Review: The All-New 9’ 5wt Echo Trout X

  • Author Jake
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A good 5wt rod is a jack-of-all-trades. A tool that will throw an indicator rig one minute, dries the next, and chuck small streamers as daylight fades to evening. Like a good pair of jeans, a good 9' 5wt is comfortable, versatile, and should cover your ass in every situation.

Bottom line up front: If you like 5wts, the 9’ Echo Trout X is your new favorite pair of jeans.

Short on time or attention span? Click the blur for a very short review. Otherwise, skip the blur.

I'm prejudiced against 5wt rods and their inherent sacrifices--especially mid-tier rods where I've been burned before (glaring at you, Sage Foundation and TFO BVK), so I went into this review expecting not to like this rod. I was wrong. Very much in line with modern flagship efforts from Sage, Scott, and Orvis but at less than half the price, this rod combines power and feel in a balance well-suited for almost every trout situation, and almost every trout angler. It will handle most lines with confidence, but I wouldn't overline it and I would steer clear of overweight streamer lines.

If a Sage Igniter is a 5 on the power and a 5 on the speed scale, and a Redington Butterstick is a 1 on both, consider this rod to be a 3.5 for power and a 3.5 for speed. Though it will do both, it is a rod happier on a technical tailwater than tossing a bulky indicator with a two-nymph rig into the wind--but don't despair if you're throwing big things long distances. For the situations the 5wt doesn't suit, Echo is also releasing the Trout X in an 8'6" 3wt, an 8'6" 4wt, a 9' 4wt, and a 9' 6wt that could handle them in style.



The Case for A 5wt:


If you’re in the market for a 5wt rod, you’re prioritizing versatility and a one-rod quiver. Whether that one-rod is to save space, weight, or money, or simply to avoid having to carry more specialized rods, anglers ask a lot of their 5wts. In a given year a 5wt rod is expected to catch all manner of bass, trout, carp, whitefish, perch, panfish—even catfish. You want a rod that will throw an indicator rig, turn a 12’ 4x leader over in a stiff surprise wind, load with just a few feet of line out the tip, and toss a dry-dropper rig 75’ in a Hail-Mary attempt to save the day and avoid going home scoreless. You want versatility and performance not asked of any other fly rod, and you don’t want to break the bank buying it.

Luckily, rod makers have pushed technology to the point where it’s hard to find a bad 5wt rod. Most of the rods you find today are fast-actioned but still offer good sensitivity and feel.

Unfortunately, rod makers have also pushed rod prices into the stratosphere, many asking well over $1000 for their latest rods and repackaging old and outdated technology as their “new” mid-priced rods. Despite this tech and those prices, even these flagship $1000 rods, especially 5wt rods, require sacrifices. Too often, despite the marketing hype, sensitivity and feel are sacrificed for power. These sacrifices are even more evident for rods under $500 that seek to strike this same balance, and the rods are either made with old technology or use materials and components that leave a lot to be desired.

Rods like the Fenwick Aetos (~$200) will catch fish but quickly show their defects, having traded casting range, distance, accuracy, sensitivity, and rod weight for a lower retail price. It's also apparent that the first thing companies do to lower prices is to use components that will get the job done but leave a lot to be desired in usability and durability.

Enter the Echo Trout X

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Tim Rajeff set out to change this with Echo Fly Fishing’s soon-to-arrive $400 Echo Trout X and its “Variable Sweet Spot” that, according to Tim, offers a “giant sweet spot” (wide effective casting range) and the ability to make “perfect casts at any distance”. But anyone can say anything about a rod—especially one they’re selling, and especially if that someone holds casting records. Is any of this true, or is this just marketing bullshit?

The Parking Lot Test


When Echo sent me a Trout X to test and asked me to review it, I took some measurements, made some notes, and then tried to hate the rod. I thought it would be easy to find faults because I don’t like 9’ 5wt rods, I prefer full-wells or snub-nosed grips, and I dislike marketing hype. I also participated in a fly rod shootout a few years ago that pitted dozens of 5wt rods against each other, and while the old Echo Trout was a decent performer it was a heavy rod that struggled at distance and was generally unexciting. I assumed that the Trout X was going to just be a refresh and rehash of the old Trout, so I didn't expect much. To highlight the contrast between this mid-tier rod and a current class leader, I borrowed an $1100 9’ 5wt Scott Centric, a reel with a true-to-weight line, and took the two rods out to the nearest parking lot I could find, confident the $400 Echo was going down in flames. It didn’t--boy was I wrong.

At 15 feet, the Trout X hit every maple leaf I cast to with just a few feet of fly line out the tip. I could see the Trout X flexing in the tip section, indicating it was perhaps a fast-action rod, but surprisingly I could still feel it in the cork. Translation: This is a fairly fast rod with good feel and "touch".​

I grabbed the Scott Centric, sure it would be a similar story, and while the accuracy was the same it didn’t load as well with so little line out the tip, and I certainly wasn’t feeling “it” in the cork. But, the Centric is a faster rod and while sensitive it trades some feel for power, so this was to be expected.​

At 25 feet the Trout X hit the paper plate every time I cast. The Centric had more line speed, and tight and accurate casts felt automatic, but the Trout X had a lot more feedback and was just as accurate with little effort. It was still just tip-flexing but I could definitely feel the rod through the cork in my hand.​

At 50 feet it hit the plate 90% of the time. The Trout X flexed in the top third, a little further down than the Centric, and had considerably less line speed, indicating a slower-recovering rod, but in my hand, the Trout X felt alive whereas the Centric felt more numb and gave far less feedback. This is funny because prior to casting the Trout X against it, I loved how much feeling I got from the Centric.​

At 75 feet the Echo could hit the hula hoop on almost every cast. It took slightly more effort than the Centric and loaded a bit deeper, but thanks to its feedback in the handle it was more fun to cast. Loops were wider than the Centric, and the rod didn’t carry that much line as easily but it still threw nice wind-beating wedges.​

Despite my best efforts, I found myself liking the Trout X. So I decided to torture it. I was in a parking lot, after all.​

I stripped off all of the line, and a bunch of backing, and tried to cast the whole mess. 90’ of fly line and a pile of backing disappeared out the rod tip in short order. The rod struggles to aerialize a lot of line, and the difference in line speed between the Trout X and Centric was quite apparent when I repeated the shot with the Centric, but who the heck actually fishes like this? The rod did what I asked, and pretty handily. It was looking like a faster-than-medium-fast rod, with medium-high power, so I figured I would test it​

On the Water and In the Wind


Almost any fly rod will turn over a short, thick section of mono and a yarn fly, especially in a parking lot, so for this test I built a couple of 12’ 4x leaders, added a foam hopper, and took it out to a local lake on a very gusty (20+ mph winds) and very rainy day. A friend and I took turns casting it against his similarly-priced Loop Opti 9’ 5wt with two different lines: A short head true-to-weight line and a longer head true-to-weight line. Many rods that do well in a parking lot fail to do well on the water, and visa-versa, but the Echo Trout X proved itself a true fishing rod by loading and casting to a wide range of distances--even dumping the whole line. To sum up the session:

  1. It will throw a tight loop and turn over a 12’ 4x leader and foam hopper straight into the face of a 20 mph wind, at any distance you're going to fish a 5wt.
  2. The Trout X outperformed the Loop Opti at every distance in accuracy, ease of casting, line speed, line carrying, shooting range, stroke versatility, and loop size.
  3. The rod flexes differently with different line tapers. Both lines were true-to-weight, but a short head (~30’) line flexed the rod in the top 1/3rd at all distances,
49A6F2EC-7645-46DB-A7E0-65848FA84626.jpeg

(Not the best photos, but Echo didn't send along any models and the weather sucked. Note the tip flexing)

while the longer head line at the same point in the cast flexed much deeper into the blank—all the way back to the first stripping guide and even into the cork.
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which suggested this rod had something interesting going on with its

Geometry and taper.​


A while ago my children discovered my calipers, and I haven’t seen them since. So, I was forced to measure the rod with a string and a measuring tape. While it is perfectly circular in cross-section, this rod has a somewhat parabola-shaped taper down its length rather than the more typical progressive/triangle taper that is widest in the butt section and thinnest at the tip. For a significant portion of its length, the second section (the one above the butt section) is actually wider in diameter (11/32”) than the butt section is at its widest (10/32”). This might not appear significant, but it seems to have the effect of softening the butt of the rod and transmitting more feel and flex. It also helps to explain the differences in rod flexing I saw at the lake, and also what I noticed when I began experimenting with different lines. This could be part of Echo's attempt at creating what their marketing literature calls the “Variable Sweet Spot”, the idea that this rod will effectively cast and fish at any distance, from 15' on a creek to a long-distance shot on a western freestone.

What about different lines?

It's not always talked about, but choosing the right fly line is arguably more important than choosing the right fly rod. The right fly line not only casts and presents what you are trying to fish but also suits the rod. Lines change the character of a rod so much that blindfolded you’d swear they were different rods, or even that your $1000 beauty was a garden stake someone had switched on you. So, I headed down to a not-so-local river I found that

With a heavy line, such as the RIO Grand which is a full line-size heavy, this rod flexes deep into the blank (even flexing into the cork) and transmits a significant amount of feel. The RIO Grand felt clunky, so I tried a RIO Gold and a S/A MPX (each about 1/2 a wt heavy) and found the rod performed best with these if I used a long, graceful stroke. If you are throwing bigger things, are more used to a medium-action rod, or value more feel in your cast, the Gold or the MPX are your lines.​

With a lighter line, such as the S/A Amplitude Trout and RIO Perception I experimented with, the line speeds up, the rod flexes much closer to the tip, and unsurprisingly it recovers much faster. You won’t have as much feel as the heavier lines, but the rod is still lively and there is still plenty of feeling. A shorter, more aggressive casting stroke will get the best results with these lines.​

Even with intentionally wrong lines, the rod is versatile enough that you can punch a 4wt line straight into the wind or relax and let the rod propel a 6wt line 75’. Not that you ever would, or should, but you could.​

The Verdict:​

I tried not to like this rod but failed--I like it a lot. Very much in line with modern flagship efforts from Sage, Scott, and Orvis (Recon and Helios F) but at less than half the price, this rod combines power and feel in a balance well-suited for almost every trout situation, and almost every trout angler. It will handle most lines with confidence, but I wouldn't overline it and I would steer clear of overweight streamer lines. If a Sage Igniter is a 5 on the power and a 5 on the speed scale, and a Redington Butterstick is a 1 on both, consider this rod to be a 3.5 for power and a 3.5 for speed. Though it will do both, it is a rod happier on a technical tailwater than tossing a bulky indicator with a two-nymph rig into the wind--but don't despair if you're throwing big things long distances. For the few situations the 5wt doesn't suit, Echo is also releasing the Trout X in an 8'6" 3wt, an 8'6" 4wt, a 9' 4wt, and a 9' 6wt that will handle them in style.

Why Should You Trust Me?​

You shouldn’t. I've been fly fishing for a while, and Echo has no hooks in me (I’ve never gotten so much as a free sticker), but the only person's opinion you should trust is your own. Go to your local fly shop, cast an Echo Trout X, and see for yourself how cool this rod is. I don’t like 5wt rods, but even I’m considering buying a Trout X.


Meet the Trout X:​


Aesthetics: ( +, -, or = )​


+ The Trout X is a nice olive-green blank with a wood burl spacer and bright hardware.
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+ The rod comes with a grass-green fiberglass rod tube that perfectly matches the color of the blank.
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- The cork is decent for a rod in this price range, but not great. There's filler in the gaps and crevices that will eventually work its way out, causing the remaining cork to wear more, but that's more of a rod longevity thing and easily dealt with when it happens.

= The snake guides seem large for this rod, and they don't seem to make much of a difference either way when casting, so it's a user-preference thing.

Ergonomics: ( +, -, or = )​


+ The Trout X has alignment dots on the back of the blank where you will see it when holding the rod. This is the first time I've ever seen this and may make lining up the rod easier for you.

+ The stripping guide is pretty far up the second section. This changes how the line feeds into the rod and for casting it’s a nice touch as it can make shooting the line easier.

+ Lightweight at 2.7oz. For perspective, the Scott Centric I cast against the Trout X was 3.16oz, and the Loop Opti was 3.1oz.

+ Extra-long reverse half-wells grip. Fits a 7yo’s hand as easily as my giant mitt.
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- Moderately-high swing weight of 9.2oz. More on what that is and how that's calculated below.

- The unlocking reel seat has only one locking ring. With a heavier reel, or depending on your casting stroke, you may find this to need occasional tightening.

= Moderate swing weight.

Casting: ( +, -, or = )​


+ You will feel your cast in the cork from the moment you begin to load the rod.

+ The Trout X loads easily with even a minimal amount of line out the tip.

+ It will turn over a 12’ leader with no problem—even into the wind with a big fly.

+ There does seem to be some truth to the expanded sweet spot for this rod. Some rods cast easiest and with the best accuracy from 30-70’, others are best in the 20-40’ range, but the Echo Trout X seems equally happy and adept at fishing any distance between 10’ and 60’, will readily flex to 75’, and if you need an ego boost you can chuck the line and some backing.

+ Even though the rod has a wide effective range, you can readily control where and when the rod flexes by changing your stroke and/or changing your line. Because of this

+ The Trout X will accommodate a variety of casting styles and proficiencies. Beginners will love the Tout X from the first cast, yet proficient and advanced casters will not feel limited by it. Aggressive casters used to fast-actioned rods will find the Trout X to be a fast rod, while relaxed casters will find it is happy to cruise along with them.

- This rod isn’t a line-speed demon.

- This rod would struggle to throw large bass bugs and large streamers, but almost any 5wt would.

- This rod doesn’t throw as tight of loops as easily as faster or higher-priced 5wt rods.

- Carrying a lot of line for multiple false casts is not as easy as it could be.

= This rod also isn’t going to completely compensate for your bad technique, especially if you tend to hammer or overpower your forward cast.

Numbers & Data


MSRP: $399 USD.

Made in the USA? No.

Warranty: $50 repairs, tip sections can be ordered directly.

Weight: 2.7 ounces in the U.S., 76.9g everywhere else in the world. For perspective, a 905 G. Loomis Asquith weighs 2.9 ounces, and a 905 Sage X weighs 2.8oz.

Swing Weight: 9.2oz or 260g. This roughly simulates how much weight you feel ahead of your hand when swinging the rod. I placed a lump of wax on a scale, then placed the rod on the wax lump where it would balance in the hand when fishing (about the middle of the palm). Then I pushed down on the very end of the reel seat until the rod was level according to a handheld spirit level. I did this ten times and averaged the results. For perspective, a 905 G. Loomis Asquith has a swing weight of 8oz, and a 905 Sage X has a swing weight of 9.9oz.

Butt Section Blank Diameter: 10/32" at the thickest point (just above hook keeper)

Second Section Blank Diameter: 11/32” just above ferrule, 10/32” about halfway between 1st and 2nd stripping guide.

Distance from cork to first stripping guide: 20.75”

Components:
Blank: High modulus graphite in a dark olive-green that Echo calls a "mist green".
Stripping Guides: Single coil ceramic insert​
Nickel winding check
Grip: Extended Reverse Half-Wells grip. A moderate amount of filler.​
Reel Seat: Wood burl.​

Some Common Cents Data:


The Common Cents system for evaluating fly rods waxes and wanes in popularity, but it's a decent starting place for creating uniform data to compare fly rods objectively. It's also a way to try to cut through marketing mumbo jumbo. Below are some of the findings for the 9' 5wt Echo Trout X I tested.

Calculated Power (ERN): 5wt. (ERN of ~5.8). 114 grams (46 pennies) to drop the rod tip from horizontal to -36". Humidity and temperature can affect this statistic. A "true" 5wt rod would have an ERN of 5.5 and a 6wt rod would have an ERN of 6.5. That the Echo Trout X scored a 5.8 indicates that it's something like a 5.4wt on the power scale. This matches the experience I had with different lines. A line that is a half-size or more heavy like the RIO Grand overloads the rod, while a true-to-line weight line leaves it with extra power.

Action Angle: 65°. Upon loading the above pennies on the rod tip, the angle of a line extended through the rod tip registered 65° on a protractor. Below 59° a rod is considered slow action as it has a gentle curve from bending all the way back to the cork. 59-63° is moderate action. 63-66° is moderate/fast action. Above 66° a rod, flexing mostly at the tip, is considered fast action. The Trout X, having an angle of 65°, is on the faster-end of the moderate/fast category, which was what I saw when casting. While in theory this metric may change with temperature and humidity, I saw no measurable change over multiple days and in different room temperatures.

Recovery/Response Rate/Common Cents Frequency: ~83, Moderate-Fast. Once loaded as above, the weight is suddenly released from the rod and, using a high speed camera (GoPro, in this case) the amount of time (seconds) it takes for the rod to spring back and forth 20 times is calculated by dividing it by 1200 (seconds per minute). A rod that recovers faster will oscilate faster (higher frequency), and a rod that recovers slower will oscillate slower (lower frequency). According to this methodology a graphite rod is typically between 66 and 90. Note that this metric is also dependent on factors such as humidity and temperature.


Marketing Bullshit or Fact?:

Claim #1: In their description of the rod Echo says that this is a slightly faster than moderate/fast rod, with slightly more than mid-high power, and a line-stiffness rating of 5.4 (suggested line weight).​


(See the chart below for Echo's claim about rod)
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FACT, not bullshit. This was borne out in both casting and Common Cents measurements.​

Claim #2: Echo claims this rod will load and cast effectively between 0 and 50', with power and ability to cast much further.​

Fact, not bullshit. This was borne out in both casting and Common Cents measurements.​



Claim #3: Echo claims this rod has a "Variable Sweet Spot" that allows for a variety of casting strokes and to a variety of distances.​

Plausible. There are some casts this rod doesn't like as much as others (such as the side-arm cast or a cast that is too aggressive), but it does have a surprisingly wide range of casts that it allows for and to a wide range of distances.​


Claim #4: "Perfect casts at any distance".​


Undetermined/untested. Maybe it's marketing bullshit, or maybe I just suck, but I've never, ever, made a perfect cast at any distance with any rod. For integrity's sake, I'll make you a deal. If you send me a video of you making a perfect cast with a different rod, but can't make a perfect cast with the Trout X, I'll amend this entry.​

About author
Jake
As a reformed journalist, semi-reformed photographer, and a never-to-be-reformed fly fisher I have been fortunate enough to have the occasional opportunity to ghostwrite gear reviews and reports for several well-known fly shops and websites, participate in extensive gear trials and shootouts, and flog the occasional photo to fly fishing companies.

If you're still reading this I'm beginning to wonder about you, but heck--let's go fishing!

Comments

I’ve skimmed a few rod shoot outs before but mostly lost interest - this review I found interesting as I could be in the market for a 9’ 5 wt but have no interest in high $ stuff (I’m pretty much s hack caster). Thanks for the in depth review. I found your discussion of various lines especially helpful.
 
I’ve skimmed a few rod shoot outs before but mostly lost interest - this review I found interesting as I could be in the market for a 9’ 5 wt but have no interest in high $ stuff (I’m pretty much s hack caster). Thanks for the in depth review. I found your discussion of various lines especially helpful.
You’re welcome!

I may have gone overboard on details, but I’m glad you found them useful. I tried to fill in the gaps most reviews leave out.
 

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