Cabela's LSi Fly Rod: A Balance of Functionality and Price

Let's cut right to brass tacks. Sure, we can talk about fancy graphite technologies and all the other stuff that makes a $750 fly rod a $750 fly rod... but in truth, 99 percent of fly casters cannot honestly feel the difference. (It's like me and a $10 bottle of red wine vs. a $30 bottle... I sniff, I swirl, I roll my tongue, and then I go get a PBR from the cooler.)

And in fairness, there are a lot of cheap rods that are exactly that--cheap. Not just inexpensive. Cheap. As in, "Why did I pay $100 for this piece of junk that casts like a curtain rod, and is already falling apart?"

The holy grail for fly rod marketers, therefore, is finding that sweet spot of maximum functionality, at a minimum price. And based on the fishing I have done this summer with over two dozen different rods--and more importantly, having put different options in the hands of other casters, from total beginners to guides--the Cabela's LSi lives in that sweet spot. I've fished 4-weight and a 5-weight versions of LSi, both 8'-6" long. They cost $180.

LSi stands for "line speed improved" and I would agree that the action is fast, so the rod feels light and zippy. But it's not one of those "fast for the sake of fast" rods. I never have been a fan of "casting" fly rods, because I like to use fly rods for fishing, not necessarily casting. And to me, a good fishing rod is one that can punch a decent wind cast into a stiff breeze, but also perform gently as you lift and mend, roll cast, and all of that. I found, over the course of this summer's fishing in both small creeks and on bigger rivers, that I kept picking up the LSi on my way out the door because it was versatile, and it was the rod I felt comfortable with.

Of course, nothing replaces good casting technique (which comes through practice, not the rod you use) when it comes to effective fly fishing. But if you're looking for a good all-around rod at a decent price, this is a solid choice.

I'll be at the International Fly Tackle Dealer trade show next week, and I'm sure I'll hear all about the 2012 rods from many companies. But Cabela's LSi is one standard from 2011 they'll have to beat. I'll let you know what I see and hear.