Technologies in Tarpon fishing have come a long way as demands in this fishery have changed since the days of the old Great Equalizer. Tarpon are without a doubt becoming more and more demanding of that perfect presentation. So there comes the give and take compromise between a fly rod labelled as a casting stick or a fish fighting stick. Finding that happy medium between the two is what makes a tarpon stick the best one in your hands. It is true that in most cases it is the indian, not the arrow, but it helps if the bow and arrow are fine tuned to make it easier for the indian to shoot/cast it into the wind, into a side wind, or lay down a presentation soft down wind.
Most tarpon fisherman I know who chase these fish with a fly rod prefer a 1 piece rod. There are many choices on the Market today offered from companies such as G Loomis (2 models), Echo, Hardy, Clutch, Orvis, and Biscayne Rod. There isn’t a best 11wt or 12wt rod, but rather one that fits you best. Choosing the right one for you means going out and casting each one before deciding on which one works for you. I am not on any pro-staff for either one of the aforementioned companies but I do fish rods in different weights from these companies mentioned. The opinions of this reviewer are completely unbiased.
Today I review one of the new comers to the 1pc market; the Echo Prime 11wt. The Prime is the least expensive off all the 1pc fly rods but don’t let the price tag or lack of brand exposure fool you. This 11wt is truly an awesome tarpon stick. It is the second best casting 1pc 11wt I have fished thus far. While not as fast as the Hardy Pro-Axis 1pc or G Loomis NRX Pro-1; the Echo Prime 11wt is fast enough to punch through all but the extremely windy days. It’s got a softer tip, which actually allows it to load fast for quick casts when fishing in the mud and fish float up unexpectedly. One remarkable thing about the 11 Prime is how smooth it casts and how tight the loops you can form with it with minimal effort. Weight and swing weight-wise, the Echo Prime feels very comparable to the Crosscurrent Pro-1, perhaps a tad bit lighter. The action on this rod is comparable to the older Sage RPLX-i. When the steel sinks into meat and a tarpon is attached, that is where this rod out-shines most. It is virtually indestructible, even at high stick angles. Another good remark I’d like to mention on this rod is the use of ceramic guides for the stripper guides, but one thing I’d like to see changed are the cheap clunky oversized snake guides. I feel the Echo Prime lineup of rods could benefit from lighter better quality snake guides. I’d gladly pay another $60 for this rod with that.
Because the Prime has a slightly slower tip then the faster Hardy 11 Pro-Axis 1pc that I am all very familiar with, I went ahead and paired it up with the lightest 5″ fly reel on the market. This would be the Nautilus NV G10. Pairing up with a lighter reel with any rod gives it a faster perceived feel. I’d wouldn’t even be afraid to go as far as dropping down to a NV11/12 or CCFx2 1012 to give this rod a faster feel. Yet, I’m a fan of chasing a tarpon down basically on plane so a 5″ reel is what I prefer on all my tarpon rods. The Nautilus NV Monster G10 sits on a NV Monster frame but has a larger diameter spool, reducing the need for excessive backing. I was able to fit 100yards of gel spun with 150 yards of 30lb dacron with an 11wt Cortland fly line. Without line and backing, the G10 weighs in at 9.9oz, making it truly the lightest fly reel in it’s class. The drag on the G10, as with all the NV lineup is completely sealed from the elements and uses carbon fiber and cork disks to apply the brakes. Most important to a tarpon reel, the drag is smooth and an absolute zero startup inertia. I have fished straight 60lb butt section to a fly and pulled on some very big tarpon with drag cranked down on the Nautilus NV Monster and it has proved more then strong enough to handle the extreme pressures. Obviously, this isn’t common practice in tarpon fishing, but I just wanted to see how the reel would hold up. Strength, light weight, and good looks; I would go on to say the Nautilus NV Monster and NV G1o are my preferred go to tarpon reels.
My fly line of choice with the Echo 11 Prime and Nautilus NV-G10 setup was the Cortland Saltwater and Cortland Tropic Plus Saltwater and Tropic Plus 9′ Intermediate tip lines. Unlike most other popular saltwater lines on the market that are oversized in grain weight, these Cortland Tropic Plus lines are true to grain weight and feature a 7-27-7 WF taper. It is not necessary to fish an extremely long leader with the Cortland lines. The Cortland Tropic Plus has a soft enough presentation so that longer leaders are not necessary (The purpose of longer leaders is to allow the fly to lay down a softer presentation). On the calmest of days, I am fishing a 14ft leader maximum but have been able to get away with a 10ft to 11ft leader on windier days. The Tropic Plus 9′ intermediate tip really allows for great control on your presentations to fickle FL Keys oceanside tarpon when the chop is up and current is strong.
Those with a more aggressive casting stroke who have a heavy push may prefer a rod like the G Loomis Crosscurrent Pro-1 but this Echo/Nautilus/Cortland setup would definitely be preferable for those who enjoy casting a rod with a softer tip, and those who can throw tighter loops without having to push hard. Enjoy your time on the water and may you all have a great remainder of the Tarpon Season.