Yesterday, we talked about some general things to consider when purchasing a rod as a gift (especially for a beginner or intermediate angler). Today, as promised, we’ll highlight a few of the specific rods that are available. There are a plethora of good rods out there, and we only have room to focus on a few in each category. Think of this as a sampler. Just because we don’t mention a rod here, doesn’t mean it’s not worth considering. But this post should give you a taste of what’s out there at a few different price points. And yes, we’ll spotlight primarily rods that we carry here at Sweetwater Fly Shop. It’s not all self-interest. These are the rods that we’ve had a chance to cast. And we only bring in rods that we like; we’d be shooting ourselves in the foot if we tried to sell you a dud.
Let’s begin rods for beginners (and never-evers). As I mentioned yesterday, medium-fast action rods are usually best for learning to cast. There are very good beginner rods at a couple of different price levels. For the budget-minded, we like the Echo Carbon ($169.99). It’s a smooth-casting rod that performs above it’s cost. It’s a little heavier than some of the higher-priced rods, and isn’t fancy looking, but it gets the job done. If you’ve got more to spend, you might go with the Sage Approach ($350). Like the Echo, it’s a medium-fast action rod that is ideal for learners. Unlike the Echo, it’s made in the U.S. and, in our opinion, looks a bit more “upscale.” It also feels a little lighter in the hand.
All-in-one outfits are another great option for beginners
who are just starting out. They typically include a rod, a reel matched to the rod, and a line already spooled on the reel, and are priced below what you would pay for the components separately. The aforementioned Sage Approach comes in an outfit ($550) that includes a very nice reel and line for the price. If money is tight, the Redington Crosswater outfit ($139.95) might fit the bill. It’s probably a bit too low-end for someone who’s going to fly fish a lot, but adequate for the angler who’s only going to use it a few times a year, or as a starter setup that is likely to be replaced in a couple of years (unlike all of the other rods we mention, it only has a 1-year warranty).
Is it time for your angler to step up to an intermediate-level rod? Yes, you’re going to pay a bit more, but you don’t want to get them a rod that they’ll quickly grow out of. All of the following are fast-action rods, which tend to be the preference of more advanced casters. At the bottom end of the price range that we’d recommend is the Echo 3 ($349.99), which we recently reviewed. It’s a short step up to the Sage Response ($395), which is U.S. made and a very nice casting rod. Both of these rods have higher end finishes, like wood reel seats. Either of these would win you much admiration from the recipient. (2015 note: Sage has recently discontinued the Response, but we still have a couple in stock – come in to the shop and we’ll make you a deal.)
Want to really up the ante? The “mid-priced” rod category has recently added a couple of rods that we
wouldn’t hesitate to give to an advanced-intermediate or even expert angler. The first of these is the Sage Accel ($595). It’s a little on the slower side of the fast-action rods, so it could even be given as a really special gift to a relative beginner. Alternatively, it would be an exceptional rod for an expert who has a somewhat slower casting stroke. How do you know something that specific about your angler? Maybe they’ve told you (and you happen to remember). But more likely, they’re going to have to try the rod (see below). Our second suggestion is a rod we just received, and one that has us really excited. It’s the Winston Nexus ($485). It casts a smooth as silk, but has plenty of power to handle big fish and to make long casts into the wind. Any of us at the shop would be thrilled to receive either one of these rods.
What about the top-end rods? Those rods costing in the $800 range. Well, we’re not going to cover those today, as this post is oriented toward beginner and intermediate anglers. We’ll do another post later about “lust after” gear.
One final note. Especially as you get up higher in cost (and angler expertise), choosing the right rod becomes a matter of matching the rod to the caster. Different rods are better for casters with different styles, and better is primarily subjective. Even the most expert fly shop employee isn’t going to be able to tell you which rod you should give to a particular angler, especially not being able to see that angler cast the rod. Best that the recipient should try several different rods and end up with the one that feels best to them while they’re actually casting it. What does that mean? Perhaps a fly shop gift card that would cover the cost of a rod in the price category you’re comfortable with would be the way to go. Yes, there’s nothing quite like watching that special someone unwrapping a brand new rod. But you also want that someone to end up with a rod that they’ll cherish for many years.