Rod Review: Pygmy Glass by Scandalous Sticks

Upon inception of the Unaccomplished Angler I proclaimed many things that the blog would NOT be, and one of those promises was that there would be no gear reviews: I’d leave that to the big kids. I’ve largely held true to that promise, though I have broken down a couple of times. Wrought with guilt, I apologized for my errant ways. Well, I’m officially not apologizing this time because raving about this product is nothing to feel shameful about.

Scandalous Sticks is a custom rod company with a killer logo, if I do say so myself. Owner Stephen Vance builds a wide variety of custom rods, all of them unique (as one would expect from a custom built rod). One rod, however, stands above the rest in that regard: The Pygmy Glass 5’6″ 4 weight. It’s stated that the Pygmy “has more personality than some people” so I was eager to spend a little time in the back yard getting to know this little rod. My back yard has an expanse of grass but it does not have a river running through it so I was only able to lawn cast the Pygmy. Unfortunately this rod is not mine to keep (I’m donating it to an auction for Casting 4 A Cure) so I didn’t want to take it out to a body of water and risk catching a fish with it. When the rod arrived I was a little short on time needed to spend with it. However I couldn’t resist temptation so I strung up the Pygmy for 5 minutes of wiggling and fondling. I was officially intrigued, and the next day I gave the Pygmy my undivided attention.

I’ll be honest, I don’t really know much about fiberglass rods, other than the fact that my first fly rod was glass. My memory of that rod supports my (perhaps partially false) perception that fiberglass rods are noodle-like devices that require a very slow, reptilian casting stroke. Well, the Pygmy is not your father’s glass rod. Now before I continue I want to address what I know you’re thinking: “Holy tuna can – that’s a short rod!” I thought the same thing the first time I heard about the Pygmy, and I doubted whether or not such a short rod could store enough energy to be worthy of laying out a respectable supply of line. After all, doesn’t a real fly rod need to be much longer? Well, apparently size doesn’t matter – at least with regard to the Pygmy. The long and short of it is that little five and a half foot rod is more than up to the task of casting plenty of line.

To be perfectly accurate, the rod I tested is 5’7″ due to a fighting butt that adds an inch. That fighting butt may be more than just eye candy as fish in the range of 30 inches have been landed on the Pygmy, according to the Scandalous Sticks website. A fish that size is going to require a reel with a decent drag – you probably don’t want to palm a hog brown that’s hell-bent on making short work of the person on the other end of the line. For casting practice I tested the Pygmy using two different reels: My own Ross Evolution 1.5 and a Redington Drift 3/4 (also donated for the auction by the good folks at Redington).  The Ross is a perfect match for my 9 foot 4 weight rods but felt a little big for the Pygmy. At 3.7 ounces the Redington was a nice fit.  The balance point was about 3 inches behind the leading edge of the cork grip, so perhaps a bit further back than what textbook guidelines suggest. However, with such a short rod a reel would need to be nearly weightless in order to balance where a typical longer rod does.  This didn’t bother me one bit: the entire outfit is so light in the hands that the matter of a balance point was the furthest thing from my mind. As for aesthetics, the titanium Redington looks real sweet when attached to the nickel silver up-locking reel seat.

As for casting this little rod, I was surprised at how easily it laid out 35-40 feet of line (an accomplished caster could have done so farther). It should be noted that all of my fly rods are late generation graphite rods: fast action stuff. To that end I was leery that the Pygmy would be ill-suited to my casting stroke. I was more than pleasantly surprised at how quickly the rod loads and recovers and I can honestly say that I didn’t have to alter my casting stroke much at all to throw tight loops accurately. To put a label on it, because fly anglers like to do so, I would suggest that the Pygmy is on the faster side of medium.  Perhaps even medium-fast. Whatever the case, being on the short end of the stick was a good place to be. Being fiberglass, the rod does flex and the tip feels sensitive. I can see that presenting a dry fly with finesse would be easy and playing large fish would certainly be a thrill with this little beauty. But one must remember that while the rod is unusually small and may feel delicate, it IS a 4 wt rod and up to tasks greater than the size of the rod might suggest. As Mr. Vance says, the Pygmy is a glass rod with a graphite background.

The 2-piece blank of mysterious origins is a honey mustard yellow, with brown and black thread wraps holding stainless steel chrome guides firmly in place. The wood used for the reel seat is blonde Israeli olive wood and the grip is high grade Portuguese cork.  The whole package is very classy to look at; the construction flawless. Each Pygmy is signed by Steve Vance and assigned a production number: this particular rod is numbered 0021.

Advantages of the Pygmy over a longer rod are many, given that it can still stand toe to toe with longer sticks in practical fishing situations:

  • Stringing up the rod is a snap because even someone as vertically-challenged as myself can thread the line through the tip guide without having to stand on a milk crate or lay the rod horizontal.
  • The Pygmy is very manageable when walking through doorways (or down a brush-lined trail).
  • When the wind blows, and it nearly always does when fly fishing, the short rod would be much less negatively affected than “normal” length rods.
  • The Pygmy wouldn’t take up much room in a boat or float tube.

The above-mentioned points suggest that this might be a perfect rod for kids for the very fact that it’s so totally not cumbersome. When you propose the purchase to your CFO, remember to tell them that this is for your child: that seems to gain purchase approval much more easily than if one making a selfish acquisition. The CFO need not know that once you get the Pygmy in your hands the last thing you’ll want to do is give it to your kid!

Since there are only 5 more Pygmy blanks available, one would be prudent to contact Scandalous Sticks and place their order today (they sell for $400). There may be only 4 left after I ask Mrs. UA if I can have one for myself.

Stay tuned for more information about the Casting 4 A Cure auction that will feature this Pygmy, the Redington Drift reel and Rio Mainstream WF-4F flyline, and a host of other great stuff!  See the Auction HERE