Monday, October 7, 2019

The Sticks (Fly Reels & Fly Lines) of Summer

While your summer might be focused on trout with your go tos being a mix of three, four and five weight fly rods, my usual line up starts with at six weights and tops out with ten weights for poking around on the family pond, striper in the river, carp, smallmouth and pike on the flats around Beaver Island or redfish crawling in the Spartina grass in the Lowcountry.

I just don't get a lot of opportunities to breakout the light line weight fly rods unless we're headed to someone's bluegill pond and honestly, we're just as apt to use ultralight spinning rods and crickets to catch dinner than take along three or four weight fly rods.

I know that we're already a couple of weeks into fall but our weather didn't break out of the mid to high 90's until this past weekend.  It has felt that we were living in some sort of "Endless Summer" around here and we're glad for the change up to daytime temperatures in the 70's.  We're hoping it sticks around.

Here's a breakdown of the fly rods, reels and fly lines that were worked out this past summer.  You'll notice that for the most part, these all can be found at your local fly shop to give a test cast.  And while I'm a huge fan of small shop rod builders, I also think that with a fly rod that is going to get banged around the boat, run the risk of dumbbell eyes crashing into it and just overall being abused, that fly rods in the $250 to $400 price point (with solid warranties) make a lot more sense.  I had a super fancy custom one-of-a-kind Epic 990 at one point and it about broke my heart to see a $1,000 plus fly rod gain it's "character marks".  Fly fishing for musky, figure eights beside the boat and casting foot long flies with guide Brad Bohen will do that to it. 

So, here we go and if you're wondering on the line up and why it's written they way it is, we're working left to right from the photograph above.

A few months after the original nine foot long Bad Ass Glass fly rods were released by ECHO, Tim Rajeff gave me a call to get my take on them.  I had fished the eight, nine and ten weights in Belize and at Beaver Island that summer and was a little nervous about saying it but told him that they were good but if he'd cut a foot off of each of the models that they could be great.  On the other end of the phone he said, "Interesting..."  I took that as maybe I wasn't the only one who had that same thought and fast forward a couple of months, an eight weight prototype for the Bad Ass Glass Quickshot showed up on my door step.  YES...this was it.

In short, the Quickshot models are just awesome fly rods.  I'm grading this not only for how these fly rods perform but also that they won't break the bank with a price of $280.  They are perfect for anyone looking for go to warmwater, streamer or saltwater fiberglass fly rod in glass and with models to chose from six weight to ten weight they cover a ton of fly fishing situations.  The only hiccup in the Quickshot line up is they are missing the twelve weight that was in the original Bad Ass Glass fly rods.  We'll see what time brings on that as I've heard things...

The way that the ECHO Warranty & Repair works is pretty slick too and I find it easy to use after a skiff hatch door mishap last summer which you can find in this T.F.M. post.  Ordering a new tip was easy and it didn't cost that much either.

Call it OCD but I typically like to match the same fly rod company with the fly reels they offer when possible.  In this case, the perfect match for the B.A.G. Quickshot fly rods are the ECHO Bravo fly reels.  Priced at $139 and offered in three models covering 7 weight through 12 weight, these large arbor, saltwater safe with the PIT STOP drag system are a total winner.   

I've used a few different fly lines on the B.A.G. Quickshot fly rods to include the several of the Airflo saltwater and redfish lines, RIO Winter Redfish for Louisiana and over the summer the Bravo fly reels were spooled up with the Scientific Anglers Amplitude Smooth Titan Long in a couple different line weights which were perfect for turning over carp bugs around Beaver Island. 

If I was sitting under a hot white light in an interrogation room being pressed on my favorite heavy line weight fiberglass fly rod, I would undoubtedly give up that it's the Swift Fly Fishing Epic Bandit.  The first generation three-piece 7'9" Bandit to the latest generation four-piece 8' Bandit have been my go to redfish, permit and carp stick for years and along the way have caught everything from an eighty pound Blacktip shark (which I completely admit was not the right rod for the job) to striper bass running each summer on our local tailwater to pike and musky in the river and big water.  The Bandit does it all and I hope to keep adding species to my list of fish caught on this truly amazing fly rod.

I'm always left scratching my head at how a ten weight can feel like an eight weight in my hand and just bomb out accurate casts to just about anywhere.  This is the one fiberglass ten weight to rule them all.

My fly reel of choice on the Bandit has jumped around a bit over the years but has settled down with the Orvis Mirage which has performed flawlessly.  They might be a little heavy but that just evens out the match up with this fly rod.  A few years ago I was able to visit the factory where these fly reels are made and have been beyond impressed with the quality of these "Made in U.S.A." fly reels.  Circle back to this T.F.M. post if you haven't read it already. 

The Bandit likes quite a few different fly lines and again the Scientific Anglers Amplitude Smooth Titan Long has been a winner this summer along with the Airflo Sixth Sense Intermediate on a recent striped bass trip on the Saluda River.  Also in the rotation has been the RIO Winter Redfish (makes for a great carp line) and the Scientific Anglers Amplitude Grand Slam.  The list goes on and yes, the Bandit will happily handle just about anything you'd throw with it.  

When the Superfine Glass series of fly rods were released, let's just say that the folks at the Orvis "Mothership" were more than a little blown away by the interest and response in fly rod sales.  Over the years this family of three fly rods has grown to include a two weight, six weight and most recently an eight weight.  I like this entire family of fly rods a lot and been fortunate along the way to play with prototypes and kept in the loop of what's going on in the rod shop in Vermont.  I even had an opportunity to visit a couple of years ago to see how these fly rods are made, fixed and designed.

The Superfine Glass six weight has been around for a couple of years now and this might be my favorite "Family Pond" fly rod.  It's fun to toss small to medium sized warmwater flies and capable of handing anything that swim there.     

Last summer I was using an Orvis Hydros SL fly reel on the Superfine Glass six weight but stepped it up to the new Mirage LT in size III which has quickly become my favorite new (non-clicker) fly reel.  A full write up on these fly reels is in the works but the takeaway is, get yourself one.  You won't be disappointed.

The Superfine Glass six weight handles a wide range of six weight fly lines but my warmwater favorite is the Scientific Anglers Anadro, which this fly line taper is available in the Mastery, Amplitude Smooth and Amplitude to cover a mix of technologies used and price points.  I've also been messing around with the Scientific Anglers Frequency Magnum Glow in the dark for night trips on the pond.

Where most glass eight weights may seem a little heavy and overbuilt, maybe because they were made for hucking big flies with over weighted head fly lines, I look at the Superfine Glass eight weight as more of a finesse tool that is perfect for making exact presentations in sight fishing situations and have used my prototype eight weight for casting to bonefish and permit on windless days in Belize and calm days around Beaver Island as well.

Somehow the rod designer nerds at Orvis were able to design a glass eight weight with a length of 8'8" that just doesn't feel heavy in your hand.  Maybe compared to your favorite graphite eight weight it would feel a bit heavy but pick up a half dozen glass eight weights of or near the same length and you'll feel the difference in the Superfine Glass.

This is another fly rod that I was using the Orvis Hydros SL fly reel but have upgraded to the recently released Mirage LT in size IV.  I am just extremely impressed with this "little brother" to the Mirage line up and so far it's handled every situation I've been in with ease.

Favorite fly lines?  I like the Scientific Anglers Amplitude Bonefish and this past summer used the Scientific Anglers Anadro for the Beaver Island trip.  I'm sure it likes a few more fly lines but these two are what I've been able to try so far.

When the product designers went to the drawing board to design the new Butter Stick, not only did they go into it with the intentions of adding the six and eight weights fly rods to the family, they also looked to give this refresh a very distinctive look.  I think the best description I saw on social media was something to the effect of being a throwback to the Atari age.  While I do like the orange, black and white in the aesthetics, I really appreciate that Redington went against the grain when it came to the cork grip shapes and reel seat hardware for the entire line up.  Where a lot of fly rods end up looking a lot like, the Redington Butter Stick has a complete look all it's own.

From a performance standpoint, I've spent the most time with the six and eight weight Butter Sticks and Redington got it right in keeping them both at eight foot.  These fly rods are responsive, a little quick for glass and just a blast to fish.  Priced at $250, these are a winner all day long.

Circling back to the idea of being "matchy matchy", I've used a couple of different fly reels with these fly rods to include the Redington i.D (complete with a one off Comrade decal on the back.  Thanks, Redington.) and most recently the eight weight Butter Stick got a serious upgrade with the Redington GRANDE which had no problem stopping tank carp and smallmouth this past summer on Beaver Island.

As far as fly lines, the RIO Smallmouth six and eight eight have been the ticket on both of the Butter Sticks. I'm sure that I'll rotate through with a few more but that is where the search started and stopped with these fly rods.

What's on the horizon in heavy line weight glass?  I've mentioned the Blue Halo Zenglass blanks a couple times recently around here and though new, they are getting some rave reviews online.   I'm hoping that I can get my hands on a ten weight at some point.

I've tried planting a seed with Carl at Swift Fly Fishing about a "Bandit Junior" which I don't know if he's seeing that as a reality or not.

Keep an eye on ECHO as Tim Rajeff is typically down for trying new things, even if he knows that there may not be a mainstream need for them.

Not mentioned in this line up, but CTS Fishing has some heavy hitters in their Quartz line up and on that note, don't forget McFarland Rod Company as Mike rolls up some very sweet heavy line weight glass.  There are several small shop builders who have developed their own tapers in eight, nine and ten weight that Mike McFarland rolls for them with Deep Bend Rodworks and C. Barclay Fly Rod Co. being on the short list.

And lastly, Livingston Rod Co. has a nine foot eight weight Flats Glass fly rod that will amaze you.

So, it's fall (they say) and though there's a chance that I'll still be using a few of these fly rods, I'm currently planning for a trip to Colorado next week with a couple days of fly fishing leading up to the AFFTA IFTD show in Denver.  I'm kinda stoked to get to break out the "trout weight" fly rods and I am handpicking a two, four, five and six weight to go along on the trip.  With that comes matching up fly reels and fly lines with the rods to make them complete.  Ah, the fun of preparation.

No comments: