I consider myself a decent fly fisherman, but not a great one. I feel like that has all changed with the addition of the Maine Fly Company's Kennebec 5W fly rod to my arsenal. Luckily, I've gotten to know fly rod making guru Jeff Davis, who has made it his life's mission to put a small batch fly rod in the hands of everyone and anyone who wants to start out in the fly fishing game, and for those who have more experience too.
I've always had the idea that I needed bigger and heavier gear to withstand my preferred type of trout fishing, but I've never found myself to be so overmatched by the gear that I was using as to be routinely defeated by good fish. While I may have thought that using an 8W or larger fly rod was necessary, I've now come to the conclusion that a rock solid 5W works quite well. Sure, the bigger fly fishing rod and reel combos definitely have their time and place when it comes to the larger species such as chinook and Atlantic salmon, and especially for saltwater purposes, but for most fly anglers something right around a 5W is just what the doctor ordered.
I developed that understanding after visiting Maine Fly Company and using the Kennebec 5W rod, and will share more about the brand, the rod, and how they're both helping fly anglers get better on the water.
Small Batch Fly Rods
As I walked around the workshop, it was easy to see how passionate Jeff is about quality fishing gear, and how organized he leaves things for his production staff. Everything was in order, and the main work bench had several stools parked in front of it for anyone who walked in to shop to take a seat and get an up-close look at how the company was making new rods. I got the full tour, and seeing this shop made me even more excited to actually fish with a rod built in such a place. There were multiple finished rods twirling around on the rack in the drying room, which was carefully temperature-monitored between 70 and 74 degrees and very with low humidity. Each rod already had the Maine Fly Company logo burned into the cork handle so there can be no doubt as to where it originated. They were also stamped with the rod's signature name, like the Dead River, the Kennebec, and the new Roach River four piece, 9'6" 5W rod.
If you take a glance at the photo above, you'll see two of Maine Fly's artisan rod builders working at stations that are right in front of big picture windows, allowing a ton of natural light to flood into the room. Those windows look down at the Royal River, which flows right through the town of Yarmouth.
The young artisans who design, build, and refine these rods are always under Jeff's trusting tutelage and yet have all the experience needed to craft these fly fishing originals. This great mix of generational fly rod making and top notch fly fishing knowledge is key to preserving the integrity of the gear they make. You can really sense the passion that drives the Maine Fly Company.
Using the Maine Fly Company Kennebec 5W Rod
If you recall the mention of the windows in the photo of the Main Fly Company's workshop, you might wonder if it's feasible to fish in that part of the Royal River. The answer is a resounding yes, and it's the designated spot for folks to try out one of the fly rods before they buy it. Since this part of the Royal River is not too far from the Atlantic Ocean, there are Atlantic salmon in the waters, but Maine fishing regulations don't allow for the targeting of sea-run salmon. Luckily, this section of the Royal is also home to some beautiful brown trout. I couldn't resist a chance to cast my new Kennebec rod out on the rocks, so I wandered down to the river and started my first casts.
Even with the wind right in my face, it was a cinch to turn my back to the target area, begin my cast with the wind, and then backcast into the hole where the nice brown in the photo above was waiting. I caught about four, as did the other folks I was with. Talk about a great spot to try out a new fly rod!
As it was, this quick test run was only the beginning. The next day we traveled over two hours to the northwest corner of the Pine Tree State to try our luck on the Magalloway. This river is larger, wilder, and a bit more of a challenge to cast, but there are plenty of prime fishing areas where a fly angler can easily get into some wild brook trout.
The day I spent on the Magalloway River was incredible. The fly fishing on this wild river is everything it is cracked up to be and more. I found myself simply standing still and roll casting to keep the fly in trout-holding areas until they couldn't stand it anymore. The Kennebec 5W made it so easy for me to lift the bead head stonefly I was using and roll it back into the top of the hole over and over. It was only a matter of time until I hooked up. On the day, we tallied multiple browns, brook trout, and I caught my first ever Atlantic salmon using the Kennebec.
You might think that hand crafted fly rods that are made in small batches must be expensive, but in actuality they start at just $299. The Kennebec that I used is $319, and I loved it so much that I almost can't imagine myself going back to a mass-produced, big box store fly rod ever again. I purchased a Cheeky Preload 350 fly reel to go along with it, and the setup is poised to serve me well for years to come.
You can buy any of the Maine Fly Company rods, reels, apparel, and accessories online, or you can visit the shop directly. Obviously, if you want to try before you buy, an in-person trip is your best bet. After getting to know them, I've learned these are some of the most accommodating folks that you will ever meet and it all starts with owner Jeff Davis. Trust me when I say that this will be your new favorite fly rod.