Review by: Bear
Every now and again the tiny stream bug bites and I find myself in the ‘thick of it’ struggling with rods over 8’, well no more. Being cheap and not wanting to spend a heap of cash on a rod I’d use a dozen times a year or less, I looked at the St Croix Imperial line. This is not the old Imperial of 10-15 years ago, but an all new selection ranging from tiny wands to beefy switch rods. According to St.Croix this rod is assembled (or made) at their new facility in Mexico, which they have caught some flak over on some forums because of their pride of “Made in USA”. I have no issue with that here in Canada, as last I checked, we don’t have a Canadian graphite rod builder to support. Prices range from about $150 to $240 or so, before paying our government their share!
I selected a 3 weight 6 ½’ long for my small stream work, ordered it and received it from the staff at HLS/FC in about a week. The rod came in a case about 42”long along with a small tub of ferrule wax. The rod itself is 2 piece, each section being about 40” long and is a dark burgundy colour with matching wraps neatly done. The blank tapers from approximately .060” at the tip to .240” at the cork. Wall thickness of the blank is .020” measured at the female ferrule. The reel seat is finished rosewood like, and the hardware is a pewter colour anodized aluminum, it nearly matches the colour of Hardy JLH’s and Marquis’. The grip is a very slender half wells type, sometimes called ‘ultra-fine’, 6 ½” long, perhaps a bit too small for this Neanderthals paw, but with surprisingly good cork quality. There are 6 chrome snake guides, a chrome tiptop with a ceramic stripper guide well placed according to my guide spacing charts. Overall finish and workmanship are very good.
I grass tested the rod with a SA GPS DT4F line and was really impressed with both the distance, up to 60’, and the shortness, 8-10’, of the casts possible. The typical length of cast used on the stream was effortless to do. I also tried a Wulff TT4F with similar results. After loading a reel with a SA GPX WF3F line I picked up at the Forum, I was off to do some real testing at a nearby neighbors’ ½ acre pond. It handled the Crappie well and was a positive blast with the 8-10” rainbows which he just happened to have stocked the week before! I had no problem casting a third of the way across his pond or making the short casts required on those tight brushy streams. It handled moderately weighted wooly buggers in size 8 well. I also tried a few single hand spey casts, the snap T and snake roll, and found it could do these acceptably. Casting into the wind was a problem, but hey, it is a 3wt. Wind has never been the frustrating issue for me casting on small streams.
Overall I’m pleasantly surprised with the quality of this rod and its casting ability, and if you didn’t look at the label you’d swear the rod was one of Sages now discontinued LL’s. O/K, maybe that’s too much, it’s not that smooth, but it’s not $600+ either, however it is a great rod for the money. I doubt 8” brookies would object to being caught on it too. Would I get another? Absolutely, I’d really like to see what the switch rods are like in this series, which apparently are sold out until June 2010. Barring the unknown, I can see this rod becoming one of my favourites.