Douglas Outdoors recently released a brand-new lineup of rods – the ERA. These rods are priced at either $149 or $169 for the 5 and 8-weight models, respectively. That makes the ERA the new low-cost fly rod from Douglas, supplanting the LRS series (one of my favorite fly rods of all-time) which was priced at $269.
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So, for less than $200, you can get your hands on a quality Douglas fly rod. But is the ERA any good? Did Douglas cut the same corners as other manufacturers in order to put out a wallet-friendly product?
Yes, it’s good, and no, I don’t think they cut corners. The ERA is a capable, dependable fast-action stick designed for a variety of uses while on a trout stream. As far as budget-priced rods go, the ERA is right up there with the Orvis Clearwater, is better than the Redington Path, and very similar to the much-beloved Fenwick Aetos.
What I Like
The Achilles heel of many budget fly rods is the weight. Lightweight graphite and resins cost more to produce and use, which is one of the many reasons top-tier fly rods cost so much.
This is just one example of Douglas not cutting corners in the manufacturing process. While the ERA isn’t some lightweight phenom (it’s listed at 3.1oz on Douglas’s website), it’s not near as heavy as some other entry-level rods I’ve used.
The ERA also sports a pleasant swing weight. You’ll notice the swing weight after a long day of flinging dry-dropper combos or smaller streamers, but it’s not so heavy as to wear out your casting shoulder.
The ERA is capable of tackling just about any trout fishing situation you’ll encounter. The first time I fished it was from a drift boat here in Wyoming, throwing a heavy nymph rig into a stiff wind. The ERA had plenty of backbone to turn over the flies and leader, and mended line just fine.
The ERA has a surprisingly smooth casting action. Often, budget-priced rods are a bit clunky, especially when throwing line at distance. The ERA casts smooth at all distances, and is surprisingly good at the traditional trout distances of 20-50 feet.
Good Tippet Protection
Most wallet-friendly rods have tip sections that are too stiff to fish anything smaller than 5x. While you rarely need tippet thinner than 5x, owning a trout rod that can’t handle small flies and tippet just doesn’t make sense to me.
The ERA’s tip is soft enough that I wouldn’t hesitate using it during a spring blue-winged olive hatch, or when trout are rising to midges.
One of the many reasons I love Douglas fly rods so much is that they don’t skimp on build quality. Even on a $149 rod, the ERA has decent cork and a solid reel seat. I like the gray blank color with the white thread wraps. It’s a clean, unique look that’s unlike many other entry-level rods on the market.
The ERA is a surprisingly accurate rod (surprising only because of its price), but one of the few legitimate gripes I have with it is its ability to delicately present flies. The rod is slower than the LRS, and with modern weight-forward fly lines, the rod tends to slingshot line just a bit. I’d recommend going with a true-to-weight line, and pulling your cast a bit when throwing past 20 feet to ensure you get a delicate enough presentation of your flies.
As I mentioned earlier, the ERA is a slower rod than most of what Douglas makes. It feels like the slower action of the ERA makes it less effective for long mends. When fishing from a drift boat, with 60 feet of line out of the tip, mending long nymph drifts was more work than with other rods.
The caveat, of course, is the ERA’s cost. You can’t expect it to work flawlessly for that price, and I’d gladly sacrifice some mending ability for all the other things this rod does so exceptionally well.
For $149, the Douglas ERA fly rod is one of the best values on the market. It’s a pleasant rod to cast, it handles small tippets and flies well, it’s versatile, and it’s not as heavy as other entry-level rods. Pair this with the usual Douglas build quality and you have a rod that’s great for someone just starting in the sport, or the angler looking for a rod that’ll stand up to abuse in the backcountry.
Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, guide, bamboo rod builder, and guide from Utah. He’s the News Editor for MidCurrent and a columnist for Hatch Magazine. Connect with him on Instagram/Twitter, @Spencer_Durrant.