That’s a bold assertion, but, a year ago when I started reading reviews of the Thomas and Thomas Contact Nymph Rod, I couldn’t help but think that the T&T tagline was correct. That assertion turned out to be true in my case, when I recently purchased the 11’3″ three-weight.
These rods are definitely growing in popularity and for good reason. There are some comprehensive reviews already (prior one here), but, I thought I would share my experience, both leading up to the sale and after a few weeks of use.
In all of the reviews I read, one particular detail really piqued my interest: accuracy. Everyone raved about how accurate the T&T Contact is. I really liked my 11’Sage ESN, but, I often struggled to make an accurate presentation.
I’d often miss my target completely, and the rod was very slow to recover. Nevertheless, I appreciated the reach of the ESN’s length and the tremendous power in the butt section.
I followed the common recommendation to pair the ESN with an oversized reel, in my case a Sage 3280, in an attempt to achieve the right balance. While the rod balanced fairly well, it was still a heavy combo, and I felt it in my right arm after a long session on the river.
I found myself eyeing the rod rack at UpCountry Sportfishing every time I stopped in for tying supplies. As a rod builder myself, I was impressed with the high-quality components and the craftsmanship, although I was hesitant to spend the money when I owned a perfectly good rod that I was generally happy to fish.
Then it dawned on me: I’ll keep the cost down by building one.
So, I called Thomas and Thomas and had a pleasant conversation with John Carpenter. I learned that they sell the blanks for about half the price of the finished rod. Good news, but, I build surf spinning rods, not fly rods.
Building a fly rod would be a new endeavor, and I would need more information. John and I chatted at length about the rod, and he obliged all of my detailed rod building questions. I was conflicted about whether to go with an up-locking or down-locking reel seat.
Down-locking seats move the reel closer to the butt and allow you to balance the rod with a lighter reel as opposed to fishing an oversized or heavier reel as I did on my ESN.
There are differing schools of thought here, but the fly shop only carried standard up-locking models so I couldn’t do a comparison for myself with the reel I intended to use.
Thankfully, John forwarded me an email on the reel-seat subject from T&T rod designer Joe Goodspeed that gave me plenty of info to make an informed decision. Up-locking it would be. I appreciated the great customer service, and I liked the idea of being able to do business with a local company right here in New England.
Next stop was another great local company, REC Components in Stafford Springs, CT. I began pricing out the high quality titanium RECOIL guides that T&T uses on their factory rod. I browsed different combinations of reel seats with various wood spacers.
When it was all said and done, I had an online shopping cart full of components worth as much as some entry-level rods. But these high quality, lightweight components are a necessary part of what makes the Contact a great rod.
When I totaled everything, including a batch of lite-build epoxy, hook keeper, thread, and a rod tube, I was about $100 bucks short of the price of the factory rod.
Then another thought dawned on me; the factory rod is a tremendous value.
Although I build rods as a hobby, there’s a fine line where your hobby starts to feel like work, and I realized I was crossing it. I already had two rod-building projects to complete, I didn’t need a third, especially when there was no real customization involved.
Thomas and Thomas did everything right in designing the Contact, right down to the western-style grip, which allows your casting hand index finger to transition onto the blank for enhanced feel. They had all of the bases covered.
I sent John another email thanking him for his time, shared my thoughts on the value of their product and told him of my decision to eventually purchase a factory rod from UpCountry.
When the time came, I felt good about the purchase and even better about giving my money to a great local fly shop as I walked out, rod tube in hand.
As an unexpected surprise, when I got home I discovered the rod in the tube actually had a down-locking reel seat. Apparently it was shipped in error, but it worked out well because I was able to compare the two reel seats with a Hatch 4 Plus and found the difference in the point of balance to be negligible.
With the decision for me now reduced to a matter of aesthetics, I decided that I preferred the look of the forward reel position on the up-locking seat and the additional length would keep my reel out of the dirt if I propped the rod up against a tree, etc.
Regarding performance, I can attest to the claims already made here and elsewhere. The Contact is incredibly accurate and sensitive. I could even feel the ticking of my nymphs through the cork grip! Although three inches longer than my ESN, the new rig feels considerably lighter without sacrificing power in the butt section.
The Contact has been an absolute joy to fish, and I’m looking forward to giving it a good workout in the coming months.