Is the Orvis Clearwater the best value euronymphing rod?…read on..
The Orvis Clearwater 10ft 2 weight nymphing rod, was a nymphing rod I eagerly awaited, and due to limited stocks I had to get two shipped over, from Orvis in America. I was like a kid in a sweetie shop when they arrived, but sadly the rivers were too high to fish, so I had to wait a few weeks till the levels dropped.
The day finally came when I was able to assess this rod, on the River Tweed. The river level was decent, and the wind not too strong. This was September, and a beat I fish regularly for salmon was empty, so a quick call to the Ghillie and I was on my way.
I’m very conscious to avoid disturbing salmon fishermen, after all, they pay premium. If a salmon angler is on the opposite bank, I’ll have a quick chat and explain where I was thinking of fishing and check if that works for him/ her.. Quite a few beats on the Tweed are single bank fishing, and this means that the fishing rights are divided on opposite banks, so a good deal of common courtesy, common sense and good manners are required.
Not that rivers ever get busy in Scotland, its rare to encounter another angler but if you do, just work with him, and remember they are paying top dollar to fish for salmon and Sept to October is prime time.
Fall in love with the Clearwater?
Anyway back to the Clearwater….it didn’t take long on my first outing to fall in love with this rod. I quickly got into the groove with it, and it started to make my 3 and 4 weights feel rather insensitive. The first fish I hooked was a lively 12 inch grayling and it felt like a 2 pounder, the soft rod absorbing the pressure and protecting the grayling’s delicate mouth. The Clearwater has a mid flex action and playing a fish allows the rod to bend right through the blank. This first grayling session on the River Tweed with the Clearwater, produced around 20 fish, and mainly because the rod performed so well and gave great sensitivity and feel.
After 30 sessions fishing on Scottish rivers, I am happy to report this is a rod I now wouldn’t be without. It’s a superb tool. In fact, the Clearwater 102-4 is in my opinion the best value nymphing rod I have fished with, at a meagre £239.00 it’s an absolute steal. For that money, you get a 4 piece rod, sectioned rod-tube and 25 year guarantee.
How does the Clearwater compare to the Sage ESN 10ft 2 weight?
If you’ve fished with an ESN it’s safe to say the SAGE is the ultimate nymphing rod, I have never enjoyed fishing a rod so much. It’s not just my opinion, but that of many of my fellow guides. But you should keep in mind the Sage is £950.00 GBP and the Orvis £239. The Orvis comes with a solid 25 year guarantee, and Orvis are always great to deal with when rods encounter any problems. The SAGE is covered by a lifetime, original owner warranty against defects in materials or workmanship.
Where the Sage and Orvis rods differ is as follows:
Rod weight comparison Sage ESN vs Orvis Clearwater
The Orvis feels a little tip heavy compared to the Sage, the blank certainly has a thicker diameter, and you should try to balance the rod carefully to counter this. I find the Orvis Mirage reel or Sage ESN reels both work well. If like me, you use a Sage ESN reel, then its perfectly balanced on the 10ft Clearwater without any of the Sage counter weights. That balance comes from using a minimal amount of backing and a nymphing line (low diameter).
Tip recovery Sage ESN vs Clearwater
The SAGE wins this particular battle hands down, and this is partly due to the blank and also due to the action of the rod. The Sage has a beautifully designed tip section, if you flex the rod, you’ll see it bends towards the tip, whereas the Clearwater bends through to the middle of the rod. However when playing a fish, the SAGE will bend through the middle of the blank as well, how they do that, I don’t know, but that’s how it is in the real world. Considering these differences, keep in mind the Orvis is almost a quarter of the price, and offers exceptional value. The Orvis still performs remarkably well, and if you are looking for a rod to begin your Euronymphing journey, this is it. The SAGE is also a more accurate casting rod, and when fishing three flies with a total weight of perhaps 2 grams, it delivers the flies to target with real accuracy. You’ll get less tangles with the ESN when fishing a 3 nymph rig, due to smooth stroke of the rod ti, whereas the Orvis there’s a degree of wobble in the rod tip, and this results in a few more tangles.
However all that said, the casting of the Clearwater that is a joy. When Euronymphing you can feel the weight of the nymphs on the back cast with a slight pause before pitching them upstream into the drift. It helps you get into a rhythm of effortless casting tangle free. This is something I always struggled with with other rods, feeling a little detached and sometimes missing the timing.
Aesthetics Sage ESN vs Orvis Clearwater
Both rods look great. Naturally the Sage has the edge. The cork on the Clearwater is standard grade, and if like me, you tend the attach your flies to the cork handle when walking to a different pool, you’ll find the handle can break up if not careful. The cork on the Sage is superior as are all the finishing and finesse of the rod. Nether rod has a clip for the fly, which is bloody annoying! I will probably install small rubber bands to both rods, or the cork will not last very long! The black nickel aluminum reel seat on the Orvis, is down locking and very effective. The SAGE has a Stealth Black anodized aluminum down-locking reel seat. The Orvis has a fighting butt.
Feel of the Sage ESN vs Clearwater
This is where the differences are les obvious. The SAGE has the edge, and the Orvis offers brilliant value here. You really can feel everything that’s going on with both rods. It’s easy to differentiate between snags, takes, stop takes and when you pick up a twig. The Sage does feel like a ninja weapon, perfectly balanced and in tune with all the elements. The Orvis come close and for the money, you couldn’t complain.
My Euronymph set up is a 20ft length of 8lb Amnesia (colour Sunset) nylon, leading to a length of indicator tippet terminating in a tippet ring and on to a cast of two/three flies.
To avoid tangles I keep a nice open-arc loop when casting and keep it as smooth as possible. It’s noticeable that you do get more tangles with the Orvis, as the tip oscillates more on the cast stroke.
Playing a fish, a joy on the Orvis Clearwater
Downstream strikes were forgiving if you were rather heavy and connected with a bigger fish. The softness of the rod, cushions any sudden surprises like hooking a large trout that explodes into action. Playing a fish is a real joy, smaller fish still manage to put a bend on the rod, and you can really feel what’s going on during playing the fish. One of my trips using the Clearwater was on the River Teviot and after several grayling I hooked a salmon. I was using two grayling nymphs on 3.6lb tippet and managed to steer a 6lb salmon to the net. Any sudden lunges the fish took were easily soaked up by the flexibility of the rod and the smooth reel I was using (an Orvis Mirage LT)
As the nymphs tack downstream bouncing along the river bed, you can actually feel this through the blank, every little tick, I’d recommend putting your index finger on the blank gently as they track downstream.
Conclusion SAGE ESN vs Orvis Clearwater rods
Both rods are fantastic. If you have deep pockets, and are a nymphing maniac like me, get the SAGE. If you fish occasionally and are looking for great value, go for the Orvis. I take both rods with me on a days fishing and happily switch from one to the other.
So in summary, for a rod that retails for £239.00 GBP this offers exceptional value and I heartily give it a Highly recommended “Best Buy” rating and 5 Stars.
If you are new to Grayling fishing/ Euronymphing and want a guided grayling fishing day using the Clearwater or Sage ESN rods, please get in touch
Stewart Collingswood, Founder Alba Game Fishing