Sunday, October 14, 2012

Echo Gecko - Get a Kid a Rig!



A job relocation to Sheridan, Wyoming and river research has dominated my summer this year.  I've started doing some guiding for Clark Smyth at Rock Creek Anglers.  They're mostly weekend wade trips, but I will be taking on some Montana floats next spring and summer on the Bighorn as well as North Platte Rivers in Wyoming. 

My son celebrated his tenth birthday this earlier this fall.  I had been chomping at the bit anticipating it for some time.  The reason is simple.  This turned into the summer of his introduction to full on DIY fly fishing.  Turning ten, I figured it was time we got on with it and outfitted him with a new rig that would perform as a kid would fish.  The result has been some high quality alone time for both me and the kiddo, and we're having a blast together on the water!  His birthday hadn't quite arrived when I got the call from the local fly shop that his new rig had arrived.  There are still skid marks in the driveway.

After getting home to "test" the outfit I had selected for my son, it quickly became apparent that I wouldn't be able to wait until his birthday, so I ruined the surprise, gave it to him before his mom got home and immediately departed for the river first thing the very next morning.  That first float was eight hours of bliss.  I'm still paying for it with Mom though.

A lot of thought and consideration was put toward the rig that would work best for him.  For most of the summer, he's been using a 9' Cortland #5, but it was proving difficult for him to manage and the grip was just too big for his small hands, particularly in a dry fly boat fishing situation.  After a good deal of time spent crawling around the inter-webs and talking with a few manufacturers, I settled on an Echo Gecko from Rajeff Sports matched with an Airflo WF5 40+ fly line (Rio Outbound would be the equivalent if you're a Rio Products fan).

Airflo 40+
I'm not a supporter of most outfits available for kids today.  This is for a variety of reasons, but primarily they don't address the key complications children face when learning how to cast a fly rod.  Among them, turning over a fly and feeling the load of the rod during the back cast so as to grasp the mechanics of the stroke.

Choosing a fly rod for a kid is no different than selecting the right combination for an adult.  Once I determine a specific fly fishing application to assemble an outfit, I start with the most important ingredient of the system, the fly line.  Then I build it out from there.  In this case, I wanted something with a short belly and reasonably heavy weight forward taper that would move the weight of the entire cast forward.  This accomplishes two things.  First, it allows the caster to load the rod quickly and feel the deep bend of the rod on the back cast.  Second, with a youngster, casting distance will be shorter so I wanted the belly of the line to be deployed in the cast at a shorter total length.   To accomplish both of these objectives, I settled on a line that is considered to be an extreme distance casting line.  This may seem like an oxymoron at first, but upon closer inspection, the short belly of 30' on the Airflo 40+ combined with the heavy tip generated the feel and load of a full length cast that I wanted when reaching out only 20-30' from the boat.  In addition, a line that is designed to cast big bait plugs turns out to do a wonderful job of turning over great big Chubby Chernobyls trailed with a heavily weighted tungsten nymph.

Rajeff Sports Echo Gecko, 7.9' 4/5 weight
There are a couple of other attributes of the Rajeff Echo Gecko rod that I have found very appealing.  First, the length is 7.9' and it's designed to carry #4 or #5 weighted lines.  The shorter length and relative stiffness (medium fast action) of such a short rod makes it easy for a kid to manage line in a dry fly casting situation.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that with only a little practice, my son was able to begin throwing reach casts to effectively deal with micro currents from the front of the boat.  Second, this rod has a great little 2" fighting butt that proves very useful.  On long fishing days, the fighting butt enables the caster to use both hands to complete the cast when fatigue settles in.  As near as I can calculate, this will add at least two hours of true enjoyment to your outing alone.   The fighting butt also comes in handy when teaching proper fish fighting technique in the event you get a sizable fish on the other end of your line.  It allows a kid to place the rod against their belly and more easily get the fish on the reel to do battle.  The last and likely most exciting element of the fighting butt is that this rod will make a great little first step spey casting rig!  I can't wait to throw on a 40+ WF6 to get my son started on his spey casting once he's developed a proficient single handed cast.

The last and most important quality of this rod is in its handle.  Small hands simply demand a smaller grip.  This rod has a very durable wildly colored EVA full well handle.  The full well encourages proper grip holding technique and its small diameter makes it incredibly easy to cast the rod all day, even for a ten year old.

BOOM!
The Rajeff Sports Echo Gecko is priced right at $100.  The Airflo 40+ WF5 is priced at $80.  Before a reel is selected, this starts getting a little expensive.  Luckily, I had a good quality Orvis Battenkill BBS III sitting around that I never use which has adequate drag for the size fish we're likely to encounter on our rivers.  You may fish water with smaller fish, in which case, you could sacrifice reel and drag quality to save some money or free up budget for exceptional quality fly line.  Reel included, the rig is probably about $75-$100 more expensive than going out and purchasing an outfit style rod from most of the major manufacturers.  That said, I want my son to enjoy fly fishing and get the feel for what a proper cast looks and feels like.  In order to accomplish that, I felt it was important to spend the extra money on a rod specifically designed for how a kid will fish, and I wanted him to have a very high quality line that will help him accelerate his learning curve.  Having held and cast many of the outfit style youth rigs from the major manufacturers, it's my opinion that Rajeff Sports is the only company out there that has taken into consideration how a youngster will fish and designed a rod that will help them learn.  Long story short; the Echo Gecko is the right tool for the job and will set the foundation for a lifetime of enjoyment flinging fur and feather.


6 comments:

  1. Forget about everything, stop what your doing and go have many prints of that last photo.
    In a frame...awesome.

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  2. The Echo Gecko is an awesome rod and the last photo is priceless!

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  3. Now that is one happy camper... er, fisher. Maybe I should get my kid an echo gecko now.

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  4. I hear good things about he echo gecko. As soon as he's big enough to swing sharp objects by fish face with any reliability, we're on it.

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  5. A great post! And the boy is so adorable I think!

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  6. I just got one for my 9 year old and looking for a line to put on it. Mostly interested in him starting to spey cast with it - he already can put a nice d-loop in my 11'6" rod. Have you tried the 40+ 6 wt on the gecko yet? Oscillating between it and the same line in a 5 wt, for spey casting.

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