For much of my fly fishing, a fast-action rod is what I prefer. That type of action just matches my casting style very well and is versatile enough to handle pretty much anything I do. That's not to say I ignore the others, though. While extra-fast action rods are a little more specific in what they excel at, they definitely can offer an edge when extreme distance casting, throwing over-sized flies, and cutting through wind with the utmost authority. I own an extra-fast rod and love it......under the right circumstances.
When thinking about what rod I wanted to review next here on Demystifly, the ECHO EPR popped into my head. One thing in the description really interested me, and that was how ECHO says "this new stick has a super fast tip to load easily at short distances." Being that this rod is an extra-fast action, the fact that they also mention good performance in-close really piqued my interest. I had big plans for testing this rod but of course a surprise illness squashed my vacation plans, so after receiving my 8-weight tester I instead walked the banks locally to see what I could find.
Length: 9 feet
Action: "Stupid Fast"
Line Weight: 8
Measured Rod Weight: Approx 4.62 ounces
Stripping Guides: Stainless frame/SiC insert
Guides: Dark snake guides
Reel Seat: Aluminum
Rod Tube/Sock: Yes/Yes
My initial impression of the EPR was that this rod meant business. No added glitz or glamour, no outrageous rod tube, and a guide set that seemed like it was off a 12-weight—this rod looked like it was ready to kick ass before I even put a reel on it!
Finished in gloss-black, the blank of my test rod was very smooth to the touch. All of the large snake guides and the two over-sized stripping guides are bound to the rod with matching black wraps along with a hint of gold trim bordering the stripping guide wraps, at the ferrules, and around the logo. Not to be forgotten, there's alignment dots to be found at the ferrules, too. There's no hook keeper.
The full-wells grip includes some composite cork on the top and bottom to prevent chipping and provide some visual accent. There's also a decent palm swell to the grip which gives it a chunkier feel but is plenty comfortable. The quality of the cork itself is nice but there is some filler visible.
Something cool about the reel seat is the alignment dots. Located both on the seat itself and on the slide band, they help take a few seconds of guesswork out of finding the openings that the reel foot fits into. To secure the reel, the double up-locking rings spin smoothly and tighten with a positive, progressive feel. Finishing off the rod is a fighting butt with a flared end which offers generous surface area that should cushion your gut well during long battles.
The fit and finish of my EPR was mostly excellent. There was one minor epoxy imperfection at the base of one of the snake guides, but of course it had no effect on the actual function or performance. When given the "flex and shake test," the blank did no squeak, creak, or tick.
ECHO recommends the Airflo Super-Dri Bonefish line as an excellent all-around choice for this rod, so that's precisely the line I used in a WF8F size. Featuring a ridged surface for added castability, this line is also quite beefy with a 30-foot head weight of 240-grains. Per AFFTA standards, this actually puts the line squarely in the 9-weight category.
I found the EPR indeed had plenty of guts and delivered big flies with authority. My first venture out with the rod had me chasing largemouth bass just ahead of a strong front moving in from the west. With winds gusting 20+, the EPR was able to transport big, bushy bass flies where they needed to go.
Despite the rod action being jokingly classified as "stupid fast," for me the heavier Airflo line took the edge off a bit. Still, the rod felt solidly fast. In-close casting indeed gave ample feedback as advertised, yet the rod has gobs of power to push out those big flies a greater distance. In fact, ECHO says that this rod has "the most powerful bottom half of any ECHO rod we have ever made to insure you will never run out of gas when casting into the wind." While casting performance was very good, I wish I had a standard-weighted WF8F line on-hand to throw on the EPR to see how much the stiffness increased. In my experience, extra-fast rods can feel a bit numb at shorter distances when not up-lined.
This stick kind of looks like it would be pretty heavy with its beefy components and all. I wouldn't say it felt especially light, but for an 8-weight I wasn't put off by the feel when actually casting it. The measured weight (approx 4.62 ounces) isn't very far off a couple of 8-weights I checked that cost hundreds more.
The EPR 8-weight surprised me. I was unsure of what I'd find here, but I was left really pleased by a rod that was fun to cast and offered good feel with gobs of reserve power. If you're into big flies and often battle big winds, the EPR is pretty much tailor-made for this anti-finesse style of fly fishing.
ECHO EPR rods also come in 9, 10, and 12-weight sizes, all priced at the same $449.99 as our tester. Each rod includes a cloth rod sock and square-shaped tube.
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