One of the unfortunate attributes of a hobby with limited
practitioners is that the accoutrements of that pastime tend to get
spendy quickly. Fly fishing has a well-deserved
on the expensive side. In the world of serious fly fishing, a $300
rod is seen as mid-priced and a top-notch fly line can push a C-note by
itself. For the most part, the industry doesn't take any rod under
$100 seriously. How sad that must be for the people who try to make
a living from this wonderful sport! Imagine having uncounted
potential customers walk on by simply because they don't think they'll be
able to afford the cost of entry.
Eagle Claw has made an industry out of changing that perception, and
their newest series of budget fly rods will go a long ways towards
bringing new blood into a grand sport.
To dare to imagine that there might be a fully functional,
totally fishable fly rod available at a store near you for under $50 is
nearly unthinkable. To look for a discount beyond that and to
imagine buying one for under $40, or even under $30, borders on the
insane. After all, it's not possible for a fly rod to sell for such
a paltry sum and still be anything more than absolute junk! Well,
not so fast! There's life down here in the
profundal zone! I purchased the rod shown for $32, including
delivery to my door, and I could
have purchased it locally for even a few dollars less if
I'd wanted to take a ride.
I purchased this rod specifically to write this review.
I certainly didn't need another 8-foot 6-weight fly rod; I've got dozens.
my favorite, and in my humble opinion, the single most useful size and
weight for general purpose warm water poking about.
But as I pondered the possibility of a truly affordable outfit, it
occurred to me that none of the print magazines
would be likely to dedicate their precious ink to anything so plebian.
And the places that sell this type of equipment aren't likely to have
anyone on staff who can offer useful advice. So what happens to
folks who just want a cheap rod? What if you want a back-up outfit
to keep in the truck 24/7/365? What about an affordable rod the kids
can learn on; something that will give them the opportunity to see if they
want to go farther down this road? Or maybe you just want a rod you
don't have to worry about for visitors and guests? I decided it's up
to the Fly Fish Ohio crew to keep things real!
Eagle Claw FL300-8 is one of a series of ten rods on the Featherlight
family, and one of three fly rod configurations. There is also a 6-foot
6-inch 3/4 weight and a 7-foot 5/6 weight in the collection, and I've
heard rumors that both of them are surprising performers. In fact,
they may be better than the 8-foot 6-weight reviewed here, but that's just
rumor. I've not handle either of the other configurations, but
people I know and trust have told me that they define "bargain"! If
they're better than the FL300-8, then they are quite good indeed.
Claw claims that the "Classic Featherlight action has been updated for a
slightly quicker response" making these faster than
previous versions. I never fished the earlier models, but they must
have been very slow as the new Featherlights are quite smooth and
moderate. They are made out of a fiberglass/graphite composite, so
there's likely a connection to the low modulus and simple taper used.
But being a glass rod they're certainly going to
excel in durability.
The quality of the cork is surprising and is easily better
than some rods costing three or four times what I paid for this little
yellow gem. Fit and finish are... shall we say "modest"... and in
accord with the expected budget application. The guides are cheap
and the threadwork is functional without addressing beauty in anything
more than a most superficial way. The ferrule is a butt-over-tip
design, something that's extinct on gear at any price point over $100.
It looks, and feels, befitting of its price. All Eagle Claw
Featherlights offer a one year warranty. In summary, there's not
much about the appearance of this stick, cheery as it is in its bright
yellow dress, to build the confidence of a gear snob. And that's
where the surprise comes in!
rigged the Eagle Claw with a brand new Pflueger Medalist 1494½
and spooled a close-out Bass Pro weight forward 6-weight line over some
left-over backing. The total price of the outfit was a staggering
$65! The rod and reel worked well together, with with a static
balance point at the front of the grip. I also fished the rod with
double-taper 5 and 6 lines to see how it reacted to various loads. In my
hands this rod definitely worked with a 6-weight.
I fished this rod while wading for smallmouth and carp,
white bass and skipjacks. I also took it out on my canoe several
times to see how casting from a sitting position would affect performance.
I fished nymphs and streamers, buggers and poppers, wet flies and dry
flies. I didn't find a single application where the ability of this
stick came up short. In every practical regard, this rod is a solid
My greatest criticism is aimed at the ferrule, which tended
to loosen and allow the tip section to spin a bit. A little paraffin
helped, but this ferrule design really is about the cost. It's just
not possible to mass-produce a fly rod at this price point and have
precision parts. While this failing required the occasional pause in
the action, it didn't take away from the utility of the stick. The
tip section never separated and the loosening was merely an annoyance.
also felt the grip, while of surprisingly good quality cork with a smooth
feel, was a bit short. Another inch would have made it easier for me
to find a comfortable hand position. Again, this is a minor
inconvenience and I've noted similar failings in rods an order of
magnitude more expensive.
Roll casting was acceptable, with the rod loading fully
with 15' of line beyond the tip top. I was able to reliably place a
roll-cast to 30-fee or so. Tracking of the blank was marginal.
I found many casts ended up within 2-feet of my target, but controlling
the precise placement to less than a foot was challenging. When
asked for distance, the progressive taper (there's nothing parabolic about
this blank, despite the labeling) loaded more deeply until I was laying
out casts of 50-feet or so. Beyond that distance there was a
distinct feeling of hinging, as though the tip section was overloaded
while the butt section was barely bending. This is likely a
by-product of the ferrule design, which mandates a larger diameter butt to
accommodate the tip section.
with these faults, there was nothing about the Featherlight that could or
would keep me from fishing it effectively under a wide range of
conditions. Certainly my
Scott Warm Water
Special is a better 8-foot 6-weight; as it should be for 20 times the
price! The Scott makes it possible to almost "will" the fly onto a
teacup-sized target while simultaneously executing an aerial mend.
This level of sublime performance is the result of absolute attention to
detail and a perfectly tuned blank. Under certain, very limited
circumstances, and when applied with carefully developed skill, this level
of performance can hook an angler to otherwise untouchable fish. But
for most outings, most of the time, the Eagle Claw's level of performance
isn't going to be the limiting factor.
Eagle Claw should be commended for producing a wholly
functional, fully dependable fly rod that defines value. It's a
great choice for a youngster's first long rod. It's ideal for the
occassional guest who just wants to swing some line in the air and feel a
rod bend with a bluegill, bass, carp or stocked trout at the end of the
leader. It's a great choice to store behind the seat of your vehicle
for those unexpected opportunities. All in all, this is a fine fly
rod! From a strict performance perspective, this stick lies closer
to a two-fly rating than a three-fly rating on the Fly Fish Ohio rating
scale, but I believe the unprecedented price point makes up for its warts.
There's nothing out there at twice the price that's any better, and damn
few choices at four times the price that's significantly better.
Kudos to Eagle Claw for making fly fishing a sport for everyone... again!