The Definition of Clutch

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Photo Justin Pickett

Photo Justin Pickett

By Justin Pickett

When you hear the word “Clutch”, what comes to mind?

If you look it up in the dictionary, there are a variety of definitions.

“To hold tightly.” “To seize.” “Successful in tense situations.” “Power or control.”

It is a versatile word, and can be used as a noun, verb, or adjective in various contexts.

So how might the word “Clutch” fit into the world of fly fishing?

Enter Clutch Fly Rods.

You may, or may not, have heard of them. They are a small group of fishy dudes that decided they wanted to make quality, purpose-driven fly rods and put them in the hands of anglers around the world, going toe to toe with the industry’s biggest names. And they’re hitting the scene, guns-a-blazin’!

Headed by Lee Janik, Clutch has been producing some fine sticks out of their Ohio shop. And we’re not talking about cookie cutter rods either. I was surprised to find that they offer several 1-piece rods. As a matter of fact, half of their models are finished in one piece. These rods aren’t your typical $100 starter rods, and run on the higher end of the market, with the exception of their newest rod, the Core (which is made with many of the same quality components but at a lower price point). Initially, I even questioned how such a new, smaller rod company could enter the market (successfully might I add) with heavier price tags. I’m used to seeing newer companies start smaller and offer more low-cost, imported gear. However, the quality of these rods’ components and the ingenuity put into developing these rods come alive once you’re on the water with one of these bad boys. These fellas mean business and from the get-go they wanted to put quality, purpose-driven, USA made rods into the hands of fly fishermen, both beginner and accomplished. Each model has been meticulously designed and tested. Each model and length of rod has its own unique taper, as opposed to having the same taper across all lengths/weights of a rod family. It’s that kind of effort and thoughtfulness that is taking Clutch Fly Rods to the next level. No inflated egos. No BS. No corners cut. Just quality and performance molded from the hands of passionate rodsmiths and fishermen. Take a look at their staff. I bet you’ll recognize some names…. You think these anglers would be willing to put their names next to something that fell short of awesome? I think not.

For the past few months I’ve been toting a REACT 250+ with me everywhere I go.

It is one of their 1-piece offerings that, from day one, I knew was going to be my go-to streamer chucking rod for many reasons. It was designed to be a streamer rod, and does it in spades. The fit and finish on this rod is second to none. Looking over the 8’1” blank, there are no flaws to be found. The FLOR+ grade cork is smooth and dense, and the composite cork at the top of the grip has a great, solid feel when casting. The reel seat is formed from attractive, saltwater safe, anodized aluminum with double up-locking rings. The blank is the natural color of graphite with a robust titanium stripper guide and REC Recoil snake guides dissecting the blank. The butt wrap and guide wraps of greys and greens are tight and neat, and give the rod just the right amount of color to set off the eye without being distracting. One overwhelming characteristic I noted when I first picked up this rod was how light it was in the hand. Sometimes we get the idea that something powerful has to be big, bulky, and heavy. Not true in this case. I feel like I’m holding onto a Lamborghini fitted with Tomahawk missiles and I haven’t even rigged it with a reel and line yet!

The rod is aptly named “React 250+” because the taper and action were meant for lines of that classification. Head weights of 250 grains and heavier best fit this rod’s action. I casted this rod with several lines and found that I could throw a 210 grain line with this rod, but it was a little more work to load the rod than with heavier lines. No surprise, but I had to try it for comparison and out of curiosity. I mainly threw streamers at trout, but also fished for bass as the weather began to warm up. Sink tips and floating lines. Short heads and long heads. Big flies and bigger flies. The React 250+ performed awesomely. While the rod performed pleasingly with lines around the 250 grain range, I personally found a sweet spot with this rod with lines around 300 grains. With a 300 grain streamermax fly line, and with a 290 grain bass fly line, I felt like I could cast with the best of them. The rod loaded smoothly, and with an easy-going double haul, this rod would send every bit of line I had flying out towards my intended target. And sweeter than mama’s sweet tea at that! Don’t let the shorter length fool you. It’ll still reach out and touch ‘em all.

This Clutch rod recovers quickly, tracks straight, and is incredibly accurate. Just point and shoot.

The 8’1” length keeps things tight and gave me more control of my larger fly patterns. The tip section is crisp and responsive without being “broomstick-ish”, making it a helluva lot of fun to cast. Casting into tight spots and slinging flies into those tricky lies (where Hog Johnson lives) is definitely accomplished a little more easily. The power of this rod is ridiculous. I felt like I could throw loops like laser beams into my mailbox from sixty feet. Well…that might take me a few tries. Seriously though, it was no big deal to pick up fifty feet of line off the water, double haul, and toss an eighty- to ninety-foot cast with no false cast. And what was scary is that it felt easy! Worried about wind? The React 250+ laughs at the damn wind. I fished this rod on a local lake, ahead of a large storm front. Winds that day were forecasted 15-20mph with 30-35mph gusts. While I have no idea what they actually were while I was on the water, all I can say is that it was about as windy as windy gets. I fished for six hours and never once got frustrated because the wind was staunching my casts. It was a big eye opener for me.

When it comes to the hookset, playing a fish, and landing it…. Game. Set. Match. The hooksets are SOLID. There’s no bounce. No mushy, blah-ness. Just shear lip ripping, hook burying power. Once you’re doing the good ‘ol line dance, playing a fish to the net is easy. You have total control with this rod. The shorter length aides in pulling a big bass out of the pads and keeping that brown from burying his nose beneath an undercut. It’s just another day at the office for this rod. The only limitations you’ll have are your tippet and knot strength. I fish from the bank at a couple of local ponds and it often requires a rod with some lifting power as I get ready to land the fish. I’ve broken a couple of rods doing this so I’m typically pretty cautious when doing so. The React has plenty of ass to hoss any big hawg from the depths, and never wavered or had me nervous about breaking under the heavier pressures that are sometimes encountered when pulling a big fish in close.


So, I may not be able to travel as easily with this rod because of its one-piece construction, but I could care less. That’s not gonna keep me from fishing. My plans are to buy a one-piece-rod friendly transportation device anyways. But for now I’m just fine with sliding it into the back of my jeep. And that’s about it for the “Cons” section, so moving right along…

When it all boils down to it, I’m really excited about this new rod. I’m excited for the fellas at Clutch. I’ve only fished with one of their rods so far, but I can almost guarantee that if the rest of the rods in their lineup are half as good as the React 250+, then they’ll be awesome sticks as well! The React 250+ is an awesome rod that will help any angler cast streamers and bigger flies into Moby Dick’s kitchen. And it’s sure to give any big fish lurking in the nasty stuff hell! This rod really does live up to all of the definitions of the word “clutch”. And what’s even better is that there is a 350+ model for tossing bigger flies at bigger fish! This rod will no doubt serve me well in numerous scenarios and fisheries. While, for now, it will see most of its use throwing big flies at trout and bass, you can bet it’ll be with me on the flats in Florida, and tossing crab patterns in the Low Country this summer! Fish Beware!

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “The Definition of Clutch

    • Matt,
      You’re right. Personally, I couldn’t find much to “con” about with this rod. Cast one and you might be able to pick something out, maybe not. Rods are becoming more and more purpose driven making some rods appeal more to some than others. It’s just the way it is. This rod is built around streamer fishing and it is one helluva stick for this. So I really had a hard time finding anything to “boo” about. In any case though, if we get ahold of something we don’t like (rare), then we don’t write about it. And if we do find something to “con”, we make sure to present that critique constructively. Besides, it’s just opinion anyways. There’s enough negativity floating around the internet and we certainly don’t want to be another cause for it. Thanks for taking the time to comment though Matt! We appreciate it!

  1. Lee is getting it done. My wife and I have been fishing the Arc series, as well as the Fluent series (more trouty). In both cases, these are very fine rods, well made, awesome components, and some series attention to detail. Give them a look. . . go to your local shop and DEMAND that they get a few in. You will be impressed!

  2. Had the opportunity to fish the React 250 on the Missouri for a full day a month or so ago. I’d say this review sums the rod up perfectly. Purpose built, extremely fast, streamer stick. It was a pleasure to fish with!

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