October 01, 2013
Gear Review: Cabela's New American-Made Fly Rods And Reels
By Joe Cermele
In case you haven't noticed, there is a big push in certain industries—the outdoor industry in particular—to get back to producing wares in the good 'ol U.S. of A. Not long ago I found out that Cabela's was signing on for the movement with plans to introduce an American-made fly rod and reel series. Ray Zink, Cabela's Flyfishing Manager, told me the time seemed right, so the brand partnered with a small rod manufacturer based in the Pacific Northwest. The result is the American Dream rod series, and the WLz reel series, which is also produced state-side and designed by Waterworks-Lamson. I got my hands on a test combo so I could "live the dream," if you will.
Instead of going the trout route for this field test, I opted for carp. Tell you the truth, I've decided that carp are the perfect species for shaking down fly gear. They require long, accurate casts, eat dries and streamers, pull against the drag, and bend a rod to the max. I was fishing a 9-foot 5-weight, and even though some of the "golden bonefish" I hooked would have been better suited to a 7-weight, this rod did a fine job of slowing the fish's momentum during the initial run, and countering the short, pulsing bursts carp are known for during the tussle. This rod is probably a bit slower than you're used to, but in this case that softer action let me put more pressure on these broom-tail doggers than I would have with a faster rod.
To be honest, the first time I used the American Dream, I thought it was a little too slow for my taste. The more I cast it, however, the more I liked it. Even though I know accuracy is a product of good casting form, this rod seemed to naturally add to my accuracy. It is without question a rod made for the serious dry fly angler, mixing the smoothness of a glass stick with the backbone and sensitivity of a graphite rod. According to Zink, my gradual appreciation of the American Dream was natural for a guy that has gotten so used to today's fast fly rods.
"I have always maintained that the perfect fly rod is the one that allows you to put a fly exactly where you need it without too much thought. A rod like that has to talk to you, allowing you to acquire the muscle memory of a proper cast," Zink explained. "It seems that over the last few years, rods have become progressively faster, and I think that we may have lost sight of that relationship between the rod and the angler."
While I can't speak for its performance over the course of multiple seasons, I can say that the reel feels well built. The tolerances were tight, and the drag was exceptionally smooth during some hard carp runs. According to the company, the "polymer-alloy and teflon-metal drag cones don't require lubrication and never wear." That's a tall order, but Waterworks-Lamson has a pretty solid reputation for making reels that can take a beating. The WLz reels are fully machined anodized aluminum, and the drags are completely sealed.
So what does it cost to buy into the American Dream? The rods are available in weights 3 through 8, and will set you back $300. In my opinion, that's middle of the road these days for a quality rod, and these rods could actually command a higher price tag. The WLz reels run from 4- to 8-weight, and sell for $270. Once again, not a terrible price if you're in the market for a reel that's many notches above the beginner's model, but not the titanium-plated, carbon-drag NASA job.