CND Spey Rods:
modern Speys in the classic tradition
The Cult Run on British Columbia's
Thompson River is a tough piece of water for the fly fisher, but
during low water conditions the bottom structure is revealed and the canny
angler stores this info away for later years when classic water levels hide the
places that hide steelhead. It's just this sort of intelligence gathering that
makes great anglers out of good ones, and only once in the past 10
years has the river so openly revealed herself. But Nobuo Nodera and I are oblivious to the secrets
laid bare before us: we're standing knee deep beside one such structure, a sand bar
that borders the river just below a whitewater chute, and despite the positively
evil wind angling off his upstream shoulder, Nodera is laying out astoundingly
long single Speys across the wind with a 145ft custom made Spey line and 16ft 6in prototype rod.
There's no "single Spey waltz" evident in this master's cast,
just a slow easy lift followed by the sweep and punch that launches yet another loop that
rolls out and rattles the backing knot up through the rod guides. "It's a bad
wind," he notes as a powerful gust catches the front of the line and opens
up the leading edge of the loop, "Cast could be better!"
I note that he just laid out the
entire line and a 15ft leader.
Over the course of the next few hours I would
witness many such tournament-length casts made while Nodera stood knee-to-mid
thigh deep in the Thompson's treacherous flows, and come to marvel at the man's
consummate artistry with both the Spey cast and the Spey rod.
Nobuo Nodera is no stranger to the arcane world of the Spey. For many years he lived and worked in Scotland where he was a rod designer
for Daiwa-UK. During his time with Daiwa he became a serious student of Spey
casting and the two-handed fly rod, a passion that lead to the development of
the famed Amorphous Spey rods and a friendship with a young demonstration
caster named Simon Gawesworth. When Nodera returned to his homeland he left Daiwa and went out on his own, forming CND
Consults and designing fishing rods for various
applications. But his true love remained the Spey, and his desire to further his
design concepts lead to the development of his current series of two-handed fly
design and components
CND stands for "Custom Nobuo Design."
design philosophy is simple: he designs rods that he likes to cast and fish. With
each rod series and model Nodera has a specific application in mind, and he then
labors until he feels the rod is the best possible realization of this design
ideal. For Nodera, Spey rod design is a passion, and since he designs each rod for his
personal use he spares no expense in ensuring that the rod performs to his
expectations. As well, he has a number of friends in the international spey
casting community who quietly test
his rods and provide feedback. This extensive testing program ensures that each
the fishing conditions for which it was designed.
CND Speys are currently available in three models: the Expert
Spey, the Custom Spey and the Specialist Spey. The Expert Speys have a sanded but unfinished
blank, while the Custom Speys have an attractive deep green epoxy finish. The
Specialist Series is finished in a distinctive sagebrush tone. The
Custom Speys are a little stiffer and faster action than the Expert Speys, but
"stiffer" and "faster action" are relative terms when
it comes to the CND rods: both retain the classic Spey action and are very
powerful yet smooth casting rods, (note: you know how so many of those traditional Speys feel really
heavy in the hand and overly tip heavy? These don't. Certainly anyone used to
casting Euro action rods will notice a tip heavy sensation, but compared to
other traditional action Speys the CNDs are quite manageable.) When deciding on which rod to purchase, go
with the Expert Spey if you like a more relaxed casting stroke and the sensation
that the rod is loading well into the butt section (beginning and intermediate
anglers will enjoy these rods). Choose the Custom Spey if
you like a more powerful rod and a somewhat faster casting cycle that still
retains the classic old world feel of a traditional Spey rod. The Specialist
Speys are high performance rods that are very different from
CND's other rod series and are designed specifically for casting under some of
the toughest conditions in the world (as an example, the Specialist Spey
CNF-F16711TS is CND's "Thompson Specialist", designed for extreme distance with
high performance long belly Spey lines on British Columbia's Thompson River).
All CND Speys feature internal spigot ferrules. Spigot
ferrules are more difficult to produce than standard tip-over-butt ferrules, but
offer tremendous durability and smooth energy transfer. Spigot ferrules allow
the taper of the blank to be retained through the ferrules, eliminating flat spots along the blank. So, despite the fact the the
Expert Series might be considered an entry level rod, it retains the design
features of the more expensive models. Nodera's high standards and
uncompromising nature require that all his rods exhibit first class casting
qualities no matter the price, and the internal spigot ferrules ensure this.
Generous handles are a CND trademark. The 14ft Custom 9/10
has bottom and top handle lengths of 5in and 15-1/2in respectively, while the
13ft 8/9 has the same bottom handle length and only loses 1in on the top handle,
offering the angler more than enough cork to find a comfortable casting and
fish-fighting grip on all rods. It is also worth mentioning that the cork work is among the best I've seen on rods of any price.
The downlocking reel seats on all models reflect the classic
Spey heritage of these rods.
In keeping with the traditions of many of the finest UK Spey
rods, the Expert and Custom Speys feature 3-piece blanks and are outfitted with quality components such as hard
chrome snakes, stripping
guides and tip tops with ceramic inserts, and rubber butt caps, but in the
interest of keeping costs down Nodera stayed away from expensive components,
preferring instead to put most of the money into the blank. However, the 4-piece
Specialist rods feature high-end components (top-quality downlocking reel
seat, latest Fuji stripping guides, titanium tip-top, exclusive aerospace
graphite, cloth bag and aluminum rod tube) befitting an elite rod series.
Test casting of CND Spey rods was conducted over a lengthy
period beginning in the summer of 2002 and with the assistance of
a number of anglers of varying skill levels and abilities. In fact, CND rods
were subjected to one of the most extensive field testing programs ever done for
the Spey Pages. We used a number of different lines
to test the rods, as well as various casting styles. Many of the tests were
completed under actual angling conditions rather than on casting ponds (testing
was conducted on the Dean, Babine, Thompson and Fraser rivers in British
Columbia, and on the Skagit, Sauk, Skykomish and Olympic Peninsula rivers in
Washington State). Without
exception all casters were impressed with the rods and later acquired various
models for their own personal use.
The CND Expert and Custom Speys have a comfortable, classic traditional action.
In keeping with this action Nodera's rods feature a fairly stout tip section
that directs the bend down into the mid section of the blank, and on longer casts
with extended belly lines the CND Speys flex into the powerful butt section.
However, this flex does not make the rods feel soft or "noodly"; Nodera has drawn on
his tremendous knowledge of taper and graphite to create a full flexing blank
that recovers quickly and allows an angler to cast long lines with tight loops (these
video clips demonstrate the casting power and blank recovery of the CND Custom
The CND taper designs respond well to a variety of casting
styles. Kush favors a long casting stroke that emphasizes top hand with bottom
hand assisting; Nodera keeps his bottom hand relatively motionless and
emphasizes full extension of his top arm; I favor a modified underhand style
with a relatively short casting stroke. The CND rods handle them all allowing
powerful and pretty casts.
Nodera designed the Expert and Custom rod series with RIO's MidSpey lines in mind, and certainly the
MidSpey brings out the rods' more exceptional characteristics, but I also tried
them with the Airflo Long Deltas, Airflo
Traditional Speys, Spey-Drivers, Michael Evans'
the Carron Jetstream, the Mastery Spey XLT, and most recently the RIO
and the rods performed beautifully with all of them. Of all the rods I've cast with extended
belly lines, these are among the very few I can say are worthy of handling
the length and weight of these lines and still retain their feel. Nodera's years
as a rod designer for Daiwa-UK Spey rods is the reason for this and this heritage is evident in the
entire CND line.
We really put these rods to the test: single Speys, double
Speys, triple Speys, snakes, snaps, circles, underhand; overloaded, underloaded--you
name it, we did it, and with great results. When matched to their applications
(no point in fishing the 6 weight on a big river in a howling headwind) the rods
exhibited exceptional performance. They were easy casting, yet with the power to
lift and throw longer lines. And I think this is what really distinguishes CND
rods: they are designed by a longline spey caster who is also at home with other
line styles, so he designs his rods to complement them all.
Over the years I've found that two casts reveal a rod's
hidden flaws: the single Spey with a wide angle change, and the snake roll. On
the single Spey a wide change of direction quickly allows a caster to determine
if the rod's tip section is powerful enough to handle the tremendous outward
deflection that takes place during this cast, while the snake indicates if the
rod has enough power and flex in the butt section to handle the tremendous
continuous load placed on it during the rolling motions of the cast. I wasn't
surprised to discover that the CND rods handled these two moves exceptionally
well, and the easy casting action of the rods encouraged a very smooth and
relaxed casting stroke. With CND Speys you feel in touch with the line
throughout the cast, and yet never feel that the rod will wimp out on you when
you need to move a long line or power a long cast into the wind. One of the test
casters observed "when you watch the CNDs cast a long line the bend of the
rod makes the rod and the line appear to be part of each other. I've never
really seen that before."
These are the classic modern Speys that many
manufacturers have been trying to
make for the past few years but no one has quite figured out yet. Quite simply, they are among the finest
Spey rods I've ever cast, at any price.
applications and line recommendations
As a result of my extensive field testing of CND Spey rods I
am able to make the following recommendations:
Expert Spey 13ft 6/7: a great dry line rod when
smaller fish are expected. An excellent choice for smaller waters like the Stilly.
Handles a MidSpey 6/7 beautifully. Would also
be a good rod for those interested in spey casting to larger trout
Custom Spey 13ft 7/8: when smaller fish but a little more wind is
expected and a little more distance required, this is the rod. My choice for the Bulkley or Deschutes and a MidSpey
6/7 or 7/8.
Expert/Custom Spey 8/9 13ft: a great all-round lighter line Spey and a personal favorite. This would be my Dean dry line
rod matched with a MidSpey 7/8 or 8/9. The Airflo
Traditional Spey 7/8 is also a good match, as are the Airflo
Delta and Delta Long tapers in 7/8 or 8/9.
Expert/Custom Spey 9/10 14ft: my choice for the all-rounder of the series. If
you buy one rod, this is it. Kush preferred the Expert series; I liked the
Custom model. Great for Washington State's winter waters. Use the MidSpey
or the Arrowhead 9/11. The Airflo
Traditional Spey 8/9 and the Mastery
Spey 8/9 are also a good match for those who prefer longer lines.
Expert/Custom Spey 15ft 10/11: big water, big fish rods. My choice for
late season on the Thompson. You can really pound it out there with these
sticks. No problem punching out entire MidSpey
lines (9/10 or 10/11), and I really
enjoyed the GrandSpey 8/9 and 9/10, the Mastery Spey XLT 8/9, the Spey-Driver,
and the Carron Jetstream lines on these
rods. Nodera also uses the Triangle
Taper 10/11 (both floating and intermediate) with the 80ft head.
Salmo Salar Specialist Spey 15ft 6in 9/10/11: designed
specifically for the salmon rivers of the United Kingdom, the Salmo Salar is
comfortable with floating or sinking lines, a powerful yet forgiving and
surprisingly light spey (a noted Washington State steelheader was overheard saying "this
feels like a 14 foot rod!"). Though originally designed as a salmon rod the
Salmo Salar Specialist is equally at home on steelhead water (tested autumn
2002 on the River Tweed in Scotland and spring 2003 on the Skykomish, Skagit and
Sauk rivers in Washington State). The Triangle
Taper Spey 10 weight, GrandSpey 8/9, MidSpey
9/10, Carron Jetstream 10/11, Airflo
Traditional 9/10 or 10/11 and Airflo Delta Long
9/10 or 10/11 are all great matches for this rod.
Thompson Specialist Spey 16ft 7in 10/11/12: CND's most powerful two-handed rod.
Designed specifically for British Columbia's Thompson River to meet the demands
of some of the Thompson's top Spey casters, the "Thompson
Specialist" is a medium-fast rod with enough power to pick up and throw
extended belly Spey lines the long distances that are often needed on the
Thompson's great pools. The latest in graphite technology has produced a very
light and responsive yet extremely powerful and durable blank that gives the rod tremendous
lifting and casting capabilities. Designed using the Spey-Driver
and Thompson Spey lines, the
Thompson Specialist also excels with the GrandSpey
9/10, the XLT 9/10, the Carron
Jetstream and other long belly and extended belly
Spey lines in line weights 10 and 11. With this rod expert casters can achieve tournament distances under typical
angling conditions. A Spey Pages favorite.
The suggested retail price on CND Speys ranges from
to $715 USD depending on the model and line weight. Expert series
delivered in nylon rod sock; Custom series delivered in cloth rod sock; Specialist Series delivered in cloth rod sock and
aluminum rod tube.
thanks to Nobuo Nodera for making these rods
available for review, and to Tak Shimosawa, Tyler
Kushnir, Brian Lencho and Juro Mukai for their assistance
images courtesy CND
used by permission