Echo Ion, 9' 8-weight
I picked this rod up for a fishing trip to the Bahamas, chasing bones. I was on a budget, and this was the rod that fit all my criteria, so I picked one up and I'm glad I did.
The rod is a matte neutral gray, with gray wraps and a matte dual locking, gun metal reelset. The cork in the handle is a mix of traditional cork, and dark, composite cork for the butt and up where it curls out on the full wells. It has two, high quality stripping guides, and single foot guides. It did well in the salt, and it's no worse for wear after a solid 8 days or so of fishing, with weighted flies tagging the blank at warp speeds every once in a while.
The action and feel of the rod is quite different from anything I've felt before, in a positive way. It was a little rough at first, because it has a fast, almost ultra fast action. It's definitely not forgiving, but it only took me a couple days to get used to it, and then I was firing out ridiculously long casts with relative accuracy (probably to 80-90 feet with consistent wind). I've never had a rod that felt so "powerful". Once you get the feel for it, it has a good snap to it once it loads up and you can just feel it launch line. I was able to throw roll casts from really far out (probably 50 feet or so), by just snapping the rod forward. It was mainly to get my line up and out of the water, but I've never had a rod that can send a loop like that. Simple spey casts are certainly not out of the question, and my older, fast-action GL3 couldn't really do it without popping your arm out of socket.
Casting in the wind was still difficult, but I was able to throw pretty tight loops. Throwing pretty heavily weighted clousers were no problem at all. If your timing missed at all though, the cast collapses, but that's to be expected.
Since picking this rod up, I've gotten rid of my GL3 and this is now my only rod, and will see mainly steelhead and salmon duty. It feels like it has the backbone for fish into the mid-20lb range, yet is still light enough to cast all day. My previous setup was an older loomis and a heavy old Scientific Anglers System 2, and my arm and whole right side would be worn out after a couple hours of casting (swinging for steelhead, where you cast every 30 seconds for hours and hours and hours...). I now have this rod with an Okuma Helios, and it is much lighter and more comfortable. I can't wait to go hit the spring run of natives that's heading up my local river.
In a final note, I also really enjoy the shape and the feel of the grip. I was a little wary of the look of it when I first picked it up, but I've grown to love it. It looks very "modern", to say the least. But the grip seems to flange out a bit more than a typical full wells. I feel like it's almost like a "gas pedal" when your thumb is pressed on the back, as it feels like you can give the loading of the rod a little more momentum. It just further increases the Cannon feeling of the rod. Love it.