Your #1 Internet Spey Casting Resource   

CF Burkheimer 9143-3

 

intro        design        components       action        test cast

Last September I looked into getting my hands on a Burkheimer Spey rod. I'd heard good things about them from people who know their way around the long rods, so I was intrigued. I first heard about Burkheimer Speys a few years ago after a couple of members of the Brotherhood of the Black GP snuck across the border to the Seattle Sportsman's Show and bent a few on the casting pond. Tyler--a rod builder himself--raved about the overall quality of the rod, from the impeccably wrapped guides to the virtually pit free cork. Apparently Kerry Burkheimer designs and makes his own blanks, then custom builds each into rods. The attention to detail was evident. After a little hunting around I was able to connect with Kerry via his website, and he kindly offered to provide a demo for me to evaluate. (Note: I want to stress here that I evaluated the rod from a casting standpoint--I did not actually fish the rod. Kerry tells me that several high-profile Pacific Northwest guides fish the rods for steelhead and swear by them, which suggests to me that they fish quite nicely).   top

design

Last winter Kerry and I had a long discussion about the design of his Spey rods. There is a tendency among rods designed in the US to favour overhead casting. In these rods, the tip section is quite "light", which is fine for overhead casting but deadly for the change-of-direction inherent in the Spey casts: during the directional change, the rod tip deflects out and away from the caster under load from the line, causing it to travel in toward the caster before straightening out on the forward stroke. This causes the all-too-common problem of the end of the line colliding with the main belly during the forward cast. Burkheimer addressed this by carefully considering the casts required of the Spey rod, ensuring that his tips were stout enough to handle the change of direction while at the same time ensuring that they had enough flex to handle short line tip casting. Under test conditions I was able to execute single Spey casts in excess of 45 change-of-direction with over 80' of line out. Many of the US rods really fall apart under such conditions, but the Burkheimer handled this acid test with minimal tip deflection. 

To me 14' feels comfortable. I regularly fish Spey rods from 13'-to-16', and 14' feels just about right. With a 14' rod you can cover pretty much all of the water you'd care to in a day without stressing your arms, shoulders, and wrists. Beyond 14' the rods combined with the larger reels start to get heavy. A good caster can cover the same water with a 14' rod as a mediocre caster can with a longer stick. I think that it's worth noting that many of the most experienced American Spey rodders regularly fish 14' rods throughout the year. 14' is ideal on the Dean, Bulkley, Skykomish and Sauk rivers, and can hold its own on the Skagit and the Thompson, classic "big water" rivers. top    

components

The 9143-3 is a beautiful Spey rod. Burkheimer's blanks are sanded and finished in a deep cedar green. The rod tested came equipped with high-quality components such as durable hand-made Tungsten snake guides, an option offered exclusive by Burkheimer. Guides are wrapped with deep cedar green threads tipped with platinum. A nickel-silver winding check tops the upper handle, and a custom made Bellinger  Delrin-lined reel seat separates the grips. A rubber ball style butt cap flows
smoothly onto the bottom cork.

I want to make a special mention of handles. From their overall design to the quality of the rings, the cork-work on the Burkheimer is first rate. The bottom grip is actually long enough to be comfortable (which the grip on some other US 9 weights are not) and has been shaped with a winter steelheader's cold hands in mind. The upper handle is a  reversed half wells design that is chunky enough to instill confidence without being too blocky to be comfortable.   top

action

I would characterize this rod as having a "traditional" Spey action: by this I mean that it is a medium action Spey rod, with much of the bend during the casting of an average length of line (60' - 70' in Spey rod terms) occurring in the mid section of the rod. This is accomplished by having a fairly stout tip section that directs the load down through the taper into the mid section. On longer casts the rod continues to flex into the butt section, with plenty of what has become known as "reserve power" for extremely long casts or heavier lines, or for moving a heavy fish. Most medium action rods are fairly easy to cast as the caster can feel the rod load, a sensation that is not as pronounced on the faster action "European"-style rods. You can certainly feel the Burkheimer load up, but it does not have that characteristic "mushy" feel that has plagued other US rods attempting to emulate the classic UK feel. Although you can move a long line with the Burkheimer, it not a rod to muscle--the same relaxed stroke is necessary otherwise you will end up with a very wide and/or tailing loop. A smooth, easy casting stroke with an abrupt stop at the end of the forward cast (as opposed to a heavy "snap" of the wrists) will allow you to create smooth, tight loops. You can really help yourself along with this by holding the rod lightly, gripping it tightly only when you are stopping it on the forward stroke.   top

test cast

line: Spey-Driver custom 9 weight floating long-belly Spey line
reel: Hardy Marquis Salmon #1

The test casts were completed one early summer afternoon on a local pond with the wind blowing in the direction of the casts. Test casts included the single Spey, Grant Switch, double Spey, Snake Roll, Snap-T, Circle cast, and overhead casts. As mentioned above, I was most interested in the rod's ability to change a wide angle of direction, what I consider to be one of the hallmarks of a superior Spey. I find that the best cast to determine this is either the single Spey or the Grant Switch. In both cases the rod performed very well, effortlessly executing the casts to 45, faring almost equally as well to 60, and evidencing a slight deflection beyond 60 (note: the single Spey and Grant Switch are not commonly performed beyond a 45 change-of-direction; casters would generally select either a double Spey, Snake Roll or Snap-T/Circle cast beyond 45). I felt that the rod really came into its own with the Snake Roll, the Circle Cast,  and the Snap-T, a cast I suspect is one favoured by those that assisted in the design process. Like the best of the UK Spey rods made by Bruce & Walker, Daiwa and David Norwich, the Burkheimer almost casts itself--all you have to do is move it through the required motions with very little effort.  design    top

The CF Burkheimer 9143-3 is a superior Spey rod. They aren't cheap, but when you consider that you are paying a little more for a custom rod with superior components and performance characteristics, the rods are a bargain.

So Kerry, any chance I can have the rod back for the Thompson in October?

greg pearson illustration