Rod Review - The C.F. Burkheimer 5125-4 “MK Classic”, 12’5” 4/5/6

Rod Review - The C.F. Burkheimer 5125-4 “MK Classic”, 12’5” 4/5/6


A big kid Spey rod with Trout Spey feel.  Kerry enlisted the help of Big Sky Anglers’ own Matt Klara (aka MK) and others to dial in a unique, versatile, super-fun, forgiving rod that will change your opinion about what 4 and 5wt 2-handers for trout can and should do.  For mid-sized to huge rivers, and fish in the 14-inch to 5+ pound class, this is simply an amazing rod.  We stock the custom “MK Classic” configuration of this rod, with cosmetics, components, and handle shape based on Matt’s own personal preferences.


In the spirit of full disclosure, I have a special place in my heart for this rod as I was deeply involved in the concept development and testing of this Burkheimer masterpiece over the past year.  While the full story behind this rod may not be thrilling to everyone, I believe it is worth telling because it truly shows the roots of C.F. Burkheimer as a company, and Kerry’s philosophy surrounding rod design and creation.

The initial idea for this rod came along at the Big Sky Anglers 2019 West Yellowstone Trout Spey Days event.  My close friend and guest speaker Brian Chou and I had been checking out all the rods and we noticed that there was a bit of a gap in the collective quiver. 

Brian and I both cut our teeth on longer rods and longer lines than are represented in the modern Trout Spey game.  We both love big water, fishing in any conditions that Mother Nature can throw at us, and fishing with special gear that not only brings us joy, but also allows us to present the fly with ease and efficiency while also not completely overpowering the quarry.  Even with all the modern trout Spey offerings out on the market, we felt that something was missing.  We felt that typical 4-weight rods were able to cast the bigger flies we wanted to fish, and also made fighting trout fun, but also that they were generally too short in our opinion to give us full command on the bigger water like the Missouri, Yellowstone, Deschutes, and Sacramento, and to efficiently cast some of the longer lines.  At the same time, we felt that the available 5-weight and 6-weight 2-handers were long enough, but were a bit overkill in terms of the size of trout we most commonly pursue.

A few weeks after the event, Brian and I ended up separately chatting with our mutual friend and extraordinary rod designer Kerry Burkheimer about Trout Spey and the things we had been up to.  We each independently told Kerry that we thought that a longer rod in the 4/5wt category would be really cool and extremely applicable to a lot of the fishing situations that we find ourselves in.  Something with a lot of feel to make trout fishing super fun.  And that was that.  Life happened and the idea faded a bit in my own mind as winter took an icy grip on the Rockies and COVID-19 began to take over our collective consciousness. 

Then, one day, a message came in.  It was Kerry.  He had a prototype and needed my address.  WHAT?!  The first version of what is now the 5125 came my way in a reused cardboard tube.  The prototype’s cork was pitted and barely even sanded.  The guides were attached to the blank with masking tape.  There was no butt end on the rod, so I fashioned one from duct tape.  I dug through all the lines I had at my house, then called the shop and a couple of friends, and eventually cobbled together an assortment of line options that I thought would be worth a shot based on the intel I got from Kerry.  After the first few casts I knew that Kerry had hit a home run.  After the first full day fishing it I was even more excited.  Each line I tried seemed good or great, and different styles and weights of line activated the rod in different ways.  Everyone I know who cast it, loved it. If you didn’t look at the taped together pieces, you could tell it was a true Burkie, with a wide grain window, forgiving action, crisp recovery, and piles of feel.  The first trout I lifted into with the rod was a solidly built Missouri River rainbow.  As the rod flexed deeply, I felt every bit of power from that wonderful fish transferred straight to me.  I quit thinking about my cold toes completely.    


Over the winter, Kerry made some minor tweaks to the overall design, and by June the project was complete.  Our dream rod had become a reality in less than 10 months, and everything about it was distinctly C.F. Burkheimer.  The production model ended up even better than the prototypes, in my opinion.  With the components and construction refined, the rod seemed even lighter in hand.  Flawless wraps replaced the masking tape, and my hastily fashioned duct tape butt end was now beautifully sanded composite cork.  The foregrip was smoothly tapered, just as I had asked.  A “Western Trout Spey” grip. 

At some point I was on the phone with Kerry, catching up, sharing line recommendations, and promising to fish together soon.  On a bit of a whim, I asked him how he started C.F. Burkheimer.  I wish I’d recorded his exact reply, but to paraphrase part of the story, he said it all started to take off when some of the fishy folks that had gotten their hands on some of his original designs some 30-odd years ago came to him with new ideas for a rod that was a little different and with a little more feel than everything else out there.  I instantly felt connected to the story.  “Kerry”, I said, “that’s exactly how the 5125’s story started.”

There was a pause on the other end, then a little laugh.  “Man, I guess you’re right.  That’s pretty cool.”

Yeah, Kerry, that’s pretty dang cool.  Thanks again for everything you do!


By now I’ve managed to tell a long story without saying much about the rod itself.  Let’s change that now.  Numerically, it is the 5125-4.  A 5wt +/-, 2-handed rod, 12-feet 5-inches in length, that breaks down into 4 pieces. The rod strikes a rare balance between big water presentation ability and trout Spey feel, where to focus is perhaps a bit less on fish size and more on fun size.  A quintessential Burkie, the 5125 has a wide grain window (300-420gr) depending on how you like your cast to feel and how you measure these things, which is alluded to in the rod being labeled as a 4/5/6wt by Burkheimer.  It is a testament to Kerry’s rod design ability that a rod can so comfortably and beautifully cast such a wide variety of lines in such a wide grain window.  This not only makes it easy to find lines that work well with the rod right away, but also allows super nerds like me to experiment endlessly and dial in combinations that perfectly fit my own casting style or mood.  The rod is not stiff, but rather flexes progressively deeper into the blank depending on power application and line choice.  While it can be flexed deeply, it is not a “slow” rod.  On the contrary, it’s recovery is fast and crisp.  In my mind, when compared to other rods across manufacturers and the fly lines that those rods comfortably throw, it rates as a 4/5wt.  It feels like a true Spey rod, making long casts and line handling a breeze.  The extra length also makes pulling sink tips much easier than with shorter rods.  And for those willing to experiment, you can even find mid/long-belly line equivalents for the rod that cast like a dream.

Numerous customizations are available on this and all of Kerry’s rods.  C.F. Burkheimer is truly a custom rod shop, and Kerry and Co. will put whatever touches you want on a rod for you.  We have the 5125-4 built with my own preferred specifications for Big Sky Anglers, and Kerry assigned the name “MK Classic” to the configuration. 


CFB “MK Classic” Specs

Reel Seat: T-6061 dark anodized aluminum
Guides: Smoked Nanolite stripper and smoked snakes
Blank Color: Translucent Black
Winding Check: Nickel Silver
Cork Inlay: Three layer
Handle: Hand sorted select Flor grade cork.  Western Trout Spey grip. 

As far as reel pairings, that is absolutely a matter of personal preference, and I won’t dare get into the aesthetics of fly reels here.  That said, line capacity and weight (to nicely balance the rod in hand) are both important considerations when choosing a reel for any 2-hander.  For the 5125, I’ve found that reels weighing in the 7.25 to 8 oz range balance the rod best.  Also, reels designed for 7 or 8 weight single hand rods seem to have the appropriate line capacity to handle 100 to 150+ yards of backing, a typical 100-foot long running line, and a modern shooting head and tips system.  Do your research, dig around in your gear cave, and feel free to reach out to us via email for suggestions that fit this category.

The following are a few of the fly line pairings that we’ve found to work well on this rod, along with some comments on the best fishing/casting situations for each.  My two personal favorite line pairings are noted accordingly.

RIO Scandi Shooting Head, 330 grains, 31ftMatt’s Pick for Floating Line and Small Wets

  • If you come from a Spey background of dry lining for summer steelhead and want to get into swinging wets for trout on big water, this could be your line.  This line enables dreamy, Scandi-style casting with a crisp high rod stop.  In addition to our local trout scene, this line would be glorious for the folks who swing out on the coast for half pounder steelhead.
  • To get the most performance out of this line, we like a 15 or 16 foot mono or flouro leader.  Build your own with 40, 30, 20, and 10lb mono, or go for the easy button option by adding 4 feet of your preferred tippet material onto a 12ft, 12 or 16lb RIO Steelhead/Salmon Mono leader.
  • This is my current favorite line for fishing soft hackles with this rod.

RIO Elite Trout Spey Shooting Head, 305gr, 23ftA One Line Quiver Option

  • This is a sneaky option that we felt cast like a dream and could be a sort of “One line quiver” for this rod.  The 305 grain weight seems light at first, but the secret here was to add SA Sonar Leaders (10ft and 50gr) or RIO 10ft In-Touch Replacement Tips (5wt 55grains) to create essentially a 33ft Scandi head of 360 grains with a sort of interchangeable tip. 
  • Varying the Sonar Leader/Replacement Tip density and tippet length allowed us to fish from near surface (using the Floating In-Touch Replacement Tip or Hover /Intermediate sink rate leader) to the depths (using the Type 3 and Type 6 sinking leader and tip options).
  • This line system is for folks who like a more Scandi-esque crisp casting that will handle soft hackles and even smaller streamers like a Thin Mint or even a Sculpzilla!  If you like a light feel and don’t want to mess with multiple lines or big heavy flies, this is a great option.

RIO ELITE Trout Spey Shooting Head, 350gr, 23ftMatt’s Pick for Streamer Fishing

  • The RIO Elite Trout Spey Shooting Head is truly a versatile line.  Up-lining with the Trout Spey Shooting Head from 305 to 350 grains allowed us to throw sink tips and larger streamers a-la Skagit lines, but the length and taper of this line made for really clean loop formation and turnover for casters who prefer to cast with a bit more velocity and performance than typically associated with classic Skagit casting.
  • This line handed a 12ft T8 tip and a medium sized weighted streamer with ease, and is my preferred line system for streamer fishing with this rod. 

RIO Elite Skagit Max Power, 350 grains, 19ft Down and Dirty Skagit Hucker

  • This line is able to throw T8 and T10 tips of 10 or 12 feet with relative ease.
  • If your game is medium-to-big flies, hucking weight, and worrying less about style points than getting your fly into the zone, this is a great line option.  No messing around here.  This will get it done on big water and cold conditions or when you just need/want to throw the junk.
  • NOTE: For a slightly fuller flexing Skagit feel, the Elite Skagit Max Power in 375 grains is also a great pairing.
CF Burkheimer 5125 "MK Classic" Two Handed 4pc
CF Burkheimer 5125 "MK Classic" Two Handed 4pc
CF Burkheimer 5125 "MK Classic" Two Handed 4pc

CF Burkheimer 5125 "MK Classic" Two Handed 4pc

Regular price$1,295.00

Line Weight

This ROD has become one of our most popular 2-handers here at Big Sky Anglers, and we are thrilled to be able to offer this customized version of the 5125 built to MK's personal, preferred specifications. This cosmetics are understated, somewhat utilitarian, but also strikingly beautiful, and the tapered "Western Trout Spey" foregrip adds even more feel to an already spectacular fly rod.

The 5125 is a big kid Spey rod with Trout Spey feel. Kerry enlisted the help of Big Sky Anglers’ own Matt Klara (MK) and others to dial in a unique, versatile, super-fun, forgiving rod that will change your opinion about what 4 and 5wt 2-handers for trout can and should do. For mid-sized to huge rivers, and fish in the 14-inch to 8-pound class, this is simply an amazing rod.

  • Reel Seat: T-6061 dark anodized aluminum
  • Guides: Black nickel (smoked) Nanllite stripping guides and black nickel (smoked) snake guides.
  • Blank Color: Translucent Black
  • Wraps: Black with platinum accent
  • Winding Check: Nickel Silver
  • Cork Inlay: Three layer
  • Handle: Hand sorted select Flor grade cork - Western Trout Spey taper
  • Rod Tube: Hand rolled Burkheimer graphite


Trout Spey Review

A few of us Spey Nerds here at Big Sky Anglers decided to pull together a sizable pile of rods, lines, and other gear, make an effort to dial in as many kits as we could, and share the results with you all.

Read the review

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