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OTC_MN  
#1 Posted : Tuesday, April 10, 2018 4:36:22 AM(UTC)
OTC_MN
Rank: Caddis Fly

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Hi All -

Over the last few months I've been able (thanks to a friend who happens to be a rep for Cortland) to take a few different Euro/tight line nymphing rods on the market for a spin, plus try some of the lines specifically designed for this style, and fish them side by side with my usual setup. Judging by how many people (i.e., almost all of them) ask me about Euro nymphing when I run into other anglers on the stream, at least a few people are curious about it. So I figured I'd share my impressions.

Rods:

Echo Shadow II
I've been using the 10' 3W Shadow II for the last couple seasons, and it's been a very good rod. Does very well when used as a Euro nymphing rod. It has a light tip, which is really essential for casting when all you have to load the rod is the weight of a couple flies plus the leader. Plus a soft tip helps protect light tippets on a hookset at close range. Once past the tip section the rod flexes pretty deep into the blank under load, so it protects your tippet when fish make a run. But there's still enough power in the blank to turn a fish when you need to if they start heading toward the nearest log jam.

What makes the Shadow II unique is the optional Competition Kit you can buy. The butt cap on the rod screws in to the bottom of the reel seat, and competition kit includes a fighting butt and several brass rings that can be added to the rod butt to balance the rod out without needing to bump up to a larger reel size. Balance is a huge deal with this style of fishing - far more important than physical weight of the rod and reel - and the competition kit gives you a lot of versatility to balance different reels on the rod. The competition kit also comes with two rod extensions, which you can add to the rod between the butt section and first stripper guide. This lets you extend the rod to 10'6" or 11'. Because of how the geometry works with Euro nymphing (actually it'd be trigonometry I think), a little additional length makes a big difference in how far away from you you can control a tight line drift, so being able to add on either 6" or a foot makes a huge difference in how the rod fishes. Plus the extensions give the rod a little more power in the butt section. It's like having three different rods.

What I've liked about this rod as well is, it's not just a Euro nymph rod. Since I also fish dries with this rod at times, I pair the rod with a 2W WF line. It's a bit of a compromise as nymphing line since it does limit your range a little. It'll sag if you have fly line out the rod tip. But that's pretty easy to compensate for with a longer leader (I frequently run a 25' leader with this line). But if I want to fish a dry, I can switch to a normal tapered leader and fish a dry or dry-dropper no problem. You can't cast a giant hopper very well, and it's not much good accuracy-wise past maybe 40 feet. But how often do you cast farther than that around here anyhow? And in some cases, the length actually really helps present a dry since you can hold more line off the water and mend less.

The Shadow II comes in versions - 10' 2W, 10' 3W and 10'6" 4W. Around here, I think the 3W is ideal. If I fished bigger rivers or dealt with bigger fish on the regular, I might opt for the 4W. They retail for $249, and the competition kit is $75 (and worth every penny).

Cortland Competition Nyphing rod
This rod has actually been around for a bit. It was one of the first Euro nymphing rods what was readily available in the US. It was designed by some of the competitors from the US Fly Fishing Team that compete internationally. The Competition rods are available in 10'6" 3W and 4W. Compared to the Echo, this rod has some distinct differences. It has a lot more power in the blank compared to the Echo, but that comes at the expense of a light tip to some degree. In addition to being heavier power-wise, the tip is a little less responsive. Casting a lighter pair of flies accurately was more challenging with this rod, and around here where I do fish a size 16 jig nymph as my point fly more often than a heavily weighted size 10, that's a consideration. I was able to compensate for that a bit with a heaver (20# vs 15#) butt section on my leader though.

Where the rod did stand out though was in how well it balanced. Even without a balancing kit, this rod balanced very well with a 5/6 size reel (a Lamson Liquid for the record). From talking to the rep, the rod was designed with a weighted butt section, so there's less need for an external balancing system, and tweaking balance is a lot easier.

While I didn't fish this rod with a dry, I did test it out using a 3W WF and a dry and dry/dropper. While it was functional, the accuracy wasn't stellar. The action that makes it a good tight line nymphing rod does hurt its versatility. I do think however, that this rod would be able to handle hoppers, etc., better than the Echo.

Cortland Competition Mk II
This series is Cortland's update to their original Competition rods. The Mk II is available in a 10' 2W, 10'6" 3W (which is what I fished with), and 11' 2W and 3W. They're expensive - $675, and honestly, I didn't want to like these rods, but... I really liked these rods.

They're lighter, have a little more power in the butt, and some refinements like a fighting butt and down locking reel seat that help balance without adding significant overall weight. The difference in swing weight between this and the original Competition series was really noticeable, and the Mk II has a much faster recovery. That, combined with a very responsive tip that loaded well and the rod casts accurately even with a size 16 nymph and weightless dropper fly. It's just a fun rod to fish with, balances exceptionally well, and handled dry flies and even indicator rigs well besides. All in all, a lot more versatile than I expected it to be. Honestly, I hate to say it, but I might own one of these before too long.

Line
Along with the rods, I finally tried some of the lines specifically designed for Euro nymphing. Up to this point, I've used a 2W WF, which works, and has the benefit of being able to do double duty when I switch to dries. But as a pure Euro line, it has some shortcomings. If you have enough line out to get past the rod tip and into the shooting head of the line, either out your rod tip or even in the guides, the sag was noticeable, and you had to be careful to not let it drag your flies back toward you, ruining your drift. In a lot of the streams I fish, being able to fish effectively even an extra 5 feet away can make a big difference, so it was a noticeable limitation.

So, I got my hands on a couple spools of the Cortland Competition Nyphing line. This line comes in two types - mono core and braid core, and in level or double taper. I tried a level mono core, and DT braid core.

The diameter of these lines is exceptionally thin. They're .022 diameter. 15# and 20# Maxima Chameleon, which I use as the butt section on my leaders, are only .015 and .017 respectively. So, the line's not a lot thicker than the leader itself.

The mono core is interesting stuff. It's stiffer, which sounds like a bad thing, but fishing up and across even at a fair distance, it seemed to sag less, and really turned over well even on a longish (by Euro nymphing standards) cast. Plus, you can attach a leader by stripping off the coating and tying a blood knot right to your butt section, so the knot slides through the guides like it isn't there at all, which I really liked. Probably because it was a level line, it didn't turn over a dry fly leader especially well until I switched to a leader with a stiffer butt and steeper taper like an Umpqua Power Taper. But it was certainly manageable.

The braid core was definitely easier to handle in cold weather, where the mono core got a bit stiffer than was comfortable once it got below about 25 degrees. Also, being a DT, it was a little easier to cast a dry with. I'd be curious to see how a mono core DT handled in that regard. With the thin diameter, a superglue splice to the leader butt was almost seamless. Slide through the guides beautifully.

I hate nail knots, and positively loathe loop-to-loop connectors, so both the blood knot on the mono core and the spliced braid core really made me happy.

Both types were a definite improvement over the WF I'd been using when it came to tight line presentations. Noticeably less sag, which let me get good, clean drifts a lot farther away than I'd been able to previously. Of the two, I think I am going to prefer the mono core once the weather warms up (if it ever does) and I'll just keep a spare spool with the 2W WF rigged up with a dry fly leader in my pack when I think I may want to fish dries. If I were to just pick one, a DT braid core might be more versatile.

Anyhow - some thoughts on the stuff I got to try out for a bit, for what it's worth. Having gotten used to one setup, it was interesting to pick up something different and play with some of the variables like line type on the rod I was familiar with. Helped me notice some things I hadn't really considered before.

Plus it's just fun playing with fly rods. Cool
"Our tradition is that of the first man who sneaked away to the creek when the tribe did not really need fish."
- Roderick Haig-Brown
thanks 2 users thanked OTC_MN for this useful post.
William Schlafer on 4/10/2018(UTC), jrgordon on 4/13/2018(UTC)
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Guillermo  
#2 Posted : Tuesday, April 10, 2018 3:25:15 PM(UTC)
Guillermo
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Far as I know, Euro nymphing rose to prominence in the 80's.

Pfttt....

We were doing that up here long before that. Called it 'er no-ing. You guide the bait or fly through the run or pool, and then wonder aloud "is he gonna take it? Er no?".

Edited by user Tuesday, April 10, 2018 3:27:41 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

OTC_MN  
#3 Posted : Tuesday, April 10, 2018 3:35:52 PM(UTC)
OTC_MN
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Yeah, North Shore steelheaders have been drift fishing with mono rigs forever too. Very similar in a lot of ways, although the rigs are different. A lot of similarities to high stick nymph presentations too at times. All variations on a theme...
"Our tradition is that of the first man who sneaked away to the creek when the tribe did not really need fish."
- Roderick Haig-Brown
Guillermo  
#4 Posted : Tuesday, April 10, 2018 3:51:11 PM(UTC)
Guillermo
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Originally Posted by: OTC_MN Go to Quoted Post
Yeah, North Shore steelheaders have been drift fishing with mono rigs forever too. Very similar in a lot of ways, although the rigs are different. A lot of similarities to high stick nymph presentations too at times. All variations on a theme...


I'm just kidding, haha.
OTC_MN  
#5 Posted : Tuesday, April 10, 2018 5:59:53 PM(UTC)
OTC_MN
Rank: Caddis Fly

Joined: 3/18/2016(UTC)
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I know you are - but doesn't mean you don't have a point Laugh In some circles using a fly rod without the fly line ever leaving the reel is either radical or heretical, depending on who you ask. But it's business as usual other places.
"Our tradition is that of the first man who sneaked away to the creek when the tribe did not really need fish."
- Roderick Haig-Brown
thanks 1 user thanked OTC_MN for this useful post.
Noctilio on 8/15/2018(UTC)
jrgordon  
#6 Posted : Friday, April 13, 2018 6:17:12 PM(UTC)
jrgordon
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Super helpful! Thanks! Been contemplating the Echo Shadow 2 for awhile.
James G.
Instagram: @flyosophical
moosekid  
#7 Posted : Friday, April 13, 2018 10:04:20 PM(UTC)
moosekid
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I have the Cortland Competition and the Echo Shadow 2, and I think the Shadow 2 is the more versatile rod.

It gets ridiculous line speed. I just like the feel of my roll cast alot better on the shadow 2 which I think is very important in a nymphing rod.
thanks 1 user thanked moosekid for this useful post.
jrgordon on 4/14/2018(UTC)
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