Epic 580 Fiberglass Fly Rod Review

I’m a guy that likes to try out new gear.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a new fly tying material, new fly line, rod, reel, boat; it doesn’t matter.  A little while ago, I was browsing the latest news and reviews on Midcurrent and saw an advertisement that had a green fly rod and the word, “Epic”.  Of course I was curious so I clicked on it.  I spent the next few hours browsing Swift Fly Fishing’s website and then watching videos on their line of Fastglass fly rods.  It had been awhile since I really used a fiberglass rod but I’ve been wanting one for quite some time.

Epic gives you three options; they’ll build you a custom rod, they’ll sell you a “ready to wrap” kit to build your own, or they’ll sell you just a rod blank.  Being fairly well versed in repairing and building rods, I chose to buy their kit and see how it performed.

The Build

First, let me say that their customer service is absolutely first rate.  I’ve had several emails exchanged with the owner, Carl McNeil and Jeanie Ackley and they couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating.  From the day the kit shipped to my door was four days.  Four. Days.  Did I mention it came from New Zealand?  I’ve had items take longer to arrive when shipped in state.  How awesome is that?!

And it’s a good thing it arrived so early because I was eager to begin building.  Their kits are so comprehensive the box it’s shipped in turns into a rod stand.  The required materials to complete the build was minimal.  Some denatured alcohol, rags, a fly tying bobbin, sandpaper, and a rod dryer (available from Epic) was all that was needed.  While I had all of these items on my bench,  I wanted to test the whole experience from the standpoint of a customer with no building skills so I did use the box and a bobbin to wrap the guides.  It worked great.  Their 42 page instruction book is clear and concise with spot-on photos to aid you along the way.

The build starts with the butt section of the blank.  Test fitting the reel seat and handle is the first step.  Because cork can expand and contract, the fit may not be perfect.  Mine needed a little reaming but it wasn’t anything a couple swipes of a rat tail file didn’t take care of.  Also, the reel seat is going to fit loose.  This is by design.  With some masking tape, an arbor was built on the blank ensuring a proper fit.

Once the reel seat was epoxied, the handle epoxied and slid down, the butt cap was glued and that piece was set aside.

Then the rod is laid out and marks placed where the rod guides will be placed.  Next comes the task of taping one of the guide feet in place and then making thread wraps.  For those of you who know how to tie flies, you start your thread on the rod blank and finish it off just like a fly.  Once all of the guides are wrapped, then I chose to wrap the ferrels and add a hook keeper and winding check.

On this particular build, you’ll notice my wraps are a rusty red color.  I used different thread than what was included in my kit.  The silk thread is coated with thinned rod epoxy for a translucent look before a second and final coat of epoxy to give it that finished and glossy look.

I enjoyed the build but was excited about casting the rod.

Test Casting

I’m lucky enough to have an old 5 weight fly line on the first fly reel I learned to fish from.  I went out into the yard and spent about two hours learning the ins and outs of the rod.   I wasn’t disappointed.

The first couple casts were a tad overpowered as I’m used to graphite.  That’s going to be a breakable habit, though.  While my particular casting stroke is more on the relaxed side, I had to relax and slow down a little more than what I was used to.  Not a whole lot, though, as Epic’s glass is faster than your “run of the mill” E glass.  In fact, Swift’s S Glass is all new meaning it’s tougher, faster, and lighter than any other glass to this point.

I approached this rod just as I do any rod.  I speed up and slow down my cast and shorten or lengthen my stroke in order to find the sweet spot.  Once I do, I test out how the rod performs while casting at the smallest possible target at various distances.  It took me all of ten minutes to find the rod’s sweet spot and when I did, I was blown away. The rod just seemed to melt into my hand and it did everything I wanted without much thought.

At distances greater than 20 to 30 feet, one has to be mindful of the length of this rod.  At eight feet long, it doesn’t arealize as much line as your standard nine footer.  Once again, it was an easy adjustment to make.  It handled this distance with ease and so I began to push it.  I stripped line, shot line, and became more aggressive with the casting stroke and it kept on giving without collapsing.  With an extended back-cast and a small haul, it would shoot super tight loops rearward and then an excelerated forward cast with a haul would shoot line out to 50′ that was straight as an arrow and as accurate as you could be at this distance.

I was excited to see how it would perform on the river.

River Time

Anyone who routinely practices their casting off the water knows that it’s a different feeling than on the water.  There was a learning curve especially when I’m used to a nine-foot rod.   The biggest differences I noticed were:

Mending – The ability to mend effectively as the rod length decreases shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.  It wasn’t impossible for a smaller stream but this is not the tool for larger water.

Power vs. Delicacy – All of the graphite rods I’ve used seem to have one “speed” when it comes to presentation.  They are built for a specific purpose in mind.  While a medium-flex rod can make soft presentations with size 24 dry flies and STILL have the backbone to handle a fish, you would have trouble casting a two-nymph rig where both are size 14 tung-heads.  The Epic 580 performed flawlessly with a size 22 Griffith’s Gnat, swinging a size 14 wet fly, and a size 10 woolly bugger.  This glass rod can handle a wide variety of presentations and keep giving.

Weight – While the swing weight feels “just right” it wasn’t until my brother-in-law fished a graphite 905 and then switched to the Epic 580 that he remarked at how lighter the 580 was.  After fishing both, he was right.  Both the perceived weight and actual weight were both less.

 

Final Thoughts

 

The Epic 580 lived up to the hype and was an easy transition to my very own fiberglass rod.  I highly recommend it for medium streams and would advise those weary of glass to give one a try.  And when that first fish bites and you can feel every single head-shake, even on a 6″ brook trout, it enhances the “cool factor”.  I can’t say enough great things about the Swift Fly Fishing company and Carl and Jeanie.  Order one, have one made, or build a rod yourself but beware…they’re addicting.  If you don’t believe me, I already have plans for an Epic 480, 686 streamer rod, and 888 steelhead/redfish rod.

 

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