Target these long-billed birds on the state’s public lands, and you’re certain to have a great time.
Tackle companies would like every lad and lass to get a rod this Christmas. Well, except for “Balloon Boy.” He deserves NO toys from Santa!
But if all those other kids get a rod, it means they’re likely to take up our sport. That’s good for the future of the industry, and for the future of the natural resources we covet.
To attract youngsters into fly fishing, companies like Scientific Anglers and Cortland have long offered youth rods and outfits. Although they remain market leaders in these sales, the competition has suddenly become very steep.
Despite the recession, the Fly Tackle Retailers Show in September had one of the largest new-product launches in nearly a decade. Waders and boots, packs, premium reels and nearly a dozen new rod series offerings stole the spotlight.
Most of these new products made their public debut a few weeks later at the Federation of Fly Fishers Southern Conclave in Mountain Home, Ark., where members of my “Fly Lines” crack evaluation team and I had a chance to put them to the test.
And while there were many new performance rods to get excited about, the talk of both shows was the “youth movement.” No fewer than four companies revealed youth-specific rod series for 2010. Most will be available at retailers for this Christmas season. They are: the Ross Journey, the TFO Bug Launcher, the Redington Minnow and the Echo Gecko.
Youth rods have three main criteria: shorter length, moderate action and a reasonable price. All of the youth rods we evaluated were 8 feet or shorter, and rated for 4- or 5-weight line. Their very moderate action is forgiving of casting errors. They sell for $70 to $100, with outfits ranging $100 to $160.
Think twice before buying those Wally World bubble-wrap outfits ahead of one of these rods. The bubble rods might be cheaper, but they’re heavy and they cast lousy. These rods are good enough that kids will have to hide them from their parents!
And if you buy the Echo Gecko, you won’t need to insure it with Geico. Echo, as well as TFO, offers lifetime warranties to the original owner against damage of any kind. Ross and Redington offer limited warranties. Wally World el-cheapo rod offers … nothing.
The Gecko has a bright-yellow blank with orange guide wraps and a pastel-colored EVA foam handle. The Journey has a standard cork grip, and the blanks and wraps come in two colors — pink and blue.
I really liked the casting action of the Journey. I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen using it on the water — as long as it’s the blue color.
The Bug Launcher and the Minnow have a more conventional appearance. TFO had leaked out that the BL would be a kick-butt bream rod, and so it’s been getting early sales among kids-at-heart like my buddy Larry Offner, who operates the popular website warmfly.com. He was kind enough to let me fish his BL one day at the pond. I almost needed a gaff to land 7-inch bluegill. It definitely brought out my inner child.
Now to the adult toys. Fishing toys, that is.
Two years ago, Orvis blew everyone’s minds with the Helios rod. But at $695, it’s not for everyone. For 2010, Orvis hopes to change this a little by offering a scaled-down version called the Hydros priced at $495. If the Helios is a Corvette with all the options, then the Hydros is one with fewer options, but the same engine.
Scott’s new S4 series is their answer to the Helios. This fast-action rod has a light tip that makes it super for all-day casting. I found the freshwater models a bit too fast for my tastes, but anyone looking for a great-casting saltwater rod and willing to spend $695 won’t be disappointed.
TFO probably had the biggest new product launch of anyone. For 2010, they’ve teamed up with Bob Clouser, of Clouser Minnow fame, and Curtis Fleming of TV’s Fly Rod Chronicles. The new Clouser series rods are all 8 feet, 9 inches in length, and ranging from 6-weight to 10-weight. They are designed to cast heavily weighted flies and sinking lines. The Fly Rod Chronicle rods have a smooth progressive action — perfect for beginners and “slow casters” like myself — and range from 3- to 10-weight. The Clouser rods sell for $249, and the FRC rods for $199.
TFO also entered the “Bass Rod” sweepstakes with their new Mini-Magnum 68.
Bass-type fly rods have an old history. They were short, low-modulus, midweight rods capable of yanking fish from heavy cover. But the guides and reel seats tended to rust when used in saltwater.
These newer versions come with corrosion-proof hardware. They’ve been extremely popular among snook and tarpon anglers, and kayakers in general.
The Mini-Mag was designed saltwater angling author Nick Curcione, and uses a hybrid combination of S-Glass, high-modulus graphite and TFO’s proprietary TiCr coatings for exceptional lifting power and smooth casting.
Despite brisk winds, it cast large wind-resistant flies with ease during our tests. Got poppers? This is your rod. The MiniMag sells for $199.
For the last 20 years, one of my favorites has been the Sage RP/DS/Launch geneology of rods. During that time, Sage has tweaked the tapers, blank diameter, epoxies and so on to improve on this moderate-action, moderate-priced series.
I didn’t think it was possible to improve much on the Sage DS or Launch, but after casting a new Sage Vantage 8-foot, 6-inch 5-weight for a half-hour, I fell in love.
One of the very few moderate-priced rods made in America, the Vantage sells for $225 but has the looks of more expensive rods — a slim-profile blank, burgundy wraps, rosewood reel seat and AA grade cork. It also comes with case and Sage’s unlimited lifetime warranty.
In my tests, the Vantage had a smooth, progressive action that was accurate on short casts, but could cast out long when needed. It just felt so light in the hand — this is one I could fish for a week if I didn’t have to sleep sometime.
The new Redington Classic Trout offers a medium “finesse” action desired by dry-fly anglers and small-water enthusiasts. Like the TFO Finesse and Cortland Brook, it’s an inexpensive alternative ($160) to the much higher-priced Winston WT or Loomis WhisperCreek. The 8-foot, 6-inch 3-weight was a fun rod to cast. Too bad the conclave casting pool wasn’t stocked with bream.
Hope Santa brings you a new rod for Christmas. Whatever you get, it’s hard to go wrong — there are soooo many good ones on the market these days.