For a while now I’ve been touting the ECHO Base series as a solid first rod (and beyond) based on my good experiences with ECHO generally and some trusted reviews of the Base series specifically. A few months ago, it occurred to me that maybe I ought to check them out for myself.
The ECHO Base 3-weight comes in a 4-piece, 7-ft, 6-inch configuration, with a rod sock and a sturdy fabric-covered tube. The retail price is about $90 for the 3-weight.
I paired the rod with ECHO’s Base reel in size 2/3, and—on a hunch—an AirFlo Forge WF4F line ($55). The composite reel is surprisingly nice for $45, quiet, and with a strong drag. It’s a bit heavy, though, at 4.5 ounces, and the drag is not as finely graduated as I would like. Still, for the price and the application, it’s just fine. If you want to spend another $50, the Orvis Battenkill II would be an excellent choice for this rod.
Total retail cost for my setup: comfortably under $200. Worth noting: ECHO offers the 8-ft, 4-weight and the 9-ft. 5-, 6-, and 8-wt rods as kits complete with reel, line, leader, and integrated rod and reel case. This is a terrific value at around $170 for the 4-weight (that or the 5-weight would be great choices for the Guadalupe River trout fishery).
I put the 3-weight through its paces on the lawn, and on four separate trips to Brushy Creek and the forks of the San Gabriel. I even put it in the hands of a friend who was joining me for his very first fly fishing experience. He was laying out pretty, 40-ft casts by the end of the session.
Here are my impressions:
Fit and Finish
Right out of the tube, the silver-and-black-tipped, deep blue blank is stunning. Chromed snake guides and a ceramic stripper complement a durable, no-nonsense, black, anodized reel seat. The cork half-wells grip, while perhaps not “flor” grade, is quite a bit nicer than what I recall from my old ECHO Glass rods, and every bit as good as what I typically see on production rods costing three and four times as much.
ECHO describes the action as “medium fast,” and I’d say that’s about right. Noticeably stiffer than my go-to fiberglass rods, of course, if memory serves it’s also a little bit faster than a Redington Classic Trout or TFO Finesse Trout, two other terrific small stream rods ($150 and $230, respectively). The action is progressive, with more flex in the upper third. This lends itself to tight roll casts and flipping short casts into tight spots, both a requirement on my home waters.
That little bit of stiffness in the butt section gives the rod the backbone to toss heavier flies and carry a bit more line, too.
I’ve thrown everything from a size 14 Rio Getter to a size 6 Double Barrel Frog on this rod. The bulk of the popper limited my casts to about 40 feet (in a bit of breeze), but I was able to repeatedly drop size the Rio Getter onto a dinner plate at 60 feet when I switched over to a 3-weight Royal Wulff Triangle Taper line. And I’m not that great of a caster most days. I also rarely fish at that distance, so that exercise was just for grins.
With a Fish On
I caught plenty of fish in my forays with the Base, but was holding out for a real bruiser so I’d have an epic photo to post with this review. It happened, on the Gabe, when I sightcasted to what appeared to be a midget submarine with fins. The big bass leisurely rolled as she inhaled a size 8 Brunch Money. I strip-set the hook, and the line came tight as she began running downstream. My exultant thoughts immediately turned to which pocket I’d stashed my phone in, and I began fumbling and in my excitement clenched the line against the grip of the rod and … pop!
Most fish I lose, I lose because I step out of the moment. Too often it’s because I’m thinking ahead to the photo op, or wondering if I’m going to need my net. The lesson, not to do that, apparently is one I really need to learn again and again.
This bass is one of several behemoths, by small stream standards, that I regularly see in this particular pool. Between 20 and 24 inches, probably a solid 5 to 6 pounds. I have every reason to think the Base would have handled her just fine if not for user error.
The smaller fish that I brought to hand–Rio Grande cichlids, bluegill, longear and redbreast sunfish — were plenty of fun on the 3-weight. And fun, of course, is what this is all about.
Warranty and Customer Service
All ECHO rods, including the sub-$100 Base models, come with a no-fault, lifetime warranty. Tip sections for all models are available for order on ECHO’s website for a very reasonable $17.50. Customer service is excellent, and includes responses from real people in the Vancouver, Wash., office if you have a more involved repair or exchange. While ECHO says that, once received, processing is usually 2-3 days (and in rare cases several weeks if waiting on parts for a repair), my experience has been that repairs and warranty exchanges take 7-10 days roundtrip, doorstep to doorstep.
Tim Rajeff, the founder of ECHO Fly Fishing, apparently has been on a mission in recent years to make quality fly fishing gear affordable for everyday anglers and folks looking to get into the sport. As a former national and world champion distance caster, guide, and one-time head engineer in Gary Loomis’ shop, he brings more than three decades of experience to the more than 20 rod designs on offer through his company.
It’s hard to say whether Rajeff and the folks at ECHO have been more focused on raising the bar (on quality) or lowering barriers to entry to the sport; with the BASE (as with many of their other models, notably the Carbon XL, River Glass, and BAG series), they have done both.
This is a handsome, competent, easy-to-cast rod that will serve any angler well: whether you’re looking for a budget entry to the sport, want an inexpensive truck or pack rod, need to outfit the entire family, or just want a reasonably priced carbon stick in a different weight, the Base should be at the top of your list.
ECHO does not sell direct to the public, a conscious decision to support fly shops. While you can order a rod from a retailer online, consider visiting your local fly shop to see and cast the Base in person. For folks in Central Texas, both ReelFly Fishing Adventures in Canyon Lake and Living Waters Fly Fishing in Round Rock are authorized dealers.
*Almost by default these days I overline graphite rods; it’s almost a reflexive action at this point. The reasons are two, and related: 1.) as manufacturers employ ever higher-modulus materials resulting in stiffer rods that excel, really, only at distance casting, the weight printed on the rod is rarely accurate. 2.) I fish mostly smaller waters and about 80 percent of my casts are 40 feet or less. A little more weight in the head of the line loads the rod better at those distances. All that said, the Base is truly a medium or medium-fast rod, designed to load easily, and does fine with a standard 3-weight line in most scenarios.