Thursday, December 22, 2011

Glass Horizons

Adam Tsaloff is a chino wearing (he doesn't have a single pair of jeans in his closet) certified fiberglass and bamboo addict, and after spending a few days fishing with him this past summer in a few of his haunts, including Voelker's Pond, I had the chance to get inside his world a bit. 

Being the grandson of writer John Voelker, Adam had a very early exposure to fly fishing and over the years has fine tuned what he really enjoys in a fly rod.  Adam sent along this excellent write up explaining his attraction to long length fiberglass, especially the new S-Glass blanks that Mike McFarland of McFarland Rods has begun offering.      

Long light line fly rods have, for many years been the territory of graphite. When you think of a 9’ four or five weight rod you think about the standard bread and butter rods of the large fly rod companies. This is about to change at least in the small enclave of slower action fly rod addicts that tune into T.F.M. and other sites devoted to the non-graphite lifestyle.

Fiberglass rods in trout line weights longer than eight feet are nothing new. Scott Fly Rod Company had models at 8’3” for 5WF back in the day and Cortland has, for years, offered an 8’6” four weight. My all-time favorite bluegill rod is the incredibly weepy South Fork Rod Company Classic Series 9' five weight. To have a bull bluegill put an arcing bend in that rod is a Right of Spring the memory of which helps get me through the long cold Northern Michigan winter.

But recently, Mike McFarland has come out with a series of S-Glass rods, a few of which are changing the game on what I thought was possible with a rod made of glass. He created the first 8’ two weight rod, which is a surprisingly efficient fishing tool in a variety of stream and river situations. But the rods that really caught my attention were his 9’2” five weight and his new 8’8” four weight. I have been bugging Mike for a few years to make a long four weight for our beaver pond in Michigan’s U.P., but the rod he sent me last month was way more than I had ever imagined a glass rod could be.

Last spring at Michigan’s big fly fishing expo down in the Detroit area, I caught up with Mike at his booth and the first rod he handed me was his new 9’2” five weight. I took it to the casting pond and was shocked at the power found in this rod. As I cast, the rod kept pleading for more line until I blasted out a 90’ cast that frightened me. The guys on either side of me turned in unison and asked “What rod is that!” I walked back to Mike and he grinned, “I thought you would like that one, I made it with you in mind." He knows I have a penchant for deeply loading rods. Needless to say, I bought the rod immediately, so as not to let anyone else cast my new best friend.

The 9’2” five weight rod and Mike’s newest rod in the series, the 8’8” four weight are deeply loading rods medium in action. They are, however, not noodles by any stretch of the imagination. Both are crisp and very smooth rods full of sophistication. They have the greatest feeling of sensual power when loading and unloading of any traditional action glass rod I have cast. It is a feeling usually reserved for parabolic or semi-parabolic rods from cane masters like Summers and Wojnicki. I warn you, these rods are hard to put down. They stroke the ego like few others. Mike likes the Triangle taper lines, and I have found supple four and five weight forward lines respectively work well for me.

Imagine a glass rod that can throw a four weight forward line 80’ with touch and accuracy without any gyrations or heroics on your part. A Spring Creek dream rod wouldn’t you say? These rods would be fantastic for any still water or slow water situation. They are perfect for swimming flies like John Wood’s Film Star and Aw Shucks in the surface film, handling long fine tippets needed for these presentations with ease. The rods are tremendous roll casting rods, as well. I used the 9’2” rod last summer at our pond and roll cast 65’ with a five weight forward line, and I’m sure that a Triangle taper line would add ten feet. The length of these rods also is great for mending, and on smaller streams even dapping. I plan to use the four weight rod next season on a small stream I know of where a series of beaver dams are connected by deep narrow stretches of water we call “the trenches”. It is where the big brook trout live. Casting is difficult because I will be up to my wader tops in water. The extra length of the rod will help keep my casts above the dense stream side brush that makes creeping along the bank impossible.

As classic action rod fanatics we are living in a golden age of invention in rod building. Builders like McFarland, Kabuto, Larry Kenney and their fiberglass brethren, experimenting with materials, and the likes of Wojnicki, Branden, the Boo Boys and other innovative bamboo makers experimenting with hollow building and straying from traditional hexagonal wall shapes, are finding new and until recently thought impossible tapers. I hope that you are supporting inventive makers. If you do they will help give your fishing a boost in the enjoyment department. Life is short and you can’t take it with you. Remember, as my Grandpa always said, the fisherman that is having the most fun is the best fisherman.

(Special thanks to Tim Schultz of Madness and Magic for providing the photographs for this post.)


Howard Levett said...

Thank you Adam, your grandfather is one of my all time favorites. And thank you Cam for bringing a smile to this "old" guys face.

Cameron Mortenson said... problem. Glad you enjoyed the article.