When we first caught wind that our friends from ECHO were designing a high-modulus, ultra-fast action, fly rod for hard fighting fish, at a middle-of-the-road price point, we knew right away we needed to get our hands on one.
Designed by Pat Ehlers, ECHO’s ‘E.P.R.’ is the company’s introduction into the ultra-fast action rod category. According to ECHO, it was designed to produce higher line speeds, turnover large/wind resistant flies, and offer enough power to put the heat on big hard fighting fish.. You know, three things you really want on the flats.
We were fortunate to host Pat himself for a week of bonefishing here at Andros South. He graciously let us test drive the E.P.R. 890-4 (9 foot, 8 weight) on our flats, so today we thought we’d tell you about it.
Background and Design
Plain and simple, the E.P.R. was designed to get the job done in the most adverse conditions. Think large wind/resistant flies, strong winds, long casts, etc. It has an extremely powerful butt/middle section (their most powerful to date according to ECHO) for deep loading power whether turning over an 11 inch musky fly or chucking long into a hefty headwind, as well as a snappy fast tip section to form extremely tight, wind cutting, loops from short to long distances.
The overall action of the rod is best described as not just ‘fast,’ but ultra-fast. It has an extremely crisp (although not overly ‘stiff’) feel that those who prefer a faster recovery will certainly appreciate.
For our testing day, we rigged the E.P.R. 890-4 with an 8 weight Airflo Super-DRI Tropical Bonefish fly line and a Hatch Finatic 7-Plus reel. We found the overall setup to be extremely comfortable in hand and balanced nicely, particularly with line outside the rod tip while fishing. At 4.4 ounces, the 890-4 is not quite as light as some of the more expensive saltwater rods on the market today, however when properly balanced, we found the rod to feel far lighter in hand than is published.
Our conditions couldn’t have been better for a proper assessment of the E.P.R. on the flats. The day started off with only a slight breeze in the single digits and gradually increased throughout the day to a stiff 15+ mph in the afternoon. That allowed us to test the rod under a wide range of conditions from soft, short presentations to spooky fish, to long casts into stiff winds.
As we expected, the E.P.R. made easy work of turning over relatively large bonefish flies at medium-long distances, even into a decent headwind. However, we found it to perform slightly better than we anticipated at short distances. Many super-fast action rods are known for being difficult to load at short distances, although we didn’t find this to be the case with the E.P.R. when rigged with the Tropical Bonefish.
We also found the 890-4 to track surprisingly well giving it a very accurate feel. We did notice slightly more longitudinal (east-west) vibration upon stopping the rod when compared with some other more (much more) expensive saltwater rods. However, we found this to be at a very minimum, and for $449.99, think its a fine trade-off.
One thing that impressed us most about the E.P.R. 890-4 was its ability to accept a whole bunch of different fly lines. We tried five popular tropical lines on it and were blown away by how well each paired with the rod for its intended purpose. We found the E.P.R. to be extremely versatile in this regard, and relate that to its ability to match a wider range of casting styles – something that’s not typically the case with most super-fast action rods.
For those who prefer a longer, more traditional taper on the flats, we found over-lining the E.P.R. 890-4 with a 9 weight RIO Bonefish line to be a great match. By jumping up a line size, we found the RIO Bonefish slowed the E.P.R. down just enough to provide a healthy bend to the rod with minimal effort, which those with a more relaxed, experienced stroke will likely appreciate.
For those who prefer a shorter, ‘shooting head’ style fly line, we found an 8 weight RIO’s Bonefish Quickshooter also married well with the E.P.R. Interestingly enough, we found the E.P.R. to handle the aggressive taper of the Bonefish Quickshooter better than most, producing smooth, effortless, loops. Case in point – if you’re a fan of the Bonefish Quickshooter, you’ll probably really like this rod.
As we mentioned above, we also paired the E.P.R. with an 8 weight Airflo Super-DRI Tropical Bonefish and found it to pair nicely at both short and long distances, and would thus expect it to best match the widest range of casting styles and experience levels.
Built to Fight Fish
Only available in line weights 8 through 12, its clear to us that the E.P.R. was designed to put the heat on big fish. Its really apparent from the first time you hold it that it was made with the fight in mind. From a super-beefy butt section for heavy lifting power, to an over-sized fighting butt (which we really dig for bonefish), to larger than average guides and tip top (which works wonders when a knotted fly line starts smoking through the guides), its hard not to have the confidence in putting the necessary heat on after setting the hook.
We think its worth noting that while we really like what ECHO did with E.P.R. ultra-fast action rods are not for everybody. Contrary to popular belief, ‘faster’ does not equate to ‘better,’ and some anglers (particularly beginners) find that a slower rod will generally fit a wider range of casting styles.
With that said, for those who prefer a quick stick, we think the E.P.R. 890-4 makes one heck of a bonefishing rod, and at only $449.99, we think its one heck of a bargain too.