St. Croix fly rods are hard to find in mainstream fly shops, and I’ve never heard a fly shop jockey mention them in the same sentence with Sage, Thomas & Thomas, Winston, Orvis . . .
By Skip Cement
[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or as long as I can remember, over 70 years, St. Croix has been on the short-shrift list of fly fishers at home and abroad – as if second class. In reality, however, they’re well-bred, ahead of the curve in quality, performance, service, and warranty compared to many fashion plate name brands.
With St. Croix, you can buy into becoming a fly fisher, one toe in only, with rods that perform as well or better than many of the household name fly rod companies’ entry level rods in glass or graphite – one of the Badger strong suits. Their entry level equipment is excellent – many I talked to preparing for this story believe best in the industry.
If you look at every possible direction the major players have pointed us toward: nymphing, Euro nymphing, short spey rods, switch rods, bass rods, spey, super fast, flex tip, stiff, offshore, back to the future glass, and whatever new they’ll come up with next, St. Croix is there and will always be there. St. Croix knows fishing rod technology.
Taking a look at their fly rod offerings reveals more about their completeness of coverage than you might expect. Looking only at freshwater fly rods as we do here, for example, you’ll be staggered by the number of models they offer.
The ‘Action’ of a rod is determined by where a rod flexes along the blank. Faster action rods flex mostly near the tip. Moderate action rods flex more near the middle of the blank. Slower action rods flex down into the butt section.
The ‘Power’ of a rod refers to how much pressure it takes to flex the rod. Different rod powers are engineered to efficiently handle a certain range of lure weights and line sizes. To select a rod power that will perform best for you, simply narrow your choices to rods designed to cast the weight of lures and sizes of lines you’ll fish with most often.
NOTE 1: These measurements of performance (Power and Action) are universal to the entire rod line of St. Croix.
MOJO BASS FLY RODS
These beauties are twins to Sage Bass and Crappie rods which are short 7′ 11″ fly rods with one size for each “fish” with fly line grain weights the delineators. That, along with artful rod colors and wrap coloring make it easy to spot the two rod collection. The original Bass rod, not the new Bass II, is kept under the seat – ready to play at the side or the road when needed. One reel has OPST Commando Head and Lazur Running Line and one reel with 175 grain (+/-) Rio Gold floating, and a couple of tips.
St. Croix’s Mojo Bass versions, also 7′ 11′, comes in three different models – not two. And instead of grain weight for line sizing, they use a power rating system which is further linked to rod action.
MOJO TROUT RODS
Slow to medium casting fly rods for beginners and intermediate anglers. The all-new Mojo Trout features a premium, high-modulus SCIII graphite across the 11 two- and four-piece models. They are covering the all-important 2-7 trout-fishing line weights, from 6-feet to 9-feet – $180 to $210.
LEGEND ELITE® FRESHWATER FLY RODS
The Legend Elite fly rods by St. Croix Rods are, this author believes, equivalent to the top-shelf fly rods we are all more familiar with, but at not quite half the price – $490. I’ve had no field experience with them, just the usual show pond. While that experience will not convince a curmudgeon, for me, it was a measure against the “other” better received hi-end fly rods that had to swim with me in those same ponds, same weights.
The only differences I could feel were that the St. Croix Legend Elites in the higher weights – starting at 9-weight were a tad heavier in-hand, but not so that if cast without comparison at your feet, you’d never say it was heavy. Just that it was to me with a few of the other rods in the so-called “elite” class like Orvis’ Helios 3 in the nine and up weights – with others, it was noticeable starting in the 10-weights and up.
HIGH STICK DRIFTER FLY RODS
Legendary angler, Kelly Galloup of Montana’s Madison River via his Slide Inn an Johnny YouTube fame, helped St. Croix design the Drifter rods for nymphing. There’s a 9′ 6″ 4-weight four piece, 10′ 4-weight four piece, and a 10′ 5-weight four piece.
BANK ROBBER™ FLY RODS
Kelly Galloup, a streamer angler if ever there was one, helped St. Croix design the big flies, big trout, big river streamer fly rods. These also got a pond workout, and I liked them – the tryout did not include a “heavy” streamer fly – just a bushy one, but with no indoor wind resistance, the feel of punching through was left to imagining based of the punching performed. It passed with flying colors although this collection is small in number of models, but complete in what is needed for “big” freshwater streamer fishing.
Models: 5-, 6-, 7-, and 8-weights, four piece, all $460.
IMPERIAL® USA FLY RODS
These are the flagship fly rods of St. Croix, and all 26 of them express what the company stands for – beautifully designed, made in the USA, high performance at a price a great angler would brag about owning. Available in 2- weight to 10-weight, 6-feet to 10-feet, and hit the price points perfectly – $250 to $320. This series covers more fly rod fishing needs than almost all the small rod companies combined. From this series, you could have a life’s collection to meet all, but your big game needs billfish, tarpon, GT’s, and ocean running jack crevalle.
IMPERIAL® USA FLY SWITCH RODS
These St. Croix switch rods hit the sweet spot. Many of the big name rod makers stayed closer to spey length than they should have, making a one-handed cast a tough hill to climb as in awkward and tiring. The St. Croix stayed at the best max length, 11-feet. That’s what the Nordic builders consider max length for Switch rods. They, the Swedes, et al., embraced our switch rod technology (R. B. Meiser developed them) and moved into the realm of catching trouts, not just salmons, and any fish on a switch rod. They improved even how to cast a switch rod better. So, its hats off to the St. Croix team on their switch rods.
NOTE 2: St. Croix stayed with the traditional line weight as in 5-weight instead of grain weight. It would be to anyone’s best interest to triangulate the two measurements and probably find they have more fly line options than St. Croix points towards.
NOTE 3: There are four switch rods, all 11-feet, all four piece in weights five thru eight. They should have gone down weight rather than up weight. A four more useful than an eight.
WHY NO ST. CROIX FIBERGLASS FLY RODS?
Jesse Simpkins, director of marketing for St. Croix Rod had an answer:
“It’s a niche market enjoying a renewal, and it looks as though it has a sustainable interest. Getting back into fiberglass fly rods have been on our agenda for the past 18 months, which does not mean we’re soon going to be producing fiberglass fly rods. It just means we’re seriously looking at fiberglass fly rods. No decision has been made as of this date [June 26, 2019].”
Are you going to the ICAST SHOW I asked? “Yes, I’ll see you at the show Skip,” Jesse replied.