Hi Cal, Thankyou for the great review. I have dappled in the ultimate Clear water rod over several years at the request of David Wang, my comp caster pro staff. I believe in the Chinese proverb, When the student is ready the teacher will appear. In this case I am the student, Cal prompted to take another shot a the clearwater stick with the newest graphite that I have been using for Meiser and Anderson engineering. The results are amazing. thank you CalFirst a little background. The first rod that Steve Built for me was a 14' ARE UHM 7/8. I had asked Johnny at ARE if he had any custom builds as I was not to crazy about the colors used in his standard build. I have and still love this 14' 7/8. I am able to dance with this rod and understand her every move. I also love a 12' 3/4 ARE UHM that I built for lighter work. I really didn't need anything else to cover everything I fish for but I have since added a 5 wt. and a 3 wt. quantum to the quiver and have no explanation for why I thought I needed these rods. I love them all. Before the WDFW again closed the Columbia River near where I live to steelhead fishing, I had a frustrating day fishing for two reasons, 1. I grew tired of chipping ice out of the guides and 2. with more pressure on the fish recently they seemed to have move a bit further out. I would continually see fish jump about 15' further out than I could reach with my current set up.
My Mom lives in Kooskia Idaho and I like to fish the clearwater when I to see her I had been thinking about getting a longer stick so I could cover more water with each cast so more fish get to see my fly each time I cast. Because of my recent frustration combined with liking to fish the CW and had been considering a longer rod anyway I called Steve and talked to him about what I wanted to accomplish and that I was thinking about picking up a 16' rod that would be easy to cast and help me obtain that extra 15-20 feet when casting without having to strip in more line. The result of the conversation was Steve developing a 16'7" 7 wt. rod with the new generation graphite. Steve had built something similar on an older generation graphite but had not yet tried it with the newer-lighter graphite blanks. About a month later Steve had a proto-type that he had his tester(s) use before he finalized the design and built one for me to demo.
I tested the rod for a little over a week. This rod is amazingly easy to cast long lines with and liked the beauty of the demo rod I just bought it instead of getting one built to my requested color scheme.
I am one month away from turning 63, and am 6'3" tall and average build...definitely not a Hercules type individual.
In the two weeks that I have had this rod in my possession, I have tried the following lines on this rod and these are my impressions:
Ballistic Vector XL 8/9 (660 gr) . This is the line that Steve provided with the rod for demo. This line is buttery smooth and seems to be built for this rod. If you like very smooth and a light feeling line, you will love this combination. I have not had a lot of time with it yet, but it turns over a 23' leader very nicely and at this point I have not put all of the line out of the guides, but have the knot to the backing between the reel and the first guide. I am easily reaching water that I was not prior to getting this rod and line. This line I will be using for days when I want an easy day and long casts
Gaelforce Equalizer 54 9/10 (585 gr.) (I had acquired this line my 14' rod and thought I loved it on this rod until I tried the 73 so I recently sold the 54.) very good but not nearly as impressive as the other GF that I tried.
Gaelforce Equalizer 63 7/8 (662 gr.) thank you Poppy) a little light for this rod. I should have requested a 8/9 to test drive.
Gaelforce Equalizer 73 8/9 (756 gr) (thank you Poppy) this was a very nice fit and smooth casting line. It was so easy to cast on my 14' rod that I bought one for it and almost decided that I didn't need the longer rod!!!. I returned the 63 and 73 demos and in part because Bruce Kruk said that I could cast the 83' on a 16' rod, asked Poppy to send me the 83 and the 15 M to test drive.
Gaelforce Equalizer 83 8/9 (817 gr.) (thank you Poppy). I will be adding this line to my collection even though I have only cast it once for about 30 minutes. I cannot believe how easy it was to handle this longer line on this rod. It looks like my days of needing to chip ice out of my guides when trying to reach fish out 100' are over. The only tough decision for me now is to decide if I want to keep the integrated line or if I want to have it made into a head. I am getting about 10' further with this line than I am with the Vector XL. It does take more effort to cast this line than the Vector XL though---it is 157 grains heavier. If you like a deeply loading feeling this is the combination that you want should you pick up one of these rods from Steve.
Gaelforce EEx 15 M #8 (thank you Poppy)--Nice casting and great turn over with a 10' intermediate poly. Had I not test drove the 83 with rod, I would have picked up this head for this rod. Definitely worth testing this line, especially if you are using a 14' or longer rod.
Nextcast Fall Favorite Gen 2 6/7 was not a good fit for me with this rod. It was both too short and too light. It worked well with my 14' ARE.
Nextcast Steelhead Finder 45: FI-7 ; FF-8 32.5' 600 gr; FF-8/9? 650 gr. I love the Steelhead finders, just not on this rod. These heads are just too short for this rod. They were not fun to cast at all. They are fantastic with my 13 and 14' rods.
Bottom line is WOW!!! If you are considering moving up to a long line rod, contact Steve and get in line to demo this rod, but don't do it unless you are ready to have a lighter pocket book, but if you like the feel of an easy casting smooth long rod it is worth the lighter pocket book.