7120-4 X Rod
Okay, I’ve changed my mind. The 7120-4 X rod is a dual purpose stick with the right line. I know that I stated that I would leave the heavy sink tip work to my 8 weights, but……
Quite by accident, I found myself on the coast with one spey rod in tote. The 7120-4 X Rod tube was casually thrown in with my salmon rods because winter steelhead fishing usually winds down by April 15. But this year, because it’s been so damn wet, is not so usual.
During another deluge, I went to the river and made one cast with the 7210-4. Then I laughed aloud. A short Skagit line, 12 feet of T-14 and a lead eyed Intruder style fly were chump change for the little powerhouse in my hand.
The line recommendation for the 7120-4 is a 550 Skagit Max Short. Like all of the X rods I’ve cast, the light-in-hand feel sends mixed signals. There’s no way this rod can do the job. That, of course, is wrong.
A 7120-4 two hander might be the perfect skater rod for summer steelhead because of the laser tight loops in can form and the easy to manage swing weight. It is crazy light for a seven. I don’t want lazy open loops when I’m trying to turn over the entire cast so that the fly, leader and line land almost simultaneously. When fishing a full floating line and a skating fly, I want to be in touch IMMEDIATELY. A 450 Grain Scandi line around 30 feet long and full mono or intermediate leader of twelve to fourteen feet feels perfect.
So, how then can a 550 gr short Skagit line work perfectly with such a light, but high performance rod?
It is counter intuitive, but, the longer the rod, the less comfortable (or more of a struggle it seems) it is to handle the mass of a skagit line and corresponding sink tip. One would think that a 14 foot 8 weight would make quick work of 550 grains and 12 feet of t-14 or t-17. That is certainly not the case if you’ve ever conducted a side by side test, long rod vs short, of which I have done many. It all boils down to grains per foot. We tend to balance our rods by adding length to the Skagit head. 550 grains in a twenty foot line carries more grains per foot than the 24 or 26 foot 550 gr. Skagit line. After the forward stroke, the energy travels down the fly line towards the tip. Those grains per foot transfer that relative energy into the sink tip. The short 550 grain head transfers more energy than the longer head which in turn makes quick work of a heavy tip. Shorter rods, compact heads, heavy lines are a dream to fish all day long in tight places. Longer rods, say 14 feet or so, excel at medium duty sink tip work (I’m thinking t-10 here) with a longer Skagit style line and, of course, they shine on big water with scandi and full length floating spey lines. For most of my fishing, I choose the shorter rods.
So there I was, jacking the unlikely combination of 550 grains, t-14 and my heaviest steelhead fly with a short seven weight, that feels more like a five weight, WAY out into the river. I imagined my fly sinking like a rock through the five to seven feet of cold April flow. The fly ticked the rocks if I fed a little line. It swung cleanly if I didn’t. The rain pounded me. I had two great grabs, but neither stuck. And at the end of every cast, I really was laughing. Not like a lunatic laughing, but like a pleasantly surprised forest gnome laughing at something he did not expect to see after he crawled out from under the moss- covered rock where he spent the last three months sleeping. Yeah, that kind of laugh.