Swift Epic 580 Fast Glass Review


John or "LC"
Over the past few months I've sold off several rods to finance the purchase of four Epic rods: 10 wt. Bandit, 4 wt. 476, 5 wt. 580, and 6 wt. 686. I've caught several fish on all but the Bandit, and I'll do more reviews later, but after a few days of local fishing and just returning from a 3 day float on the San Juan using nothing but the 580, I feel I have fished it enough to give a fairly comprehensive review.

People seem to love or hate the 580. Those that hate it think it's too much like graphite, and there's something to that, except IMO it has all the advantage and absolutely none of the disadvantages. You always know you are fishing glass, but this stick punched through 30 mph winds one day and steady 12-20 mph winds other days like a fast action stud. The tip may be the best part. Unlike a typical fast action graphite rod, it's not at all tippy and flexes down the first 18" or so on a strong cast. Tip recovery is practically instantaneous.

The first few fish I got on it were caught locally, and fairly small, mostly crappie and bluegill, and honestly they were just a little small to actuate the rod to an enjoyable level. I went to the 476 and it was much more fun. The 686 would have been more fun on them too. The 476 is a fast rod, entirely elegant and a total blast to fish, and handled a 5# LMB and a 4# rainbow nicely, but it's limited in reserve. Both those larger fish pretty well pushed it tip to cork. The 686 is slower action, and would have done fine on both the smaller guys and the larger fish, but it's a bit "tippy" and I believe would collapse in much wind, say better than 12 mph.

We each averaged around 15 fish a day to hand on the San Juan, all on indicators drifting or wading, two #26 midges with #4-#6 split shot, depending on the depth. The fish weren't huge, probably averaged 14" - 15" with a good number of 18"-21" wild browns. The rainbows were all plants, but 2-3 years in the river according to the guides.

Our catch rate was low, around 35% on hookups, probably largely due to the small and barbless flies. In my case, I was lucky to get as many as I did to hand as I have gone almost exclusively to stillwater, and have done only two river trout trips in the last 10-12 years. As such it took me half the trip to get on my game. I forgot how much I love nymph fishing, so fun, and the San Juan is just a great trip. Hanging out in Durango was a huge plus as well, what a fabulous place with restaurants rivaling anything on the West Coast any of us have experienced.

The guides had never cast glass, and they loved the rod too. We agreed that the shorter length did impede mending to a degree, and certainly wasn't ideal for high sticking, but workable for short runs when wading. Roll casting was OK, but again the 8' length coupled with the fact that I rarely use the technique in stillwater other than setting up a cast--and a lot of junk on a 6x tippet on a 5x leader--gave me some challenges at time. It was probably a disadvantage for setting the hook as well when the indicator was better than 20' from the drift boat.

As far as action, it's very close to graphite for casting, but buttery smooth. Of all the rods I own, this is the best of the bunch for casting--I gave up nothing in distance or accuracy to the guys using 9' graphite sticks. The beauty of the Epic fast action glass appeared instantly with any fish hooked. Nice progressive action, wonderful feel with plenty of bend but even with the big browns, all of which gave me 4-6 good jumps (browns don't jump??) , I always had a ton of reserve power. I brought my 690 Z-Axis along just in case, but it never left the tube. The 580 was a long ways beyond ample.

All Epics are super light rods, and the 580 was never the slightest bit tiring, even with constant use 8-9 hours a day, for 3 days.

After all the accolades, I haven't picked a favorite of the four Epics yet, but it will most likely be the 476 or 686. It won't be the 580, as much as I love fishing it. This is a fast rod, perfect for very windy conditions, will throw junk and streamers as far as you need to go, will handle large fish, and has a wonderful feel and feedback, but unless the fish is pretty large it does lack just a little of the fiberglass sensitivity and feeling that we have grown to crave. I assumed that would be the case, no real surprise, and had it built specifically for windy conditions and throwing large surface flies to smallies. The rod casts much better than I had expected, and it fishes fine with greater authority than most glass, but we do give up a little of that glass feel as stated.

Bottom line is it's a standout rod when graphite really is a better choice. You absolutely can do a 100% substitution without giving up anything. For the medium action most of us love in glass, other rods may be more satisfying to the soul, but not for pure utility and versatility in a variety of conditions.

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David Loy

Senior Moment
Objectivity, what a wonderful thing! I am a Epic fan too, but others as well. Some glass (Steffens primarily) and some graphite. Have never thrown the 580 but have read mixed reviews. Yours was most informative.
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John or "LC"
While some feel the comparison between the Epics and Steffens are Ford and Chevy, I believe they are two quite different blanks, at least in my limited experience. I had a 686 Steffen and found it cumbersome, clubbish, and a couple of years ago it stalled with a 5# rainbow hooked 22' down. The Epic 686 is much lighter and has more reserve in my hands, but it is a bit more tippy with a slower recovery. I sold the Steffen for the Epic. My Steffen 4/5 8' is a delightful rod on smaller to medium sized fish, but falls apart in any wind. I would not have considered it for the San Juan--the 476 would have been better as it's faster and more stout. I can cast my 9 wt. Steffen easier than the 10 wt. Bandit shortie, but it's tiring while the Bandit is only .3 oz. heavier. I am still wrestling with shooting heads on the Bandit, but that's my problem, not the rod. Both are a handful after a few hours of casting heavy heads over 60'. Closer in, the Bandit is a lot nicer.

I think for those that lean towards slower action, the Steffens may feel better. I enjoy the faster and more progressive action of the Epics. They are a little more graphite like, and that suits my casting and fishing style better, especially in our Spring winds.
nice write-up, John. I like happen to like every Steffen I've cast and every Epic I've cast (that's limited to only my Bandit though). I would hesitate to call either of my Steffen's slow (compared to other glass only)...now, my Lami Honey? THAT's slow.

David Loy

Senior Moment
My first Steffen was the popular 8' 5/6, and I loved it. Fantastic rod, however I after awhile realized it is truly a 5/6 and not a 6 (in my hands anyway). I decided I wanted a full on 6 weight, and at about the same time I acquired a Graywolf built Epic 480. Admiring his work, I promptly ordered an Epic 686 with saltwater safe components. Now, after years of trades, buying and selling, I am very happy with the stable I have, and I think the "if you could have only one..." threads are a little silly. However, the 686 would hands down be the ONE. A 7'6" Steffen 3/4 would likely be number two, as it's the best small water rod I have. But then I'd need the xxxx xpxxx for an all around Puget Sound rod. And so it goes...

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