Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cabela's C.G.R. Series Review

I'll be the first to admit that this review has taken longer than it should have since I have been holding on to the entire series of the Cabela's C.G.R. fiberglass fly rods for whats going on months now.

The other side of it is that spending time on the water and casting each fly rod with several different fly lines does take time and it has certainly given me an opportunity to get a good feel for what each fly rod is about.

Last week I planned a morning off from work and spent it in the front yard with the five C.G.R. Series fly rods, a stack of Hook & Hackle fly lines, and two LOOP fly reels.

I enjoyed a couple hours snapping photos and casting each fly rod with different fly lines to confirm what I liked best and it was a good way to wrap up this long term review.

When thinking about fly reels to use for this review I really wanted something versatile that would be easy to switch out fly lines on, not a budget breaker, and would look cool in photographs as well.  I had been wanting a set of the now discontinued LOOP CLWC fly reels and this seemed like as good of an excuse as any to pick them up for the review.

The LOOP CLWC fly reels are made of clear resin, are certainly different looking, function great, and balanced each of these fly rods nicely.  The CLWC fly reels are priced around $125 each if you can find them in stock.

At last check Castaway Fly Fishing Shop still had a few left in each size.

As this review was coming together I figured that most people reading T.F.M. likely use weight forward fly lines and decided in order to keep this review simple to use these type of fly lines throughout the casting evaluation.

I also wanted to use the same brand of fly line across the entire review since it would be hard to feel the differences that a fly line weight would make when casting each fly rod in this series if it wasn't similar in all respects besides a line weight rating up or down.

Hook & Hackle was gracious to send a few Hi-Floater fly lines which filled in the gaps in between what I already had in their weight forward fly lines in my gear stash already.

I chose the Hi-Floater fly lines since they are an exceptional value (especially when on sale), durable, and generally cast great on fiberglass fly rods.

As the rumors began circulating early last year about Cabela's reintroduction of fiberglass back into their line up, I was able to get in contact with Joe Wolthuis who was a big help in filling me in on the upcoming series, emailing me a few sneak peaks as the rods went from prototype to production, and then handed me one of the C.G.R. four weights at IFTD last September to give me the first complete look at the upcoming series.

The C.G.R. Series is made up of five fly rods ranging from a 5'9" three weight to a 7'6" 7/8 weight.  Each fly rod in this series comes in three sections and are priced at $100 each.  E-glass blank construction, solid components, a cordura covered rod tube, and a one year warranty all complete this fly rod offering.

Where some who produce what would be considered a very reasonably priced fly rod (let alone fiberglass) would have slapped a generic low grade cork grip, reel seat, and hardware on a fly rod blank, Cabela's went the opposite way and put quite a bit of time in creating this series fly rod by fly rod. 

The lightweight models are slender gripped and feel like a three, four, and five weight should.  The 5/6 weight has a fighting butt and it's obviously capable of getting work done.  The 7/8 weight comes with a full wells grip that isn't overly pronounced, feels good in your hand, and the aluminum hardware is a great match in this powerful fly rod.  

The quality of the cork used on this series is pretty decent with some filler visible on each of the test rods I was sent.  It will be interesting to see how the cork holds up over time but all in all no complaints.

For whatever reason the quality of the cork in the three, four, and five weight fly rods feels just a bit nicer with less filler over the 5/6 and 7/8 weight models but maybe that's just because I've spent most of my time with the 5/6 and 7/8 fly rods on the water this spring and they are the most soiled.

My only real exception with the C.G.R. Series fly rods is that for whatever reason Cabela's decided to have them all made with the same size stripping guides.

The three, four, and even the 4/5 weight fly rods could have used this size stripping guide but in my mind the 5/6 weight and 7/8 weight models should have been built with a larger stripping guide.

This certainly should not be a deal breaker in considering a purchase of one of these fly rods but if you have the skills to replace the stripping guide on the 5/6 weight or 7/8 weight models I think it would increase the performance of those fly rods quite a bit.

With having the entire series to look over and compare side by side, I am really impressed with the guide wrap quality and epoxy work done.  For a mass produced fly rod they all look very good with no bumps or sharp spots where a piece of thread was left sticking out.   

I also happen to really like the dark green blank color matched with the black over green wraps and silver tipping.  These are details that you'd not necessarily expect on a fly rod with a $100 price tag.   

The spigot ferrule fit across the entire series is appropriately tight with correct spacing between the fly rod sections.  I like the spigot ferrules and it's a neat feature of these fly rods.

Having spent time on the water and in the yard with each model has helped decipher the strengths in each of these fly rods.

It is interesting to me that someone could pick two or three fly rods from this series and effectively fish just about any type of water they wanted to from exploring hidden blue lines, to hucking streamers from the bow of a drift boat, to working a top water popper around the lily pads on a pond.  All of this is possible without having to break the piggy bank in the process.

Overall I've found that while you might not air out an entire fly line with any of these fly rods that they are effective tools in close and at typical casting ranges.  These fly rods have a progressive taper with a tip that is not to soft and a butt section that makes these great fish fighting tools.

Below are few individual notes on each fly rod model.  Overall I liked each of the split weight fly rods with the heavier fly line since they loaded easier, I was able to get more distance when casting, and they turned over larger flies with less effort.  

5'9" Three Weight - This little three weight would be as happy catching native brook trout or cutthroat on a small stream as it would be casting foam spiders on a farm pond for bluegill.  It roll casts nicely as well for close quarters situations.

I was able to get surprising casting distance out of this sub six foot fly rod and certainly more than you'd ever need to on most step across creeks where you'd likely be taking this little three weight.

6'6" Four Weight - This four weight would be a very decent all around light trout rod which is happiest casting dry flies, swinging soft hackles, and small nymph setups.  It can likely do more but this is what it will do best in my mind. 

7' 4/5 Weight -  This dual line model has two different personalities.  With a four weight fly line it felt delicate but with a five weight fly line it felt much more powerful.  If technical presentations were needed I'd recommend lining it with a four weight fly line and if you were planning on using larger flies, even up to bulky hopper and stimulator patterns, then I'd recommend the five weight fly line.  A great all around fly rod that I wouldn't be afraid to take on larger waters as well.

7'6" 5/6 Weight - This is the lightweight workhorse of the line up and again if you're looking for lighter presentations then go with a five weight fly line but if you're needing to turn over larger flies or load the fly rod easier than jump up to the six weight fly line.

This fly rod can do big dry flies, streamers, and nymph work with relative ease.

7'6" 7/8 Weight - With a seven weight fly line this fly rod performed great casting medium size warmwater flies but really excelled with larger flies and creating distance on the casts with an eight weight line.

This is an excellent all around warmwater fly rod to use in a kayak and I wouldn't be afraid to take it along on a salt trip if needed.  

In summary this entire series is a heck of a value for the price, quite a bit of fun to fish, and Cabela's got it right on a lot of levels.  I like that they didn't offer up a watered down fly rod series just to say that they had a commemorative fiberglass fly rod available for order.

This was a smartly designed series borrowing old school fly rod lengths and upgrading the material and components used to create a very usable fly rod series which will appeal to dedicated "Glass Geeks" and our graphite waving (but curious) brethren alike.


Robin said...

A fine review! These appear to be some high class rods, well worth a look.

I confess to a soft spot for the fiberglass and bamboo.

Anthony said...

Good review. I have the 4/5 and love it. Also, as a mention of their warranty, I broke the tip off of mine and took it back to the store. They gave me a new rod no questions asked.

Cameron Mortenson said...

Robin...high class at an economy price for sure.

Anthony...thanks for commenting about your experience with their warranty service. That's great.

Jay said...

I've been looking forward to this. I'm glad to hear they're good performers. I've been thinking about the 7/8, but was waiting for your thoughts. Now I'm pretty much sold. Thanks for a great review.

Matt said...

This was turning into the 'Chinese Democracy' of fly rod reviews. Great read, though. Well worth the wait. I'll second on the 7/8 being a near-perfect warm water rod.

gfen said...

I know Cameron's already read my feelings on the 7'6" 7/8wt which essentially mirrors his, including both the pleasing aesthetics and sheer joy in use. The one thing I can add to this is that I am not a fan of the cork, having watched a hole slowly open up under my thumb in only a couple of weeks of (admittedly hard) use, which included salt water.

I'd like to get my hands on the 5'9" version, because while I am not a small rod afficiando, giving it the instore wiggle test leaves me with a smile.

Cameron Mortenson said... really can't go wrong with the 7/8 weight. I like it a lot.

Matt...I know. My current goal is to have all reviews done before I go to IFTD in August. I've go to get writing.

gfen...I read and reread your excellent review. If I were you I'd consider taking advantage of the warranty and see if you have the same issues with another one. Might have gotten one that wasn't quite 100%.

gfen said...

Wouldn't feel right, this one's got soul now, I've laid claim to it and made it mine, once we hit the Gulf together, I was tied into it.

Once it reaches a where I can't handle it, I'll just make my own fill somehow. Seems more genuine.

I do find it odd that no one else has had the same issue, so maybe its just a bum spot. As agreed, they're fantastic bargins.

Peter said...

I find this very interesting for a number of reasons - looking at the final picture of all the rods - reel seats and grip design are (almost) identical to the Vision Cult Fiber rod series. Even the lengths and line weights match (almost) - BUT at a very reduced price.
The Vision rods have brown blanks I believe but apart from that ??
Would be interesting to compare the two rod series. Anyone ?

Cameron Mortenson said... eye. The skinny that I've been able to determine so far is that these fly rods and the Vision Cult Fiber series are made in the same factory and with the same or mostly the same componets but the blanks are entirely different.

I have a demo Vision Cult Fiber 5/6 weight and it feels very different from the Cabela's 5/6 weight. Side by side comparison coming soon.

gfen said...

IIRC, the one I got came with a tag that proudly proclaimed it built with Pacific Bay components.

Anonymous said...

I got the 6'6" 4wt and love it. I tried a graphite of the same size and never got the right feel from it. Picked up the Cabelas rod and was able to roll cast 40ft with a Sylk Double Taper 4wt and knew I had the perfect rod (considering I'm only able to roll cast about 40ft w/ a 6wt graphite.) The ability of this rod to roll cast that far is a big help when walking blue lines that sometime open up into some decent sized pools. Living in Maine this rod will see many more native brookies over its lifetime.

Peter said...

Cameron - I'll be looking forward to that then :-)
Considering the difference in price I really hope the Cult rods are "better".
For me, I need to choose between the two (Cabelas or Vision) 7/8wt rods ??

ratfacedmcdougal said...

I pretty much made up my mind to get the 7'6 7/8 a long time ago, but have been waiting to see what you thought. Thanks for the review.

Matt said...

Cameron - what else are you reviewing prior to the show?

ratfaced - the 7/8wt is really a great rod. I've only used it so far targeting warm water fish, but it is worlds apart from the graphite rods I normally used. Since I typically fish from a canoe, needing max casting distance isn't as important. Whereas, flinging big air-resistant poppers and leech patterns is far more enjoyable on a glass rod I've found. My only concern was that this rod wouldn't have enough backbone to yank LMB out of the thick salad that grows around here. So far, backbone hasn't been an issue - even with the deep bend. My hookup to landing ratio is the same as it was with my BII-MX. Maybe a little bit better since the shorter rod equals faster hooksets.

Cameron Mortenson said...

gfen...both the Cabela's and Vision appear to be made with Pac-Bay components.

Maine...the four weight sounds perfect for your waters.

Peter...there is a quite of a price difference for sure. I'm trying to get a 7/8 weight Cult Fiber to demo alongside the Cabela's 7/8.

RFMcD...I do not think you will be disappointed at all.

Matt...I've got a wonderful mess of gear from DVD's to fly boxes to fly rods to fly reels to flies to bags of several sorts.

ratfacedmcdougal said...

Cam, should I drop your name when I order? Keep the good will going and all that.

J Wood Fly Angler said...

Can't wait to get back to Cabela's and put one of these rods in my hand.

Rob said...




deanwo said...

Nice review, Cam, and thanks for pointing me to this. The 3 wt looks like the ticket for the small streams in my area.

With the idea of short casts on these streams, would you line up to a 4 wt or could you suggest a 3 wt line designed for short distance casts?

Mspinks said...

I've been fly fishing for about 2 years total now, been using a Bass Pro store brand 9' 5-6#. I really enjoy it but would like to have a smaller and lighter rod to travel with and fish while floating small rivers in my canoe. As of now, I'm trying to decide between Cabela's CGR 6'6" 4# and an Eagle Claw 5-6# which my buddy tells me feels more like a 4-5#. Due to the obvious price difference, i've been doing some research and have found good reviews on both. Cameron, i know you might be biased since you started with an Eagle Claw, but please try to be as objective as possible!

Cameron Mortenson said...

Mspinks...I like the Featherlight but if you really want to have a travel fly rod then pick up the CGR. They are on sale for $75 so the price difference is much closer than at full price. It also comes with a year warranty which the Featherlight does not.

Atlas said...

Thank you for the review, may pick the 4 weight soon.

RalphsFlyBox said...

I've followed your review and have been watching these rods closely since the arrived back on the scene. Last night when thy posted on sale I couldn't wait any longer, and the 7' 4/5 is on the way. having had a chance to fish one for a day, it was only a matter of time. Thanks for the great review. R.E.Long