I walked into UpCountry in New Hartford CT, my home shop as a guide, and Grady Allen the owner, walked over. “I have a new rod for you (here we go again, the wife is gonna kill me if I try to sneak home another rod). “It’s a Douglas SKY, a euro style 11′- 3wt. and before you say anything, take it out for the afternoon, see what you think”.Well, ok.
The rod taper and flex felt right, even with a few soft snaps at the rod rack. My regular euro rod was also in the rack, so I grabbed it to feel it out against the SKY. It felt heavier. The Douglas was light, very light, with backbone, but I was also using 6x on my droppers. Lets go see…
It was my day off and river intel was that a good brown was holed up under a lesser known bank snag. It was a tricky spot that could grab fly rigs, so I warmed up on the riffles before hitting the root ball. My regular rod (named after an herb) has had steady use, so, new rods usually take some time for me to get use to. A couple of casts into the riffle and a 14” brown went to net quickly. I felt right at home with the SKY, no adjustments – so far – but that was an easy fish.There was some white water just before the snag that demanded a heavier anchor fly.The SKY had very little recoil bouncing of the rod tip – accurate – even with a heavier anchor fly. As I was leading the flies thru the drift, feeling bottom, the rod felt spot-on and my sighter stopped. I hooked a rainbow, a feisty 16″ pain, that did not stop flipping around, even into the net. Rainbows, ya gotta love em! The rod handled the jumps and the quick flexing turns of the fight without that jittery-rod-shake rainbows can put into a rod.
Good butt strength, when I need it, to show who was boss. Nice! The snag was next. I cast, inched out line, measured, cast again, inching out more line, not wanting to make a donation.Good drifts, under and back into the bank. Nutin’ but Cheerios. No one home. But I liked the line control.
Making lemonade, I moved into the small lee downstream of the snag and set the hook into a good brown. He moved directly into the fast water and immediately felt bigger, heavier. Hoping my knots and 6x held, I lead the fish into slower water, coaxing it upstream, letting him think it was his idea. As he went by me, it was not the 20 I was looking for but a dark, butter brown that looked like a 17 or 18.With net in my left hand, I tugged slightly on the rod and found the fish still full of piss-and-vinegar… and flew right past me, just barely avoiding the net, back into white water. Damn. I carefully muscled the fish out of fast water again, into the slower water, back upstream.That rod was fully bent, fully loaded – but I felt completely in charge. This is the time when you need help from your rod, on those dicey second chances. This time I schmoozed him upstream, and then walked him right into the net as he passed by me. Textbook.
BYW, I carried an extra spool with a dry fly rig.While the length of the 11-footer took me a minute to get back into dry fly casting, I quickly was intent on the fishing, not the rod, and did not notice any performance issues casting drys to risers as it got dark. So, I did not have to carry two rods. Nymphing and drys with one rod – Nice again!
There are three points of reference when a rod actually talks to me when euro fishing. The cast, drift and how it lands fish. A cast has to be accurate, especially near wood, with as little rebound as possible for accuracy. On the drift, you need to lift slightly, keeping the anchor fly from snagging, differentiating between bottom and a take. Setting the hook and playing/controlling the fish to net is all about feel.You need the rod to transmit what the fish is doing, especially with small flies.Your sixth sense comes into play and your rod must help you with that “anticipation”.
The casting of the Douglas SKY 11’-3 wt. was very accurate, even with heavier anchor flies. The rod’s recoil was very quick to recover, – noticeably so. This was evident even when dry fly casting. With lighter anchor flies, there was still very good feel and control on shorter upstream casts. During the drift, when the line is hammocked in the guides, the rod bends, ever so slightly, enhancing feel and sensitivity for the bottom. The single foot guides are a great improvement- a difference you can feel and learn to depend on. The tip to mid-section is very sensitive, a Stradivarius violin with a nano touch, resulting in swift clean contact to fish. Hook setting was positive with good solid contact into the butt section when called upon. No noodling or over-flexing sensations at all. The rod felt light all afternoon, my shoulder told me that. I loved the appointments – exotic wood reel seat, single foot guides built with a unique wire that bends all the way over without breaking, right sized front stripper guide, fluor cork handle, a hook keeper correctly placed underneath (so you you can point your finger on casts), and the color was a prestigious satin grey-blue (not shiny) – a really beautiful color, not gaudy, something you can have pride in when meeting up on-stream.
Guiding success is earned by time on the water and experience with what works and what doesn’t. Once you are in the right position, it all comes down to feel. The cast has to be accurate, the drift has to have touch with feel for the bite. The bite is just a moments hesitation of the sighter with a lightning fast response to set the hook. Lotsa moving parts that need to sync up, to get it right, to produce.
Douglas SKY 11’- 3wt. works, it produces. It is lighter and more responsive than my “herb” named rod. This will change the euro rod leader board – and the best news – they are priced less! They out fish the name rod at a better price. Bingo. Get one. I want three, two for my clients and one for my day off. This rod will be one your kids will treasure and will be sought after on eBay, many years from now.“But honey, I just gotta have this new rod… “ Silence. I smell couch.
Swenson Northwest Connecticut Guide Services