24 November, 2010

Rod Review -- TFO Deer Creek Series Switch

Now that I've got a little time in with this one, I thought a review was in order. Thus far, I've really only swung flies on a Skagit line with it, so I'll add more later when I've had the chance to Indy fish it a bit.

Temple Fork Outfitters new(ish) Deer Creek Series are family of 6 switch rods ranging from a 5/6 weight all the way up to a 10 weight. As befits my steelheading passion, mine's an 11' 8-weight. Especially in a switch rod, 4-piece construction is key to easy transport.

From the start, this rod makes a great impression visually and in the hand. A deep blue blank with copper wraps, and a matching blue anodized reel seat makes for a nice visual. It's a good looking rod! The two tone grip is comfortable in the hands and seems to have very nice cork. And, it all comes in a very nice larger diameter case.

TFO is known primarily for low-priced rods with good value. The Deer Creek seems to take that to a new extreme. I own a couple of TFO Signature rods for more specialized purposes (a short 3-weight for bushwackin' and a stout 10-weight for salmon) but neither of them are all that pretty. Both perform in a workmanlike manner, but are nothing special. But at their low price and with a lifetime guarantee, I have no complaints. But the Deer Creek is something entirely different. It's easily as visually appealing and feels as good in-hand as my Scott's or any Sage I've seen.

With some help from buddy Mike Schultz of Schultz Outfitters, I was able to figure out a line configuration. Skagit line is a 475 grain Rio Skagit Short, with a 5' Rio Skagit Cheater. This links to 6'-10' lengths of T-14 depending on water conditions. For Indy fishing, a 10 weight Rio Steelhead & Atlantic Salmon line is spooled up. Both are on Ross Momentum V reels.

As pretty as this rod is, it's a rocket ship on the water. Once I refined my casting stroke a bit, I was easily able to shoot powerful, accurate casts almost effortlessly. A very experienced guide (who will remain nameless as he's on a competitor's pro staff) cast it a few times and simply said "Kudos to TFO -- great stick". I got slammed on the swing on the Manistee and landed a nice 8# steelhead. The rod was outstanding fighting this fish. Plenty of backbone to lead things, but soft enough to offer some shock absorption.  

Regular readers will know I'm a Scott rods fanatic. Just exceptional products, all American-made and a Michigan-owned company. When I bought the Deer Creek the Scott A3 switch either wasn't available or I didn't know about it (plus, there wasn't a local dealer at that time). Last night I got to do a side-by-side comparison of the two. I'd been considering if I should sell the TFO and buy a Scott. I decided against that. After comparing, I think the TFO Deer Creek is a prettier rod with a better grip design. This is no knock against the Scott -- I'd buy one in a second, but it's not worth the effort of selling what I have first. The flex pattern did seem a bit different, but not huge.

Complaints? I only have three:
  1. No hook keeper; I wish it had one. Although the Scott didn't either. Not major.
  2. It's a LITTLE bit heavier. Not an issue with swinging two-handed. Maybe it will be for Indy fishing, but if that's the case, then I'll just fish my Scott S3 single hand.
  3. It's made in the East, not the US. Can't have it all.
Looking for an high-performance rod a great price? The TFO Deer Creek switch is worth a look. I think you'll like it.I sure do. Until I can justify big money for an Orvis Helios switch or a Sage TCX, I think it will be a great tool for me. Given the Deer Creek's performance, that may never happen!


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