From The Mission Issue 32: Wands. A few months back Tim Rajeff sent us a quiver of Echo Fly Fishing rods to review. From the Prime to the Boost Salt and the Streamer-X, our team of intrepid testers put them through their paces. Here’s what they found.
ECHO BOOST SALT, 8-WEIGHT
- Tester – Conrad Botes
- Playground – Breede River, in-shore reefs
“One rod to rule them all”
When I was given a new Echo rod to review, I immediately thought that this would be a bit of an unfair and biased review, since I fish Echo rods exclusively in the Western Cape salt. They are affordable, reliable and the back-up service when you need a broken section replaced is excellent. But I have never owned an Echo 7-weight, so I immediately jumped at the opportunity.
On closer inspection I realised that I’d made a bit of a mistake. It wasn’t a 7-weight rod I was asked to review, but an 8-weight. Now, most of my friends fish 8 and 10-weights in the local salt, with the 8-weight being the light rod for grunter and other small stuff, and the 10-weight being the heavier rod used for kob and leeries. Not me. I prefer a 7-weight as my light rod, a 9-weight as my go-to heavier rod, and then the 10-weight for really heavy stuff.
So, I was presented with a special little dilemma, at the crossroads so to speak between my usual comfort zones. I realised there was only one way to approach the problem. To fish the rod for all the species I would normally target with either the seven or nine.
The obvious place to start was grunter, as 8-weight rods are the ones most commonly used when targeting grunters here in the Cape. I paired the new Boost with an Aiflo clear tip floating line. I must admit, the combination was a winner. Every cast I made went out like a rocket and it was easy to punch even big, wind-resistant deer-hair prawns into a stiff breeze. But the rod was still delicate enough to make fighting a grunter enjoyable.
The real advantage came when targeting grunter on the sand with JAM flies. In a scenario like this you often have very little time for false casting and, ideally, you have to present the fly after a maximum of two false casts. With the Boost I found that it had enough backbone to successfully present a JAM after a single false cast, making it a winner on the sand flats.
Next up was the small stuff, fishing flats on the inshore surf. We target species like blacktail and wildeperd year-round along inshore reefs along the Agulhas coast. The rod of choice is a light one. I have used a 5-weight quite a lot, but mostly a 7-weight has been my go-to stick for this stuff. Going heavier didn’t really make sense to me and I thought it would be overkill for the small flies we used targeting these species. As soon as I started fishing, I forgot I was using a heavier rod. I really enjoyed the fight these feisty little buggers put up. I was pleasantly surprised to see blacktail putting a decent bend into this rod as I was fighting a fish at close range.
Kob and leerfish
The true test was using this rod for bigger species casting heavier flies. Many of my friends considered a 9-weight as too light a rod to use for leeries and especially kob, and going lighter still didn’t make sense. But I decided to use this rod for an entire session fishing for both kob and leeries.
I found that the rod was an excellent piece of tackle for targeting leeries. It handled the small crease flies and silicone mullets I used with ease. I could even get the required distance when casting larger flippers and poppers, something that a heavier rod is more suited for.
The final test was using the Boost for kob fishing. Kob flies are difficult to cast, even when using heavier tackle such as a 10-weight. I used the Echo Boost exclusively during a number of kob sessions. The conclusion is that the lighter rod was not a handicap when casting big flies, not even large sculpin head DMAs. Yet being more delicate than the normal choice of 9 or 10-weight, the Boost made fighting a decent size kob so much more enjoyable.
In conclusion I would say that if I was given the choice of using a single rod for all of my local salt water fishing, the Echo Boost 8-weight would definitely be it. Regardless of what you choose to target, big or small, this rod is really the one to rule them all.
ECHO PRIME 4, 8-WEIGHT
- Tester – LeRoy Botha
- Playground – Garden Route estuaries, Berg River
There are a few reviews on the internet for Echo’s “flagship offering”, the Prime 4, and I’d encourage you to check them out. For one, I agree with most of them. For two, I am not necessarily the best guy to ask about the technical aspects of this stuff. That said, I’ve had a few rods in the 7/8wt class, and this one undoubtedly stands way out. Anything you could level at it in terms of critique can easily be countered by considering the purpose-inspired design.
There are some things that this rod just isn’t built to do. From my experience fishing it for the past few months, I could tell that it isn’t made to cast into the next province. In my hands, it can’t. It also requires some shenanigans to get it to throw heavy flies into the wind, to the point where I had to modify my casting stroke so much that it felt somewhat unnatural. Am I complaining though? Hell, no. That which it is built for, it does very well indeed.
I used this rod for river smallmouth bass last November, and caught a good few in the 18 to 20-inch range. I can’t remember fishing a rod more enjoyable and capable when it comes to river smallies. Casting weighted flies with the wind, I could easily reach 20m with just one false cast. In addition, the Prime 4 8-weight has the lightness and feel of a 6-weight, but with the power to hold fish when it’s needed. Not for a second did I feel either over or under-gunned. It’s a truly fantastic rod for smallmouth bass, and I bet it would do very well on largemouth yellowfish, too.
Hunt the Grunt
I know what you’re thinking, though. What about spotted grunter? The Echo Prime 4 is made, I hear, for “quick shots at real world distances”. If that’s not sight-fishing for flats grunter, I don’t know what is. It loves casting the kind of stuff that I like to fish for grunter. I admit that it took a few tries to find the ideal casting stroke for it. I expected it to be a faster-actioned rod, but when I figured out that I could really relax and cast it gently, I was sending accurate, unobtrusive presentations at a distance of 10 to 15m, again with only a very short water-load and one false cast. This rod wants to do the work. You don’t have to whip it like a lunatic to make it deliver the quick presentations needed when sight-fishing for grunter, and I absolutely love that.
An 8-weight might sound like a heavy rod for grunter, but, again, I assure you, you won’t notice the difference between it and your 6-weight. It is exceptionally responsive during the retrieve and while fighting fish – highly desirable features on a grunter rod.
Right, details. Firstly, Echo chopped 2 inches off the usual 9ft for saltwater rods. Clearly this helps speed up presentation by shortening the distance the rod tip travels during even a slower casting stroke. This can result in a fly slapping the water pretty hard, which can be avoided by practicing careful control with the line-hand. The shorter length may well be why the rod is generally unforgiving of dodgy casting habits. It features a longer than usual “dual zone” handle with a bit of extra flare at the front. This is reportedly handy for different types of presentations requiring you to switch your grip between thumb-on-top and index-finger-on-top. All I can tell you is that to me, it looks and feels great. I can get a slightly higher grip that helps balance the rod and reel according to my casting style.
As for snakes and strippers, we’re talking quality here, and you can tell just by looking at them. All the guides are made from titanium alloy, with silicone carbide (SiC) inners on the stripping guides. Rod-flash is a curse when sight-fishing to spooky flats fish, and Echo addresses it nicely. The black guides are finished with light grey thread wraps on a matte grey blank. The aluminium reel seat features a pair of beefy locking nuts and a cool Kraken logo. The Echo Prime 4 very much has its own thing going on, and it hits a unique aesthetic sweet spot.
To sum up, I don’t think this is a beginner’s rod, and it’s not a Clouser canon. But for bass and flats sight-fishing it is very, very impressive. Thanks, Mr Rajeff and co. It’s been emotional.
ECHO STREAMER X, 7-WEIGHT
- Tester – Platon Trakoshis
- Playground – Breede River, Berg River, Tankwa
I’m definitely a streamer fishing junkie and will fish a streamer whenever possible. So, when I was given the opportunity to fish with the new Echo Streamer X rod designed by Kelly Galloup, I leapt at it like a starved brown trout swiping at a Sex Dungeon. That fly and many of Galloup’s other streamer designs have been used and tweaked over the years to great effect in South Africa, accounting for many of our larger, more elusive indigenous species. So, if the man gets involved in making a streamer rod, it makes perfect sense to me that we should be looking at his techniques and gear too.
To add to that, a few of my fishing buddies rave about Echo rods. My curiosity was piqued even more after attending an impressive educational Tim Rajeff event a few years back. I was having a beer with a few fishing friends when the rod was handed over to me. I was, as were my friends, blown away by how well made and finished the rod is. Comparing it to some of the high-end rods I have, I can say without a doubt that the Echo Streamer X stands by them when it comes to quality and finish. The price tag is also very favourable in comparison.
I was pleased that the rod was a 9 foot 7-weight, which is one of my favourite weights for big streamers. It has a small fighting butt and forward leaning guides which helps avoid the line wrapping and snagging around the butt and guides, which is important when fishing streamers as you tend to cast a lot, repetitively searching the seams and eddies. The cork is fine and looks like it will last and the half wells grip feels very comfortable in hand. The titanium-coloured reel seat is ported which looks quite cool matched up with a titanium-coloured reel like my Pentz Predator.
In The Centre Mr Venter
The rod felt very solid and I was dying to take it out on the water. My initial feeling was that it felt a bit stiff and fast. I was concerned about getting tight loops and whether some of the chunky flies I like to use might take my head off. I tried the Streamer X with a number of lines, from aggressive short taper floating lines to fast sinking Di7 lines.
The rod is certainly not fast and shot out lines and heavy flies with ease. I realised while casting that the tip and butt section are quite fast but the middle section is not, allowing for wider loops and for keeping those heavy, bulky streamers from hitting me or the rod. I have broken a few rods this way. The tip is strong enough to push big flies just that little further, while the strong butt allows for a solid hook set and gives you the back bone to hold fish well.
We don’t have big rivers with big trout here in South Africa so I mainly focused on smallmouth bass. During one session I was on a honey hole and the smallmouth bass were stacked up on a certain spot in fast deep water. The Streamer X really came into its own and I was in my element casting the Di7 line out and swinging the heavy fly down to these strong fighting spring fish. The Streamer X performed brilliantly and is a now my go to streamer rod.
Targeting big largemouth bass on big surface flies worked like a charm too. I could send big bushy flies into tight spots with ease. And I had the power to pull the big mothers out of the dense foliage where they were hanging out. I also used it in the salt quite extensively with very positive results. It handled West Coast and Overberg wind impressively with some good fish to show for it, from spotted grunter to an eagle ray, blacktail and some smaller saltwater species too.
I’m looking forward to using the rod on some of the bigger rivers in South Africa. And I know what my go to rod will be for my next Orange River largemouth yellowfish trip, that’s for sure.
For Echo dealers in South Africa, contact email@example.com.
See the full story in The Mission Issue 32 below. As always, it’s free.