The Ultimate Bighorn River Nymph Fishing Rod

The world is full of good fly rods, so selecting the best is always a challenge. But keep in mind that I’m the co-owner of a multi-hundred dollar business in the northern Rockies and I’m an experienced retailer. I’m also a professional fishing guide, so what I don’t know about a subject, I’ll make up. Below are several rods I feel are at the top of the heap for nymph fishing the Bighorn River. The Bighorn is a large river, and I generally prefer longer rods with the ability to “reach out and touch someone.” Members of the Bighorn Jedi order use these rods to harness the mystical energies of the Force … and catch large trout.

Sage 596-4 ONE
This rod is light and powerful. Very impressive across the board. Throws a tight loop with a lot of line speed. Fast action is where Sage made their reputation, and the ONE is a prime example of their expertise.
I chose the 596-4 over the 590-4 or 690-4 because the longer rod has a slightly more moderate action. It’s a joy to cast and the extra length is handy for throwing a lot of line. You may prefer to fish a 6 weight line on this rod.
Chicks dig guys with Sage ONEs, and I’ve heard it’s the other way around too.

Sage 599-4
A little more length, flexes down in the mid-section a bit more, and throws a more open loop. Somewhat heavier than the ONE, but a wonderful fishing tool. Very pleasant action. The more open loop is preferred by some anglers when throwing heavy split shot—keeps those train wrecks to a minimum. Also, one must take into account how a rod mends. A tip-flexing, fast-action rod may not be the best choice in this regard.

Burkheimer 690-4 DAL
This rod is SMOOTH and an absolute joy to cast and fish. The DAL stands for “Deep Action Load.” Non DAL Burkheimers generally fit into the fast action rod category (although some of these rod-action terms are a bit difficult to define or quantify), but the DAL rods flex down deeper in the blank. Refer to my comments in the previous paragraph regarding mending characteristics and advantages of a more open loop. The 690-DAL is certainly a decathlete as it pertains to doing so many things well. Don’t think for a moment that you can’t adjust your casting stroke and throw those laser beam loops with this rod, although it helps if you’re a fishing legend like Shakey Owens.
The Burkheimer is slightly heavier than a comparable ONE, but I’d give the edge to the Burky for versatility.

9’ 6 wt. Winston Boron IIIx

A great all-around rod. Hard to find anything wrong with it, unless you don’t like the color green or rods made in Montana. Or maybe you’re a communist sympathizer and drink alcohol-free beer. Or maybe you don’t like the fact that boron rhymes with moron. Hell, I don’t know, but you’ve got “issues” if you don’t like this rod. I suspect the 9’ 6”, 5 weight might even be better than the 9’ 6 weight model, but I haven’t spent any time with it.