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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 2:01 pm • # 1 
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The weather has been crappy here for the past week so when it hit the 60's today I knew I needed to get out and do some more testing with these Eklhorns.  The TFO Finesse 1 wt factory rod also arrived back here today and I was waiting on it so I could do a quick comparision between it and the Elkhorns.  

For those who haven't been around very long I need to tell you up front that I like fast rods.  My keepers almost all lean toward the fast end of the spectrum.  I think slower rods are fun to play with but I always end up selling them because I have to concentrate too much while casting them.  There--you've been adequately warned. Image

Also, let me add the usual every rod is different for every caster and you really need to try one for yourself if possible before you buy, blah, blah, blah.  We all know the story but sometimes it's just not possible to try one first.  The purpose of this review is not to tell you which to buy but hopefully to give you some hints and to compare these Elkhorns to rods that you may be more familiar with.

The rods we're focusing on today are the Elkhorn 7' 1 wt Western 2 pc, and the Elkhorn 7' 1 wt 3 pc.  Brian, the owner of Elkhorn, was kind enough to send these out for testing and I'm pretty sure I'm only sending one back.  Image

(The Traveler)
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(The Western)
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Both rods retail for $179 and if you call and order from Brian over the phone and mention this review you'll get free shipping.  They had a 20% off sale going before Christmas but we missed the window on that one but I'll tell you up front that both rods are certainly worth more than their retail price in my (not very humble) opinion.

To do a full comparison I kicked out all the stops and ended up with six 1 wt rods laying out in the grass along with four reels, three 1 wt lines, and a 2 wt line to round things out.
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The finish on both Elkhorns is very good and both are very nice looking rods.  The Traveler has an aluminum reel seat with a cork insert and the Western has a nickel silver reel seat with the same cork insert.  I'm not a big fan of nickel silver only because of the weight but it does make for a nice looking rod.  The reel seat on the Western is just a bit long--I'm not sure why, but all of my reels fit on it just fine.

The Traveler is gray with dark blue wraps and the Western is gray with maroon wraps.  I left the plastic on the grips but both look to have pretty decent cork.  And yes, both Elkhorns come with a rod tube with integrated sock.
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Here are some photos of the TFO that we left out when we did that review:
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I really focused on the Elkhorns and the TFO but brought out the TXL and Trout Bum just to get a better feel for the action in comparison:
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I tested all three rods with three different one weight lines, an Orvis Superfine Advantage WF1, an Orvis Wonderline WF1, and a Sage Quiet Double Taper DT1 (1st gen).  I also used two different reels--the Sage Click I at 2.25 oz and the Danielsson Midge at 2.75 oz.  All three rods balanced somewhere around mid-grip with both reels which is a little further back than I prefer.  

Elkhorn Traveler

The Traveler is a very fast rod.  Out of the 1 wt lines it performed best with the Sage and was pretty pleasant to cast.  I didn't like it with either Orvis line.  It has lighter hardware than it's brother and feels a bit lighter in hand.  It didn't really come alive for me though until I put the Sage Performance Taper WF2 on it.  I rarely overline a rod but in this case I'd make an exception.  It really feels great to me with the heavier line.  It's still plenty fast but just loads a little better.  Great rod!

Elkhorn Western

When I first talked to Brian at Elkhorn I had it in my head that I was going to buy the Traveler 1 wt and test the Western and send it back.  Brian said he thought I might really like the Western and mentioned that it was a little slower and that a lot of folks prefer its action.  When he wrote up the invoice he actually charged me for the Western and simply invoiced for the Traveler--he was that confident that I'd like the Western.  He was right.

I'm not crazy about 2 pc rods so I rarely even consider them when looking at rods (unless it's a really short rod--like 5').  When these rods arrived and I pulled out the Western tube I thought to myself that this 2 pc rod is just WAY too long.  Image  It only took me about 5 minutes in the yard to change my mind.  This is a very smooth rod.  I ran back in the house and grabbed my Trout Bum just to reassure myself but it wasn't very reassuring.  This little $180 rod compares very, very favorably to the Trout Bum which retailed for around $400 more if I remember correctly.

I'll be very upfront and tell you that during the week or so that I've had these rods I spent about 90% of that time with the Western.  It's a very sweet little rod and comes much closer to what most of us folks think of as a UL 1 wt.  I also like the maroon wraps more than the blue on the Traveler.  This is just a great rod for the money--or even for a lot more money.  This is the one I'll be keeping.

Now not everything is perfect.  I think it'd would be a better rod with a little shorter grip, definitely a shorter reel seat, and with aluminum hardware or even slide bands.  I just don't think nickel silver mixes very well with UL rods, and I know from experience that the hardware can often weigh more than the blank and grip together.  Because of this I initially thought I'd return both rods and buy a Western blank.  But the more I played with the rod and looked it over the more I liked it.  I hate wrapping rods and the finish on this one is really nice.  I may, at some point, heat the hardware and remove it and replace it with rings but I'm not even sure about that.  I might just keep it the way it is.

I was telling J that I wished I had his original Superfine here to compare with.  That rod is soooo smooth and I'd love to try it side by side with this Western.  

TFO Finesse     

I know this isn't a TFO review--we've already done that.  But I really appreciate the chance to try the factory TFO 1 wt next to these Elkhorns.  I still think the TFO is a great rod and would happily recommend it to anyone looking for a short 4 pc 1 wt that won't break the bank--as long as they like fast rods.  I do like my TFO build better than the factory (no surprise there) but when casting the factory rod next to mine--both with Click I reels, there wasn't a huge difference in feel.

As a 1 wt I'd recommend the TFO before the Elkhorn Traveler.

Fly lines

I got a big surprise here.  If I have a fast rod I'll usually try the Orvis Superfine Advantage 1 wt on it since it's really a 1.5 wt.  What I found today though was that I liked all three rods better with the Sage Quiet Double Taper (1st gen) line.  For both long and short casts.  In fact the Traveler just wasn't much fun to cast until I stuck this line on it and it came alive.  

I got out my line scale to check and the Sage line is just *barely* over 1 wt.  Not even close to a 1.5 like the Advantage line.  Pretty strange.  I went back through and tried it will all 6 of the rods and it was by far my favorite line of the three.  The other rods would cast fine with the other two lines but I liked the feel of the Sage line more across the board.

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Rod Length

This photo pretty much says it all.  From left to right, Elkhorn Western, Sage TXL, Elkhorn Traveler, Orvis Trout Bum, and TFO Finesse
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Some more random pics

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(my TFO versus the factory rod)
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SUMMARY:

I'm going to summarize this a couple different ways.  First by ranking them by my perceived take on their actions--fast to slow:
[list type=decimal][*]Elkhorn Traveler 7' 1 wt[*]Sage TXL 7'10" 1 wt[*]TFO Finesse 6'9" 1 wt[*]Orvis Superfine Trout Bum 7'6" 1 wt[*]Elkhorn Western 7' 1 wt[/list]
The Elkhorn Western and Orvis Trout Bum feel very, very, close to me.  The Trout Bum is my favorite 1 wt and it pains me to say it but I think the Western, with the Sage line, is just a hair smoother.  Ouch! Image  Be warned though that this is *not* a slow rod.

The TFO feels a little faster than the Trout Bum to me--just like it did when Les and I tested them earlier.  The TXL is much faster than the other three, and the Elkhorn is fast enough that I liked it better with a 2 wt line.  I know that's heresy coming from me. Image  I have no trouble casting it with a 1 wt--it just felt too fast and felt perfect to me with a Sage Performance Taper WF2.

Having gotten that out of the way lets drop back to the three rods that are really being tested here.  The two Elkhorns and the TFO.  My very personal preference, if I had to rank them from best 1 wt to almost best 1 wt, would be:
[list type=decimal][*]Elkhorn Western 7' 1 wt[*]TFO Finesse 6'9" 1 wt[*]Elkhorn Traveler 7' 1 wt   [/list]
On my scale the weights are as follows:
  • Elkhorn Traveler -- 2.0 oz
  • TFO Finesse -- 2.1 oz
  • Elkhonr Western -- 2.2 oz
Now let me be very clear up front.  I like all three of these rods.  When this review is over I will own two of them.  I think you could be happy with any of the three but I think the Western is the smoothest and most solid 1 wt of the three.  We've already heard that a lot of you like the TFO with a 2 or 3 wt line and while the Western is still faster than something like the original Superfine I think a lot of you who think the TFO is too fast would like the Western (I still like the TFO with a 1 wt line), and I'm afraid that many of you wouldn't like the Traveler as a 1 wt.

If you're looking for something you can pack in easily then the TFO has it over the Traveler in my opinion. The TFO has a slightly slower action and is a 4 pc versus the 3 pc Traveler.  Being a 2 pc the Western is just out of the running as a pack rod.  BTW, I wish I still had a 7'6" CT 2 wt because I'd love to put it up against the Traveler.  I think the Traveler might win that one as a 2 wt. 

The fit and finish on both Elkhorns are great.  Both are very nice looking rods.  I think the TFO is a good looking factory rod but I think the cork inserts and contrasting wraps on the Elkhorns are nicer looking.

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I hope to catch up to Les soon so he can try these rods out before the Traveler goes back.  It'd be great to hear his input.  Any of you folks who own either of these rods feel free to post your thoughts.

Later! 

Jerry




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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 3:27 pm • # 2 
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Great Report Jerry!!! Lots of pictures and all of the rods were given a fair shake so to speak....I really enjoyed this report...I was a bit taken aback when you said you "uplined" a rod...something I am sure you have done in the past but, rarely do and I was suprised since you enjoy the faster rods...Thanks a lot for taking the time and energy to do such a nice job comparing these fine UL rods...


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 4:26 pm • # 3 
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Excellent job Jerry. I still have my traveler blank which I'm threatening to turn into a spinning rod. I've been sick all week and have not had the patience to do much rod building. The Western sounds like a really nice rod and more in line with what I was looking for.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 4:35 pm • # 4 
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  Very nicely done........I enjoyed reading your report..........I am with Rob on this one, since you really like faster rods, if you felt up-lining was necessary it must work as a 2wt much better than it does a 1wt. Nice pictures to go along with your findings. Between you, Les and J.......I feel like I know a lot more about whats out there in the UL fly-rod "world". Thanks for taking the time and effort to do the review. I am sure you will enjoy your new "Western". We all will look forward to pictures of the fish you ambush with it............................Don S. in SC      Image


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 4:45 pm • # 5 
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Jerry, thank for your time on this one. A great review for UL aficionados :)


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 4:58 pm • # 6 
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Thanks guys! I love to see these smaller manufacturers getting into the 1 and 2 wt game. Especially with rods like this. If you're one of those guys like me who likes a little more backbone than a Dan Craft or doesn't want to build, I think this Western is probably the best lower priced 1 wt I've tried. I'd still prefer a 3 or 4 pc but I have enough other rods that I can make an exception now and then.

It's a little misleading because the diameter of the Western at the grip is fairly large compared to a TXL or the TFO. I was really expecting it to be a lot faster than it is. I was very pleasantly surprised. Just goes to show that there are more ways than one to put together a smooth light-lined rod.

Since I'm positive I'm keeping the Western, I went ahead and pulled the plastic off the grip. I also started messing around and popped the nickel silver end cap off along with the locknut and the band (all of which can be put back on in about 2 minutes if I change my mind). I just weighed those 3 little pieces and came up with 1/2 an ounce. The threaded piece is still on there but I'll pop it off and probably turn the seat into an uplocking slide band. I'll leave the nickel silver trim piece (between the cork insert and grip) in place though--the cork is too nice to rip up. I imagine the rod will be around 1.5 oz when I'm done and it will still look real nice because I'm not altering the Elkhorn finish.

Beats the heck out of building from a blank! :-)

I'll post more pics in a little while.

And yeah, Rob & Don, I don't overline very frequently so I wanted to make it very clear that the Traveler is a very fast rod. Great looking--but fast.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 5:18 pm • # 7 
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Good stuff Jerry.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 5:19 pm • # 8 
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It won't work on most UL rods but while we're talking about Elkhorns I wanted to mention a reel of theirs that I had with the 2 wt I sold to Huw forever ago.

It was the MA 0.5 and was a fantastic large arbor reel!  The only problem was that it weighs about 4.5 oz and is WAY too heavy for any UL rod that I own.  It might work well with one of the very long Czech Nymphing rods that have come out recently.  But you guys know me--I kind of run away from any reel weighing more than 3 oz. Image

A 2 wt line pretty much fills it up or I would have hung onto it in case I ever get a 5 wt out of the closet--something that's not very likely.

Here's the photo I took when I sold it.  I can't remember if Huw bought the reel along with the rod or not.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 5:41 pm • # 9 
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Sweet review! What line worked best for Elkhorn Western?


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 6:53 pm • # 10 
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Phish wrote:
Sweet review! What line worked best for Elkhorn Western?
Like the other rods, I liked the Western best with the Sage line.  This is the 1st generation Sage line that came in the gray and white box so they're getting kind of rare, but I have a 2nd gen Sage Quiet Double Taper in a 1 wt that I'm going to spool up and see how it compares.   I also have an Orvis Silver Label WF1 that I need to try.  

I've never liked the Wonderlines because of memory issues (the line's not mine Image) but I didn't realize how much better some of these other lines worked not even taking coiling into account.  At the same time I've had good luck with the last couple of Silver Label lines I've tried, and the Superfine Advantage line is a decent line too, although it's just another version of the Wonderline.

BTW, this Sage line that is working so well is one that CBarclay gave me last year when I was out of work and having some health issues.  It was a very cool gesture on his part so maybe the line is so good because it's loaded with good Karma. Image


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 7:09 pm • # 11 
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... to nickel silver.

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The butt cap, locknut, threaded insert, and band from the Western.  Image

With the replacement cork in place on the rod weighs 1.45 oz.  I need to dig up a silver slide-band.  I thought I had one but I don't.  I think the rod will weigh about 1.6 oz when I get the replacement band in place.   That'll be about a 30% weight loss.  Image


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 8:56 pm • # 12 
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Thanks for a great review. I'll have to try the Traveler some time. It may be just what I'm looking for. I have no problem with the idea of a rod that works with two different line weights. And I like fast rods.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 9:44 pm • # 13 
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This is a temporary patch until I get a good silver slide band.  I roughed up the inside of the original nickel silver band and then put a slight dip in the cork right at the back of the band to allow it to rock slightly and get some bite in the cork.

The last three cork rings are glued together in one piece and that piece is just pushed onto the blank right now--no glue.  When I get a good slide band I'll pull the back three rings off, put the good band on, and then turn three good pieces of cork to finish it up.

The weight right now with the nickel silver band back on there is 1.65 oz.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 30, 2010 10:34 pm • # 14 
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I just tried a 2nd generation Sage Quiet Double Taper 1 wt line on both the Western and TFO and it feels as good as the older Sage line. Good to know.  Angler's Pro Shop still has them for $35.  They look like this:

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2010 4:53 am • # 15 
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JDub  Thanks for the elkhorn reviews!  I really like my 7' 2w elkhorn western (thanks to FFO 2w shootout!)... Looks like my western 2w doesn't have the nicker silver hardware from the western 1w?  

http://www.flickr.com/photos/22661054@N00/5309592674/

My 2w weighs 1.9 oz and takes 3.1 oz of loaded reel weight to balance 1" from grip's end.  There's probably no point in making its reel seat lighter, because I'd have to add reel weight reel to maintain this balance point.  Maybe reducing reel-seat weight only really reduces "balanced combo weight" if you have your lightest loaded reel on the rod and want to move the balance point forward?

If Elkhorn made a 4pc 7' 2w western, I'd buy one immediately! 


Last edited by Guest on Fri Dec 31, 2010 5:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2010 5:28 am • # 16 
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That a lot weight reduction from the hardware and the grips looks a lot better suited for a 1wt also.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2010 7:18 am • # 17 
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impressive


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2010 7:54 am • # 18 
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I was seriously considering a 1 weight TXL blank to build, but now that you have pulled the NS off I need to come up your way and cast the Western. I imagine the blanks would be much less than the TXLs at MRFC. Don


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2010 5:05 pm • # 19 
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I don't know, Don. You don't like the Superfine and this one is very close to the Superfine. The blanks are about $90 I think.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2010 8:26 pm • # 20 
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Well my temporary slide-band failed.  I had it out casting in the yard and bumped it and the reel fell off (into my hand fortunately).  So until I get a replacement cork & rings seat made for it I put the nickel silver back on.  It's a piece of cake to get off but I know it will keep the reel from falling off anyway Image

I did shorten the seat by about 5/8" though, and I think it looks better--even though it's temporary.

The original very long seat
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Shortened by about 5/8"  (look at the position of the locknut in both photos)
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