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Cabela’s is proud of its new Rogue fly rod — and for good reason: The Cabela’s Rogue is a great rod, and better yet, it has a fantastic price-to-value ratio.
Earlier this year I was on the phone with my favorite guy at Cabela’s talking through the company’s new fly rod lineup — Cabela’s has discontinued some rod and reel combos while adding new ones — and naturally, the Rogue came up.
The Rogue is the “high-end” freshwater fly fishing rod made by Cabela’s yet it’s priced on the low end of midrange fly rod pricing — it comes in at $289.99. That’s relatively steep for most fly fishers but a drop in the bucket for hardcore enthusiasts and those with big budgets. Still, Cabela’s positions the Rogue this way: The Rogue competes with fly rods costing three times as much.
This is a hard claim to nail down. A blind casting test could get you pretty close, but then different weights of different reels and their fly lines can affect performance and feel — and affect different fly fishers differently based on their own preferences, biases and casting styles. The bottom line is that fly fishers are lucky — we have a lot of choices of rods built by expert enthusiasts, and they all have their charms. If there is a rising trout in front of me, I’d prefer a good rod, but I’ll fish with any rod I can get my hands on and blame myself if I screw it up. If that sounds like you, we would get along just fine.
The fact of the matter is, anyone who can afford a $900 fly rod will likely stick with their favorite brand or go with whatever their local fly shop stocks. The question of performance only matters to beginners and those of us on a budget who are looking to step up into a better rod at an affordable price point. Seriously, a lot of us guys on a budget look at a sweet rod and then look at a sweet new compound bow . . . heads turning back and forth . . . and there’s a tough choice to be made. Something has to give, and it has nothing to do with how much fun we have fishing.
So . . . how does the Rogue compete? And after my long preamble does that statement even matter? The real question is this: Is the Cabela’s Rogue Fly Rod a great fly rod that performs well enough to create a truly impressive price-to-value ratio?
The get us a closer look, Cabela’s sent Man Makes Fire a 9′ 5-weight review unit. Here is what we learned:
Cabela’s Rogue Fly Rod Review: First Impressions
The Cabela’s Rogue is a damn fine fly rod. The 9′ 5-weight weighs in at a respectably light 2.95 ounces. The fit and finish is very good — the cork is fantastic and the matte black finish is stealthy and modern. The blank is built from a blend of high-density GIII graphite. It casts surprisingly well. Pleasantly well. Confidently well. I very much like the Cabela’s Rogue Fly Rod.
I fished the Rogue for a few hours on a spring creek this winter, pairing it with the Cabela’s WLx Fly Reel with Cabela’s Prestige Premier WF Floating Line. While I didn’t land any trout — it was a tough day for everyone there — I fished the Rogue immediately after using two similarly priced fast-action fly rod outfits, both of which I also very much liked and appreciated. Unfortunately those rods were 9′ 6-weights, so I’m hard-pressed to mention the apples-to-oranges names here, but oh boy, from the first cast, the Cabela’s Rogue felt like an extension of my arm.
The Rogue is a fast-action rod, of course, and you have to be a pretty good fly fisher to cast very well at short range with most any fast-action rod. Up close and personal, the Rogue was about average — no complaints, no surprise joy. At midrange distances, the Rogue suddenly felt like I was fishing with a long lost friend. The Rogue seemed to know what I wanted and it did it — no conscious adjustments needed from me. At long distances, it delivered, too. Not effortlessly, not thoughtlessly, but when I paid attention and launched a truly long cast with clear intent, the Rogue delivered better than I expected it to. It was almost like striking a golf ball perfectly off the drive: Ah, that’s how this is supposed to work.
Let me put it this way: To cast far, even with a great rod, you need to have good technique. When my technique was on, the Rogue was too. When I messed up, the Rogue didn’t fix my mistakes — and yet it still had enough of a spine to give even my bad casts a fighting chance.
At one point — because I wasn’t catching fish — I started thinking about ways I could push the Rogue. So I ditched the light tippet and tiny flies and tied on a big and bushy mouse pattern. Why not? Big wind resistance, right?
I threw the mouse pattern with surprising ease. The 5-weight Rogue seemed to punch through the wind like a 6-weight. I was surprised. I tied on a massive streamer. Same result. Back to a weighted nymph with a dropper and a strike indicator. Still great accuracy. Tied on a small dry for a lone rising trout. First cast, fish took it, I missed it. My bad.
All of this remains a bit subjective. Everyone casts a bit differently. A good fly fisher will vary their casting stroke in relation to the rod to coax or force the fly rod to deliver in any given situation. The best fishers aren’t even aware of what they’re doing. A good carpenter has a favorite hammer but a mediocre hammer won’t stop a good carpenter from building a nice house. You know you’ve found a good fly rod when you stop thinking about what you’re doing and your flies just go wherever you intend them to.
So, in terms of on-the-water performance, does the Cabela’s Rogue compete with fly rods costing three times as much? I’ll answer it this way: If you can’t have fun fishing with the Cabela’s Rogue, you’re an idiot.
Let’s not let Cabela’s off the hook here, though.
Cabela’s Rogue: Mostly Pros, Few Cons
The very best high-end rods tend to have a small edge on fit and finish, but the Cabela’s Rogue is a good-looking rod. The matte black blank has little or no lacquer while the wrappings have a smooth but somewhat thick clear coat. It’s a handsome fly rod but not intrinsically more handsome than the competition. You can usually get a prettier reel seat in a high end rod, but I like the no-nonsense design of the Rogue’s seat. The single-foot guides are stainless steel, ion-coated and work great but lack the classic good looks of snake-style guides. The handle is AAAA-grade cork. No complaints here — the handle is quite nice. The aluminum rod tube is luscious and stout. The warranty for the Rogue could be better . . . but when you think about your investment, you could buy three Rogue fly rods for the price of one elite rod.
Where Cabela’s falls short with the Rogue is the location in which it’s made: Not in America. You could argue that no rod will ever compete with a Made-in-America rod simply because it’s worth investing in American-made gear.
Can’t argue with that. If you can afford it, buy American made gear if you’re an American. If you can’t afford it, get outside, enjoy the outdoors, support the outdoor industry — and adjust your buying habits as soon as you’re able.
Meanwhile, the Cabela’s Rogue is an excellent fly rod with an astounding price-to-value ratio: Cabela’s has created a very competitive winner. The Rogue is smooth, responsive, powerful and a joy to fish. You can’t really get much more competitive than that. Very highly recommended.