Someone in Montana has my fly rod.
Sitting at the bar at Izaak’s in Craig, Montana, a stone’s throw from the banks of the Missouri River, I’m struck by a hollow ache in the pit of my stomach. Something is wrong, but I haven’t yet put my finger on what. A moment later, I replay the end of our day and realize what it is.
We clamber up the Missouri’s steep banks, make our way down the road and back to our vehicle, lay down rods, kick off wading boots in favor of flip flops, strip off waist and chest packs, pluck flies from the brim of hats and drying patches and toss the whole lot in the back before heading off in the direction of town.
The whole lot except for one: the Stickman P5 Stealth that I laid on the roof of the Subaru Outback we’d rented for the week.
I know better. Placing a rod on the roof of a vehicle is a rookie move. So I try to shake the hollow feeling, dismissing it as paranoia, and take another sip of my beer. But I immediately scroll through my memory of our unloading of gear and realize that hollow feeling may be there for a reason.
Returning to the cabin we’ve rented to take inventory and subsequently to the rod’s last known whereabouts on the side of the Missouri lay any doubts to rest. It’s gone.
Losing any rod is bad enough, but it is considerably worse when you lose the it rod -- the one for you. And, throughout the previous season, that’s just what the Stickman P5 Stealth had become: the rod for me.
If you're not familiar with Stickman Rods -- and you're likely not -- Stickman is a relatively new, European rod company that designs and builds rods in Spain and Hungary. The team behind Stickman is comprised of European industry veterans who seem dedicated to their craft and their quest to build rods that are unique in the market. Initial offerings from Stickman Rods include a 0 weight nymphing rod, an 8 weight saltwater series and two series in more traditional trout weights -- including the focus here, the 5-weight Stickman P5.
I’m not one of those anglers that, when a new rod hits the market, rushes to check the spec sheet for an ounce tally. Sure, light rods are nice, especially when you’re planning on high sticking all day, are talking about a lengthy two hander or a maybe nine weight you’re going to be tossing big flies with. But, light rods are easy to come by and a few tenths of an ounce here and there -- especially in trout weights -- don’t ever seem to be particularly noticeable. It’s also worth noting that, in my experience, the number scribbled next to “weight” on a rod’s specifications rarely seems to correlate with how light a rod actually feels in the hand.
But the Stickman P5 feels light. Really light. Despite its specifications which suggest that it in fact isn’t lighter than many of its competitors in the high-end 5-weight market, the P5 feels as light in the hand during a cast as any rod I’ve cast in recent memory.
When you get into the high-end rod range, you expect uncompromised build quality and top-tier components, and you typically get it. Stickman’s rods are no exceptions, built with first-rate components and premium cork, recoil guides, and Hopkins & Holloway tip tops, Stickman’s rods are finished in Hungary and exhibit a distinctive, handmade feel.
Sure, you could label that assessment entirely subjective, but if you’ve owned any rods from a custom rod builder that obsessed over each wrap, labored over the finish and so on -- you might also agree there’s a fine quality put forth by custom, hand made rods that even the priciest rods out of higher volume operations lack.
Stickman’s rods, whether by virtue of their relatively boutique size or their rod building standards, emerge from the shop with that fine, custom rodsmith quality.
Light, pretty rods are great to shake and gawk at in the fly shop but if they don’t fish well, who cares?