Clutch Archipelago 5-Weight Fly Rod Review
Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Clutch is a relative newcomer to the premium fly rod scene, but they've definitely made quite a splash so far. It wasn't long after their initial release that I began seeing these rods gain quite a presence on social media, as many top anglers and pro guides began using the rods and raving about the performance. Well, it's safe to say that the Clutch name has never stopped growing, and now they are even one of the sponsors of the hit TV show Silver Kings which follows two Florida Keys guides as they intercept the famous tarpon migration.
I make sure to swing by the Clutch booth at the IFTD show each year, but unfortunately have spent very little time actually using the rods. I vaguely remember casting a 7-weight Clutch something or other at the show a couple years ago with my buddy Captain Derek Rust, but those few minutes on the crowded casting pond just weren't the same as actually taking my time to thoroughly cast and fish one without distraction. Luckily, I was recently able to spend a couple of afternoons out on the water with the Clutch Archipelago 5-weight. I really wanted to bring this thing along for my 10-day west coast trip that starts this week, but that wasn't possible. Local bass fishing would have to do!
Length: 9 feet
Line Weight: 5
Measured Rod Weight: Approx 3.6 ounces
Stripping Guides: Titanium frame/SiC insert
Guides: REC Recoil snake guides
Reel Seat: Aluminum
Rod Tube/Sock: Yes/No
Saltwater-oriented Archipelago rods are designed using high-modulus graphite blanks that feature a natural, non-glare finish with UV coating. Since they are built to handle briny bruisers, the components are both rugged and top-notch. My tester had a single titanium-framed stripping guide with SiC insert, along with REC Recoil snake guides and a large tip-top that really stands out with its generous size.
Five-weight rods with fighting butts aren't the norm, so I was really happy to see Clutch offering this setup. In true saltwater-rod form, you get a full-wells grip with great quality cork, a black anodized-aluminum reel seat with laser-engraved logo, double up-locking rings, and yes, a small fighting butt. I would prefer it to be a slightly different shape, though—perhaps at least a bit more rounded-off on the edges.
As a whole, the rod doesn't try too hard and delivers a clean, stealthy look that's all business. The craftsmanship is all business, too. I didn't note any defects in the build of the rod and the ferrules all fit securely with no play.
I heard and read that the 5-weight Archipelago was a little on the soft side, but I didn't find that to be true with the rod I tested. I paired it up with an Orvis Hydros HD WF5F line which weighs 140-grains in the first 30-feet....spot on for a 5-weight line per the AFFTA fly line weight guidelines. Perhaps a line like RIO Grand that's weighted one full line size heavier would make the rod feel noticeably softer, but I stuck with the Orvis line here.
As eluded to, the Clutch 5-weight felt solidly fast and had a nice light swing weight while casting. There was a decent amount of feel retained in close, but out at mid-range the performance was especially pleasing. I really liked it in that, say, 30 to 50 foot zone where most of my personal fishing takes place. For longer casts, this rod also was up to the task. The Clutch had plenty of pop to shoot the whole line out of the guides, but I do think that a line with a slightly more aggressive weight/head design would really optimize casting this fast action rod at all distances. The 5-weight Arch can handle it!
As you can see in this review, just because a rod is geared towards saltwater fishing doesn't mean it can't double as a handy companion for heavier freshwater applications. too. It easily handled largemouth bass and the weighted flies, small poppers, and baitfish streamers I was throwing—although the line wasn't exactly the best match for it. From small bonefish to carp, there's a lot of uses for a beefed-up 5-weight like this one. At $810 it'll cost you a pretty penny (or 81,000 of them to be exact!), but this is one damn fine 5-weight!
Archipelago rods come in weights 5 to 12.