In a bizarre Friday the 13th turn of events over a week ago, I dumped my cheap but handy 7-weight Temple Fork into the town run of the Willamette River. I’ve been telling people that I lost it to a fish (I had a nymph hanging in the water, the rod laid precariously across the bow of the boat) but it’s just as likely that I bumped it overboard with my ass while I was digging around for something behind me. Karl and I ruined a perfectly good steelhead hole trying to net my rod to no avail. We had fair warning what kind of day it was going to be since Karl had foul-hooked a sucker in the back in the first hole.
The point is, I was out a rod and I needed (sure, needed) a replacement steelhead stick. I had it in my mind that I was going to go big. I’d been planning it for a while, even if I hadn’t lost the rod, to buy a Sage or Winston. One of the $600 rods that guides buy for $200 to make clients dream about them for years. But instead, I bought a Reddington CPS 6 weight on a spur of the moment decision, based on a recommendation from a guy at a fly shop.
It cast great back behind the shop and I thought for sure I had made a great choice — $300 sounded a lot better than $600. And I had more pressing things to save up for. But after fishing it a couple days, including a trip down the McKenzie River — amidst dozens of rolling tight-lipped Chinook — I hated it. In fact, it had started hurting my wrist to cast the thing.
Now, was the lesser name brand rod really hurting my wrist? Would the Sage logo really make me cast better? Hard to say. But I wanted a Sage, so I went back to the Caddis Fly yesterday and traded the CPS in for the Sage z-Axis. I also tried out one of Winston’s Boron II rods, which proved to be too soft for my casting tastes.
I spent double the money. I rationalized that I would use this rod 50 days per year. I rationalized that I would be kicking myself later for not buying exactly what I wanted. I rationalized that hell, even if the economy goes in the tank, I get fired or something horrible happens, I’ve still got this amazing fly rod even if I’m broke.
So I took it out last night on the town run on the Willamette and tried it out. I cast a giant bead-head princess nymph with an indicator, hoping for the super stiff 6-weight Sage to amaze me with what that extra $300 would do. What happened? Not much. Sometimes the nymph smacked me in the back of the head. Sometimes the line piled up 20 feet in front of me.
In reality, I’d traded a super stiff 7-weight for a high end 6. The 6-weight isn’t going to be as good of a chuck and duck rod as my old broomstick. I wasn’t factoring that into my comparison. Where this rod would excel (and the reason I wanted a high end 6 in the first place) was in its ability to serve steelhead duties AND be able to drop a caddis in gale force winds that blow up the bigger rivers I fish.
It was about that time that I decided to switch out the one-ounce nymph and indicator for something more suitable and pulled a size 10 olive wooly bugger (my town run special) and whipped it out into the stream. About 5 casts later I hooked into the biggest trout I’ve ever caught in Oregon. It was easily 20 inches and as fat as my calf. It was a giant wild rainbow (no clipped adipose fin) and it was a hell of a sign.
The fact is that I don’t actually know if I made the right choice, but if the little voice in my head and the giant trout agree, who am I to argue?