The Thomas and Thomas 11’3″ #3 Contact now is my favorite tightlining fly rod.
Zach St. Amand told me that the new Thomas and Thomas “Contact” is his new favorite. I then started seeing more mentions about it on social media. Unfortunately, no fly shops near me stock it. So, I contacted the company directly to ask for a loaner, as I wanted to review it for the blog.
Amazingly, Joe Goodspeed and John Carpenter got back to me. A 11’3″ #3 Contact came in the mail.
THE TEST DRIVES
I fished three rivers over two days with the Contact and gave it an intense work out. Hit my favorite spots. Used the same reel and set-up that I normally use with my workhorse, the 11′ Sage ESN #3.
I did all sorts of tightlining: “floated the sighter” at shallow water and, also, nymphed both short-distance and long-distance. I also pulsed nymphs, swung small streamers, and threw dries. Landed about 20 fish one day, including a taped 15.5″ rainbow that fought incredibly hard (photo up top). Got another eight the next morning.
I was impressed with the Contact. No, I was floored. No, I was giddy. The rod was that amazing.
- The “it” factor. It’s hard to explain, but this fly rod felt insanely comfortable and adept. This is lighter than my Sage ESN, and so, balances better with my reel. So, I fished with it for about eight hours on the first outing. Normally, afterwards, my arm is a little sore. With the Contact, there was no discomfort. The rod features an unpainted blank to reduce weight. I like it.
- Throws well dry flies. I had no problem casting small dries and dry-droppers. My ESN couldn’t really do this. Even though I tried to compensate for its medium action, the ESN was a royal pain for casting dries. The Contact feels more like a fast-action rod. How they do that and maintain tip sensitivity, to detect subtle takes, is beyond me.
- Casts farther. Casting long-distance to avoid spooking fish is a technique Zach taught me. Stay below the fish, use lighter nymphs, and cast 30′ to 50′ to let the nymphs glide down into the sweet spot while maintaining stealth. The ESN was pretty good at casting for distance, but the Contact is excellent at it.
- Much, much more accurate. Particularly with long casts and light nymphs, the ESN tended to be a bit off target. So, I’d have to sacrifice distance for more control or opt to cast a few times to hit the target. The Contact was quick-dampening, which allowed for better accuracy. I was super-impressed with its predictability.
- Better reach. Sage no longer makes a 11′ ESN, which is a bummer. I like a longer fly rod to better guide my nymphs and reach sweet seams from afar. I was able to target areas that usually were too far away. I hooked a particularly robust alpha trout, with a kype, at the head of a long run. That spot previously was too far away for me.
- Both sensitivity and fighting power. Tightlining rods are specifically designed to be very flexible at the tip in order to let you feel every bump, pause and take. The Contact was no exception. Euro-style rods also are designed with stiffness to garner leverage against big fish. So, a #3 Euro rod may have a back-end more like a #5. The Contact handled everything, even a big-ish fish in strong current. No issues. I never felt that any of the fish had the upper hand. By using rod angles and applying pressure with the rod when needed, I was able to pull in fish very quickly and “in control.” During the second outing, I would intentionally horse in bigger fish. The rod tip dampened any and all surges by the trout. None broke off.
No, this fly rod isn’t cheap at $795. It is cheaper than the ESN, however, and is completely made in the USA. To boot, Thomas and Thomas is local: they’re in Greenfield, MA. More info here.
Many thanks to Joe Goodspeed and John Carpenter for the loaner.
Honestly, it’s now my #1 fly rod. It is a game-changer.