"A practical rod with tons of real fishing applications and appeal!"
A convincing rod with an innovative pack of optional extras. Designed for ‘European-style’ nymph fishing, this is clearly a river rod, a long rod carrying a light fly line, in this case a #3. The reality of fishing a team of weighted nymphs means the design-focus alters, fishing is more and casting is less important.
Casting a line, this is a sweet rod, feels a little like Echo have rediscovered what we used to call a wet-fly rod. Slow down, smooth down, and the rod throws a clean, reasonably wide loop. Very easy to get the leader to straighten fully. The balance of this is pleasant, I can feel the length, the tip has an amount of weight to it – that encourages me to slow and smooth.
Then fish with it, I have a few yards of fly line outside the rod tip and I have my arm fully extended, getting all the reach I can from the rod and, well, me really. I'm holding the rod out and up, lifting my fly line off the water, but getting as much reach as I can.
The point being that how this casts that few yards of fly-line is almost irrelevant. However, with the rod poised at the end of my outstretched arm, how the rod balances is a (slight) issue. I want the tip pulling down a little, so I have the rod held lightly. Stick on a really heavy fly-reel and the tip floats up, I can feel muscles in my thumb and forearm tightening to hold it down. With an extremely light reel or no reel the balance is a little more inclined to the tip, I tend to change my grip, more up the rod to find the balance I want (chances are I acquired that habit handling a double-hander rod in a salmon river.)
Enter the Competition Pack. This has a couple of 6” rod sections, a small extension butt and five weights (approx 10g each), wide black washers. I can fit the extra rod sections in a pocket, one has a ring so I must re fit my line when I use that, the other is plain tube so it can be added between the first and second sections whenever I want a few more inches of reach. Both extra sections fit between the first and second main sections, they can be fitted individually or together. Now, adding rod length shifts the balance and makes the whole more tip-heavy. Tim Rajeff and competition fisher, Pete Erickson, have come up with the idea of adding weights behind my rod holding hand so I can tune the balance of my outfit. As far as I can see this has little to do with casting and a lot to do with how this rod can be fished. If balancing the outfit so my hand and arm are less stressed I'm all for it. In reality, the choice of an tiny cork extension butt is pretty much cosmetic, the rod comes with one weight fitted, which I can remove, the threads on both the standard butt cap and the extension are the same length and can accommodate 3 weights at a time.
The build and cosmetics on this rod are geared more to function that prettiness: natural grey, smooth matt carbon blank; black thread under neat varnish; single-leg snakes to reduce weight a fraction. The all-metal seat is black, with a white stonefly stenciled on the spacer, the only decoration I can find on this rod. I like the grip size and shape, half-wells, familiar, comfortable size and shape, the cork quality is modest, with some surface filling. Echo describe the action as fast-ish, fair enough. The tip is light enough so the rod bends when I cast a short line, this has enough stiffness in the lower sections to set a hook and play a decent trout or grayling.
A specialist rod, designed for river fishers, nymphers. The extension sections are practical, thoughtful and easy to carry, the additional guide is unusual but welcome. To be honest I am less convinced by the balancing weights, maybe I don't fish this style enough and suffer wrist and elbow issues caused by tip-heavy outfits? Well, maybe I just don't agonise enough about it? As an extra, not exactly in the Nymph rod brief, but when I cast a longer line, this feels like a classy (i.e. light and smooth) wet-fly rod. A practical rod with tons of real fishing applications and appeal!
Echo Shadow II
Action angle: 70 degrees
Weight: 107g (10g can be removed, 20g can be added)
Rings: One lined butt ring, single leg snakes
Fighting butt: No
Cork quality: Modest
Reel seat: Black, metal
Blank: Matt carbon grey
Build quality: High
Rod bag: Canvas
Rod tube: Nylon covered
Price: £230 (Competition Kit £60)