Review: Snowbee Classic fly rod

Snowbee's entry-level rod is a versatile, impressive performer
snowbee classic fly rod
Photo: Johnny Carrol Sain

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect from the Snowbee Classic 7-foot, 3/4 weight—a rod made by a company I’d never heard of, that can’t decide which line it wants to toss, and is the most affordable offering in Snowbee’s lineup. Nevertheless, I made plans to baptize it in Appalachian creeks. The Classic arrived in a hard rod tube, complete with sock, just a few weeks prior to a trip to the Smoky Mountains, where I’d heard and read that the most exquisite brook trout fin through moonshine pools shaded by balsams and tangles of rhododendron.

But then, a few days before the trip, I discovered this little off-colored stream crowded by sweet gum and hickories literally five minutes down the road from my Arkansas home. Its waters were crammed full of feisty longear sunfish, gluttonous green sunfish, and smallish spotted bass. And all of those fish were suckers for a size 10 popper, which the Classic delivered to them superbly. The Snowbee did just fine a few weeks later, too, delicately dropping terrestrials in likely looking runs and eddies, helping tease brookies up top for a look.

In fact, the Snowbee Classic rod pleasantly surprised us by handling just about anything we threw at it.

Plymouth, England based Snowbee tackle and equipment came on the UK fly fishing scene in 1984 with a pair of waders and since then has grown into an outfit offering rods, reels, line and tippet, apparel, and accessories. Distributed across most of Europe, Canada, Russia, and Australia for years, Snowbee gear is finally making an appearance here in the U.S.

What Works

Craftsmanship

The Classic is Snowbee’s entry-level rod, but it doesn’t look or act like it. It’s a lightweight four-piece graphite number outfitted with components typically reserved for higher-end rods, like its ceramic-lined stripping guide. It also features a high-quality cork handle and a black aluminum reel fitting that, while somewhat drab and in contrast to the rod’s aesthetics, is cleanly threaded and functions well thanks in no small part to dual uplocking rings. Tight tolerances point to an attention to detail by the manufacturer.

The rod’s finish is a luxurious and elegant looking brown that Snowbee calls hazel, but I would call umber. Accented with chestnut and silver piping, the rod is handsome and, being carried by a dude wearing cutoffs, an old T-shirt, and raggedy camouflage cap, looks totally out of place until you consider the Classic’s affordability. But we’ll get to that later.

The Classic weighs 3.21 ounces and paired with the Snowbee Spectre reel (a fully sealed CNC-machined aluminum little jewel), it balanced nicely and felt good, too. Yes, “felt good” is the ultimate in subjective views, but when the engineers do their part with everything quantifiable, their efforts become art and the Classic/Spectre combo is art.

Action

Snowbee says the Classic has “an easy mid-fast action,” and I’d agree. I’d also add that it’s notably versatile, which might be the reason for it’s ambiguous weight class.

Throwing Snowbee’s Thistledown line (itself a puzzling, unique, but delightful creation that I’ll cover in an upcoming review), the Classic tossed poppers up to size 8, beadhead buggers up to size 8, and even a whopper foam hopper that measured nearly three inches lashed to long-shank size 6 hook. And it handled them with relative ease. Yeah, I had to muscle the hopper a little, but the dainty and dapper Classic could shoot them all and still softly deposit a black ant into peaceful pools with barely a ripple.

Accuracy

While the Classic will load and fling with some authority, it also has excellent targeting capabilities within reason. From 60 feet and in, I could put a small terrestrial anywhere I wanted. Bigger flies were a bit more unwieldy, as they tend to be when you’re asking too much of the rod’s flex for a given weight, but still acceptable for my warm-water efforts.

Versatility

Detailing the action and accuracy is actually a deconstruction of what is, perhaps, the Classic’s best attribute, and one I mentioned earlier: versatility. I like a rod that does a little bit of everything well. The Classic does, and it truly excels at some tasks while never dipping into unacceptable territory for any

Price

The Snowbee Classic rod sells for $149. That’s a freakin’ steal. I’d say the rod is worth at least double this amount … but let’s not tell Snowbee. .

What doesn’t

It may seem strange not to be able to gripe about something significant when reviewing a $149 fly rod, but everything works.

Final Word

While it did bow to a few salmonids, the Snowbee Classic’s maiden voyage probably wasn’t the trouty experience its British builders might have envisioned. But this is an American review, and there ain’t nothing more red, white, and blue in the fishing world than bass and bream.

I’d fish for anything with a Classic in hand, though. The 7-foot, 3/4 weight was a sporty and capable choice in my brushy home waters (the “monster” 14-inch spotted bass was an absolute blast), and an impeccable tool for Appalachian trout. I love the Classic. Love it. And I’ll be spending the rest of my summer looking for tiny little creeks stiff with hungry little fish and casting this snazzy little rod.

American anglers are a bit unaccustomed to variable weight classifications these days, but after handling the Classic for several trips, I’ve accepted that the numbers are just that — numbers. They’re how we categorize, of course, but maybe it’s best if we don’t get too wrapped up in labels. Is the Classic a 3? Yes. Is it a 4? Yes. Aren’t those rod weights fairly interchangeable dependent on the angler’s own personal preference for what (here’s that subjective phrase again) feels good? Yes. Does the Classic need to make up its mind? No.

The Classic can call itself whatever it wants to. Don’t judge. Just enjoy.

Comments

Been using Snowbee products for a while having recently lived (and fished) for a few years in England. Highly recommended. Good solid products at reasonable prices. The shorter Classic 7' model may take a heavier line as it is a four piece.

Hi!
With the Snowbee did you use a 3 weight or 4 line ? And which brand of line paired well with it? Great review! Very intriguing rod. Thanks!

I have a 6' Snowbee that takes a 2/3 line. In keeping with UK products, I use a Barrio (Scottish manufacturer) Smallstream 3 wt. The shorter Classic rods being four piece take a heavier line.

This has to be the most enjoyable rod review I have read. “ shaded by balsams and tangles of rhododendron”, ‘handsome” - such fine pieces of writing. I had to share it with my daughter, an English teacher, who models herself on Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society. Thank you. (She agrees)

Pages