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Snowbee Spey Tackle

by

Dana Sturn with Sean Ransom

 

Back in 1994 when I started speycasting I bought a big Hardy Salmon #3 because it was the only reel at the fly shop with the capacity to hold 200 yards of 30# Dacron and a 120ft double taper #11 fly line. The reel came in a plastic case with a foam insert that had a hole in it for the reel handle, and I thought this was an okay storage device until I actually started to fish the reel and discovered that moving between pools was really inconvenient if I had to take my rod down every time we got in the truck. I had learned to take the rod sections apart without reeling up all the line, so it was simply a matter of connecting the sections and going fishing, but it defeated the purpose if I removed the reel from the rod, and I didn't like the idea of my reel bouncing around unprotected in the back of my pickup. Clearly I needed to find a solution. My tackle dealer showed me these nifty little neoprene reel covers that were designed for use in the field. These cases were from a company called Snowbee in the UK, and I couldn't find anything else out about them, but their reel cases solved my problem and continue to protect my big old reels.

Last year Bob Wellard from Snowbee contacted me about speypages and sent me some lines, a rod and a reel to test. The rod spent the winter on the Washington State steelhead streams and I pretty much had to beg the speypages USA crew to give it to me so I could try it, which should give you a pretty clear indication of how they felt about it. I originally wanted to have this review done months ago but I ran into a problem--the speypages staff who had it wouldn't give it back! I would say "uh, I need the rod to do my review" and they'd say "ok, next month" and then a month would go by and well here it is now July and...anyways, you know the rest of the story. These folks spent lots of time with the rod and reel in actual fishing conditions so I figured they had a great deal of insight into the tackle. Usually, a speypages review is mostly me with some feedback at times from a few trusted souls; however, in a bit of a departure I'm going to turn most of the rest of this review over to speypages tech guy Sean Ransom. Take it away Sean:

Thanks Dana. Ok, the Snowbee 15ft 10/11 is a serious two-hander, easily one of the most powerful 15ft rods I've ever cast. It was a real revelation this past February to cast the rod with the Snowbee 2D line system (62ft head). Cast after cast, and with minimal effort, everyone who cast with us was launching the whole line and snapping it tight to the reel.

  Rod Design and Aesthetics:

  Typical from what we are seeing from the underhand rods coming out of Europe as far as cork configuration. The upper handle tapers down towards the top end quite a bit. At the top of the cork there is not a whole lot between you and the rod. Personally I like this touch as it helps you feel what the rod is doing during the cast. Nice big reel seat that almost fits my Perfects. The guides on this rod are over sized which I really like. Helps with shooting line which this rod excels at.

I would call this rod a fast progressive action that lets you cast of the tip and middle of the rod. This is my preferred action and its design lets you exploit the low, flat and shallow lifts described in Simon Gawesworth's book Spey Casting.

Fishing:

As a fishing tool I loved the rod. I was lucky enough to take a bright winter fish on the Cowlitz river one February morning. I had the rod lined up with the new 9/10 Grandspey and fishing casts of 120'+ are nothing with this stick. Easily picks up the whole belly and casts the heaviest tips you would care to fish. Even smaller fish put a good bend in the rod that provides good cushion when fighting a thrashing fish.

Conclusion:

Hands down this is my favorite rod I have come across in the last year. It throws everything from short lines to ultra long lines. If you are fast rod person or looking to get into faster rods you really do not need to look much further. Also at a price point ~$400 I honestly do not think there is a rod out there that beats it. If you enjoy hearing the 'thunk' of the whole line pulling on the drag, check this baby out. It simply rocks.

So Sean likes the Snowbee. He wants it back, though I can't figure out what he's going to do with it in Rhode Island.

I spent some time with the rod as well. I like the large composite butt cap that provides a sure, comfortable grip. As Sean notes the forward grip tapers down to the blank, but it is longer than most other Scandinavian-designed two-handers, so casters who prefer a longer foregrip will like this feature. The double downlocking reel seat will accept a range of reel feet--my only complaint would be that it does not have an o-ring to ensure a positive lock, though I didn't have any trouble with it during testing. Snowbee writes the recommended line grain weight right on the blank for you, which can take some of the guesswork out of your line weight selection. My favorite of the Snowbee lines on this rod are the 2D and 3D. At 51ft, the belly length on the 1D is a little on the short side for a 15ft rod. I also cast the 11/12 Quattro, the 9/10 MidSpey, the 10/11 GrandSpey and the 9/10 XLT on this rod. The Quatrro line weight was a good match, but like the Snowbee 1D I found the head length short. The 9/10 MidSpey was a bit light but workable. The GrandSpey and XLT were the best, with the edge going to the GrandSpey as it was a 10/11 and loaded the rod a little better than the 9/10 XLT. I think that the XLT in a 10/11 would be a great match as well, but unfortunately I was not able to try this line weight.

A bit about the Snowbee lines: I really like them. I find them to be very supple, making them easy to work with. They are thinner for their line weight than lines like the XLT and GrandSpey, a characteristic I˙ŭve found in other UK lines like the Michael Evans Arrowhead and the Carron˙ŭin fact the Snowbee lines remind me of the Carron lines (same maker perhaps?). On shorter rods I prefer shorter lines; likewise on longer rods longer lines. The 1D is a good match for rods 14ft and under; the 2D rods 14ft - 15ft; and the 3D balances rods 15ft+. North American anglers used to throwing the US-designed speylines might want to upline the Snowbees, as a 9/10 for example might feel a bit light on some 9/10 rods, perhaps a better match for 8/9 rods. I found the 11/12 3D line excellent on a range of 10/11 speys in 15ft-16-1/2ft lengths. Snowbee also makes a line of Scandinavian-style shooting heads that we will be testing in the near future.

The reel we tested was the Snowbee XS Large Arbor 910. With 200 yards of gelspun it managed the 2D 10/11 line, but I think a better choice would be the larger XS 1112, especially for anyone wanting to cast the longer belly lines this rod really likes. The reel is simple, functional and durable, and Snowbee says you can strip it down in the field with a multi tool like the Leatherman. Sitting at my desk it only took me a few minutes to take it apart, and reassembly was almost as quick (note: look up "handy" in the dictionary and you won't find my picture), and if I can do it, you will have no problem. The drag takes a turn or two for it to engage, but once in you can really lock it down if you needed to put some heavy pressure on Moby Dick.

 

 

 

Thanks to Bob Wellard from Snowbee and Lee Davison from Snake River Outfitters for their assistance with this review

all images copyright Snowbee tackle and are used here by permission

 

greg pearson illustration