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CND Spey Rods:
modern Speys in the classic tradition

Nobuo Nodera on BC steelhead water

 

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 rods.

design and components

    CND stands for "Custom Nobuo Design." Nodera's 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 rod matches 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 expert/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, custom spey reel seatstripping 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 cast

    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 15ft 10/11). 
    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' ArrowHead lines, the Carron Jetstream, the Mastery Spey XLT, and most recently the RIO GrandSpey, 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.

custom spey with steelhead

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  8/9, 9/10 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 $265 USD 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.

 

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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 custom design.
used by permission

greg pearson illustration