Freestone Rod Shop is based in Montrose, Colorado. Bernard, Sam and Len run the show. They build grass and graphite and are not new to the scene….not one bit. Combined, they have 89 years of rod making and design behind their craft. Thomas & Thomas, Scott and Winston were all blessed with their abilities over the years. Gary Loomis made the blanks to their exact specifications, working together to make the perfect rod. New ideas have come about and now they are sharing them with us. Yeah, it’s another high end rod company entering the market in toughest of times. But they don’t care. These fellas have something figured out. This rod expresses itself – even when just sitting in your hand. Cast it, or better yet, fish with it , and you will see for yourself what I mean – if you can find one. Freestone Rod Shop only builds a small number of rods per year, thus making them all to perfection and already highly sought after. From what Bernard says, they are flying off the shelves at a rapid pace and they are already taking orders for 2012.
I first saw a graphite prototype during the summer of 2010, handed to me by my buddy Jonathon Heames. “This rod might change your life,” he noted. That rod was an 8″6′ 5 wt. It was super sexy, but I didnt get to actually fish it right away. One random day in early July of 2011, after our clients had to hit the airport sending us to the boat ramp early, we turned right around, splashed the boat again and floated until dark fishing dry flies on the Henry’s Fork. The Freestone 865 loaded up at all distances and it’s accuracy was pinpoint. There is a smoothness that I have yet to find in any other rod. Energy transfers effortlessly and the rod will almost cast itself – if you let it. To me, a fly rod is yet another tool to get the job done – the right way. The first part of the job is delivering the line and fly. The second is mending, if needed, and the third is how the rod fights the fish. Sure, there are lots of different rods that get the job done, but I want to feel the rod, or maybe the line and fish, at all times while angling. Freestone fly rods make the experience more intimate, if you will, elevating the anglers awareness at all times.
I could just quote their web site and sound really smart. Check it out for yourself. Read the text, then read it again and then maybe once more tomorrow at work. What these guys have figured out is that there is a way to build the best rod ever, to date, before they actually make the rod. I am a huge fan of slow action rods for trout fishing, especially when teaching someone how to cast, mend and fight a trout. Smooth flexing flyrods will get more trout to the net. They will take longer to learn to cast, but once the timing is there, it’s like riding a bike. Sit down and hold on. At first glance, Freestone fly rods look simple and incomplete. Look a little closer, read what they have to say about finish work, and you will begin to understand why simple is better.
About a month ago, the 906 Freestone showed up at my doorstep. I was headed to the Missouri for my last stint of the 2011 guide season and had two days of pre-fishing prior to the clients arriving. It had been quite some time since I was excited about fishing a new rod. I normally fancy my late nineties Winston IM6 9ft 5 WT for dries and the 6 for nymphing and streamer fishing. Both of these rods are smooth and fight fish extremely well. Once rigged, I set up fishing in the Prickly Pear run on the Missouri…..you know the one…if you don’t, you should. Anyway, I swung streamers at first and quickly noticed that while this rod felt like it was going to fold in half, it actually delivered in sweet style, launching all the line at my feet across the river – into the backing. I made about forty of those casts, because I could….. and it felt really good. Awhile later, rigged with a bobber and two flies, I stepped out of the boat and started nymphing the run. When nymping, on foot, I can tell a lot about how a rod is going to function. Wade fishing the Missouri sets one up for long drifts and shooting line way upstream. The 906 out performed my BIIX 6wt (which was rigged as well) by a long shot. Managing one’s drift, mending, is probably the most important part of nymph fishing (besides setting the hook). I was not let down with the rod’s capabilities. I tried to break a fish off, but the rod kept bending, protecting the tippet every time. Later in the week, while guiding, I re-rigged the 906 for dry flies. Droppping anchor a little close to the risers, Ken and myself, were about 20 feet from a small pod. Ken had not fished dry flies on the Missouri……ever. I kept seated and cast short, with a reach and taught him the basics. Ken took the rod, noticed it’s unique vibe and quickly caught a nice 10 incher on a #20 Parachute Adams. Then another. And another after that. The 906 passed the short cast test with flying colors.
Freestone Rods are custom built from top to bottom by two very smart and fishy dudes. These boys designed the entire rod – from the mandrills to the finish work. Art and science have met……this is not your daddy’s fly rod from 1980. I have yet to find anything wrong with either of these two fly rods and will continue to fish with the 906 throughout the winter on the Madison River. I have fallen in love, again. Will my 9 ft 5 IM6 Winston ever forgive me? At this point, I could care less………