean for making some good, affordable fly rods and having an outstanding warranty on everything they sell.

Sage FLi 594 (5 weight – 4 piece)

This is one of those rods that you don’t hear much about anymore. It is the rod I grab when fishing medium to large streams and rivers for trout, and I use it a lot for nymphing.  But it is also fine for fishing dry flies. Very good, in fact. For brook trout on small streams and casting short lengths of line or just the leader, it’s not a awful. Using this rod opened my eyes to the benefits of using a longer stick and keeping line off the water more easily on little creeks. It’s probably considered a faster action design, but not like some of Sage’s truly fast action offerings, like the old TCX, and others currently in Sage’s enormous catalog. The FLi is a sweet casting rod. It is an interesting stick to go back to now that there is renewed attention to fast action designs that are a little toned-down, a little more moderate, while still being able to throw long casts. I think the FLi is a rod in that spirit. Even if its fast-action cred is not quite the same, it’s still an easy rod for rocketing long casts (at least as five weight rods go) and covers a wide range of fishing situations.

Winston WT 7′ (3 weight – 3 piece)

Winston makes great fly rods, and this is one of the sweetest lightweight dry fly rods I’ve ever tried. It’s telepathic in helping you put a small fly into a pocket the size of a dessert plate consistently. The only things that cause it some trouble are wind and “larger” fish. The latter is probably due to my ham-fisted landing technique, but I have lost a couple brook trout over twelve inches using this rod. Both times, it was a rodeo, the rod bucking and bouncing while I tried to scoop the fish without a net, and both times the debacle ended with the fish bouncing off the hook and into the drink. And after each of those incidents, it would be a while before I found another brook trout that size… and I was not happy. Again, probably more my fault than the rod’s, though.

Scott G 845/5 (5 weight – 5 piece)

Then… there is the sublime Scott G 845/5. When I first got this rod, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. It has a wispy, moderate action that no one would describe as anywhere near fast. Not exactly like a glass rod, but it’s in that realm. I put my father-in-law’s old Lamson LP reel with a four weight line on it right away. I haven’t even tried a five weight line on it, though I’m sure it would handle it well. It is every bit the sweet dry fly caster the Winston WT is. The 8’4″ length is nice to have on tiny streams, and it’s not so unwieldy when bushwhacking as I originally feared. And unlike my Winston, the Scott has power when you need it. I can send out fifty foot casts effortlessly, and longer casts with some attention. I routinely use it for ten footers to soft pockets on brook trout streams, and it does that in the most casual and certain way. It has become my go-to fly rod for all kinds of trout fishing. In Yellowstone this summer, I fished nothing else and landed several cutthroats up to nineteen inches and felt completely confident with it. Yeah, I’ll use the word — this rod is magic, or pretty close. It’s earned its place as my favorite. For some interesting historical info, you can read what Larry Kenney, former owner and/or head designer of Scott Fly Rods (can never find good info about that…), says about this rod.

And Then… There Were Three

So now, it’s time to clear out some gear, and I think the Winston WT is the rod that has to go. What it does overlaps with the Scott too much. I really don’t want to part with it, but it’s just been sitting in its tube for a year now while the other rods get fished. Someone else should enjoy it. Ping me if you’re interested. Otherwise, it’ll be on eBay soon. Maybe… or it just may stay. Hard to get rid of a good fly rod, no matter how much sense it seems to make some days.

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