East Branch 904-3

That's my rod. Tyler did a fantastic job with the build. The photo's are nice but it looks even better in person.

The blank is by a now-defunct company called East Branch. I had seen cryptic references to them over the years with some of them saying things like "best graphite rod ever" and such. Tom Chandler on Trout Underground had a couple of short mentions about them, one in his 'best rods of all time' and another in a post about gear he regretted selling. From what I've found via Google, it looks like they were very well regarded hand-rolled blanks by a talented engineer who had some connection to Fenwick(?) before starting his own company. Everyone raved about the rods, especially the spigot ferruled green blanks. However, the marketing/distribution strategy didn't go as well as the rod quality and he went belly-up in 2002.

Fast forward to 2011... I stumbled across a reference to NOS East Branch blanks on a funky dealer site while reading the bamboo rod forum. It was one of those old orphaned pages that are no longer on the current site's index but haven't been deleted. I contacted the guy and he let me know that all he had left was a 9' 4wt 3-piece. I really like long, light line rods so I immediately bought it and sent it to Tyler.

For this rod, I gave Tyler some fairly specific requests about the build including the component mix and grip size & shape. The grip is modeled after a late 80's Thomas & Thomas 'Special Extra Dry' classic graphite rod I own. My goal with this rod was to be a low-bling, classically understated beauty. Tyler came through in spades. This is my second rod that he has built. Both times he has delivered on schedule and exactly as we discussed which is more than I can say for a couple other well known custom rod builders. He's a nice guy too... If/when I find another interesting blank, Tyler will always get first crack at the build.

Third cast and first fish on the new rod:

How does the rod Perform?
Hi Rob-

I spent last week in No. ID and this was my primary stick although I broke out the 'boo every now and then. I was using the rod with a Rio Trout LT DT4 and a 10' leader I tied based on the 'Harvey slackline' formula. For me, the rod is really more of a 4/5 than a true 4. Once I had 40' or more of line out, it really sang but short casts weren't as inspiring. I'm not a great caster but I was throwing some of the best looking loops ever. It was very easy to drive a tight wedge or open up the loop just by focusing on the tip's path. After a couple days of catching many Westslopes, I found myself fishing farther away than optimal just to enjoy the casting. Cast between 40-65'(ish) feet were the sweet spot for me. My longest casts were about 70' which is about where I max out on a 4wt. Leader turnover at that distance isn't so pretty with my (lack of) skill.

I was fishing dries from #14 to #18 as well as swinging soft hackles. The rod really shined for swinging wets. The long length and light line made mending and reach casts very easy and effective. Single anded spey casts also worked fantastic. The last and biggest fish of the trip came when I spotted a riser that was directly out from a riprap embankment. I was able to snakeroll far enough upstream to present a micro-caddis and get the take. Regarding the close-fishing comment above, I still need to try it with a more aggressive front taper line like a Rio Gold in 4wt and maybe a long taper 5wt like a Wulff TT.

Overall, I was very pleased with the rod's performance and will be selling my Winston WT486-3 and probably the DL4 586-4 as the East Branch can fill both slots. I think it will be a fantastic 'hatch rod' for the Yakima paired with something meatier for heavier nymphs and streamers. For fishing shorter or smaller streams, I will stick to my Tom Morgan 480-3 and 386-2 which are significantly lighter/softer.

Here's a short vid of my 13yo son using the rod that I put together for the grandparents. I was teaching him the wet fly swing. He's only been flyfishing about 10 times total and only once this year but he was still able to get out a pretty long line with the East Branch and the DT4.