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Fly Rod Review

Premium quality, performance, and portability with the new Route 37 Nooksack Fly Rod


Date: 10/20/03
Tackle type: Fly Rod
Manufacturer: Route 37
Reviewer: Zander

Total Score: 9.08 + Best Value Award!

Introduction: Fly rods are among the most refined tackle in terms of performance and feel, and also among the most expensive when it comes to the high quality brands and models. Route 37 is a newcomer to the fly rod industry but stands poised to enter the market with premium custom fly rods at amazingly aggressive prices. We take a close look at Route 37's new Nooksack Steelhead & Salmon 4PC travel rod to determine just how much "value" Route 37 has to offer fly fisherman seeking a robust travel rod. 


Route 37 Nooksack 4PC 9'0 Fly Rod Specifications

Length 9'
Line Wt. 7/8
Pieces 4
Taper Fast
Power Med-Stiff
Materials High Performance IM6 Graphite with cork grip + anodized aluminum reel seat, titanium guides, removable 2" fighting butt
MSRP $265.00

About Route37: The name Route37 originated as a reference to highway M-37, which heads straight for the shores of the famous Pere Marquette river, in which some of the country's very first Brown Trout were introduced in 1884. Today the Pere Marquette is one of the country's most popular fly fishing destination's. Route 37 is a company deeply routed in tradition, and has a desire to build quality custom fly rods that all fly anglers can afford. Currently Route 37 builds three series of fly rods. These include: The powerful "Nooksack" Salmon/Steelhead rods, the affordable "Bowery" trout rods, and the premium "Winesap" trout series of rods.


Introducing the high quality Route37 Nooksack, built with IM6 graphite blanks and all aluminum hardware


Impressions: Fly rods have always been among my favorite articles of tackle, simply because of the quality of craftsmanship that exists in these simple, yet elegant, tools. While many popular fly rods today are built by large branded companies, there are still many anglers that prefer the unmistakable human touch and tradition of a custom built rod. Route 37 doesn't manufacture a large inventory of rods, instead they build every single rod in Michigan when ordered. In fact the 9'0 4PC Nooksack test rod that Eric Lubbers, Route37 co-founder, sent us was actually wrapped and finished just two days before the field test! 

The anodized aluminum seat holds reels firmly while resisting the elements well

When I first examined the Nooksack I was instantly impressed by the quality of components used in the rod's design and construction. Remember this is a rod that retails for only 265.00. I have fished with many rods costing over 300 dollars that utilize low quality cork and very cheap looking, and feeling, reel seats. In stark comparison the Nooksack features a AAAA cork grip, and utilizes a satin finished anodized aluminum reel seat. The entire rod is compact when broken down into 2.25ft segments. Part of the problem with steelhead & salmon 4pc travel rods is many of them sacrifice feel and power in exchange for portability. I was eager to test the Nooksack to determine if this was the case with Route 37's implementation.

The AAAA cork full wells grip is comfortable and perfect for heavier saltwater use

The Tests: The Route 37 Nooksack was named after the Nooksack River, a glacier fed river that descends from the slopes of Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker in Northwest Washington. In our field test we traveled to a region just south of the rugged Nooksack to pit the rod against vigorous Coho Salmon. When hooked Coho Salmon can often perform aerial aerobatics, similar to steelhead in rivers, making them the perfect quarry for our field tests. While I am not very familiar with Washington waters I did know two brothers who are. I enlisted the help of my good friend John Martinez, owner of RAM Magazine, and a veteran fly angler of over 25 years, and his brother Jerry Martinez, a member of Triton Boat's Pro Staff.

The removable 2" fighting butt is comfortable and helps balance the rod

The Materials: The Nooksack is built with high modulus IM6 graphite to offer a good balance of low total weight, power, and sensitivity. The rod was neatly finished and coupled with the lightweight aluminum reel seat felt quite light overall. One of the very notable choices in materials was the use of titanium stripping guides, which are not only extremely durable but among the best materials when it comes to friction reduction, making line management exceptionally effortless. To cap it all off the Nooksack comes with a protective rod sock, and the option of a attractive aluminum rod tube. While this option costs an additional 30 dollars, it is well worth it if you plan on traveling on planes or shipping your rod to your next destination. Overall the entire build of materials impressed me, no part of this package felt like a low-cost or less then premium component.

Triton pro staffer Jerry Martinez positions the boat close to shore for our first cast tests

The Casting & Feel: The Nooksack feels well balanced with the fighting butt in place, and is considered light when paired with a quality cast aluminum reel. The rod felt great casting all day thanks to the high quality ergonomic cork full wells grip. I much prefer the complete shape of the full wells design over half wells when fishing for larger saltwater fish, as the grip provides a more comfortable leverage point in your palm. We loaded the test rod with 8wt Scientific Angler's Air Cel Supreme 2 Wet Tip line, and proceeded to conduct scores of cast tests. The Nooksack casts very well and loads line efficiently. The butt of the rod is stiff while the middle and tip of this rod offers a nice medium-fast action. This rod will be able to accommodate a wide range of anglers as the IM6 graphite delivers a very accurate and predictable action. The Nooksack's removable fighting butt helps balance out the entire package while delivering that extra bit of leverage and comfort. The use of foam on the end of the butt adds comfort and helps protect the rod cork from damage.

When I asked John to field test the rod we positioned ourselves as close to the rocky bank as possible, but couldn't get as close as we wanted due to the water conditions near the San Juan Islands. Standing on the front of the Triton he began a series of casts and was able to reach the rocky edge with ease. While John is an excellent caster he did remark at how well the Nooksack roll casted, turning over near 30 feet of line with each cast.

John gave the Nooksack high marks for the comfortable well balanced feel and excellent casting distance and accuracy

The Sensitivity: Did this 4pc travel rod overcome the sensitivity dead spots that many other multi piece fly rod's exhibit? Absolutely. The tight ferrule design and high quality graphite blank do an excellent job of translating quick takes even in deep fast moving water. I was so impressed by the level of sensitivity that this sub 300 dollar rod produced that I later went back to ask Eric Lubbers about the design. He answered that in Michigan many species of varying size like Steelhead, Salmon, and Brown Trout have seasons that overlap, so they made sure to build a rod with extremely high quality graphite to better deal with the broad spectrum, but still be strong enough to land the larger species. Travel anglers who are worried about losing sensitivity with the addition of ferrules and sections will savor the solid consistent feel the Nooksack offers.

While I haven't had a opportunity yet, I believe that with a smaller reel and 6wt floating line it is very feasible to use this sensitive rod for trout in small backcountry rivers.

John performs a series of distance and accuracy tests and roll casts

The Power: My biggest complaint about heavier 4pc travel rods I have fished with in the past is the lack of lifting power. A good 4Pc rod should still exhibit aggressive action and a solid backbone when it comes to casting afar and landing fish. During our casting we failed to land any Coho during the morning, even though we occasionally did see fish break the surface. By mid afternoon we began searching for more baitfish below and it was during this time that I was trolling a white fly with just a hint of pink when I was suddenly slammed by a large silver Coho. While reeling in the fish surged towards the boat and broke the surface twice. To my dismay the second leap sent the large Coho backwards, dislodging my fly. In the excitement I began throwing loops back over the water where the fish had dropped off. Within just a few casts my fly was taken again as I ragingly stripped in line. To prevent the fish from dropping off I decided to not hesitate and reel this fish back to the boat right away. Holding the rod tip high I reeled in as the fish fought and did indeed break the surface about 15 feet from netting distance. At this point I began to appreciate the immense fighting power that the Nooksack was delivering. I muscled the Coho nearer to the boat and we celebrated as the fish was successfully landed. While this fish was noticeably smaller then the one just lost, it put up a fight that could have easily caused problems for a rod with less command, the Nooksack had performed beautifully.

Zander throws out a fly hoping to entice another Coho to strike

The Price: Fly Rod's can range in price from the ultra affordable to the premium 700+ dollar offerings. In the past many fly anglers on a budget would have to contend with rods built with inferior components, or with the sensitivity equivalent of a broomstick. The Nooksack is a premium rod that delivers in every category, and is a stunning deal for only 265.00! Four piece rods are traditionally higher in cost then less portable 2pc rods, but few offer the performance for the price ratio that the Nooksack can. I have fished with other 4pc rods that offer the same level of power, sensitivity, and casting accuracy, but cost over 100 to 200 hundred dollars more!

The Nooksack's power was a major factor in helping land Coho Salmon quickly before they had a chance to shake flies

Who should consider the Route 37 Nooksack 4PC rod: Budget minded fly anglers looking for a quality 4pc travel rod should be the first in line for the Nooksack, but anglers used to premium quality offerings ought to also consider this fine rod. There are no sacrifices here, only detailed design and quality construction. At a price under 300 dollars the Nooksack is an excellent choice for fly fisherman looking for a second rod to use while traveling. In addition to delivering a solid product the team at Route 37 also stands behind their rods by offering a lifetime repair or replace guarantee on all their rods.

The only down side for the time being is that if you want a Nooksack you might just have to stand in line. Route 37 is a growing company and is continuing to build it's distribution network now. The best place to go to find out more information or to get a rod is directly to Route 37.


Route 37 Nooksack 4PC 9'0 Fly Rod Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Excellent construction and design. Good choice of high quality cork and all aluminum hardware 9
Performance The rod casts easily and accurately. A good choice for intermediate casters as the medium-fast action is forgiving and predictable 9
Price Wow! A great  price for a travel rod that can deliver so much in terms of power, sensitivity, and design quality. I have fished with rods exhibiting similar capabilities, but costing as much as 30-40% more! 9.5
Features The IM6 blank is good, the high quality cork is great, and the all aluminum components and comfortable removable fighting butt are all excellent. The titanium stripping guides are slick and durable 9
Design (Ergonomics)

The full wells handle is smooth to the touch and delivers excellent comfort and control for larger saltwater fish

Application A versatile rod that can be used for Steelhead, Salmon, and trout. The portability of this rod make it an excellent travel rod for exploring exotic destinations. The aluminum rod case is a must have for anglers on the go 9

Total Score


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Great design and quality components L Quantities limited as Route 37 continues to ramp up
J A fantastic price and value!  
J Action great for most casting styles  
J Lifetime Warrantee  

Conclusion: Most of the times you get what you pay for, but in the case of Route 37's capable Nooksack rod you actually get a whole lot more. When the team at Route 37 designed the Nooksack they sought to build what they call the "SUV" for Steelhead and Salmon fishing, but our tests and experiences in Washington liken the rod to a luxury "SUV" selling for a truck price. This rod delivers in all categories and does so in a 4pc package that is perfect for fly fisherman interested in fishing in waters far from home. At a price under 300 dollars no fly angler need sacrifice performance on the road. While the Nooksack impressed our entire editorial staff and contributing field testers, we simply can't wait to see what further surprises Route 37 has in store for the fly fishing industry. But until then, the Nooksack 4pc travel rod is a quality rod worthy of being the only product this year to win TackleTour's "Best Value Award!"

Until next time....Tight Lines.









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