Modern versions of classic rods and reels still stand as overachievers
BY MIKE STEVENS
LONE PINE – Looking back over well beyond the last half century, fishing for trout with spinning gear hasn’t really changed a whole lot. Of course, upgrades are made in components and technology that goes into rods and reels, fishing line and so on, but when it comes down to it, it’s still throwing small lures on light line or still-fishing with floating bait rigs for the most part. Same rigs, same weights, same bait and the same classic approach still sets the baseline for the modern-day trout angler.
Similarly, the same brand names that are synonymous with trout fishing today are the same you’ll find in your grandpa’s metal tackle box: Thomas Bouyant, Kastmaster, Daredevle, Panther Martin, Berkley Trilene Rapala, Pautzke and so on. These days, there are infinitely more options for just about everything, but those classics still feel the most “trouty” for lack of a better word. For trout rods and reels, it would be hard to argue that Fenwick and Pflueger are anything but the troutiest.
In 1973, Fenwick was the first company to produce an all-graphite fishing rod, and from that point forward, they cranked out rods of varying price points, and each was exceeded by the quality and value anglers held in their hands. That “bang for your buck” factor has always been off the charts across the entire Fenwick line, and these days it may not be more detectable than in the current installment of the Eagle line of rods.
When I worked in tackle shops in the mid ‘90s, I remember thinking Fenwick Eagles were above-average rods for around $65, but I still opted to spend a little more to step up to the Fenwick Legacy that ran about $100. During this year’s trout opener, I was able to field test (along with several others in my group) the newest generation of Eagle rods, and I was blown away with what Fenwick is now delivering in such a reasonably-priced stick.
Today’s Fenwick Eagle is built around a 24-ton graphite blank, upgraded guides with aluminum oxide inserts and a blank-through-handle that transmits the lightest bites. That last part really came into play on opening weekend as we hit the creeks between Lone Pine and Bishop. We were fishing a big pool on Lone Pine Creek and off to a slow start. We were dealing with that cold, off-color runoff that buries trout at the bottom and puts them into lazy mode, and they’ll only bite when something hits them in the face. I started crawling a jig across the bottom and I kept feeling a “tick” in the same spot, so I finally swung on one and it was a 10-inch brown. Now that I knew the ticks were lazy trout, I teed off on them and had my brother and some other dudes do the same, and we ended up with about 18 (released) between the four of us in less than an hour.
The rod we had was a nimble little 5-footer (Fenwick Eagle rods are available up to 8 feet in the trout actions) which was shorter than any of the other sticks we brought up. I tossed it to my buddy who was trying to thread the needle with an upstream cast through a narrow corridor of trees, and the perfect cast that followed resulted in the only fish from that spot. He’d later stick the biggest fish of the day on the Owens River near Bishop, a German brown on a Thomas Buoyant, and he bought his own Fenwick Eagle when he got home.
We went on to use the rod with great success in the canals around Bishop and points between there and Lundy Lake over the course of the opener, and none of the four guys who used it, including myself, could believe we’d done all that damage with a rod that could be had for around 70 bucks.
The Fenwick Eagle was matched with a Pflueger President XT reel in the 20 size that would match well with ultralight rods of any length and 2- or 4-pound line. While on the subject, all of our reels on this particular trip were loaded with Berkley Fluoroshield “fluorocarbon infused copolymer” and it performed admirably across the board.
Pflueger has also been around for the better part of a century (as a reel manufacturer, it’s been in the fishing tackle game since 1880) and is another one of those brand names that has “classic trout” written all over it.
I already own several Pflueger Presidents in my trout arsenal because I discovered how they perform (especially at about $60) and hold up years ago. The Pflueger XT is a little lighter due to its aluminum pinion gear and shaft, but the first thing that jumps out at you is the carbon handle with a cork knob. While going between both the President and the President XT, I did notice a slight weight difference, but I really liked the feel of that unique cork knob, especially with wet fingers.
Each reel has 6+1 bearings which makes them both about equal in the smoothness department, and while I am sure I’ll have the standard Presidents for a long time, the XT is only a small difference in price for those mini-luxuries that sets it apart from its predecessor. The bottom line is, if there is another trout reel out there that delivers more performance at that price point, I haven’t seen it, and I get to tinker with all kinds of stuff.
Plenty of pre-matched combos would be less expensive, and you could certainly put together a much more pricy outfit, but an angler looking for rod-and-reel setups that could be had for less than $150 and remain in service as long as the owner can go without slamming it in the tailgate, the Fenwick Eagle and Pflueger President is an ideal way to go.
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