Although shooter rods (combined with shooting-heads) have become the first choice for many salmon-fishers, the classic 15-footer remains a popular option on bigger rivers.
It offers several advantages. When deep wading its extra length makes forming the D-loop easier. In high winds, a 15 ft rod combined with a long-bellied line offers stability and control in the air. Then there is the simple enjoyment of casting a traditional (65 ft-plus) spey-line, which a 15 ft rod will help you to lift and deliver more easily than, say, a 13 ft tool.
Shakespeare Oracle Spey
Unlike previous Oracle rods we’ve tested, this one has a more traditional through action, affording you plenty of time throughout the casting stroke. Brian said it was “a Falkus-type lazy-day rod, very chilled and relaxed”.
It works best with a longer line and liked the Rio Mid-Head Spey 10/11wt. It definitely isn’t a shooting-head rod for casting razor-sharp loops. If you like a more traditional style of fishing with long-belly lines then this is ideal and for less than £150.
This rod needed a little more thought to cast than some others in this test. Although it bends deeply, it works best with a short-to-medium stroke and is therefore crisper than you first think.
As with previous Diamonds tested by T&S, it casts both long and short lines well, but we found this one prefers a shorter shooting-head to a longer mid-length spey line.
The Wilderness is a complete contrast to the similarly priced Oracle and very much a shooting-head rod. It works best with a short, crisp casting stroke and really pings the line off the tip. It is heavier in the hand than other rods in this test and has a slight recoil at the end of the cast as the tip recovers, especially when roll-casting, although it roll-casts well enough. If you fish with shooting-heads and have a fast casting style then this is good value for money at less than £200.
Airflo airlite V2
A versatile rod that performed well with all lengths of casting stroke, perhaps not recovering as fast as some, but certainly able to cast a shooting-head well, especially with a more traditional spey-casting stroke. A more relaxed casting stroke gave better loop shapes when using longer heads, too. The V2 gave the impression that it would fight a fish well. It would certainly suit a beginner. It handled both the Rio Mid Spey and the sinking MacKenzie shooting-head really well. With it, our casts felt as smooth as Galaxy chocolate! Definitely a rod to recommend.
Although the GR70 leans a little towards the faster side of medium-fast, it is responsive, doing what you ask it to do. It worked well with both the longer Rio Mid-Spey and the shorter heads. For a slightly faster rod it has lots of feel with a nice thin handle. A pleasure to use and it will accommodate a wide variety of casting abilities and styles, working well with both short and long casting strokes. Another nice, light-feeling fishing rod with which you could fish all day. Recommended.
The Tool is powerful, ideal for a variety of fishing situations and where required it will cast extreme distances, especially on bigger rivers. It’s not as good at roll-casting as some rods when using longer lines (it’s better with heavier lines) but with the more dynamic casts it does the work for you. You can cast just about anything with it, but it’s not an all-rounder because its niche is definitely shooting-heads. Not a rod we would recommend for the beginner; one for the more advanced caster.
Crisp, light and responsive, this was a rod that was difficult to put down. It is an accurate and full-on shooting-head rod. It has lots of reserve power and would be a good choice for fishing in places like Norway or Russia, where its six-piece construction (33.5in tube) would come in handy. It is fast, but it offers feel, too, and nearly gained a place on our shortlist. Definitely one for the travelling angler to consider.
A rod with a very traditional feel that requires no effort at all to cast. A good choice for someone new to salmon fly-fishing (albeit a top-end price) and to anyone who prefers a highly progressive action and longer lines because you can feel the rod bend deeply into the blank. It will also handle sinking lines well for early- or late-season cold-water fishing. It prefers a long and lazy casting stroke that also allows you to make big angle changes very slowly and methodically, and its forgiving action would make it a good teaching rod with which beginners could fish all day long.
The X is very light, and although classed as fast action, it likes a slightly longer casting stroke than you might expect. The tip recovers quickly. It worked better with the Rio Mid-Spey and also performed well with the Gaelforce shooting-head. Using more bottom hand in the cast definitely improved the rod’s performance, but we felt that you had to be quite precise with timing to get the best from it, compared to some of the other rods. However, when you eventually found the sweetspot it went well. For this reason, we thought the X would probably suit the more experienced caster.
Another rod that would be easy to recommend to the more experienced caster. It is a serious piece of kit that will perform wonders in the right hands. It is very powerful, firm and comfortable when casting – the line just wants to fly out and keep going. It is also very accurate; casting with it is addictive. Although not ideal for the complete novice, especially when using longer-headed lines, it delivered everything we put on it, most noticeably the MacKenzie Phased Density 5 44g shooting-head.