The Douglas SKY Fly-Rod Review

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Photo by Justin Pickett

Photo by Justin Pickett

By Justin Pickett

Over the past handful of weeks I’ve been trying out a pretty awesome new stick that will be the new flagship offering from Douglas Outdoors.

“Who is Douglas Outdoors?” is usually the raised-brow response I get when I mention their name. Not everyone has yet to hear of them, but I’m sure that’s going to be a very temporary thing. However, for our readers that may not be aware of Douglas, let’s go ahead and address this question.

Douglas Outdoors is a newer company based in upstate New York that manufactures and distributes quality fly fishing gear, focusing on rods and reels. The company was founded by the Barclay family in 2014, a prominent conservation family and owners of the famous Douglaston Salmon Run in Pulaski, NY. Their goal was to bring together some of the most innovative rod and reel designers and create a NY-based fishing equipment manufacturer. In just a few short years their products have won many awards, with the Upstream series seeming to lead the way. Today they have five series of fly rods covering entry level to premium performance price ranges, including the SKY, DXF, Upstream, DHF and LRS series. They cover every specialty technique including nymphing, saltwater, ultra-light and spey. They also designed and manufacture a great click-check reel, called the Argus, right here in the U.S.

logo_knockoutBack to the rod… I was given the opportunity by Douglas Outdoors to try out a new SKY 905-4 and hit the water with it as soon as I got it. At first glance, the rod is well-made and the blank is sleek and straight. One of the first things that I noticed when putting the rod together were the alignment dots on the blank. Oh boy, here we go. Alignment dots are a peeve of mine. I can’t tell you how many rods I’ve owned, both inexpensive and crazy expensive, that have had alignment dots that didn’t align the rod correctly, some having been just atrocious. However, I was pleased to see that once the rod was together the dots had the rod dead straight. The blank is a matte slate blue/silver that Douglas calls Platinum, which is a nice departure from the greens and browns that tend to dominate within the trout class of fly rods. The finish is neat, with black wraps trimmed in silver. The half wells cork has a dense feel and is very comfortable in the hand. The grip feels like it may be a touch slimmer than most half wells grips you’ll find. The reel seat is anodized aluminum with a nice burl wood insert, finished up with double uplocking rings, but (as I mentioned) it is very comfortable and has a great feel.  Along the blank you’ll find a new Fuji Torzite stripping guide followed by titanium REC, single-foot guides. The rod comes with a nice aluminum rod tube and rod socks. The tube is powder coated in slate blue with a contrasting Douglas logo imprinted along the side. The rod sock isn’t your traditional sock. It is made from a thin, mesh-backed foam with the rod model sewn onto a label. Douglas strayed from the traditional route with the goal of providing improved air circulation for rods that are still wet when placed back into the rod tube, as well as a little more cushion for the rod.

Photo Douglas Outdoors

Photo Douglas Outdoors

The performance of this rod is, of course, the most important part of this whole thing. You can make just about anything look the part, but you had better be able to walk the walk as well. As is usual nowadays, I expected this rod to be on the fast side, so I strung the rod up with a Rio Grand WF5F line with a 7ft practice leader. The rod would certainly be considered to have a “fast action”, but by no means is this rod a broom stick, nor does it lack feel. This rod is very responsive, with a quick recovery and smooth transitions. The Rio Grand line, being a half weight heavier, is a great choice for this rod in my opinion. I also tossed an Airflo 40Plus and a Rio LT Trout as well. All lines performed well with this rod. My preference just lies with a line a little heavier, providing a little deeper bend in the rod. With the Grand, I was able to make casts of sixty to seventy feet with much ease, yet casts at twenty feet were equally as pleasurable. The rod loaded easily and making presentations between twenty and sixty feet were simple. What I’ve enjoyed most about this rod is the fact that my clients have been able to cast this rod with ease, regardless of their experience with a fly rod.

Hooksets were solid and the tip section of this rod is soft enough to protect lighter tippets. I’ve had this rod in the hands of all of my clients recently, and they’ve all been able to wrangle in trout of all sizes to the net. Just recently, I hooked and landed a bruiser of a brown on a local stream. I was able to drop a nymph right into his lie on 5x and he took me to town. I had this rod doubled over in order to steer him out of some submerged timber a couple of times, but the tip protected my tippet and the butt section of the rod did the work on this fish. This rod has proven itself to be a great fish fighting tool with equal parts finesse and muscle. It has become my first choice when picking out a 5-weight in the pre-dawn hours.

The one thing that I really like about this rod is that it truly is a great, do-it-all five weight. This rod will be great in the hands of any fly fisherman, whether they are a beginner, or experienced. I’ve done just about everything with this rod over the last several weeks. The action of the rod is perfect for a long list of techniques. From stripping streamers for bass, nymphing deep runs for trout, or throwing small dries on long leaders, this rod really is a perfect tool to effectively fish for anything, anyhow. I’ve been really impressed with the way this rod has performed so far, and I’m looking forward to traveling with this five weight.

I was fortunate enough to briefly speak with the man behind the SKY’s design, Fred Cantoi. I had several questions about the rod, but I was particularly interested in one thing; What is it about this rod that is going to set it apart from its competitors? Fred was great with answering my questions and I believe he summed it up beautifully.

“The goal of the SKY series is to attract the most discerning shops and consumers. It is one thing to sell commodity tackle and another to be the first arrow in the quiver of the fishermen who demand the best! We feel we have done that with many of the tough critics from coast to coast and in Europe. We have produced the highest performance level of rods at less than 2/3 of the price of the ultra-premium market. By not matching the plus thousand dollar price point we are able to get it into more hands and still able to attract the top end anglers. More money in the pocket to purchase a new reel along with their new SKY coming in at $695.00. There’s no smoke and mirrors. We’ve taken the time to fine tune the best use of resin/graphite combinations to achieve a multi-modulus blank that is responsive, light, and strong.

Screen-Shot-2016-07-07-at-3.22.15-PMThe SKY series was originally built to compete with the very fast rods that are commonplace on the market. After careful listening, and over a year of collaboration with our insiders, we switched gears and built a more friendly rod to a wider range of actions. Each model has its own individual taper and flex that best fits the most popular styles of fishing for a given rod weight. George Anderson was a huge help with understanding this aspect of sales and fishing styles. The SKY series would not be the rod it is today without listening to the best of the casters, fishermen and shops. I think we have covered most everything an angler would like to have in a rod. The best way to see is for the angler, or shop, to put one to the test and see what we have created. We are very proud of the series and feel like it really helps us showcase what we are capable of as an up and comer in the fly fishing business.”

Overall, I was very impressed with the SKY series 905-4. It’s been a fun rod to fish with and even more fun watching my clients succeed with it in their hands. I think Douglas has done a wonderful job with this rod.  It will certainly ride the wall (as I call it) with my other five weights, as I don’t see myself letting this one go. As we all know, not every rod will speak to every angler that wields it, however this rod is certainly worthy of more than the “fly shop wiggle” at your local fly shop,  and I recommend giving it a cast or ten. Not because I’m a rod designer, or a shop owner, but because I’m a fisherman that sees the value in a great rod, and not just the fancy lingo that tends to come with new rods these days.

Cons? I don’t have any gripes about the performance of this rod. It’s an awesome all ‘rounder! I did notice, however, that the rod tube isn’t marked with the rod model. Someone owning multiple SKY rods might have a difficult time identifying the rods without either taking them out of the rod tube, or marking the rod tube themselves. But then again, this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad problem to have.

Keep an eye on Douglas Outdoors! They’re making moves to expand their line of quality products beginning with the moderate-action Upstream rod series by adding newer models. Douglas will also be expanding the Sky series, adding switch and Spey rods to the lineup in the very near future. Preparations are also being made to begin rolling their own blanks in the shop in New York!

Check them out here! 

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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18 thoughts on “The Douglas SKY Fly-Rod Review

  1. I think I’m going to puke. Barclay, Douglaston Salmon Run, and George Anderson all listed in the same review. You may have well added Donnie Beaver in there somewhere.

  2. I had the chance to try this rod at The Fly Fishing Show in Denver. But for some reason I was not struck by it at that time. Later I had the chance to spend some more time with a 6wt version and I was blown away. I love the Med-Fast action. Top Shelf Rod. Imagine if Sage One and Boron III X had a baby… Ok stop. You would get the Douglas Sky.

  3. <>

    I enjoy the articles and reviews, thanks, but I never hear much of a negative comment in the review. This makes me wonder about the process. Are all products great? I think a disclosure type thing (e.g. “we were allowed to keep this test product”. etc.) would make me feel better about these reviews. Thanks

  4. Great post on the Sky rod. I’ve had the opportunity to put the 9′ 5# in a number of my guests hands and I agree the rod preforms exceptionally well for new fly anglers and even more so for pros. The first thing that you left out of the article was Jim Murphy; founder of Reddington and the man that brought Hardy and Greys to the USA. The second is the service that comes behind rods that compete with rods thirty percent higher in price point.
    I had a guest that broke off a tip section of a DXF rod, Mailed it in on a Thursday and had it back repaired the next Friday. Does anyone have ave a story like that for a Scott, Winston, Orvis, Loop, Hardy, Sage or any other? I think not.

    • I broke my Cabelas CZN rod on Thursday, went into the Cabelas store that night and walked out with a new rod. No money exchanged, no mail- in, no waiting a week and no questions asked. The Rod is made in Korea and it was my fault the Rod broke. I would put it up to this Douglas Korean Rod.

  5. Is this rod made overseas> if it is-$695-really? This doesn’t bode well for the affordability of fly rods in our future. BTW, I own 10 redingtons- predators, vapens, vapens red & black- line sizes 3-12, and they fish great, IMO. No, I’m not motivated in
    any way monetarily to fish these rods. I’m not a shop owner or employee, guide or rep. I just really like these rods. For the money they’re hard to beat.

    • The Fuji Torzite Titanium guides alone on this rod retail for $50 each from Fuji. Titanium recoil guides are not like cheap chrome snake guides. Like anything, performance components are not cheap but translate to a better performing fly rod.

  6. Exactly what Jon holesenbeck said. Made in Korea for $695?? Give me one reason to buy this rod over an orvis Clearwater OUTFIT for $300- for my girlfriends first set up.

  7. Louis I want to say this in the nicest way because your photography gives me a beautiful escape on non fishing days, thank you. I believe you should lighten up on people like mark who post about reviews being only positive. Being positive is a great state of mind, and I believe is the way to live, but these are product reviews. The beauty of your site is you use and write about so much gear that is hard to find information on. Not all of these things are at the local fly shop, and parking lot casting isn’t fishing. Before someone drops a lot of money online or special order they desire the pros and cons of a product. A running batting order of rods that end up in your boat would help. I get that the fly fishing world is small so highlighting flaws along with what are probably overwhelming benafits might get awkward. But if I’m in the market for something a little direction helps. I am not a troll although I do spend more time underneath bridges than the average bear.

  8. I seem to see more high points for the 6 wt vs the 5. I fish a lot of 5 weight rods, but am thinking of the Sky 6 wt. if I was convinced it could still handle the smaller dries. Basically, could the Sky 6 wt replace most 5 wt rods with it med-fast action? Would a the sky 6 wt, be a one stop go to rod? Any feedback or thoughts? (I am not including small spring creeks/steams in this mix).

    • Hi Eric, this rod is exceptional with the small dries. We fish #20-24 olives and trico’s on ours all summer. Does just fine with the small midges in winter.

  9. I purchased a Douglas Sky 6 weight and fish at the LEAF RIVER Ungava Bay almost in the North pole and I was just blown away with this rod, I caught in 5 days about 60 Arctic Char of over 12 pounds and landed everyone.

    This is a great rod

  10. I had the privilege of using a Sky 12wt in Honduras for LARGE permit.
    Its a incredible piece of engineered rod work, and I can’t wait for new muskie 13/14 to come out.6

  11. sorry but iam sure there are enough out of work people in western NY that would love to manufacture such a fine product

    • I think it’s worth mentioning here that while the sky G is a wonderful rod to cast and fish, it is not durable. I have had the 5 and 6 wt for a couple years and broken both of them while fighting fish. I have other friends that have had the same experience. Sadly whatever materials have been trimmed to make these rods feather light has also compromised durability. As much as I love my SKY G rods, I don’t feel like I can trust them for something like destination travel.

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