If you have read my other review (Cabela's 3 Forks 3wt/Prestige Plus Combo
) you know that I am a budget consumer. I look for opportunities to get what I would consider a good quality product at a decent price. Recently I have been itching to get a 2 handed rod for fishing the Salmon River up here in NY. I spent many hours searching the internet, reading posts, looking at sales, etc to find a setup that would meet my needs. I had even considered building a rod, but felt that the cost and time would have been prohibitive. In the end I chose to go with the LLBean Streamlight Ultra 2 Handed Fly Rod Outfit Streamlight Ultra Two-Handed Fly Rod Outfits: Streamlight Outfits | Free Shipping at L.L.Bean
First a want to give a shout out to Hardyreels for the feedback he provided which helped make this decision easier.
I started my purchase by going to the LLBean web site. On the web page I found or should I say didn't find some of the specs that I felt were important (i.e. grain window for the rod, size of the reel, etc). So I decided to call Bean's fly fishing hotline (1-800-Fish-LLB) to speak with one of their experts. The person I spoke too was very helpful. He answered all of my questions, looked up the information I wanted and ensured me that they would do whatever was needed to make me happy. I even asked if I could exchange the line for a heavier one if I wanted and he said "no problem; just give us a call if your not happy". That is what I call customer service. I placed the order on a Monday 12/26 and he told me I would have the rod Wednesday or Thursday; $322.92 shipped (Note that shipping was free). Sure enough, the rod came on Wednesday.
The rod came packaged in a long reinforced paper bag. This was surprising, but not totally unexpected, since I had received another rod from them in the same way a few years ago. The complete setup consisted of a 12' 6" 7/8 wt 2 handed rod, a rod case, a Streamlight Ultra LA #3 reel, 150 yds 30lb backing, SA Mastery Evolution Spey Line 530 gr fly line and 9' #16 SW leader. The rod was in the case and the reel was already spooled with the backing, line and leader. The only thing I needed to do was attach the reel, add a fly and go fish. What could be easier than that.
When I looked at the rod I was not disappointed. It seemed to be well manufactured. It was a little on the heavy side, but I'll be using 2 hands any way. I did notice some striations under the finish, but I believe it is only a cosmetic issue. The guides and ferrules looked okay and the cork handle looked like it would last. If there is only one complaint is was that there were no alignment dots on the rod.
The reel came pre-spooled which was nice. When I inquired about the size of the reel I was told that all of the 2 handed rods get the same reel. I was also told that the reel can handle the 680 gr 9/10 wt version of the line, so I felt assured that there was sufficient capacity on the reel. I was not disappointed. When I looked at the reel it seemed like there was sufficient space to add a different line if I wanted to. One thing about the line is that I did not see it listed on SA's site. I may have missed it or it may be discontinued.
My only complaint about the entire package was the case. While it will protect the rod, I am iffy about the construction. The last case I received from LLBean was an all canvas rod on reel case, where the rod portion was canvas over a pvc tube. This case is also a rod on reel case with the canvas over pvc tube, except the area over the reel is canvas over a polyesterine (sp?) filler. This makes that area kind of hard but flimsy. I'm concerned that I will damage the case if I lean anything against it or on it. I also think that the reel protection area is way to big. I would have preferred to have the reel protection localized to only the reel area.
Let me start this off by saying that I am a complete hack when it comes to spey casting, so take my comments about use with a grain of salt. For a "first timer" I was very happy with the rod. I felt it loaded well with the SA line and I was able to cast it easily (when I made a proper cast
). It was also forgiving when I did not cast very well. The line felt smooth through the guides and went mostly where I wanted (no fault of the rod). The rod did not feel too heavy in use. My only complaint, if you can call it that, was that the leader was too heavy for where I was using it. That was my fault for not checking it before I went out. Definitely check the supplied leader for your needs before heading out. As I get better at spey casting I'll update this post with comments about how the rod performs.
Overall I am very happy with this setup. It would have cost me $100 to $200 more to go with something else. LLBean has the best warranty and customer service I have seen. I also have an outlet store a mile away so I wouldn't have to pay shipping for a return. All in all this is a great package for a person who is looking to get into 2 handed fishing without breaking the bank. I give this setup a