Tested – Primal Fly Rods

With a little help, Philip tests a mid-priced fly rod that has a few extras going for it.

I admit it, my 12 year old Sean has had a slightly unconventional introduction to flyfishing equipment. With a dad and uncle who’ve accumulated what might seem like a silly amount of gear (well, silly to a non-flyfisher) he has started out using some pretty good stuff – including rods. Anyway, on a recent stream fishing trip, I brought a 9ft 5 weight Primal along, while Sean carried a $1000 big-name 5 weight, which he has on extended loan from his uncle. (The deal apparently is, he has to give it back if he stops flyfishing.)

As we often do on waters small enough to take turns, the rods were rigged differently so we could simply swap them to suit the situation: ‘his’ rod with a dry for really shallow runs or if we saw a fish rise; the Primal with an indicator and nymph. After a slow start, we came to a small, nymphy-looking plunge pool in a series of rapids, so I handed over the Primal.

Following a couple of casts, Sean announced, “Hey, I really like this rod.” The comment struck me because, having never used what I would call a bad rod, Sean hasn’t really had much to say about rods in general. Once on the water, he tends to focus on the fishing rather than the gear. Curious, I asked, “What do you like about it?” The Primal certainly wasn’t as shiny and colourful as the other rod, so it couldn’t be appearance. “I don’t really know, it’s just nice to cast,” Sean offered. A few pools later, he caught a fat little brown on the nymph, but it was interesting to note that he was enjoying the rod even before that possible source of bias crept in.

The Primal has a really well-thought-out grip, and it’s especially good for small hands.

Sometime later, I mentioned in passing to The Flyfisher’s Andrew Fuller that while I liked the Primal, Sean loved it. Andrew immediately identified the grip as a probable reason, pointing out it’s unique shape. There’s an aggressive bulge near the front of the grip that sits firmly in the palm, but where the thumb and index finger sit, it narrows to very little cork between the fingers and the actual graphite of the rod. For adults, this means good feel and feedback to the caster, and Andrew suspected that in a boy’s smaller hand, this effect would only be amplified.

The Primal comes with other nice touches, some easily observed – like the dark colour and matt finish already mentioned. Isn’t it interesting that we (and I’m often guilty) continue to use flashy rods, when they can’t help but give us away to the fish more often than we’d like to admit.

Less easy to see are the Primal’s ‘tech-specs’; apparently the blank is constructed using ultra-high modulus graphite and extremely strong nano-resin. If you look carefully though, you can observe that the overall rod build is slim and light, and the guides and fittings are good quality.

The Primal rods come from the Manic Tackle Project in New Zealand, available in fresh and salt models, and in weights from 4 to 12. They retail for around $500. Overall, the 5 weight freshwater version I’ve been using has proved a very nice rod on the water, and it’s well worth having a cast of one at your local fly shop – just ask Sean!

Available now for $499.95 at The Flyfisher, Melbourne. BUY ONLINE