Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cortland Big Sky Review

When I used to play golf I had several putters. The reason, I said was because I liked to putt. In reality, I didn't have any money, so I spent many evenings at the golf course beside our house putting on the different greens while dodging the grounds keepers. With so many evenings spent on the greens I got pretty good at putting and ducking for cover. I bought, sold, traded, and borrowed putters while never really quite finding just the right putter. It is not easy to admit, but I am the same way with fly rods. Fortunately I have several  friends who help me with my search in finding the right stick. (FYI- finding the right rod probably will not happen for me).
One of the people who "helps" with my search, to find the right rod, is Leo at Cumberland Transit. Leo is heavy into bamboo rods, but also keeps tabs on the graphite and fiberglass sticks. A couple months or so ago I was sitting in the fly shop at Cumberland Transit looking at the different rods, searching this time, for a work horse to use on guide trips. When Leo asked if I had looked at the Cortland Rods, I said no I really haven't paid them too much attention, although Leo has been telling me about these rods for about a year now. When I got ready to leave he looked through the cabinet, pulled out the Cortland rod, then told me to take it with me to try. And, when I left the shop that day I had the Cortland 9'-5wt 4 piece Big Sky tucked under my arm.
For a couple weeks I forgot about the rod and then one day the rod was laying next to the boat and I rigged it up. The rod was on the next trip where it performed nicely. We threw nymphs with extra weight and the rod dropped the nymphs where we wanted. The rod was soft enough in the tip to throw and swing soft hackles. Also it had enough backbone to deliver a size #18 dry fly about 50' and the finesse to drop it in a slot the size of a... let's just say it was a tight spot. Then it showed it's true performance in a long hook set, with a #18 dry fly, into a 20" rainbow. Anyone who has hooked a large rainbow knows they fight different than a large brown. The brown will go down to the bottom and dig. A larger rainbow is more of a street fighter, jumping, twisting, digging and making those blistering runs before coming to the net. The Big Sky kept the fly lodged and took everything the big rainbow threw at it. A large fish in the net can make an angler look favorable on a fly rod.
Fast forward. We had used the rod for several weeks, but this time the test would be conducted by an angler who hadn't gotten a chance to fish in several years. Just minutes into the float we were hooked up and the Big Sky was bent with a nice hatchery brat stuck on the end of the line. After a few more casting tips our angler was launching the fly, with the Big Sky, about 30' then 40'. The only problem with launching 40' is, I expect the angler to do it every time. After awhile his cast was smooth and the rod was not overly responsive to a slightly "out of time" cast. Our angler was consistently casting 40 plus feet, with accuracy. In other words the Big Sky was not like some of the stiffer rods on the market that expect a near perfect stroke to perform.
On another trip I gave the rod to an experienced angler. After a few casts and a hook-up this angler said the rod response is good. The tip of the rod feels soft, similar to the way some of the higher end rod makers rods feel (obviously not exactly the same and neither is the price) and has some backbone like the more stiff rods on the market. The rod weighs in at at 3.5 oz which seems light for a rod that retails for under $250.00. OK all that is wonderful and great, but what about those of us who are tough on equipment? I went in search of the Cortland Warranty.
For repair or replacement, please return the entire rod or reel, including any broken pieces. Be sure to include a note with your name, address and phone number and $10.00 for Reels, $20.00 for Cortland Rods and $30.00 for Diamondback Rods for domestic S&H. If outside the U.S. please contact us for shipping and handling charges.
The Cortland Big Sky may not compete with the high end rods that we all like to talk about, wiggle in the fly shops and cast every time we walk in the door. (Yes rod envy is a problem). However for an everyday rod that gives good performance at a reasonable cost, the Big Sky is a great rod for the money. And, to quote Lefty Kreh "the rods now days cast a hell of a lot better than we do". This statement I find to be correct more often than not.


  1. Several years ago I bought a 6 piece Cortland rod for a backpacking trip. Four days prior to departure I broke the tip of the rod. Contacted Cortland. There was not enough time for me to send them the broken rod and get a new one back before my trip. Cortland's solution ... they decided to overnight me a new rod and instructed me to contact them when I got back from my trip to resolve the issue. Got the new rod in time for my trip. That is service.

  2. That is the way customer service should be.