Product Review
Elkhorn Rods
February 16th, 1998
Elkhorn, eX3
9' 4/5 wt. 3 piece Model EX 9045

by Randy Fratzke

I've divided the product review into three sections. The first is a description of the rod itself, the guides, grip, reel mount, etc. The second section is the "back yard" rod test. The third section is the stream side/fishing action test. I hope each section is helpful to anglers considering the purchase of an Elkhorn rod. I've included, below, how the rod was "set up" and rigged so that anyone using this same rod should achieve approximately the same results, depending on their casting ability.

Rod "set up':
Product: Elkhorn ex3, EX 9045 (9',4/5 wt., 3 pc) fast rated, fly rod
Reel and Line Rigging:

5 wt. reel
60 yds. backing
Lee Wulff Triangle Taper, 36' taper, 54' Running Line
9', 4x 5 lb. Tapered Leader
3' 4 lb. tippet

The Rod:

From the butt through the tip, this is a beautifully crafted rod. The rod blank is constructed of 100% graphite, IM7 (modulus of about 50 million). The skeleton style, up locking reel seat is made of high quality nickel with a rich cocobolo wood inlay. The grip is natural cork with the traditional double taper shape. I have a relatively-medium sized hand, and for me, the grip was a very good fit. If you have larger hands, this may be a problem, as even my middle finger comes around far enough to touch the inside palm heel. The rod is equipped with a hook eye with a split ring attached, which seems to keep the hook away from the rod slightly, rather than allowing the hook to rub on the rod itself. All of the threads have a nice even epoxy coating and are well sealed. While the stripper guide is a double footed SIC type, the rest are all single foot, made of hardened chrome and appear to be pretreated with epoxy prior to their attachment to the rod blank so that there is a solid footing. The ferrules are both slip over type, with even threading and epoxied for strength.

The model number configuration is well thought out and extremely simple: This particular one is an Elkhorn eX3, meaning IM7 graphite construction, 3 piece. The rod model is also simplified: EX 9045, meaning a 9', 4/5 wt. If it were a 2 pc 7'6", 6 wt., it would be an Elkhorn eX2, EX 7606.

The suggested retail price for the rod is around $185.00, according to the representative I talked to at Elkhorn. Included in the price of each rod, is a permanently mounted tube sock inside a well built hard sided rod tube. Overall, a darn good price for all the rod your getting!

The "back yard" rod test:
Weather conditions: 28 degrees F, wind from the NE at 10 to 12 mph, gusting to 20 mph.

I conducted the "back yard" test for several reasons. First, I wanted to feel how the rod acted and reacted without any trees, shrubs or fish in the way. The "back yard" at the cabin is about 120' x 80' of nothing but grass (or snow, as was the case) over looking the river, which translates into some pretty awesome double hauls without the worry of hanging up somewhere. The second reason is that winter time in Iowa means a lot of frozen water, and I didn't want to wait till spring or make a 3 hour drive to the nearest open trout water to try the new rod. Third, in the middle of winter, there are very few neighbors around to kid me about "shadow fishing", "grass fishing", and the like (if you've ever practiced your casting in your yard, you know what I'm talking about) "Hey Fritzie, catching any worms on that buggy whip today?" And the normal warnings about those sneaky grass carp.

The "test" casts were, in a word, unbelievable. I started with simple, straight forward casts, then progressed to short distance accuracy casts, roll casts, side arm casts, moving up to single hauls, and eventually, as I got used to the power of the rod and the feel of the loads, double haulers. Each cast was like someone else was in control. The ease of the cast, the feel of the load, and the accuracy was excellent. Casting into the wind was nearly as good as with the wind. There was very little drag on the rod. It is light and very well balanced. Although, here in the midwest, there is rarely ever a need to crank a double haul out 60' I could do it without "rippin' my shorts". I was ready for fish! I just had to wait for a warm front to move through to thaw out the streams a little.

The Stream Side Fishing Test:
Weather conditions: 31 degrees, slightly overcast, winds mild 2 to 5mph from the SE. (Excellent for January in Iowa!)

I headed over to a small stream below one of the trout hatcheries, called Spring Creek. It's only about 8' wide at it's greatest width, lined with trees, overhanging branches, brush and weeds normal "working conditions for the area". This section is crystal clear spring water, designated an "artificial only" stream loaded with browns ranging in size from 6 to 24 inches with a 14" minimum keeper. After looking the stream section over and finding a hole loaded with plenty of trout, I rigged the rod and put on a weighted, size 18 gold ribbed Hares Ear Nymph. Keeping a low profile I moved down stream from the school. Using a short straight cast I placed the nymph above the school and let the current bring it back through, stripping line as it came down stream ... nothing happened. I cast several more times ... still nothing. On the fifth cast I was rewarded by a take. I could feel that the fish was small, but hey, it was a fish, the first fish caught on a new rod! I could see the rest of the school scatter and I easily brought the fish down stream to my position. It was a 10" brown. I gently unhooked the nymph from it's upper lip, without taking it out of the water, and it headed downstream.

I decided to change to a larger fly and put on a weighted #12 Pheasant Tail Nymph. I over cast the pool so far that the fly wound up in the rocks about 15 feet above the pool. Bummer! In the excitement of catching the first fish I forgot that I wasn't using my "wimp stick" anymore and simply over powered the cast. I climbed up on shore and followed the line to the fly, unsnagged it and crept back below the school. I cast upstream again, this time a little higher, a gust of wind grabbed the line and threw the nymph into an over hanging tree branch. Double bummer! The branch was hanging right over the school. I walked up the rocky shore line, scattering the school and retrieved my fly, then went back down to my position and waited for the school to reform. Finally I cast and made the water above the pool. I was stripping line, trying to keep up with the current when the water exploded. A nice big brown had taken the nymph and was on the run. The drag was clicking away as I palmed the reel and lifted the rod tip. Telegraphing through the line to the rod, I could feel every move the fish was making. It was great! Finally the fish stopped, lodged under a rock over hang. I gently lifted the rod and brought him around and in to the current. The rod handled him beautifully. I coaxed him down to my position and unhooked him. Another nice brown, about 16 inches in length. I released him and he shot downstream like the previous one. I caught 2 more in the next 30 minutes before the school scattered and didn't reform. I figured they had caught on to me.

I then headed to another area designated an "artificial only catch and release" section. Along the way, I talked with a fellow angler who said that he'd been taking fish all morning using an Olive Colored Scud, size 12. I immediately checked my supply, none in that color or weight. Just my luck ... the other angler snickered, then broke his off his tippet and handed it to me and wished me luck! That's what I like about fly anglers, I can't remember a single bass fisherman ever handing me a lure that caught a fish, but here was a guy I'd never met before, handing me a fly he'd been using all morning to catch trout, and wishing me luck! I thanked him profusely. We talked a bit longer and he asked about the rod and I filled him in with the details. He made a few false casts with it and agreed that it was "one hell of a rod, considering the price" and asked where he could get one. I got his name and address and promised to send him some info when I got all the details. We parted ways and I headed downstream.

I found the hole he had described, moved down stream to "his position", tied on the scud and made my first cast. Zap! The first cast and a big take! I played the fish for about 15 minutes, not wanting to hurry and take a chance on loosing the fish or the fly with a break off. I knew I only had a section of 4 lb. tippet on and this fish definitely felt bigger than 4 lbs. Again, the rod worked beautifully, telegraphing signals as to the fish's position and surges. I brought him downstream and unhooked him. I took the time to weigh him, just over 5 lbs. A very respectable fish! I gently coaxed him back into the water, held him by the tail facing downstream to help revive him and gain his strength back. Suddenly he shot out of my hand and headed off down the stream. I made a few more casts into the pool with no luck. Then had another take. This fish felt even bigger than the other one! It ripped line out so fast that the second I applied a little pressure to the reel the tippet snapped. I sat down, mildly cussing myself for not checking or changing the tippet or the knot or all of those other little things we're supposed to do after catching an over sized fish. I tied on another tippet and put my Pheasant Tail back on. I cast for about 15 minutes, tried 3 or 4 other patterns but the fish were too finicky. They wanted an Olive Scud and I didn't have one. So ... I gathered up my equipment and walked back upstream to the van.

In closing, the rod worked flawlessly. I would definitely recommend it to anyone from novice through professional, without hesitation or reservation. I can't wait until spring (and probably won't) to try it out on the warm water species at the cabin. I can't imagine what it will be like taking the numerous small mouths, crappies, and northern pike on the rod! And, by the way, I will definitely be tying up a whole bunch of Olive Scuds, putting on a larger tippet, and heading back up to that little stream ... real soon!

Randy Fratzke, known in the Chat Room as FritzFratz and HOST Fritz keeps it simple. In his own words: "Have fun, if it's not fun, try not to do it, if your forced to do it, charge for it ..." Though he does not consider himself an expert, he has a great deal of experience fishing ... period. Neither a purist or elitist, Randy will chuck a bug, or cast a fly with equal joy and fervor. If you have any questions about his review, check out his Host times and ask him in the Chat Room.

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