The first fly rod I purchased for steelhead fishing was a 9' 8wt St. Croix Imperial. It was moderately priced, performed well, and has proven to be bullet proof over the years. Not long after I purchased it, St. Croix discontinued the Imperial line of fly rods. For many of the Great Lakes steelheading techniques, such as nymphing and indicating, a longer fly rod is desirable for better line control. Although my 9' 8wt was still catching fish, I decided to look into a longer rod and step down to a 7wt for the smaller Lake Huron steelhead I typically fish for near my home.
Other than the premium fly rod manufactures, I had a hard time finding a 7wt steelhead rod longer than 9'. Sure, there were some options, but I was in the $200 price range, not $500 or $600. After all, this new rod would need a reel, line, and backing.
Last fall, St. Croix send me a 2010 catalog with the new Imperial fly rod line-up. I was excited to see a 10' 7wt in the mix, schedule for release in January 2010. I had to have one.
I shelled out the $200 bills after the first of the year to an online retailer. No fly shops carry steelhead gear within 100 miles of here. My first impression was excellent. The blank was a sexy dark burgundy color, the cork smooth and well shaped, and the reel seat had just enough bling to be my style. It also very light weight in my hand. Great, time to catch some fish!
|January Steelhead on St. Croix 10' 7wt Imperial|
I fished the rod extensively throughout the winter and spring steelhead season. Most fish were in the 5-8lb range and the 7wt seemed to be a good fit. I over-lined the rod with an 8wt floating line "steelhead taper". I do this with most of my steelhead rods to aid in turning over long leaders with split shot and weighted flies. It quickly became my goto setup.
Since I hadn't caught any really big fish on the 7wt Imperial, I decided to give it a test on fall salmon. I was fishing a smaller river with fairly deep pools that were loaded with timber. Again, the extra length rod worked well for navigating through narrow runs. We found a pod of migrating kings late in the day and this bruiser male put up a great battle. The rod did an OK job at keeping him under control. Its too light for king salmon, but good to know it can handle the job if I luck into a giant steelhead!
|King Salmon on my Steelhead Rod|
Later in the day, I snagged some timber and used the rod tip to attempt to shake the fly loose. You should never do this! I ended up breaking 2 inches off the tip. This was no fault of St. Croix, I abused the rod. For $30 and free shipping I had entirely new top section sent to my house in a matter of days. St. Croix's customer service is second to none.
After nearly a year of use, the rod is still in great condition. I've noticed some wear at the real seat, which is to be expected. There ferrules look excellent and the cork is beginning to fit my hand like a glove. I love the feel of a well used fly rod!
The St. Croix Imperial "Perfect for anglers who seek the best in performance, appearance and value." I agree!