Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A custom built Epic 686 takes shape

I've been almost exclusively using my Epic 580 since opening day. Dries, nymphs, streamers, you name it. To put it simply, I love it. Everyone who's picked it up and thrown some loops came away impressed, it's a fantastic all around rod for my home river. I have other rods I love, but I always find myself reaching for that olive stick on my way out the door.

However, when it comes to my upcoming trip to the US, I need something a little beefier. I'll be targeting bass and maybe gar in Texas, and carp and stillwater trout in Montana. I'm sure the 580 could handle it, but my quiver of rods is currently lacking a 6 weight I actually like, and with a once in a lifetime trip on the horizon, I wanted an equally memorable rod to mark the occasion. The choice of a 686 was clear. I've cast it before, and it's one of the most highly regarded of the Epic tapers. After a few days of thinking it over, I decided on a Nude blank. (Googling images for "Epic nude" didn't have quite as many build ideas as I had hoped, but made for interesting browsing nonetheless). I could have gotten the kit, but I wanted something unique and custom, so I bought the blank and asked Carl at Swift if he would include it in his next shipment to Zeb Tonkavich, of Snowman Custom Rod Works. Naturally I checked with Zeb beforehand, and his skills are in high demand, but he assured me he could get the rod done in time for my trip. I've seen what he can do when given free reign, so when he explained what he had in mind, I went with it. His idea of a red and raw build, as he called it, a combination of scarlet, raw silk, and salmonberry, was never something I'd have thought of, but as time went on and he sent photos, I started to see what he had in mind, and I loved it.

The layout
Flame Box Alder
Test wraps
Guide wraps ready for Epoxy
Union wraps ready for epoxy

Reel seat, stripper, and wraps

Zeb sends me photos and regular updates about not only the cosmetic aspects of the rod, but he goes into even greater detail on the performance side of things. He suggested a reel size based on the rod and stripper guide, in my case a reel with a minimum diameter of 3.75 inches to match a stripping guide of 15mm. The projected ERN of the rod, 7.1, matches up almost perfectly with a 6 weight Rio Perception line, and he's got plenty of patience when it comes to explaining these things in detail. I'm very grateful that he's crafting an heirloom quality rod for me, and I know it's going to be amazing.

Zeb is shaking things up a little in the last half of 2014 and relaunching what he calls the #snowmanproject. He'll continue to focus on high end glass and graphite builds, but with an increased emphasis on handcrafted components to deliver an truly individualized product. He's pretty much booked up on custom rods for the remainder of 2014, but he'll be offering up finished rods at regular intervals on his website.

You can find Snowman Custom Rod Works on Facebook, on his Website, or on Instagram

I also have on it on good authority that Snowman Custom Rod Works features handcrafted rod bags created by Simms' newest member of the Artist Series and Midcurrent featured artist, Andrea Larko. You can find her on her WebsiteEtsy, Facebook, and Instagram.