Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Epic 686, 8 months on

I've had my Epic 686 for about 8 months now, and it's high time I write up some thoughts.

Afer owning an Epic 580, choosing the 686 as my next rod wasn't particularly difficult. I had the opportunity to cast a 686, I already loved my 580, and Carl McNeil from Swift Fly Fishing is such a nice and knowledgable guy, and runs exactly the kind of small business that is so worthy of support.
But what color blank? And do I try the kit, or have it custom built? After hemming and hawing a bit, I chose nude. Deciding to have it built was easy, I saw what some of the builders out there had done and I wanted a piece of art as much as I wanted a rod. Deciding on a builder was the toughest choice yet, but I ended up having the blank directly shipped to Zeb Tonkavich of Snowman Custom Rod Works. I gave him complete freedom to do what he wanted with the rod, and he spent so much time chatting back and forth with me, answering my dumb questions, explaning things that went right over my head, and just generally keeping me up to date on its progress with photos and the like. He wanted to know what reel I planned to use so he could properly balance the build, and what type of fishing I planned to do. He'd send photos of winding checks he'd machined, and the trim wraps, and the wood he used to turn the reel seat. It was a great insight into high end rod building, and fascinating to see the rod approch completion.

The rod was waiting for me when I arrived in Montana last summer. Zeb worked hard making sure I'd get it on time. And it was worth the wait, and more than what I paid. The thick, handmade rod sock (by Andrea Larko) and the matching painted rod tube were a perfect complement to the rod. It felt fantastic in my hand from the first minute, and proceeded to take the first casts on the R.L. Winston casting lawn, of all places. I'd paired the rod with a Lamson speedster, one spool with a Rio perception line, the other with an Orvis hydros 150 grain depth charge. 

Since then I've used the rod to fish deep for big rainbows in Merrell Lake at Hubbard's Yellowstone Lodge, as well as late summer dries on my home river. Heavily weighted nymph rigs and streamers are no problem in the high waters of spring. It simply does everything well. And in an unfortunate incident I haven't yet mentioned to Zeb or Carl, it even withstands ceiling fans well. It feels great in the hand, great while casting, and great while playing a fish. When I head out the door, unsure of what kind of fishing I want to do, I instinctively grab it because I know it'll do whatever I want. I particularly love it with streamers. Just a few days ago, in the high, fast water of early spring, I was able to exert enough power to bring a big trout to the net remarkably quickly. I wouldn't have put as much pressure on the fish with any other 6 weight, and it might not be a coincidence that both of my biggest trout out of this river to date were caught on Epic glass rods.

In the end, I got a work of art build by a talented artist from Pennsylvania built on a revolutionary blank designed by a renowned caster in New Zealand, both of whom I now consider friends. That I also got a sublime fishing and casting tool out of the deal is just a bonus.


  1. I love mine as well. Great read and post!

  2. I like the looks of that rod! I've heard nothing but good things about Snowman rods. Keep us posted.,