Syndicate 11′ 3wt Review: First things first. I don’t do reviews due to lack of free time and I don’t want to be accused of being an industry slut. I utilize equipment that is cost effective, saves me time and makes my life easier, case closed. This rod wasn’t “comped” to me. I paid my own greenbacks for it. It made enough of an impression on me to take the time to type this up. Take that for what it’s worth to ya. Being an avid fly fisher and guide, I’m always excited when a company comes out with a piece of gear that is right up my alley. In my younger days I equated price with performance. Now that I’m older, and depending on who you ask, wiser, I realize that’s not always the case. Having two boys who are getting knee deep into the fly fishing fraternity can make your bank account weep so I’m always on the hunt for top end gear that is affordable. Syndicate combines top level performance with affordability, which in this day and age is a tough combo to find. Syndicate has been making a name for themselves in the competition community and the fly rod community as a whole. They also offer a good assortment of comp hooks, tungsten beads, and dubbing. I contacted Eric Salage at Syndicate via email and told him I wanted to get my hands on their 11′ 3wt offering, as that is the preferred length and weight that myself and my fellow guides and clientele use daily on our home waters in Central Pa. I reminded Eric that we currently fish both Sage ESN’s and T&T ATS’s and a few other assorted 10 and 11 footers which we don’t baby, so I made no bones that we weren’t about to baby the Syndicate! His reply in no uncertain terms was “Bring it on!” Those are tall words, I thought, I’m about to pit your rod against two giants in the industry at almost three times the price point, the proof is in the pudding.
A few days later it arrived in the mail. I ripped ‘er open and pulled it out for inspection. What I found was a pleasantly subdued olive/brown blank with well done wraps and alignment dots that you don’t need a magnifying glass to see. Dual stripping guides and single foot snake guides adorn the blank. The burl wood reel seat is pretty sexy for a no nonsense comp rod, and I was also surprised that it was equipped with double locking rings, something a lot of companies with rods in this price range forego. The cork on the grip and fighting butt is of good quality, as good or better than some on rods I’ve paid double the price for. And a big thanks for the fighting butt, period. This is personal preference, but I like a FB on all my rods 10′ and longer and am willing to pay extra for one. It aids me in locking the rod into my wrist, and to my mind, helps reduce fatigue when high sticking from daylight to dark. I put it together for the infamous “wiggle” test, which we all know is somewhat laughable since you really need to spend time on the lawn or better yet THE WATER to get the feel of a rod. It passed the wiggle test in my living room, with flying colors lol! What really grabbed my attention though was the physical weight. It felt like a feather compared to the rods I have in use now. Syndicate has it listed at 96 grams, which equals roughly 3.4 ounces. Sage lists their 11’ ESN at 3 1/2 ounces, but to me, the Syndicate feels much lighter in the hand which I can’t really explain.
Off to the water then… I grabbed my Lamson Velocity stuffed with my favorite dual purpose line Airflo Super-Dri Elite Trout DT3F (ain’t that a mouthful!) and headed with my oldest son to my home waters of Big Fishing Creek. I slapped on the reel, strung ‘er up with an egg/ midge set, and away we went! This is where the review gets easy because after the first cast, it was like I was fishing with an old friend! The swing weight feels like a feathery wand. Smooth and precise, this rod is a joy to handle with the Airflo. All the sensitivity is there due to the supple but strong tip. Casts landed exactly where I was looking and aimed. It just feels right. My first hookup, a solid 16″ Brownie, wasn’t very enthused about being on the end of the Syndicate! I purposely put the wood to him to see how the rod reacted. No problems whatsoever bringing him to net. What a great fish and start for this nymphing machine! Next up was Airflo’s new nymphing line. It’s very similar to Rio’s Euro nymph line. The Syndicate fished beautifully with the thin Airflo and I expect the same with the Rio and Cortland comp lines. My son took over the helm and quickly landed two 10 inchers. He’s pretty anal about his rod selections, (thanks to DAD’s checkbook by the way!!!) so I was surprised when he quipped “Not bad at all!” Just for the record, this has nothing to do with rod performance, dear old dad landed the best fish of the day! Take that boy!
Trip #2… Off to Spring Creek with my youngest for about five hours of some fun. It was a fun day for me watching the youngin’ putting the Syndicate to work. He landed his best fish of the year so far, so you can guarantee it has his approval!!! Nuc Eggs, Walt’s worms, Sow bugs, Rainbow Warriors and Wiggle worms ruled the day. Just for the hell of it, I rigged up a dry/dropper with a sz12 Stimulator and sz16 Rainbow Warrior off the back and landed a few on the Warrior. Not a hiccup to speak of. I’m really enjoying this stick!
Last but not least, Penns Creek baby!!!… Big Fishing Creek is numero uno in my heart, but Penns is a very close second!!! I wanted to give the Syndicate a go in some heavier water. We got a good plug of rain, which had Penns running at 1500-1600, so away we went. Fished some eggs and heavy Turd stones and a bit of shot on top of that. It was slow going but I did luck into two 16+” Brownies. They were in deeper troughs with pretty decent flow, so once again I really put the pressure on to see if I could turn the Syndicate into confetti. Did It pop? NOPE. Not once did I feel like the rod was under gunned. Even changed leaders and tossed some small to mid sized streamers and it did fine. Not my first choice to toss streamers, but ask this rod to cover the spectrum and it’ll do it. Three different bodies of water, and the Syndicate is batting a 1000. Not bad, not bad at all.
In conclusion… To be honest, I really didn’t expect a whole helluva lot outta the Syndicate 11′ 3wt. I’ve fished most all of the long rods in the low to mid priced range from Greys, Cortland, Echo, Douglas, and probably a few I’ve forgotten. None of them got my juices flowing. I hold the Sage and T&T in high regard because they’re the measuring stick in my mind, but they’re not compatible with everyone’s pocketbook. The Syndicate was a pleasant surprise. It made me a believer. I don’t shove stuff into clients hands just because. It’s bad for business and your reputation. I will have no qualms about putting this rod in clients hands, from the newbie to a seasoned fly angler. It’ll get ‘er done! The only things I would change, and this is merely personal preference mind you, are: I would like a smaller grip, similar to the Sage ESN’s 11 footer because I believe that is the finest grip ever devised on any rod, and a non reflective all aluminum reel seat, merely for durability’s sake. Sorry I’m weird like that. The Syndicate team has it going on and they’re doing it right. They have 3 fly fishing machines that they took the time to perfect, not umpteen million rod selections rushed into production just to make a dollar. And for all the whiners out there who are gonna bitch and complain about where the rods are being rolled, I say get a grip. They’re being rolled right where a lot of the larger companies are having theirs rolled. The age old adage of “Buy once, cry once” don’t fly with me anymore. I’ve got bills to pay and kids to feed. (Those kids like rods too!) Anytime a smaller company can put out a product at a better price that will stand toe to toe with the “Godfathers” of fly rods, that is a good thing for all of us. Believe me, I don’t think these guys are gonna stay small for very long. I sense good things to come for Syndicate as a whole. Next on the list for me will be the 10′ 2wt. Who the hell am I kidding, probably a 10′ 3wt too! Do yourself a favor and check the Syndicate gang out and get one of their offerings in your fist, but be careful ’cause you’ll be reaching for your wallet next!!!
Jeff “Cope” Copenhaver /Lance Wilt’s Outcast Anglers LLC