Cortland ‘Big Sky’ Review
I had the pleasure of field testing the Cortland ‘Big Sky’ fly rod last Sunday. First off I’m not affiliated with any Angling outfitters or Product manufactures. Before I buy a fly fishing product I do research such as read reviews, read about the product from the manufacturer’s point of view and if I can try it out, such as this rod, I give it my best shot. I don’t feel I’m an expert but I get the fly where I want it to be placed and have been told my casting style is very good and admirable. I started fly fishing some 20 years ago and practically taught myself. In another words I wasn’t handed a rod and reel and showed how to fly fish. Through practice, educating myself and the love of the sport, I feel I became well acquainted with fly fishing and tying. I own rods from fast action to the newer medium progressive fiberglass rods. I fish modern day rods, I have a couple of those expensive ones, bamboo, older fiberglass rods and some old favorite graphite rods I wouldn’t even consider trading. I feel I’m pretty well rounded in fly rod casting.
I’m not partial to any manufacture so I feel I can give a good review in what I have experienced. I am a general fly guy that is active in the sport, likes to conserve money but will pay the price if I feel quality and endurance is worth it.
Last Sunday Jim and I met with a Cortland rep. to fish the Little Juniata in Pennsylvania. Dan, the Cortland Rep., knows I fish practically every weekend and that I like to fish different rods for different streams. I plan on fishing the Big Horn in Montana in April. There I will be nymph fishing as well as swinging streamers and casting midge type flies to sipping trout. When Dan said he would hook me up with the new ‘Big Sky’ 9’ 4 weight rod I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and give it a whirl. Truthfully I was kind of skeptical that it was considered a fast action 4 wt. Usually when I think of four weights I think of short small stream rods with a soft medium to medium/fast action. Not too stiff that I might not be able to feel it load with little line out. I only think this way because I fish many a small streams in Pennsylvania. When I fish rivers or wider waters I general take a 5 weight or even a 6 weight when I know I might end up fishing for smallmouth. So the 9’ 4wt would be something different in all respects.
Dan handed me the 9’ rod. Instantly I noticed the Burled wood insert. It really set the complete reel seat off within the nickel silver double locking rings and matching hardware. The chrome stainless steel snake guides shined like any top notched expensive rod. The blank has a smooth translucent finish and the primary wraps looked perfect to me. The cork grip was smooth and felt just right in my stubby short finger hand. I couldn’t tell what the rod was worth just by looking at it but it looked sweet, as we say, long but sweet!
I fitted a small mid-arbor reel to it with 444DT line. I had a weight forward line but since this was a Cortland rod, and I love the 444 Classic lines, I figure it would do well with the rod.
Out on the Little J I started fishing off the bank-side rocky shore. There was a tree behind me so my first test would be my roll casts. With ease I was able to roll cast the line out onto the open water with accuracy, dead on accuracy and the 444 line laid out smooth. I was truly amazed how easy it was to roll cast and the distance I got with the ’Big Sky’! Things were looking and feeling good.
Usually 9 foot rods as well as my 8 ½ foot rod would start to feel heavy nymphing for long periods of time from extending my arm to follow the drift. The ‘Big Sky’ not only felt very light in the hand but I didn’t feel fatigued after using it nymph fishing as I would with my other rods. My reel was a little light to balance the rod correctly but was close enough it felt fine.
Out in the open water I tested it casting dries from #16’s to #22 midges. I’m not sure if it was the DT line but something just didn’t seem as comfortable as with other rods I’ve used. Take in mind that this was something new to me so don’t let me judge the rod for you. I just couldn’t feel the stiffer upper section load the rod as I thought that I might. I did find it cast better for me into the slight breeze than with the wind at my back. Not sure how the scientific study would explain this but I felt I had more control of placing the fly on long casts into the light breeze. I started to get used to how the rod performed the more I cast out with it but felt I had to concentrate a little more in feeling the rod load and placing it where I wanted the fly to fall. It did lay out the line smooth and when I wanted to get slack in my line just a little wrist back was needed and the tip reacted as the line fell. Like I said, I was using a double taper line and maybe with a weight forward it would have felt more natural and performed more to my liking.
Overall, hearing the price, I felt it is well worth the money. If I felt I would have a need for a 9’ 4weight this would be on the top of my list. I wouldn’t be surprised if I couldn’t find another rod in this price range for the quality. I also wouldn’t be too surprised finding this rod to perform just as good as more expensive rods. I always felt Cortland was synonymous with great, superb fly lines. I felt their rods are good beginning and intermediate quality rods that are well suited for people to get into fly fishing. I have a more positive opinion of their rods now in the experience catagory for a fair price. I still have my first “motorcycle” multi-piece fly rod, a GRF 1000 Cortland. I still take it out now and then and it caught my biggest brook trout to date at 19”!
With the ’Big Sky’ I don’t think a person can go wrong with the price and quality one will receive.
Oh, and I did catch trout on nymphs with the rod that day.
Now if I can borrow it for Montana and a few more days with it, I’m sure it will become part of my arsenal as a gift to myself in the near future!