Review: Shadow Warrior Fly Rod | Hatch Magazine


Ask anyone involved in the fly fishing business what price range of fly rods sell the most and they’ll tell you the same thing: mid-range. And mid-range, these days, means rods in the $300-$500 price range. Some of the biggest brands in the industry are just starting to realize this and have started to focus more on the mid ranges of their range. It’s not that they haven’t been selling rods cheaper than the top of their range for a long time; they just didn’t sell the ones that were that good. However, small businesses and those new to building rods have long understood the appeal of the mid-range. In fact, selling quality high performance fly rods at prices most anglers could live with is what allowed many of these fledgling companies to gain a foothold in the industry.

Some of these fledgling companies have become household names in the industry (think Redington and TFO). Others continue to grow rapidly and approach household name status. And as they grow, more and more newcomers appear, most of whom are looking to do what they’ve done – offer quality, high-performance products at attractive prices – to make a name for themselves in the world of fly fishing.

Shadow Fly Fishing in Pennsylvania is one such business. Launched just over a year ago by Mike Skibo, an avid steelheader from northwestern Pennsylvania, Shadow has offered two rods – its “Stalker” and “Warrior” models – to anglers since its launch and has received positive feedback from anglers in the field. We’ve been fishing the 7-weight Warrior for nearly a year, everywhere from trout streams to frigid waters for rainbow trout to sunny flats for bonefish.

What works

Price
Typically, price is one of the aspects of a rod that we talk about after discussing more “important” aspects of the rod such as build quality, performance, etc. But since we’ve already talked about the average price of fly rods, it’s worth discussing the price upfront. Perhaps more importantly, it contextualizes the rest of the warrior’s strengths and weaknesses.

Currently selling for $249, the Warrior sits below the range suggested above, stretching from the mid-range to the more affordable ranges.

Manufacturing quality
The carbon fiber blanks the Warrior is built on are auburn brown and have an excellent finish comparable to rods that cost 3 times the price of the Warrior. Its reel seat looks well machined and high quality, held up well to up to a year of abuse, and was less finicky than reel seats we’ve seen on other mid-range rods.

The catch
We don’t normally talk about grip much on most fly rods we review, but like Redington with the Vapen Red (read our review here), Shadow tries to do something different with grip on the Warrior . The grip is what Shadow calls “thin cork”, which can perhaps best be described as a full pit grip with a very thin, even profile. The result is not subtle. The handle is noticeably thinner than any other cane we’ve seen and feels decidedly different in the hand.

According to Skibo, feedback from guides, customers and others who have fished the slim cork handles has been overwhelmingly positive. In its marketing, Shadow says the thin cork brings your “hand closer to white than ever before.” And while we don’t know what that translates to, or if it’s more marketing than substance, the reality is that the Warrior’s cork grip is something new. Whether that’s a good or bad thing may just come down to personal preference.

There’s definitely a different feel to throwing the Warrior due to the slim grip and during our time with the Warrior there was consensus that the slim grip caused less strain on the hands on long days of casting. For those with small hands or a tendency to grip their rods too much, the Warrior and its thin cork handle may be of particular interest.

Performance
Shadow describes their goals in building the Warrior as building the lightest 7-weight on the market and a true fast-acting 7-weight, not an “overly stiff” 7-weight that felt more like an 8-weight or 9. In our view, they succeeded. The Warrior is a fast action rod, but probably by 2008 standards and not by 2014 standards. And in a world where the fly fishing industry is just emerging from years of trotting on far too many lifeless brooms, that’s good.

Undeniably lightweight, the Warrior weighs just 2.95 ounces. It’s 5-weight territory weight-wise, and not just on the spec sheet, the Warrior also feels 5-weight in the hand.

The rod has a smooth, crisp action. The rod loads deeper into the blank than you would expect given its reasonably quick recovery. As a result, there is surprising power, especially given the paltry weight of the rod. We were able to carry a significant amount of line and cast it with precision, even when lining up to an 8 weight while chasing bonefish.

During the times when we taxed the rod with a combination of heavy sink tips and a heavy fly, the rod action became a little less predictable, but barring those demanding rigs, the Warrior offered consistent casting performance.

Extra tip section
The Warrior comes with an additional spike section. Why? We are not sure. But it is. So if you do break one, you don’t have to deal with the company to get it replaced under the Warrior’s lifetime warranty.

What doesn’t work

Versatility
The Warrior is a versatile rod that will take you virtually anywhere fresh water flows. Cast heavy rigs for trout, cast flies for rainbow trout, cast big bugs for bass. But it’s not a do-it-all rod. In all honesty, don’t expect it to be given its price.

That said, the Warrior is not a saltwater rod. At least not by our standards. Although still a fast action rod, the tip section of the Warrior is too soft for the saltwater world. While we had fun with the Warrior on flats, where it pulled and laid long lengths of line gracefully, it wasn’t the best tool when the pressure was on – when saltwater rods need to pick up a lot of line quickly. and cast with a single back cast. But, if we’re being fair, it’s also not the kind of rod we’d want on a trout or rainbow trout stream.

The reel seat
Yes, we did talk about the reel seat when discussing build quality. And we stick to that. It’s a nice reel seat. But, it is a skeleton reel seat. If you’re unfamiliar with skeleton reel seats (and we weren’t), they leave the blank exposed underneath when removing the housing. Some people like the look of the skeleton seat, but there’s really no reason why. There’s no compromise on strength or durability, but functionality seems relatively unnecessary. At best it looks “clean”, at worst it exposes the blank to damage in an area of ​​the rod that most anglers are not used to protecting themselves from.

Last word

The Warrior is a well-designed rod that offers good performance and quality for its extremely attractive price. If you’re looking for a weight 7 that will take you to all sorts of freshwater destinations, you might want to bank on newcomer Shadow Fly Fishing. But then again, at $249, it’s not really a gamble, is it?

Previous Review: Sage ACCEL Fly Rod | Hatch magazine
Next A casting with a fly rod changed the life of Chip O'Brien