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  1. #1

    Default Douglas Outdoors 9’/#5 SKY

    During the wintertime Somerset Show, I tested a pre-production SKY on the indoor casting pond for my allotted few minutes with throngs of other rod curious casters awaiting their turn on the “water”. My initial impressions were positive to the extent I intended to actually take this rod fishing and now, I have. It arrived shortly before my week-long foray to the West Branch and Main Stem of the Delaware, my opening salvo for the 2016 season and, upon cutting open the cardboard box a few new first impressions were added to my initial shake at Somerset. This rod comes packed in a tube with a threaded over cap a little like what Orvis Helios rods come with but all aluminum rather than with a composite tube. And the rod sleeve within is unique. Instead of typical poplin type fabric, it is an open, three dimensional woven mesh material providing both cushioning and quick drying rod protection. Still, upon extracting the four rod sections I was surprised and disappointed to discover the stripping guide was bent foreword several degrees…or was it? It didn’t look or feel bent and it turned out that rod designer, Fred Contaoi, is hip to the breadth of advanced design guides available and selected this costly, new Fuji Torzite design for its improved line hand to stripping guide angle, maximizing the circular aperture of the extra light and low friction stripping guide.

    SKY’s woven mesh rod sock, engraved rod tube cap and canted forward Torzite stripping guide.

    My wife and I arrived at the lodge with three 9’/#5’s in the truck, SKY, Orvis H2 tip-flex and G.Loomis NRX. The air was cool and the river cold and nary an insect was in evidence so out on the big lawn for a little casting warm up we went with all three rods rigged. These rods share a medium-fast progressive taper design and flexing them parallel to one another with their tips on the soft grass illustrated that the NRX featured the steepest and faster end of a medium-fast profile with SKY bending somewhat lower into the mid-section and H2 deeper flexing yet. I have thought since its introduction that he Hardy Zenith struck an optimal balance in tapering from a responsive tip to a supportive midsection and an amply potent butt section and SKY more closely aligns with this concept than the deeper flexing Orvis or Winston medium-fast rods or the faster action of rods like NRX and faster still, Sage ONE. While similar in timing and intuitive caster friendly taper transitions to Zenith, SKY feels more refined and it embodies a lighter, more sensitive touch. It dampens and tracks very well generating exceptionally smooth tight loops with virtually no tip recovery artifacts…just the way a presentation oriented design should. I switched between two different line designs on SKY, a long compound front taper RIO LT and a long head, attenuated rear taper RIO Gold, both are rated as slightly above mean standard, 140 grains for a 5-weight, at 146 grains. SKY cast both lines with ease, this is not an overly line temperamental rod, but loaded more uniformly particularly for shorter casts with the Gold which also provided superior loop stability and absence from hinging at longer distances.

    SKY on the springtime River with a blue sky.

    The difference between seeing a fly rod in the artificial, fluorescent light of a fishing show field house and the sun illuminated great out-of-doors is, well, night and day. I originally described this rod as being graphite gray with black wraps and I got the black wraps right. It’s well machined reel seat hardware is cage style similar to the Orvis Helios reel seat but with two lock rings instead of one and enclosing a dark, burled hardwood spacer. The threaded rings feature a recessed Delrin washer; eschewing the more typical rubber “O” ring, an inconspicuous but intelligent detail. H2 has none, NRX one and SKY two composite cork rings, one at the front and the other the rear of the Western style, high quality with little obvious filler, cork grip. These deter chipping of the cork adding longevity to the grip and the SKY also has a metal winding check of the identical blued gun metal anodized color as the reel seat. The blank itself features a thin, translucently matte, complimentary blue-grey tinted coating only revealing its subtle shade in good light like when fishing. The black thread wraps have slender, understated pale gray thread tipping at the major, none guide wraps and correctly aligned, matching light gray dots at all three ferrules. Inexplicably, though the NRX has them at the upper ferrules, there is no pair of dots at the butt ferrule, the hardest to align and the H2 has them but all are a couple of degrees off at least on my wife’s one year old example. Neither SKY’s ferrules nor reel seat loosened on their own during a week’s use, I like that.

    SKY mounted with the Douglas Nexus reel, RIO Gold and a lovely little Delaware R. Brown Trout

    Now, spending a week in early spring on the West Branch and Main Stem of the Delaware River, first with my wife then a group of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing veteran participants, brand new fly rod in tow, is my idea of a fine time. And it was despite on and off rain, temperatures in the upper 40’s and cold at night with water temps around 48 degrees. Mid-afternoon did see some little olives, Blue Quills (Parleptophlebia) and some Hendricksons mixed in bringing a few trout to the surface. Fishing was hardly hot and heavy but a few big boys were fed if not brought to net and most everyone got a couple of fish. Of course, challenging circumstances make a rod show its mettle in executing complex presentations both short and long.

    One day we fished with guides to drift the Main Stem and, as happens, there are regularly big slabs of barely submerged blue stone forcing the guides to anchor well off a piece of soft, sheltered, bank lie where a big head is sipping. Executing a 45 to 65 foot cast across more broken and faster currents, then getting a decent drift to that fish involves a big upstream reach with in-air articulated current defying amplitudes of line, an upstream mend or three and feeding of slack into the drift. Casting with grace and appropriate power is one important thing a fine fly rod must do but directing compound line manipulation through a communicative tip may be even more complex. Not every rod, even some that cast well, is adept at these maneuvers but SKY has the goods. Its tip is exceptionally light feeling but does not fold under pressure, maintaining not merely its composure but a deft, communicative sensation of the line going where the tip has directed. There is nothing abrupt or surprising as you reach down into the mid-section, just a smooth transition to more supportive strength and even when you extend your casting stroke, calling upon lower taper power reserves, it does not run out of steam while giving you all the distance you may wish to call upon. Even the single foot, Recoil nickel-titanium guides complimenting the extra slick stripping guide are slightly larger than typical facilitating ease in slack-line feeding. There is not a “stiff” bone in SKY’s body; you can almost feel the flex all the way into the butt without ever losing confidence in the rod’s smooth delivery of supportive power. Our senior and highly experienced guide fishes everything from fast Sage ONE to slow Winstons and, while on anchor, I invited him to cast for a bit. Showing off only a little so as to assure us he was skilled to the extent we should not question his occasional pearls of casting wisdom; he promptly threw the whole fly line announcing, “I could fish this rod all day, sweet!”… “Who are these Douglas people?”

    When attached to a trout, even one of modest proportions, the same low mass, fluid action evident in both casting and line handling, transmit precise, tactile information about every surge and head shake and, upon a pause, you can adroitly “walk the dog” with a little down and dirty back to the boat to then lift the fish’s head for the guide’s net.

    Douglas Outdoors
    Douglas Outdoors is located in Phoenix, NY not far from Syracuse and is in the process of outfitting an advanced technology rod shop so, eventually, we will see Made in Up-State NY rods. For now, SKY along with light line, deeper flexing Upstream and mid-priced DXF are produced in S.Korea’s premier rod shop.

    The SKY series is a full #3 – 12-weight line-up, incorporate the latest multi-modulus crafted lay-up, new Nano particulate infused resin technology and the taper of each rod is tailored to its intended applications with saltwater sizes being faster and more powerful than trout intended rods. All are priced at $695.
    Last edited by sweetandsalt; 06-02-2016 at 08:59 AM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Douglas Outdoors 9’/#5 SKY

    As usual SweetandSalt a superb piece of information that literally allows a fellow fly fisherman to purchase a Rod safely if unable to test cast. Please certainly lawn, parking lot comparison casting is better, but frankly for many of us is difficult or even impossible.
    I "door prize" a Douglas DXF 9'5 wght and have comparison casted next to my Zenith 905, and while Rod components are significantly different the similarities in Preformance can be envisioned. Being a huge fan of Jim Murphy(now retired from Douglas) I recalled previous conversations with him about the Sky series and can not see how you were impressed. Now need to hunt where to find them.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Douglas Outdoors 9’/#5 SKY

    As the new Yellowstone Angler Shootout touts the virtues of SKY, I'm bring this to the fore as a more in-depth review than provided by Anderson.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Boston, Mass.

    Default Re: Douglas Outdoors 9’/#5 SKY

    Thanks for the terrific in-depth review, s&s! I missed it somehow when you first posted it. I've never been completely satisfied with any of my 6 weight rods. After reading this and the new Yellowstone 6 weight shootout, I'm itching to give the 6 wt Sky a wiggle.

    I couldn't let one (very) tangential point go without comment, though:

    Quote Originally Posted by sweetandsalt View Post
    Douglas Outdoors is located in Phoenix, NY not far from Syracuse and is in the process of outfitting an advanced technology rod shop so, eventually, we will see Made in Up-State NY rods.
    I was born and spent my early childhood in Rochester, and took it for granted that I lived "upstate". However, when in later life I met some people from Albany, they assured me quite emphatically that only the Hudson Valley and points north could properly be called "upstate". Then my dad moved back to his hometown of Auburn (near Syracuse) and I discovered that, sure enough, everyone there thinks they live in "central New York". Finally I met some people from Buffalo who assured me that everything west of Syracuse was in fact "Western New York". Seems people from Rochester and greater NYC have a much looser definition of what territory comprises "upstate" than any other denizens of the Empire State.

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  6. #5

    Default Re: Douglas Outdoors 9’/#5 SKY

    That is an interesting observation and I suppose I have heard "Western NY" and other terms. But like the New Yorker cartoon, to me, anything north of Westchester is Up-State. Anyway, I do look forward to tehse folks producing a NY made rod in their own shop.

    On another note; though J. Murphy was deeply involved in SKY development, this production rod is fairly different from his earlier prototypes. Though Jim is not a rod designer, more of an initiator, his finger prints are all over great rods starting with Nti, EXS, Zenith and now SKY. I only hope he will be allowed to work his magic (much of which is due to input from his "team" of friends), at Winston. We will know by next year.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Boston, Mass.

    Default Re: Douglas Outdoors 9’/#5 SKY

    Quote Originally Posted by sweetandsalt View Post
    I only hope he will be allowed to work his magic (much of which is due to input from his "team" of friends), at Winston. We will know by next year.
    Is Murphy at Winston now? Another thing I must have missed.

  8. #7

    Default Re: Douglas Outdoors 9’/#5 SKY

    His title is International Sales but that won't stop him from influencing the other new, younger staff members there. He is also responsible for Winston's new "matched" fly lines.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Eastern Iowa

    Default Re: Douglas Outdoors 9’/#5 SKY

    Excellent review S&S. If you never wrote professionally for the industry you should have IMO.

    I do have one question. You occasionally use the term "dampening". Are you referring to a rods tendency to rebound to relaxed position and not oscillate excessively, when it releases the tension of the line load?

  10. #9

    Default Re: Douglas Outdoors 9’/#5 SKY

    Yes. I use the term "recovery" so often I have to mix word use some. For smooth, parallel loop legs and accuracy in both casting and mending, the rod must be well damped or counter-flex waves will impact the line's travel beyond the tip-top.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Languedoc/near montpellier
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: Douglas Outdoors 9’/#5 SKY

    Outstanding review.Hats off!

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