Prepare yourself for a head-turner. The ever-popular Angler’s Roost Enterprises – John Kuhn (of Buffalo, NY) has really outdone himself with his latest creation, the 2010 14ft 5/6wt “Euro” style spey rod.
Here’s a slide show of some images I took with my new HTC EVO phone:
While you’re busy looking at the craftsmanship and attention to detail, let me offer you my thoughts on this new rod – the 4th Anglers Roost spey rod, and the 7th ARE rod I own:
2 12ft 5/6wt American style (handles) rods;
1 14 ft 7/8 wt American style rod;
1 11ft 2wt single-handed rod (no typo there, it’s an 11 ft 2wt rod you won’t believe);
1 9 ft 5wt single-handed rod; and
1 6ft-6in 4wt single-handed rod.
I also own the following non-ARE rods (in case anyone questions my bias):
1 15 ft 9/10 wt Reddington Red Fly II American-style spey rod;
1 14 ft 9/10 wt Cabela’s American-style spey rod;
1 9ft 4 wt Ross single-handed rod;
1 7 ft 2 wt TFO Lefty Kreigh single-handed rod;
2 9 ft 7wt non-label old restored bamboo single-handed rods;
I live & fly fish (I suppose that’s being redundant) in the far western suburbs of Chicago & Lake Michigan, in scummy ponds after 11-20 inch largemouths, in 100-yard-across-knee-deep rivers after 11-18 inch smallmouths, and in the clearer, deeper, faster streams to the north (Waukegan, Kenosha, Racine, Milwaukee, Sheboygan) after 10-40 inch Browns, Rainbows, Kings, Cohos, and our beloved Steelheads. That’s a pretty wide spectrum of fish, sizes, waters & casting conditions, so I’ve an equally-diverse range of rods.
That said, when the Kings, Cohos and Steelhead are running in the decidedly-modest-in-most-places rivers on the western shoreline of Lake Michigan, what most spey fisherman no doubt have found is that 15ft, 9-10wt rods are – simply put – overkill, and 12 ft 5-6 wt rods are (borderline) underkill, readily getting snapped by a many fierce Kings & Steelheads in a bad mood.
That makes John’s 14ft 5/6wt pretty much the perfect tool for effortlessly casting/swinging/skating/drifting either combos of flies & eggs or large leeches on medium sink tips on skagit lines all day long on the Pike River, the Root River, the Milwaukee River and the Sheboygan River.
“ALL DAY LONG” is an important distinction to make here, because many of the local “fly fishermen” (you can hardly call them that when all they do is flail a chuck-n-duck rig all of 5 ft from the tip of the broom handles they call rods) don’t actually know how to cast, and couldn’t throw their hardware all day long if they really had to. But those who do actually cast know that the fish can be in many places & situations within only 100 yards of where one is standing – in 5 ft of deep crevice just 40 ft out in mid-stream; in 1 ft of cataract a full cross-stream cast of 130 ft; at the surface in a foam-covered lazy eddie in 4 ft of steep bank across 80 ft of near-calm water. It’s important to have a rod that’s short enough to let me drift a nymph not 20 ft from my rod tip, long enough to loft an intruder on 5 ft of T14 a good 90 ft over swift mid-stream rapids to that perfect seam; small enough to actually “feel” the tug of an feisty & fearless 12 in brownie, but strong enough to take the fight out of a 39 in, 28 lb King who will throw himself out of the water with a resounding “SMACK” body-slam every 30 seconds during a 15 minute battle-royale…
John Kuhn’s latest 14 footer is just such a tool – the only rod you need enter the water with for a day-long venture after whatever happens to be moving…
So here’s what my first impression was when I got home from work, saw the ARE tube leaning next to my door, opened it, and took out the rod sock:
“Attention to Detail…”
So nice to have a labeled sock to let me know precisely what I was holding. Start collecting enough rods (it just happens, I don’t know how), and you’ll come to appreciate this more & more…
Fit & the finish: perfection.
Reel Seat: decidedly “spartan”. NO fancy wood or inlays or composite patterns or the like – just very attractive well-finished metal… and in a spey rod that’s just what I like.
Handle: Obviously “euro/scandahooovian”, and beautifully done. Take a look at the pictures.
Butt: Again obviously euro/scandahoovian by design, and beautifully executed.
Cork: Well-balanced. There’s a fine line between so-smooth-and-featureless-you-think-it’s-going-to-slip-out-of-your-hands and so-rough-and-pitted-that-it-actually-starts-to-be-uncomfortable-after-an-hour… and John’s latest rod finds that balance. My first time out with the rod I promised my wife I’d only be out for 15 minutes (just to see how it cast)… I ended up being gone well over 4 hours [nb, the Fox River is only 1/3 mile from my front door], it felt so good in my hands.
Action: “MAD POWER”. John designed this rod to be light & stiff in the butt and mid-section, with the movement (and hence power) in the tip. Using IM7 instead of older IM6 material, I suppose by all definitions that makes this a “fast action” rod. What it feels like is that I’ve got a 9/10 weight LAUNCHING POWER packed into 5wt WEIGHT & BALANCE… and with SWITCH ROD FEEL. Normally the rule is “POWER, LIGHT WEIGHT, FEEL… pick any TWO”, but John’s come as close as anyone I’ve ever met at delivering on ALL THREE METRICS.
I say “mad power”, because when I put on my Rio Powerspey 9/10/11 wt long-belly line, not only was this 5/6 wt rod up to the challenge, but it seemed to THRIVE on the extra weight. I made a simple 15 ft stepped fluoru leader, tied on a typical massive white zonker-stripped streamer, and – even in a 10 mph upstream (river left) wind, I was launching 110 ft casts again & again & again – right in the middle of downtown St Charles, IL. This is me standing on a boulder less than a foot above water, at the shoreline, with virtually NO room to backcast, doing nothing more than a basic Perry Poke…. and this rod is blasting that much fast-sinking leader & baitfish-sized hook out to mid-stream (where only spin-casters typically can reach) that passers-by just stopped and STARED… Then I aim 45 degrees downstream – INTO the wind – and found myself launching 120 ft. I was so giddy I pulled out my cell phone (I know I know – BAD luck) and called John right there on the spot. I said “John, I’m blasting your rod out 120 ft… INTO THE WIND”. He just laughed and said keep testing it, so I did. I hung up, waited for a slight calm moment, and threw out more line… 125 ft. 127 ft. 130 ft. 133 ft…. 135 ft. A second time. A third. Again. Again. Again. Into the wind. Standing at the water’s edge. Nothing but a Perry Poke or my own invention, a hybrid launch-before-it-even-anchors-snap-cast. It was one of those times where you forget to fish, because everything – the rod, the line, the tip, the leader, the hook, the technique – comes together, and you just want to see how far you can cast…
And perhaps most surprising is this – even though I’ve learned only “western” style spey casting (more pushing with top hand, or at best combo top hand push/bottom hand pull), I found myself NATURALLY scandi-casting this rod. There’s just something about the cork being SO long, the butt being SO natural to PULL on, and the flex under the cork being in JUST the right place that withouth trying or thinking about it, I found myself scandi-casting like I’d been born to it…
Skagit casting was also easy, but I spent all my time with my Rio Powerspey (which has I think a 65 ft belly), I was having SO much fun. More on throwing a skagit later.
For a mere $119.00 the Angler’s Roost Enterprises 14ft 5/6 wt spey rod represents a value & performance that can only be described as amazing. Sage, Winston and all the other fly-fishing “royals” ought to be scared shitless.
I highly recommend you pick up one of these rods for Christmas.
Me? I already have one, and am even going to bug John to produce an 11 ft or 12 ft version with the same action. It would be the perfect “Bagit” (Bass-Skagit) rod, and would transform how people fish for bass…