The 9-foot 5-weight Echo Carbon XL is a joy to cast and fish. As far as fly rod reviews go, most everyone has a slightly different opinion, but between my best fly fishing buddy and myself, we came to a consensus: The Echo Carbon XL is a sweet rod.
Better yet, for a fly rod that retails at around $139, the Carbon XL has a superb price-to-value ratio.
To get a sense of this rod, my buddy and I took it to the Owyhee River in Oregon this summer to chase some big brown trout. After he picked up the Echo Carbon XL, paired with an Echo Ion Fly Reel and an Orvis Clearwater weight forward fly line, I had a hard time getting it out of his hands.
There is something in the stroke of this rod that just comes alive as you’re casting it. Here’s how I describe it: As you start feeding out line in your false casts, it feels normal enough but when you get the line out for a midrange cast, the Carbon XL suddenly feels perfect. It’s as if your arm, hand, rod, fly line, and fly are all connected, working together in complete and total harmony.
I mean, I’m a decent caster, not a pro by any means, but the Echo Carbon XL had the ability to make us feel as if we were doing everything right more often than we really were.
That’s high praise for sure, but it also comes with a dose of reality. While the Echo Carbon XL felt fantastic, I didn’t get the sense that it made me any more accurate than usual, nor did it allow me to cast appreciably farther than I already can with most other decent 5-weight fly rods.
Echo Carbon XL Review: Medium Fast(er) Action?
Tim Rajeff designs most of the fly rods at Echo, and while I don’t know him personally, he is a casting pro who has been fishing and creating rods for decades. The guy has probably covered more water with fly line than all my friends and family and friends of friends combined. Consequently, one of the hallmarks of Echo’s fly rod reputation comes down to the feel of the rods. Echo says it designed the Carbon XL to have “a little more zip in the tip” than other medium-fast action rods. What does this mean?
Echo says the action is really more like a medium-faster action.
The result, I think, is a rod that loads easily yet responds with a useable amount of crispness. In short, for us on the Owyhee using a 5-weight Orvis Clearwater fly line, the Carbon XL could handle tiny dries yet also throw big hoppers with nymph droppers.
Bottom line? The 9-foot 5-weight Carbon XL is a versatile fly rod. I wouldn’t hesitate to take it trout fishing most anywhere.
Echo Carbon XL Review: Build Quality
The Echo Carbon XL is a good looking rod. The blanks are a rich brown that, in some light, appears a reddish “rosewood” color. The cork is decent, and we really like the shiny modern look of the carbon fiber insert for the reel seat — especially in the sun.
The Carbon XL uses lightweight single-foot guides. And speaking of weight, the 9-foot 5-weight Carbon XL is 3.5 ounces, which is about average for this price range. More expensive rods will usually weigh less (but that expense and weight savings don’t necessarily connect you to more fish).
Echo Carbon XL Review: Conclusion
At about $139, the Echo Carbon XL fly rod is a great buy. Its casting abilities for distance and accuracy seem about average, but the feel of this rod while you’re casting is far above average. It’s an odd thing to explain, but during many casts, the Echo Carbon XL makes you feel as if you’re a better caster than you really are. It’s cool when you can get this feeling from a rod under $150.
So who is this rod right for? The Echo Carbon XL is definitely a great rod for most any beginning fly fisher. While it’s not a true fast-action rod, it’s fast enough that it never made me feel like I was waiting for it to get to work. Better yet, the Carbon XL has enough casting feedback to help a fly fisher recognize when the rod is loaded and ready to throw forward — and this does seem to occur a little faster than your typical medium-fast action rod in this price range. The end result is a highly fishable, versatile rod that most anyone should be able to cast well.
If you want to step into a surprisingly good fly fishing experience without breaking the bank, the Echo Carbon XL makes our shortlist for sure. At its affordable price point, the Carbon XL is a can’t go wrong fly rod.
Get the Gear:
Oh, one more thing: What about the Echo Base fly rod for an entry-level fly fisher or as a backup fly rod? The approximatley $89.99 Echo Base is a little heavier and doesn’t have the same sweet casting feel as the Carbon XL . . . but it’s surprisingly accurate and predictable for a sub-$100 fly rod. If you can’t push your budget up to the Carbon XL, the Echo Base is still a great entry-level fly rod, and it’s particularly good when you get the Echo Base Fly Rod Kit that comes with the Base Reel and fly line for about $159.