Rod Review: Echo Shadow II

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When it comes to fly rods, having a quality, versatile 10-footer in my quiver has been essential to my fishing tactics.

For a few years I was actively involved in competitive fly fishing and participated in events that were sanctioned by Trout Legend and followed the FIPS rules for competing. It was during that time that tight-line nymphing, or euro nymphing, became a huge part of my game. Whether I was going to continue to compete for years, or not, the techniques that I learned along the way would only make me more successful on the water.

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of fishing with an Echo Shadow II 10’6” 4WT rod on my local streams and rivers and I’ve gotta say, it’s quite a rod. Tim Rajeff and Pete Erickson of Team USA designed this rod to be one of the best high sticking, tight lining, euro nymphing machines on the market. However, they also wanted it to be more than just a nymphing rod and have the ability to take things to the air when the situation called for tossing dries. I think they’ve hit these objectives really well and have produced a very versatile weapon for the fly angler wanting to step away from the traditional “905-4” rods.

What It Is

rsf21ecshaii-lg(2)The Echo Shadow II comes in two versions – the 10ft 3WT and the 10ft 6in 4WT. These rods are made keeping stealth in mind. The blanks are a matte black which is great for cutting glare, especially when you are in close quarters with the fish you are targeting. The single-foot guides (which I am a fan of) are also black. The single-foot guides are a little lighter than snake guides, which helps a little with weight and balance over the length of a 10-10 ½ ft rod. All of the thread wraps are also black. The grip is a comfortable reverse-cigar style and made of high grade cork that isn’t covered in filler. The reel seat is aluminum and is painted black with a really neat white stonefly nymph design on the top side of the reel seat. Another nice feature is that the first stripping guide is set closer to the grip, preventing excessive slack in your fly line while fishing. Also available as an option is a “competition kit” that includes two extra 6” butt sections, as well as a screw-in cork fighting butt and balancing weights, allowing you greater reach and the ability to fine tune the balance of your Shadow II. An extra seventy-five bucks buys you the ability to have a couple of extra rod configurations at your disposal. The rod comes with a black divided rod sock inside of a black cordura rod tube with an embroidered logo.

Performance

Setup – Orvis Hydros III reel, 150 yds of 20# Rio Dacron backing, Airflo SLN Euro Nymph fly line, and 3 weights and fighting butt from Echo Competition Kit.

Weight and balance

Having a light rod that is well-balanced with your reel is an important thing to consider when picking up a rod of this type. With advancements in graphite and resins, most fly rods are pretty light in the hand. Even with the longer rods, weight is becoming less and less of a concern when it comes to the performance of the rod, though it’s still something I like to at least consider. And yes, this rod is light. I couldn’t find exact specs on weight prior to writing this article, but is it very comparable to the handful of 10ft rods that I own. To me, balance is more important. Euro nymphing and tight lining requires numerous repetitive drifts, often with your rod arm outstretched, carrying the weight of your rig. Over the course of a day, an angler can make hundreds of presentations and a rod that is poorly balanced will can quickly lead to fatigue, and fatigue means poor presentations. With more weight carried over a longer blank, the center of gravity is pushed further away from the grip. I just refer to this as being “tip heavy”. The longer the rod, the more tip heavy it is likely to be. Now, back to the Shadow II… Out of the box, of course, this rod is a little tip heavy. It’s 10.5ft long. Not a surprise. To combat this (regardless of what rod it is) I like to compensate with my reel as much as I can. I typically fish with a larger reel on my nymphing rods. I don’t focus so much on the classification of the reel (i.e. 3/4wt or 5/6wt), but pay more attention to the weight. Another way to help with the balance is to add weight to the butt of the rod. The Competition Kit offered by Echo does just that by providing weights and a screw-in cork fighting butt. That being said, getting outside of 10.5ft with the Competition Kit changes the game a bit. It’s going to be a little tip heavy. I found that I wasn’t able to get all of the weights provided in the Competition Kit (6) onto the rod if I needed to. However, my current 10.5ft setup (listed above) perfectly balances this rod over the middle finger of my rod hand, which is just completely preference on my part. I have been able to fish this rod throughout the course of several days without much fatigue at the end of each day.

Casting

One of the things that Rajeff and Anderson wanted to focus on was the actual casting performance of the Shadow II. Instead of being a one-trick pony, they wanted it to be a versatile tool that could be fished in any scenario, and not just be able to lob flies into the current. So did they deliver? While most of my time on the water with this rod has involved tight lining, I wanted to put it through an array of tasks and scenarios. Starting with tossing a dry or dry/dropper, I was able to easily cast numerous rigs with ease. The rod tracks really well, recovers quickly and (with a weight forward taper and a 12ft leader) it was a joy to cast while being remarkably accurate. Even in the wind, I was able to maintain a neat loop and cast out to my limits. I did try to cast this rod with my Airflo SLN Euro line with my nymphing leader setup and it did well, considering. Most euro nymph style lines are thin, level lines with very little or no forward weight, making them difficult to cast with just about any rod. I was also able to do some light streamer fishing with this rod with ease. No, despite the urge to do so, I didn’t try casting five inch articulated patterns, but a #4 Sparkle Minnow was easy to cast and work through the current.

DSCF0800Another scenario that I found this rod did very well was from the drift boat. Floating along tossing Air Lock indi’s with double nymph rigs was no problem with a Rio Gold WF4F line. I was able to keep my loops tight with a single dry fly, and could open my loops with ease when casting heavier nymphs rigs. No matter how heavy the rig got, the rod did not waver and laid the rig out with ease. Even roll casting these rigs was pretty darn smooth, and the extra reach of the 10.5ft length made reaching my desired targets that much easier. The only scenario in which I wasn’t able to test this rod was stillwater. However, after how well it performed casting dries, indicators, and streamers, I have no doubt it would be a pleasure to fish with from a float tube or small pontoon.

Nymphing/Sensitivity

Of course the Shadow II’s main objective is nymphing, and it is currently without a doubt the best stick I have in my arsenal of 10ft rods. One of the more important characteristics of the Shadow II is that it is super sensitive. I want to be able to drag my flies along the bottom of the streambed and feel every little pebble as they bump along. I was pleased when I took this rod out for the first time. On the first drift I was able to feel the bottom as my flies drifted by me. I couldn’t help but grin. This of course translates into feeling more strikes, being quicker on the hookset, and, ultimately, hooking up more often. When it comes to tossing flies, the Shadow II does it very well. The rod tracks well and my nymphs get to my target without any drama. Just point and shoot. Most importantly, I’m able to stay in touch with my flies so that I know where they are and what they are doing at all times. Without the ability to provide solid presentations, and stay in contact with your flies, your hookup percentage takes a nose dive.

Fish Fighting

DSCF0863Other than the longer length, one of the demands of competitive fishermen is that a rod be capable of protecting finer tippets like 6x or 7x, but have the ability to land fish of nearly any size quickly. The Shadow II is a perfect example of a rod with this ability. I’ve hooked and landed small wild fish, twelve-inch delayed harvest rainbows, and private water monsters on this rod and it has performed superbly in each of those situations. The soft tip allows for light presentations and solid hooksets, while the butt section is beefy and does all of the dirty work in landing those stud fish with ease. I really like that this rod is able to accommodate a fighting butt. Especially when fighting bigger fish, I like being able to bury the fighting butt into my forearm and use that leverage to control the fight while my left hand is busy with the net.

Overall Impression

You may not get some of the fancier bells and whistles that are seen on some of the more expensive rods in this category, but you don’t need fancy to catch fish. Just because a rod looks good doesn’t mean it performs well. What you will get with this rod is a functional, no frills, no BS, workhorse that does what it was designed to do, and much more. The tight lining capabilities of the Shadow II is certainly its strong suit, however it is very versatile and can handle just about any fishing situation that an angler will throw at it. The Shadow II is the best euro-nymphing, high sticking, tight lining rod that I’ve owned and will no doubt be in my hands while I’m on the water this weekend.

Get Yours Here!

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
hookups@ginkandgasoline.com
 
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10 thoughts on “Rod Review: Echo Shadow II

  1. Being the heretic that I am, have you tried to chuck a scagit head with this bad boy? Say 150 to 225 gr. Wt.? If that thread on the fighting butt isn’t proprietary, it sure would be cool to find out how it’ll do with trout spey!

    • I have not tried this and I’m pretty sure Justin has not either. The action on a Euro Nymphing rod is very different from a switch or Spey rod. My expectations would be limited. The Echo SR switch rods are awesome and much more suited for that kind of fishing.

      • As I read your response,I had to agree. I got started with switch in the salt. One of my mentors, Kenny Abrams, sells a saltwater rod that comes with a rear grip and a plain butt. I have a bad shoulder and after watching a few videos of people switch casting and roll casting, I tried it.I was promptly able to cast across Tashmoo Opening, where we used to live.
        I haven’t looked back and now about the only time that I use a single hander is on little creeks!
        Yup, the SR or glass Echo Spey would work better and one can’t beat the price!

        • I personally have the rod with a 175 gr. OPST shooting head and I personally found that I can not get the rod to load and shoot line. That being said I do not have much practice at it so it probably can be done.

  2. I’ll echo Johns curiosity if something along the lines of the new RIO, AIRFLO, OPST heads for light spey, switch and single handed lines might work nicely on these rods for swinging !!

  3. just to clarify your review is of the 4wt rod, right? most of the big brands release 3wt for ESN fishing. was wondering if you really did nt think that through 4wt was overwhelming on these small 12 inchers. I am asking as I have seen some like fish usa advocate this 4wt rod as a light steelhead rod. I fished small steelhead with a fast action 5 wt but only on light flowing cattaraugus creek so I found it surprising when they designated this for steel. I need to pull a trigger on one of these and candy decide between 4 and 3.

  4. I would LOVE to see a review now of the Cortland Comp rod that is comparable to the Shadow. For those of us starting out in euro nymphing and don’t have a ton of money, one of these two rods is likely going to be what we choose between. Would love to read your thoughts on the Cortland and your preference between the two. Keep up the great work!

  5. I’ve appreciated you’re review, thanks. I just purchased the Shadow 2, 10’6″ 4wt & can’t wait for run off to decrease. I decided on the 4wt
    as the Bow R through Calgary Ab is my home water and the trout this way are fair sized. So, here’s to future trout. Cheers.

  6. Thank you for the review. I spoke with several guide friends and fly shop peeps about the Shadow II before purchasing, and they all told me a 10′ 3WT is related to the 3 WT acting tip, but the butt is much more like a 5WT.
    For trout up to 20″ they are all recommending the 3WT 10′. They are also recommending a 20′ – 35′ leader setup (2 nymphs), looped to the Rio Euro Nymph line cut down to 20′ long (cheater) and welding a loop. That they loop attach to a WF5 like a Rio Gold, then to the backing (100-200 yds).
    I am sure there are many ways to set these up. Just what I am hearing from local Oregon/Washington guides and fly shop peeps, many fish a big river like the Deschutes.
    Typically catching larger fish they recommend the 4WT 10’6″.

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