There’s been quite a hullabaloo about Douglas Outdoors’ new Sky G rod, so we asked local South African agents Wading Waters (wadingwaters.com) for one to test. We paired it with Herman Botes, one of the country’s hardest working fly anglers who we knew would put it through its paces, and then some. Here’s the the Douglas Sky G rod review.
Rod: 9-foot, 5-weight Douglas Sky G
Test areas: Gauteng bass lakes, Vaal River (including Lower Vaal) and tributaries, trout ponds around Bronkhorstspruit and Delmas
Species caught: Carp, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, brown trout, golden trout, smallmouth yellowfish, largemouth yellowfish.
When fly fishing, you get rods that do certain jobs remarkably well and they are the tools you reach for in specific areas. I’m sure these specialised demands are the reason we have so many rods -well for me, at least. And then there are the fun allrounder rods. A sweet, fast action 9 ft 5-weight or a softer medium actioned 9ft 6-weight is what I think of when I think of a fun all-rounder.
It’s the rod you reach for when you’re not sure how your outing might turn out. Maybe it’s delicate and accurate dry fly fishing, or some serious and sensitive nymphing, or tossing topwater bugs for bass, or searching the water with streamers, or prospecting for small saltwater species…you get the idea. It’s the one rod that you can stash in the car. For me fishing it is like wearing your favourite pair of worn-in jeans. So when I was asked to test drive the new DOUGLAS SKY G for some varied spring fishing, I naturally gave it a go.
I’m familiar with the wand-like weights and swing weights of modern top-end rods, but I swear that when I assembled this rod I had to check to make sure I wasn’t given a 4-weight. I even swapped out my reels and stuck on my SAGE 4230 to balance it perfectly. Now I had this 5-weight perfectly disguised as my 9 ft 3-weight (really, it’s that light), ready for some small stream yellow fishing.
I think that the way some rod reviewers carry on about the look of the reviewed rod totally sucks so I was going to drop this bit. But then I thought that, if you contemplate dropping 15 K on a rod, you’d like to know this sort of thing. Straight up, your buddies won’t go WOW when you pull this stick from its sock. However, the reel seat is an eye catcher and you will have to pry it from their clenched fists after they’ve flicked it around a bit. I do have to admit that I liked the look of this rod. Firstly and most importantly for me, its matt charcoal blank is just how I prefer my rods. No bling sports car colours or rod flash.
Then it’s got all the latest niceties like line up dots with rod ID on each of the four sections, very neat epoxy work, Cerecoil stripping guide & REC nickel titanium flexible one-foot guides. Good cork finish on its cigar handle (my favourite shape) with cork/rubber rings on the top and bottom to protect it should you, like me, stick your flies in the rod handle because you are lazy. It also sports a grey anodized double up-locking skeleton reel seat with nylon washers so you don’t get that skin-crawling grit grind when you loosen or fasten your reel. The burled blackwood insert is as sexy as hell. The overall look is that of a stealth weapon without it being overly obvious. It comes with a cloth bag made out of a cushioned material that’s breathable so the stashed rod can dry real smart and it has a generous, aluminium rod tube. These things may be important but, after a month of fishing, I’m sure they become secondary as it’s the rod performance that you concern yourself with.
My first impression of this rod in action was its light weight and sensitivity which are more in line with a 3-weight than a 5-weight. It’s dampening is incredibly fast – not in the broomstick fast kinda way but more like a quicksilver super hero way. A fly shop buddy of mine pegged it perfectly, “Fast with feel and accuracy”. Apparently that’s what modern rod builders strive for. Well the dude who designed this rod got that right and then some.
The sensitive casting power from close in to full line distance ( fly fishers just can’t resist that parking lot test) is going to make you imagine you’re not far off the standard of Joan Wulff or Tim Rajeff. It is so sensitive that even small fish are going to make you ride by the seat of your pants with excitement. But the thing that really sets it apart is its accuracy and I’m not talking about the parking lot test. In real life fishing situations with wind (the curse) and obstacles and space limitations, this rod delivered and took my fishing to the next level. My friend Gary Glen-Young, used to carry on about a little 8 ft 2-weight G.Loomis Trilogy (the only 2-weight Loomis ever made) that was so accurate that wherever he pointed it that was where the fly landed, except in strong wind. I feel the same way about this stick and you can throw in some wind.
So how does it fish? Sadistically I fished it the first time from my float tube casting an overloaded 5-weight line, super-fast sink polyleader , long 3X tippet, and a Muishond with lead dumbbells. It’s what’s required for deep staging bass in winter. I was sure this light stick was not gonna handle and ugly Belgium casts morphed with dwarf-tossing was going to be the outcome. Lo and behold I actually cast this set up ….not beautifully but still a fair distance.
The tactic worked and when my fly stopped dead during the retrieve on a 16-inch bass I was again impressed by the butt power of such a light rod while I horsed the fish from the depths. So I really started with this rod’s Achilles heel. For serious power and out far it drops the ball a bit – I’m being super critical here. So if you intend to play in the zoo slugging Half-Chickens, Double Bunnys, Muishonds and Snakes into the great unknown, you’re going to wish for one of those power tool rods to make life easier. However, if you up load with a loaded 5-weight – or a 6-weight line, the rod’s got the butt power to make it happen. In my case it just wasn’t pretty or effortless.
But, during early spring on the Highveld your fishing days can take on interesting twists. You can set out to fish for trout with the standard searching tactics then bump into an afternoon caenis hatch with its tactical fishing which demands # 18 and smaller nymphs and spinners on gossamer tippets and then end the evening throwing topwater bugs to active bass in the margins. Or you can set out to fish dry flies for yellows rising to BWOs (Blue Wing Olives) during the early afternoon but then bump into loads of spawning carp which creates a different challenge and then finish off the day targeting single active yellows with small buggers. And this is where this rod came through with flying colours. The versatility required from a rod for fishing days like these is right up the SKY G’s alley.
For the rest of Herman’s review, get stuck in to issue 24 of The Mission below (it’s free…as always).