When it comes to fly rods, conventional wisdom says the longer the better. Quite apart from practical things like power and reach, there’s all that weight of history and tradition going right back to 1496 and the old “loop-rods” in the Treatyse of Fysshynge Wyth an Angle.
So, being a light-line fanatic, I’ve spent most of my angling career carefully ignoring the wisdom of the ages, fishing an ever-expanding collection of ever-diminishing rods that almost vanished completely in the form of a 6ft #2 Orvis Superfine. (It’s still idyllic for wafting microscopic dries to equally tiny trout in a Devon tunnel of trees, but when the peal are in, or the wind gets up, or you need to launch any bore of beadhead, you’d better have a backup handy…)
Mostly, the problem has been that you couldn’t get a really long rod in a weight less than 6 or 8. But in the end it was spider patterns, French peche au toc, and W.C.Stewart’s The Practical Angler that lured me back to the long-rod tradition.
First I tried the DIY light-line approach: a limber 13ft trotting rod loaded with a level line of waterproofed braid and a long, long leader, but I could never get away from the fact that a fly-reel had to sit in completely the wrong place, on a 3ft handle that tucked under my arm and wasted all that extra length, and basically felt like fishing a baby telegraph pole.
Which all gave me quite a frisson of excitement as I opened this year’s Snowbee catalogue and spotted a rare new configuration. Picking up the phone confirmed my guess: this was an ultralight bugging or spider rod, built for the new wave of Polish-style nymphing on vast rivers like the San, where 10 feet is still on the short side.
“It’s a rejigged Zr2″, said Simon Kidd, on the other end of the line in Devon.
I tried to sound like I knew what he was talking about, and ordered one immediately.
So let’s cut to the chase. Is this 10ft #3-4 Diamond what I’ve really been looking for, all these years? Slightly to my surprise (because it’s rare for these things to work out as well as you’d hoped) … yes, it is.
Light enough to hold out horizontally all day if bugging’s your thing, and lob an awful lot of lead and tungsten when necessary, this rod has proved far more versatile than just that.
In fact, from dredging heavy bugs, to hefting big mayfly patterns across wide reaches of the Salisbury Avon, and floating little spiders way out onto the mirrored surface of a Scottish upland lochan, the Diamond stealthily turned itself into my go-to rod for the 2008 season.
(I’d like to say it happened without me even realising, but every time I’ve picked up this rod so far, I’ve known I was having so much fun that it wouldn’t strictly be true).
Like most slightly-niche rods, I suspect, the 10ft #3-4 Diamond has its quirks. Light though it is in the hand, the extra length means you definitely need a heavier reel to get the balance right. My usual #4 reel, a sweet little Hardy Marquis, just didn’t have enough counterweight to stop the Diamond feeling tip-heavy, so I swapped it for a larger Vision Koma 5/6, the equivalent of Snowbee’s own XS560, and it’s pretty much a marriage made in heaven.
Put the wood to a fish, and the Diamond’s tip is delicate enough to protect light tippets. But the middle-to-tip action also reveals surprising reserves of power in the butt – big enough to pull out of larger trout if you hold that extra length of rod too high. For the same reason, getting a lively lunker into a modern short-handled pan net, if your fishing buddy has gone AWOL, can sometimes be a bit exciting.
Then again, I think that’s all part of getting to know a rod with character, and you quickly forget the quirks when those bonus 12 inches help you lift a dry fly into a long-range stillwater trout with just that touch more speed and authority, or reach out over a reed-bed to drop a nymph with deadly accuracy onto a trophy grayling’s nose.
Snowbee recommend a #4 double taper line, but I was happy with a weight forward #3. From what this very-much-non-AAPGAI-standard caster can tell, and others have confirmed, recovery and tracking are good. Even casting in confined spaces becomes surprisingly easy when you’ve got 10 feet of weight forward line already up the rod – so you don’t need that last risky false cast, which I now reckon cuts the catch of lurking tree-trout by at least 50 per cent.
And yes, just like the wise old men of angling said, it’s easier to mend line and control drag with 10 feet of rod than 6, 7 or even 9…
Cosmetically, the Diamond looks as good as it feels: a glowing olive green (apparently chosen to match the colours of the bankside environment), with 2 lined stripping rings towards the handle, high-lift snakes for the rest, and discreet gold accents on the self-coloured whippings.
The graphic, cutaway design of the uplocking brushed aluminium reel seat reveals a green burl insert in the material of the moment (I think I’ve seen it referred to as dragonwood?), and the quality of the cork on the half-wells handle is easily as good as you’d expect for a rod at £109, mid-point in the Snowbee range.
Conclusion: especially at that price, this rod really is a Diamond, guv. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who likes a stealthy, light-line approach to fly-fishing.
Now, if Simon and the boys in Plymouth would just make a multi-piece travel version, I might never fish a shorter stick again…