Words + Photos by: Josh Thelin
I recently got my hands on a couple of the new fly rods that Echo will be releasing mid November. One of them is their newest premier saltwater rod, and the other is their top end trout rod. Both of them will be at the highest end (price-wise) of Echo's offerings in the $350-$525 zone. This is smack in the center of the "mid-priced" rod category that has seen a lot of attention and growth in the fly fishing industry over the past few years. There is good reason for this as well. For some people, a high end rod is either unaffordable or irrational. Most high end rods are a combination of meticulous construction and peak performance. What makes the mid-price range so alluring in most cases however, is that you get all (or most of) the performance, but the rod might lack higher quality finishes and/or materials like reel seat inserts and hardware. However, this is not to say that every rod under $700 is ugly and falls apart after a season by any means. But, for a company like Echo who tends to make their rods with function as their top priority, it tends to attract anglers who are likeminded in their fishing endeavors...
The first rod I cast was the Echo Prime. A saltwater rod available in either 4pc or 2pc configuration, the Prime comes in 8-12wt options (8, 10, 11wt for 2pc) and is 8'10" across the board. According to Echo: "when targeting flats fish, things happen quickly and usually in the 40-60 foot "kill zone." Everything about the Echo Prime rod has been optimized to help you succeed in the zone." This is interesting because one of the first things I thought about while working out line was "man this would be a good bonefish rod." The slightly shorter length and not incredibly stiff action helped me dial in accuracy quickly and confidently. There was not much wind that afternoon, so the Prime was not tested much in this department. But I could create good line speed and felt it would do well if breezy. (Better in the wind, I believe, than the Echo Bad Ass Glass Quickshot I reviewed recently)
Fly line used: Airflo Ridge Striper WF8F (290gr)
Fly rod tested: Echo Prime Fly Rod 8'10" 8wt (4pc) - $469.99
The Echo Prime boasts a "Dual Zone" (cork) handle, which I'm still not 100% what that means...but I will say the larger half wells front lip and overall size of the cork felt good in my larger hands. This can be an afterthought for most consumers, but I do find it makes a difference. For instance there are some rods, like the TFO Mangrove, which is a great rod, but the cork handle is small and sometimes uncomfortable casting for long periods of time.
Overall I was very impressed with the Prime. With a moderately aggressive floating line it cast incredibly well within 70ft with good reserved power. I am not sure how it would do with heavier aggressive heads or sinking lines. But, as this road is advertised with flats fishing in mind, it seems incredibly capable within that capacity. I am going to try very hard to bring this on my next bonefish trip.
The Echo Trout is tuned in a very similar manner as the Prime. Specifically, it has a certain distance or "zone" which Echo feels is the proper area in which the fly rod should excel. For the Trout, it is the 30-50 foot "sweet spot." Additionally, each model/wt of the Trout series has a "unique action suited to that rod's typical application." For instance, the 6wt has been refined even further in the tip section to help negotiate sinking tips and heavier flies.
Fly line used: Airflo Super-DRI Elite WF5F
Fly rod tested: Echo Trout 9' 5wt - $349.99
In the lighter weight options, the Trout has been made to help protect lighter tippets and softer presentations with a softer tip section. So, seeing as this rod is only available in 4-6wts, if the 6wt has a stiffer tip and the 4wt has a softer tip, I would think it's safe to say the 5wt is right down the middle of the road. I would tend to agree with this thinking after casting it as well. I did not get the impression that the rod was only dialed in for dry flies, nor did I get the feeling it was hungry to only throw sinking lines and meat. I think the Echo Trout 5wt is going to be a great rod for those looking to buy one trout rod that can handle dry flies to nymph rigs.
One added perk I thought was interesting, was the included fighting butt (similar to the Echo Shadow X) that will be available in the other models as well from the 4-6wts. This would allow anglers to adjust the rod to specific styles/techniques such as nymphing.
Overall the Echo Trout was a pleasure to cast. Similar to the testing of the Prime, these were just preliminary reactions while casting in my parking lot, but for what I got out of the tests I was certainly impressed. I will be curious to cast the Trout and the Boost 6wts side-by-side to see which would be better for streamers...