fly rod review: the Thomas & Thomas Contact 10'8" 3wt
It’s better late than never, right? I never made the leap and purchased my Thomas & Thomas Contact fly rod until April, 2020. By then, T&T was in the final stages of the second generation of the Contact, the Contact II. After corresponding with a few people who had fished the Contact fly rod and were kind enough to offer their review, I made my purchase of the 10’8” 3wt Contact. I love this rod.
This post is my take on the Thomas & Thomas 10’8” 3wt Contact. I understand this review is late as the Contact II can now be found at your local T&T dealer or from T&T’s website directly. However, the first-generation rod, like mine, can still be found at different dealers, eBay, or used as anglers ditch the first generation in favor of Contact II. In addition, I’ve chatted about the differences between the Contact I and II with a couple anglers who have fished both. While there are a few differences, the anglers I have spoken with have described the rods as being extremely similar in terms of feel and performance. There are some noticeable upgrades with the Contact II, especially with improved guide spacing, the reel seat and fighting butt design, and the length of the rod being an inch longer at 10’9”. All said, I wouldn’t be doing this review if I didn’t think this rod series was spectacular. While I am aware the Contact II is sure to be an improvement over my Contact I, I am quite happy with the Contact I. If you cannot find the Contact I available, I am quite certain you will find the Contact II to be a spectacular rod as it has been even more refined.
I chose the 10’8” 3wt to be my primary rod as it is designed as a contact nymphing stick. A majority of my trout fishing is nymphing or jigging small buggers. This is where the rod really has its place. Can the rod throw a weight forward or double taper line overhead? It sure can, but I find it to be slightly awkward. The 10’ or 10’2” models are probably far better at throwing a traditional line, but I cannot attest to this as I have not used them. What about streamers? Find a different rod if you want to throw big streamers with a weight forward line. However, streamer fishing smaller to medium sized streams where making long casts is not necessary is certainly in play. I’ve had no issues making short role casts with a bigger fly and twitching it quickly back to me, picking apart each pocket or run.
The 10’8” 3wt is probably best described as moderate-fast action. The tip is extremely sensitive, an important quality in contact nymphing. The sensitivity is carried through the length of the rod and into the handle. I can feel every bump, tick, hang-up, rock trout, branch trout, etc. The recovery is what really impressed me. A rod’s recovery is important to me. When nymphing, it drives me nuts when I make a cast and the rod continues to wobble. I need a rod that recovers fast so I can quickly settle into my drift. The quicker I settle into the drift, the quicker I can detect strikes. It is easy to miss those takes and hits that happen quickly after the fly enters to the water if your rod hasn’t recovered and is still causing movement in your leader/sighter. The quicker the rod recovers, the quicker I can detect strikes. The quicker the rod recovers, the quicker I’m in direct contact with my flies. I find the rod to be incredibly efficient and responsive. It requires minimal work to cast as it loads and stores energy well until you finish your cast. Upon finishing the cast, the recovery takes over and you’re into your drift quickly.
I’ll note at this point that the rod requires minimal work and effort to cast if you’re already an efficient caster. This is a tool for refining your nymphing game. I think this is a great rod for angler looking to take the next step in nymphing and really becoming efficient with it, but I find it to be overwhelming for new fly anglers. If you’re new to contact nymphing, I recommend getting the groundwork for the motions and fly casting before making the greater investment and jump to a high-end rod. That said, if you’re an angler who is all in on learning and getting into the contact nymphing game, you won’t be disappointed.
This rod is quick to respond on hook sets, but has incredible tippet protection. If you set the hook properly and fight the fish properly, you’ll be hard pressed to lose a fish on 7x. I’ve landed some dandy trout over 20” on 6x and 7x without feeling like it was overworked or overmatched. The rod is a giant shock absorber and can really allow some serious pressure on light tippets, but it is important to know rod angles, how to play fish, the limits of the tippet and rod pressure, and knowing where to set your drag. If you really want to know what kind of limits your rod and tippet have, tie your tippet to a rock or tree or hook your fly to something that won’t cut loose and pull up and sideways as if you’re fighting a trout. I recommend doing this with all rods and the tippets or leaders you’re going to be using with them. You might be shocked to see how strong tippets are and how much protection fly rods offer, especially the Contact series. It is also important to understand that this fly rod is designed to perform under pressure. This rod is designed to fight fish with an extremely deep bend. It offers two important ingredients to successfully keeping fish on the line; the ability to apply a lot of pressure and tippet protection.
It is worth noting the power and backbone of this rod as well. The power allows you to make quick and solid hook sets. I’m yet to feel overmatched or overpowered by a fish with this rod. In fairness, I have not tested it on fish over the 21”-22” mark. Even then, I was never close to feeling out gunned. Tuck the fighting butt into your gut and pull hard. The only time I’ve felt overpowered is when I snagged a ten-pound log floating by in heavy current. I had a heck of a time getting that sucker to turn. Though I’ve talked about the power of the rod, I certainly don’t want to downplay the fun factor of the rod either. It is still a three weight and small trout provide plenty of pull, fun, and feel as well. I feel the 10’8” 3wt is the best all around nymphing trout option as is still offers more than enough fun factor to make smaller trout sporty while having the backbone to fight larger trout as well.
As I mentioned previously, this rod will cast a traditional weight forward or double taper line, though I find it to be awkward. This is not the ideal rod for throwing these lines, but I do keep a spool with a 3 weight double taper line with me in the event I want/need to make a switch. I find carrying multiple rods to be a nuisance and I tend to wander off, leaving a rod a hundred yards away before realizing I left it behind. If the situation calls for throwing dry flies at a little bit of a distance, I’m ready for it. If the wind makes it impossible to get a decent drift with my contact/euro rig, I can throw the double taper on with a small foam indicator or a dry dropper rig and fish a little more efficiently than I could with the wind taking hold of my euro leader. I just find it takes a lot of patience for the cast to develop with the long rod and the timing really needs to be dialed in.
The T&T Contact is a light rod for its length and is well balanced. I balance my rod with my trusty old Nautilus FWX reel and I find it to be a comfortable, effective, and light combination nymphing all day. Weight is an important factor in a nymphing rod as you’ll be holding your arm out all day. I was surprised at how light the rod felt. I still get tired and my shoulder still tends to be sore after a full day on the water, but I’m certain that has more to do with my pitching and injury history than it does rod weight and fly fishing.
Aesthetically, this rod is what you would expect from Thomas & Thomas. These are hand-crafted rods made here in the USA. The finish and craftsmanship are remarkable as always. The dark gray blank is un-sanded and you can see all of the wraps. The thread wraps are an olive-brown color and hold down black singe foot snake guides. There is a hook keeper out of the way on the underside of the rod above the very comfortable cork handle. The reel seat is a nice wooden burl seat and is offered in an up-locking or down-locking option. All rods in the Contact series come with a cork fighting butt, a feature I find important on any rod 10’ or more.
The Thomas & Thomas Contact 10’8” 3wt is a spectacular rod. This rod can help make a good angler better, can help with strike detection and percentage of fish landed. However, the angler needs to know what to look for and how to use the rod properly to get the most out of it. It is my go-to trout rod unless I’m specifically setting out to throw dries or throw big meaty streamers. There are rods better suited for those situations and I have my favorites there as well. This is an ideal and beautiful nymphing stick that I really don’t have any complaints about. It will throw a traditional weight forward or double taper line overhead, but it will require some getting used to. The rod was not made with that style of fishing in mind. It is made to contact nymph and it does that extremely well. The extra 8” of reach makes a big difference over a 10’ rod and I’m glad I chose to go with this rod. I thought the 11’+ rod was going to be too much rod for me on my small brush lined streams and on my arm. 11’ is a lot of rod, but I can’t say much about it as I have not tried that rod.
As always, thanks for reading. I hope someone finds this review and information helpful. Please feel free to shoot me an email with any questions as I’d be happy to answer. I know this review is quite late, but there are still some of these rods available. Also, I envision the Contact II in the same size to be very similar, but more refined. Additionally, I have the 10’8” 6wt Contact for steelhead and I’ll have a review of that in the future as well.
Thanks again for reading. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Go Dodgers?