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,
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
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
The "back yard" rod test:
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
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 ...
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.