Review: L.L. Bean Pocket Water Fly Combo

I have never been a huge fan of pre-matched rod-and-reel combos. I guess that's because I prefer to pair those items on my own, ensuring I like the way they feel together and being confident the set-up is fit to do exactly what I want it to do. That being said, the new Pocket Water from L.L. Bean is the first combo that is making me eat my words, and I think it's because what they've done is create a quality outfit that fills a void in many flycasters' arsenals at a pretty good price.

Many flyfishermen, at least I think, want to include a short, light rod made just for small fish in small streams in their retinue of sticks. However, they know they won't use it every weekend, and, therefore, don't want to drop loads of cash on a 3-weight, line, and a small reel that may only hit the water a few times a season. The Pocket Water series offers 3- to 5-weight rods, none longer than 7' 10," complete with a simple, though well-built reel loaded with backing and line. Combos start at $285 and max out at $300.

By Bean's own admission, these outfits are not designed to make casts longer than 40 feet. If you're after wild Alaskan rainbows on the Kenai, this is not the outfit for you. But if you're into small stream trout, it's a great little rod. I didn't use it for trout, but spent a day stripping a girdle bug through riffles and pools for rock bass, bluegills, and a few less-than-trophy smallmouths on a hometown stream I grew up fishing. I'm really not blowing smoke when I say the 7 1/2-foot 4-weight I tested was a slick little sharpshooter. It was super-light, very accurate, and very fun to fish. And it didn't feel like the beginner's special combo in my hand, but rather an outfit expertly matched by the owner of a country fly shop.

I also like the rod because it's not incredibly fast, giving it somewhat of a bamboo feel without the bamboo weight. The finish even has a sort of bamboo hue, and the reel has a bit of a throw-back design. Put together, there's a subtle vintage charm. Important to note is that all the Pocket Water rods are 4-piece. Packed down in its little tube, this rod will go anywhere. If you're into hiking to small waters for trout or panfish, you need to check out these combos.