Tag: Orvis

Rod Review: Orvis TLS Power Matrix 908-2 Tip-Flex 9.5

gear bagOrvis’s TLS line has been around quite a few years, and has certainly been the target of its fair share of reviews. But we fly fish in a world where four piece rods are the norm, and when I found this Orvis TLS Power Matrix 908-2 Tip-Flex 9.5 I figured it would be an oddity in my gear closet too. Yea, it’s a two piece, but my arm was twisted into giving it a go. The intended use – tromping around Denver looking for big smelly carp, a purpose for which assembly convenience trumps inability to stuff it into a commercial airliner’s overhead storage bin.

Since it’s an older model, I’ll be brief. This will be a single part review too (lucky you) since I’ve already fished the rod several times.

Fit and finish

The rod came in a nice burgundy colored cordura covered tube, complete with a zip away cap and a black cordura carry handle. There was no rod sock included – a simple divider is built into the tube. More ‘less parts’ is fine by me, and the tube is durable enough that a person could re-purpose it for a friendly came of stick-ball if so desired.


The rod finish is glossy forest green, and just slightly darker around the wraps. If nothing else, green feels good – I now have less green in my pocket but I can probably spin it as part of some environmental cause. There are two black anodized stripping guides – the rest of the [snake] guides are nickel – and the reel seat is gloss black. The finish on the reel seat looks and feels tough – identical to that on several premium saltwater rods I’ve owned for years that still don’t have a scratch on them.


A pile of fly rods for folks on a budget

gear bagMuch as we’d all like to be casting $1,800 varnished masterpieces, there are a whole lot of rods people can get a hold of without taking out a third mortgage loan. Some are perfectly suitable for delicate trout fishing, while others would feel more comfortable in an urban industrial park, or in the deep blue sea. You never know when you’re going to hook a fine specimen of submerged branch as your little dry fly drowns in the riffles – you’ll want a picture of that and the only way to do it is to put down your rod. Spend just a few hundred on your stick, and you won’t be sweating it.

Elkhorn EF 863-5

tim-emery-north-fork-ranchThis recommendation comes from Tim Emery of Fish Explorer Podcasts fame – the Elkhorn EF 863-5. It’s an 8’6″ 3-weight in five pieces, described as the ‘do everything rod’. Tim noted that he’s fished this rod on the Big Thomson, the Eagle, the South Platte and the Roaring Fork, as well as lakes in the Colorado Front Range. Uses have included both Czech and Polish nymphing, dry dropper, dropper, and small stream dry fly fishing. Well that pretty much covers the versatility bit. The only drawback in Tim’s eyes, playing it in the wind (which can actually be a problem with most any rod if the wind is strong enough). Mr. Emery, who’s got a decade of guiding and managing fly shops under his belt, says he’d put the rod up against anything in the $500+ range. Priced around $210, via Elkhorn Fly Rods and Reels.

Temple Fork Outfitters Finesse – TF 03 79 4 F

Matt Dunn turns the other cheek, throwing streamers when when the hoity-toity purists arrive, yet he can still show his sensitive side with the 7’9″ TFO Finesse 3-weight. Matt says the Finesse feels like butter in his hands – it won’t win casting contests, but it’s not supposed to either. He uses it for it’s intended purpose – dropping tiny dries at distances inside of 15 feet, quietly and with pinpoint precision (as well as peace of mind that his 8X tippet isn’t going to pop when the trout slurps). You can pick up the Finesse 3 for very reasonable $180, leaving you just enough cash, according to Matt, to grab the 7’3″ 2-weight and the 8’9″ 4-weight. Sounds like savings to me! Via TFO.

After the fishing, there’s money left for beer.

Orvis Streamline 865-2 Mid Flex

I prodded a friend to pick up the 5wt, 8’6″, 2-piece mid-flex job as a first rod when it went on holiday clearance. It cost my buddy $45. He caught his first trout ever on it, and has since pulled in quite a number more. After introducing him to streamer fishing he found it a bit mushy, but that’s to be expected from a light mid-flex. I traded rods with him one afternoon and thought it insufficient for the heavy hauls, but as a nymphing and dry fly rod it was perfectly suitable – if it was the last unbroken rod in the truck after a road trip, I certainly wouldn’t quit fishing. Priced around $90, but you can find them cheaper. From where else…Orvis.

Echo Classic 6

Bryan Gregson, the only Utahn who the State of Montana Tourism Board probably has on their payroll after this catch, is an Echo fan. Yep, he caught that Madison monster (15+ pounds by almost any measure) on an Echo Classic 6 (and it wasn’t even his rod). Sadly, the Classic has been discontinued, but the updated Ion model will set you back a mere $190 – from Rajeff Sports.

Echo 2 Saltwater 7

Mr. Gregson is back, this time with his go-to rod for chasing everyone’s favorite thrasher, the Tiger Muskie. Bryan has worked the R&D routine for a couple of manufacturers – he says function over fashion is what it all boils down to, with durability outweighing any bells and whistles. As a man who fishes a lot (170+ days a year), he needs equipment that can handle harsh environments, day in and day out. The Echo 2 S-7 casts fat flies like Bryan wants it too, and handles big, aggressive fish in tight structural situations once he’s hooked them. He calls the rod honestly priced, and at $290 (with two tips, medium-fast and fast), I’ve got to agree with him. Again, from Rajeff Sports.

Temple Fork Outfitters Professional – TFO 08 90 6 P

I own this rod, an 8-weight, 6-piece – I bought it for carping, with a mind to trashing it. I thought it would feel heavy in the hand (due to the number of ferrules), but it didn’t. In fact it’s light enough that the original early model reel I had on it felt too heavy, and I’ve since skinnied-down the crankcase. I can toss small stones as well as big barrel-eyed nonsense – under no circumstances do I feel like the rod is out of control, and I can drop just about anything anywhere I’d like, even with winds swirling around. I paid bottom dollar for it, and it’s clearly the best value I have in my quiver. I can’t imagine other rods in the line performing much differently – they are all lighter and purportedly just as manageable. It’ll cost you $210, but possibly cheaper if you get the rep a gig on Letterman. Via Temple Fork Outfitters.

Echo 2 Saltwater 9

This rod weighs in at $290 (again, it’s a two-tipper), but Jason Puris of The Fin says it’s worth every penny. Jason does 99% of his fishing from the beaches, rocks and jetties of Long Island (with emphasis on Montauk), and needs a stick that can handle surf and wind. While he has a half-dozen other (much more expensive) rods in his quiver, the Echo 2 S-9 does it for him because of the strength factor – he may favor slightly better casting tools, but he’s seen more than his fair share of them snap under the stress. The Echo 2 also gets the nod when Jason travels to far-away places – the convenience factor of those two tips wins over multiple tubes in tow. Once more: $290, from Rajeff Sports.

mikes-bluefinTemple Fork Outfitters Bluewater – TF BW LD

Pete McDonald has good things to say about TFO’s Bluewater 10-13 (we’re calling it a twelver to avoid confusion). Pete didn’t want to spend big money on a rod he breaks out only a few times a year for shark opportunities and/or his annual bluefin trip. Pete assumes he likes the rod because he’s used to it, but he still says it casts as easy as any other 12-weight he’s tried. The Fishing Jones proprietor isn’t stingy with the rod either – a fishing buddy of his picked up a tasty tuna with it. Good man – most of my friends would toss my rods overboard and scream fetch! Then again, maybe I deserve it. Priced at $250 – from a Temple Fork Dealer near you.

The End

fly rodsTake any of these rods, along with a decently built reel (many of which can be had for $200 or less, particularly during closeout season), and you’ve got an outfit for a lifetime. Some take to 7X flouro with gusto, while others are going to require the addition of shock tippets (I prefer hard mono to wire, but who really cares when you are chasing beasts that actually require such a thing as a ‘shock tippet’). But the best part about it all? You won’t be breaking the bank in the process.

Editor’s note: First, thanks goes out to all the contributors to this post – they are fine fly fishing folk, and were ready, willing and able to assist. I have the highest regard for their opinions. Also, this is just one survey, across a select group of anglers, and it’s heavy on a few manufacturers. That may tell you a little something about who is targeting the budget conscious, but I am sure there are plenty of other reasonably priced rods out there too. If you have recommendations on discount rods that have treated you well, please feel free to chime in.

Orvis Gift Coupon – Good ‘Till Christmas (UPDATED)

Orvis is good to me – they send me ‘$25 off any purchase of $50 or more’ coupons every now and again, and this holiday season they sent two. I’ve got one still in hand, which says prominently at the top…

Give this savings certificate to someone you think would enjoy shopping at Orvis.

I’m obliging. The coupon is good in-store only (no outlet, dealer, web, or mail order purchases), through December 24th. If you can use it, it’s yours – just leave a comment, and make sure you use a valid email address when you do. I’ll ping you for your address, and mail it out immediately.

Happy holidays.

UPDATE: Matt gets the coupon, but that Rivers In Motion video is still available for a trivia/brain teaser buff. SORRY, IT’S NOW GONE TOO.

Review of the Orvis Zero G 906-4 Tip-Flex 10.5 (Part II)

gear bagI whipped this rod around for ten hours straight, just like I said I would. I’m anxious to describe how I feel about its performance, but I think a little primer is due first…

Roughly ten years ago, one of my fanatical fly fishing friends booked a trip to the Bahamas and stuck me with half the bill – so I went, if only to make sure he didn’t bullshit about all the bonefish he caught. We were out on the skiff day one, and he won the flip for first on deck. A few cruisers were spotted, but my buddy couldn’t reach them. Then I stepped up to the plate, and my bat was a rod (sorry – different brand) I had picked up in Miami just a month before during a secret Biscayne Bay practice session. It was a rocket launcher – nearly impossible to load without half the spool in flight, but when she did the bend right it was sayonara Crazy Charlie. Anyway, my buddy sits next to the guide watching, in awe that quickly turned to disgust – finally he gives, and we spent the rest of the day using one rod. When we returned to the dock, I picked up the gear and he sprinted back to the hotel – when I arrived he was on the phone with outfitters on the mainland, looking for that stick. He finally found one, in California, and had the shop do a FedEx Priority (yes, to the Bahamas).

The Orvis Zero G 906-4 Tip-Flex 10.5 may well find itself in a similar predicament. All I have to do is wind up on someone else’s big trout trip – I’ll demand we fish streamers, and then I’ll pull this puppy out. We’ll make sure there’s a company FedEx account handy.

Review of the Orvis Zero G 906-4 Tip-Flex 10.5 (Part I)

gear bagThere are several people in the world who were tired of my incessant research on a new streamer rod. I’d been searching for months, read reviews until my eyes were sore, and cast at least a half-dozen different models. Sure, I already had a decent rod for streamers (the Sage 690-3 SP), and my short casting stroke and obsessive use of sinking lines and 6-inch pieces of dumbell-ed rabbit strip was pushing it – nonetheless I was pretty satisfied with its performance. I’d been lucky too – no multi-ounce flies had yet knocked a tip off – but I was in need of a backup quarterback just in case. Instead I wound up with what may be a starter – the Orvis Zero G 906-4 Tip-Flex 10.5.

Like my last ostentatious and frivolous purchase rod review I’ll being doing this one in two parts: paint and trim, and track acceleration (reels do the braking). I purchased this beauty from (where else?) Orvis – specifically from the Cherry Creek location. I’d hinted to the folks there that I was in want of a rocket launcher, and a few days ago Kerry Caragher said I had to cast this one. Fast forward to this afternoon – I was back in the shop, BYORL (bring your own reel and line) and out on the grass for a test drive. I’ll have more to report in regards to performance later, but I can say I was false casting 30+ feet of 5 inch/second sinker with barely a twitch of my elbow and some short tugs on the line – you guessed it…I was sold.

Following is the first half of the review, and some pics, of the latest addition to the quiver…

Why Orvis Cherry Creek just rocks

It’s an attitude thing.

I’ve been in Orvis Cherry Creek plenty over the last year. I have more hard gear than most humans will need in a lifetime, but the place has an excellent fly selection and is always working deals. The folks are generally friendly and helpful, although I don’t usually need a lot of help with fly selection – it’s a man on a mission thing (and I know I’ll get a parking ticket if I don’t hurry). But that’s not why I go there.

Today, I noticed the weather was warming. I decided to go pick up the mail. Orvis isn’t far from the post office, so I thought I’d stop by and pick up a license (no, I haven’t been fishing in over a month, and yes, it sucks). Unbeknownst to me, Orvis doesn’t have one of the hard copy license machines. So what does the guy behind the counter do when I ask for a license? He goes behind said counter, cranks up the Colorado Division of Wildlife web-based license purchasing, and lets me do my stuff. It was such natural, courteous, going-out-of-your-way kind of service – it doesn’t happen very often, particularly in retail. But it didn’t surprise me one bit – not from those folks.

Heck, I didn’t even hint that I was going to buy anything else. But I’ll be hard pressed to shop anywhere else this season.

Thanks guys.