When talking about their own rods, Stickman claims there are “no game changers here.” Are the folks at Stickman being intentionally modest? Or are they just lousy marketers? Perhaps neither, as Stickman claims it “like[s] the game just the way it is,” and only wants to build the highest performing (and prettiest) rods it can using the best available materials and construction. Sounds like an admirabe goal, no? Whatever the case, it is possible that the rods that Stickman—which hails from Spain and Hungary—is producing may be the one of the best kept secrets in the fly fishing world these days.
High-sticking/Czech/Euro-nymphing rods might very well be the fastest growing segment of the fly rod business. Every rod company suddenly seems to be producing 10 to 11’, lightweight rods designed specifically for tight line and/or long line nymphing. With the popularity of the competition circuit there has been a bit of a rush from manufacturers to produce longer sticks capable of lobbing tiny flies thirty-plus feet, while offering the feel and sensitivity crucial to this style of fishing. Some of the offerings out there are well-designed, technical fishing tools while others simply fail to stand up to their competition.
Whether intentional or not, Stickman’s foray into the specialized nymphing world, its N0 series of rods, seems to take all the best attributes of the offerings from bigger rod makers and rolls them into one slick package. I been fishing the N0 for around two months now here in the heavily pressured waters of central Pennsylvania and it has quickly become my favorite rod when I want to use the long stick (which, admittedly, is 95% of the fishing we do up here).
The N0 comes in four styles: Forest, Evil Black, Amber and Stealth. These same styles predominate through all of Stickman’s rod models and each is as stunning as the next. The N0 in Forest is a particularly slick looking rod. Brown wraps with burnt orange edging and a flat, natural matte finish compliment a wood grained Lemke reel seat. The premium flor-grade cork handle doesn’t have all the filler marks that you might see in some other manufacturers handles. Fuji stripping guides and matte black single foot recoil guides line the blank and the guide spacing is perfect.
The N0 is a true high-sticking rod. Coming in at 10’2” and rated at a 0 weight the rod is designed to cast small weighted flies and work with long leaders (think French and Czech nymphing). The N0 series has an ultra-soft tip that lets you load the it with minimal weight and effort. I’ve been fishing this rod paired with a Cortland .017 Mono Core line and it’s a perfect combo. Drifts at 20-30’ with small nymphs are a snap and with a thin leader the soft tip will let you feel your way along while drifting tiny nymphs or bouncing along the bottom. The rod is a “noodle”, but I say this in the most affectionate way possible.
This was my biggest reservation about this rod when I first received it, but I’ve got to tell you that turning a heavy trout in current was a lot easier than I expected it to be. Yes, it’s true. A 0 weight rod can have power. Although it’s rated a “0”, when fighting a fish the rod performs much more like a 3-4 weight rod and its length gives you the leverage to turn and land fish with minimal effort. The biggest fish I’ve hooked with the N0 was a fat 18” brown that had all the advantages, but the Stickman had no trouble taming it.
This is a small fly nymphing rod, make no mistake about it. You’re not going to be casting 30’ with dry flies or hucking articulated streamers, it’s pretty much a one trick pony. But hey, that’s what the rod is designed to do. I’ve had luck throwing smaller jig-style streamers or some larger stonefly nymphs, however when you get too much weight loaded on the N0 you can feel the rod reaching the limit of its taper design. Windy days sometimes also proved to be a challenge for the N0. Its super-soft tip paired with small flies and a long leader might give you a headache when the wind is up.
Availability and Price
Stickman has yet to really establish a U.S. presence, so casting and feeling the rod in a shop before you invest the 700 euros (around $740 US) could be an issue for some people. But this is a premium rod for sure. If you’re in the market for a designated high-stick/euro nymphing rod and have the buck to drop you’ll have to take my word for it and forego the wiggle test.
The Final Word
Not only does the Stickman N0 meets the benchmark for dedicated nymphing rods, it sets it. I absolutely love this rod. If you’re looking to buy a premium rod designed to high-stick and Euro-nymph, the Stickman N0 series of rod will not disappoint. Competition anglers should consider getting their hands on these sticks and getting the word out that Stickman is producing some of the best designed (and prettiest) rods out there today. The warranty on the Stickman is on par with the rest of the industry (appx. $60-90 depending on what section breaks) so dropping dime on a rod you’ll be ecstatic to fish, and fish for years to come, should be a no brainer with the N0/ series from Stickman.