It is rare that I get super fired up about a new rod company these days. After all, there are a bunch of manufacturers producing a mind-boggling number of quality sticks.
Aside from cosmetics and subtle tweaks, it’s hard to keep track. Blindfolded, I’d be hard pressed to tell one manufacturer’s offering from another. Anymore, it kinda comes down to the classic ol’ Ford vs. Chevy argument — pick one of the top end brands and you are going to be fine.
That all changed for me, however, when I was introduced to the amazing lineup from relative newcomer Douglas Outdoors. Based along the shores of the Salmon River in New York, they’ve been in the fly market for awhile but the new conventional offerings blew my mind.
Designed by veteran salmon and steelhead guide, bass pro and globetrotting angler, Fred V. Contaoi, the X-Matrix series are the lightest, most sensitive rods I have ever fished with. Period.
Those properties come from the fact that the rods are constructed from super high modulus graphite. Typically, the problem with high end graphite is that it is very brittle. It’s awesome to fish with but rods tend to break easily.
The real magic to these beautiful instruments that Contaoi has crafted for Douglas is that they are built with a proprietary, space age resin that allows them to remain light and vibrant while being also very durable. While there are no rods that are “unbreakable,” these babies are amazingly tough.
This sweet combination of strength and sensitivity sets these sticks apart from all others on the market. The first time I tied one, it was almost disconcertingly light. Used to having much more weight in my hand, it took a little while to get accustomed to the feel. Once I got used to how feather light the X-Matrix was I knew there’d be no going back. I was, pun intended, “hooked!”
That first day, I caught a steelhead that I feel I wouldn’t have hooked up with any other rod. It’s hard to describe but I swear I felt the fish breathe on my bait before he ever picked it up. That, of course, got me thinking about all the other uses for such a light and sensitive tool!
Contaoi has personally designed each rod from the ground up and has overseen the production in the factory, constantly making sure each action is perfect and that the guide placement and handle balance are exact. That’s what also attracted me to Douglas: I can see the heart and soul that went into these rods. The blood, sweat and tears have been considerable on Contaoi’s part, but the end product is amazing.
He’s got rods for everything, too: a very thorough bass section and an impressive array of technique specific salmon and steelhead sticks. But that’s just the beginning…there are X-Matrix rods that will cover species from trout to sturgeon and beyond.
Douglas’ X-Matrix rods are not inexpensive, ranging in the $300 range (but oh so worth it!). But if you are like me, buying a quiver full of rods in that price range isn’t happening anytime soon. Luckily, Contaoi has also designed a lineup of rods for the company that are aimed at the more budget minded angler.
The LRS (Lake, River, Sea) series has a bunch of really cool multi species rods that have great feel and lack of weight. I’m very impressed with these as well. Somehow Contaoi and Douglas figured out how to make a really high end rod without the accompanying price tag.
What’s cool too is there are many models in the lineup that could serve as multi-species sticks. My current favorite, which I used for most of my salmon season on the Trinity River is the LRS C835M (which I know for sure they sell at Redwood Marine in Eureka).
Its’s an 8-foot, 3-inch casting rod rated for 14- to 25-pound line. It made an awesome plug stick for salmon and would be a hot one for trolling for stripers as well. The slow tip and solid backbone also make it perfect for sturgeon fishing as well as drifting bait for halibut. Pretty sweet, especially when you consider they run about $168 if I remember correctly.
Well, anyway, you get the point. I’m impressed as heck with Douglas. Check em out for yourself on the web at: www.douglasoutdoors.com.