Tag: fly rods

Fly fishing hacks: Hauling your rods

rodsnrollWhether it’s a road trip for big water Montana trout or a jaunt across town for carp, hauling rods can be a hassle. If you have a truck, problem solved – you drop them in the bed – but if you’re in a car or SUV it’s a hassle. And if you live near the water or can otherwise afford to fish eight days a week, you might even keep several rigs in your vehicle ready to go. You’ve seen the occasional glam shot of Alaskan guides with a dozen rods on a homemade, hood mounted rack – they’ll work fine as long as you’re an Alaskan guide. Another choice is to spend a hundred dollars or more for interior rod racks from a named brand.

Not keen on whipping out the benjamins, for a while I had large bungee cords strung between between the factory coat hanger hooks. They worked fairly well in the front, but in the rear where the reels were located they sagged, and otherwise bounced around on rough roads. It wasn’t until I found myself doing double time down a gravel washboard while running from a tornado did I realize I needed another solution – during that wild ride the bungees came loose and a pile of rigs went flying.

Soon after that run I found myself in AutoZone, picking up windshield wiper fluid, and that’s when I found the Ultra Clothes Bar from Bell Automotive.


These are the the type of bars you see loaded with pressed shirts inside the cars of traveling salemen’s Ford Tauruses. When I saw them in the store, I immediately thought if they can hold two weeks worth of business attire, there’s no doubt they could hold a half-dozen or more rods and reels. And my roughly $36 bet turned out correct.

For an SUV-based redeployment, two of these clothes bars (that’s correct…$18 a piece, plus tax of course) are needed – one in the rear and one in the passenger compartment. They are adjustable for vehicle width, and have hooks on the ends that are designed to work with both standard automotive coat hooks and interior “oh shit” handles. They are made of sturdy metal (exact composition unknown) – at least strong enough to hang hands on (which many of my passengers do now that the “oh shit” handles are in use). The perforated rubber wrapping on the bars, included to keep clothes from sliding back and forth, are a bonus – they protect rod finishes, and I’ve found it makes for a pretty good streamer drying rack too (just slip the hooks into the perforations for the drive home).

For the nine-foot crowd the system works perfectly. Rods are aligned from rear driver’s side to front passenger side, and by wrapped the loose line once around the rod and guides the line won’t hassle anyone but NBA players. I use a very short bungee cord to keep reel end snug, and I’ve carried as many as seven rods this way with ease. And probably saved seventy bucks in the process.

Happy hauling.

A pile of fly rods for folks on a budget

gear bagMuch as we’d all like to be casting $1,800 varnished masterpieces, there are a whole lot of rods people can get a hold of without taking out a third mortgage loan. Some are perfectly suitable for delicate trout fishing, while others would feel more comfortable in an urban industrial park, or in the deep blue sea. You never know when you’re going to hook a fine specimen of submerged branch as your little dry fly drowns in the riffles – you’ll want a picture of that and the only way to do it is to put down your rod. Spend just a few hundred on your stick, and you won’t be sweating it.

Elkhorn EF 863-5

tim-emery-north-fork-ranchThis recommendation comes from Tim Emery of Fish Explorer Podcasts fame – the Elkhorn EF 863-5. It’s an 8’6″ 3-weight in five pieces, described as the ‘do everything rod’. Tim noted that he’s fished this rod on the Big Thomson, the Eagle, the South Platte and the Roaring Fork, as well as lakes in the Colorado Front Range. Uses have included both Czech and Polish nymphing, dry dropper, dropper, and small stream dry fly fishing. Well that pretty much covers the versatility bit. The only drawback in Tim’s eyes, playing it in the wind (which can actually be a problem with most any rod if the wind is strong enough). Mr. Emery, who’s got a decade of guiding and managing fly shops under his belt, says he’d put the rod up against anything in the $500+ range. Priced around $210, via Elkhorn Fly Rods and Reels.

Temple Fork Outfitters Finesse – TF 03 79 4 F

Matt Dunn turns the other cheek, throwing streamers when when the hoity-toity purists arrive, yet he can still show his sensitive side with the 7’9″ TFO Finesse 3-weight. Matt says the Finesse feels like butter in his hands – it won’t win casting contests, but it’s not supposed to either. He uses it for it’s intended purpose – dropping tiny dries at distances inside of 15 feet, quietly and with pinpoint precision (as well as peace of mind that his 8X tippet isn’t going to pop when the trout slurps). You can pick up the Finesse 3 for very reasonable $180, leaving you just enough cash, according to Matt, to grab the 7’3″ 2-weight and the 8’9″ 4-weight. Sounds like savings to me! Via TFO.

After the fishing, there’s money left for beer.

Orvis Streamline 865-2 Mid Flex

I prodded a friend to pick up the 5wt, 8’6″, 2-piece mid-flex job as a first rod when it went on holiday clearance. It cost my buddy $45. He caught his first trout ever on it, and has since pulled in quite a number more. After introducing him to streamer fishing he found it a bit mushy, but that’s to be expected from a light mid-flex. I traded rods with him one afternoon and thought it insufficient for the heavy hauls, but as a nymphing and dry fly rod it was perfectly suitable – if it was the last unbroken rod in the truck after a road trip, I certainly wouldn’t quit fishing. Priced around $90, but you can find them cheaper. From where else…Orvis.

Echo Classic 6

Bryan Gregson, the only Utahn who the State of Montana Tourism Board probably has on their payroll after this catch, is an Echo fan. Yep, he caught that Madison monster (15+ pounds by almost any measure) on an Echo Classic 6 (and it wasn’t even his rod). Sadly, the Classic has been discontinued, but the updated Ion model will set you back a mere $190 – from Rajeff Sports.

Echo 2 Saltwater 7

Mr. Gregson is back, this time with his go-to rod for chasing everyone’s favorite thrasher, the Tiger Muskie. Bryan has worked the R&D routine for a couple of manufacturers – he says function over fashion is what it all boils down to, with durability outweighing any bells and whistles. As a man who fishes a lot (170+ days a year), he needs equipment that can handle harsh environments, day in and day out. The Echo 2 S-7 casts fat flies like Bryan wants it too, and handles big, aggressive fish in tight structural situations once he’s hooked them. He calls the rod honestly priced, and at $290 (with two tips, medium-fast and fast), I’ve got to agree with him. Again, from Rajeff Sports.

Temple Fork Outfitters Professional – TFO 08 90 6 P

I own this rod, an 8-weight, 6-piece – I bought it for carping, with a mind to trashing it. I thought it would feel heavy in the hand (due to the number of ferrules), but it didn’t. In fact it’s light enough that the original early model reel I had on it felt too heavy, and I’ve since skinnied-down the crankcase. I can toss small stones as well as big barrel-eyed nonsense – under no circumstances do I feel like the rod is out of control, and I can drop just about anything anywhere I’d like, even with winds swirling around. I paid bottom dollar for it, and it’s clearly the best value I have in my quiver. I can’t imagine other rods in the line performing much differently – they are all lighter and purportedly just as manageable. It’ll cost you $210, but possibly cheaper if you get the rep a gig on Letterman. Via Temple Fork Outfitters.

Echo 2 Saltwater 9

This rod weighs in at $290 (again, it’s a two-tipper), but Jason Puris of The Fin says it’s worth every penny. Jason does 99% of his fishing from the beaches, rocks and jetties of Long Island (with emphasis on Montauk), and needs a stick that can handle surf and wind. While he has a half-dozen other (much more expensive) rods in his quiver, the Echo 2 S-9 does it for him because of the strength factor – he may favor slightly better casting tools, but he’s seen more than his fair share of them snap under the stress. The Echo 2 also gets the nod when Jason travels to far-away places – the convenience factor of those two tips wins over multiple tubes in tow. Once more: $290, from Rajeff Sports.

mikes-bluefinTemple Fork Outfitters Bluewater – TF BW LD

Pete McDonald has good things to say about TFO’s Bluewater 10-13 (we’re calling it a twelver to avoid confusion). Pete didn’t want to spend big money on a rod he breaks out only a few times a year for shark opportunities and/or his annual bluefin trip. Pete assumes he likes the rod because he’s used to it, but he still says it casts as easy as any other 12-weight he’s tried. The Fishing Jones proprietor isn’t stingy with the rod either – a fishing buddy of his picked up a tasty tuna with it. Good man – most of my friends would toss my rods overboard and scream fetch! Then again, maybe I deserve it. Priced at $250 – from a Temple Fork Dealer near you.

The End

fly rodsTake any of these rods, along with a decently built reel (many of which can be had for $200 or less, particularly during closeout season), and you’ve got an outfit for a lifetime. Some take to 7X flouro with gusto, while others are going to require the addition of shock tippets (I prefer hard mono to wire, but who really cares when you are chasing beasts that actually require such a thing as a ‘shock tippet’). But the best part about it all? You won’t be breaking the bank in the process.

Editor’s note: First, thanks goes out to all the contributors to this post – they are fine fly fishing folk, and were ready, willing and able to assist. I have the highest regard for their opinions. Also, this is just one survey, across a select group of anglers, and it’s heavy on a few manufacturers. That may tell you a little something about who is targeting the budget conscious, but I am sure there are plenty of other reasonably priced rods out there too. If you have recommendations on discount rods that have treated you well, please feel free to chime in.

From Lefty Kreh’s lips to my ears

Words of wisdom from a fly fishing icon (and maker of fine lemonade)

I thought I was about to meet a man jaded by attention. Lefty Kreh is certainly a fly fishing legend, and today he was deep in his realm – an outdoors industry convention. But the person I sat and chatted with was a kid in a candy store, eager to share his insights on more than half a century of throwing fly lines, an economy and industry seemingly in flux, and embracing family.

Lefty Kreh and Michael Gracie


Mr. Kreh on the expense of picking up the sport of fly fishing:

Yes, there is a lot of expense regarding fly fishing. In some cases I think it’s just too much, but the industry is adjusting. There was a time when really expensive gear was all there was out there – nowadays you and I can pick up just about any inexpensive combo, go out fishing, and have a good time. In fact, just about anyone can.

Following up on the above, Mr. Kreh on fly rods:

There are no bad fly rods out there for sale anymore. You can pick up a rod at a big box sports retailer that does the job quite well, and without breaking the bank.

And Mr. Kreh on reels:

Like rods, where technology worked its way down to the point where all of them do a good job in the casting and catching departments, fly reels are following. The very best are still built for people with lots of money, but even those people are holding back. Now we are seeing great reels come off the shelf that are both very functional and very affordable.

Mr. Kreh on the economy, and how it will effect the sport:

I lived through the Great Depression. And while it wasn’t the best of times, one thing I found that rang true was that the lack of money brought people closer together. Families in particular, banded together. Even if we see similar bad economic times, that one point will make it seem nowhere near as bad. Fly fishing doesn’t need to be a solitary pursuit – more families participating in the sport of fly fishing, together, would be great for our sport. It’s interesting that when ever there has been a recession in this country, the number of fishing licenses issued goes up. That could be the basis of a whole other discussion, but again I find it interesting.

Mr. Kreh, on why it seems kids would rather play video games than go fly fishing:

I think part of the fascination kids have with video games, and computers and the internet, comes from the fact that parents sometime struggle to make ends meet. So they both work, and kids need an safe outlet when the parents are not around – technology like video games may have given kids some of that. But with our economy taking a dip, I think that there may be less work for those parents, and less money for those video games. At least one of the parents may be around more for their kids, and while I wish the best for families in that situation from the money standpoint, I also think parents and children being together more is a good thing whether they decide to spend that extra time together fishing or not. If the parents decide to take their kids fishing, that’s even better.

Mr. Kreh on the start of the International Sportsmen’s Expo:

I’ve been to a lot of these events in my day. This is the best Thursday I’ve seen in quite a while.

Mr. Kreh on why women make such great fly fishers:

I can teach any women to fly cast, just as long as I’m not married to her [laughter then ensued between both of us, as well as a couple of folks listening in]. Women are more patient that we are (well most of the time..wink wink). There are groups now to bring them together to learn the sport, which is good for fly fishing. And you also see organizations like Casting for Recovery popping up that help women through very difficult times in their lives, through fly fishing. And I think that is great for both the women that participate as well as the sport.

And finally, when asked how he’s kept it all together for so long, and with such enthusiam, he added:

I thank my darling wife.

I could have spent a month with Lefty Kreh, picking his brain about why he tied this or that fly a certain way, or better yet…how to add thirty feet to my casting range. But as he stood up, acknowledging the folks standing by for his next casting demonstration, those things now seemed so trivial. I left thinking there are few lemons in Lefty’s world, while carrying the certainty that fly fishing had something to do with it.

Editor’s note: As if the time I spent with Mr. Kreh at the ISE wasn’t good enough, I also got the chance to sit down and chat with two of the finest guides in Colorado, Pat Dorsey of Blue Quill Angler and Chris Ramos of Anglers Covey. These gentleman have been fly fishing and guiding others all their lives, and their office, classroom and backyard barbecue is situated primarily on Colorado’s famed South Platte River. I’ll have the text of that discussion up ASAP (probably hopefully by midday Friday) – it is equally insightful regarding the passions of some fine folks who live fly fishing day in and day out (and you might get a few secret tips too), but is also a significantly amount of content I have to parse through. Nevertheless, if you can’t wait that long head over to ISE Denver at the Colorado Convention Center tomorrow, Saturday, or Sunday and meet them in person!

Recession Survival Tip #591: Take Care of Your Fly Rods

If you still have a few bucks around, I’m certain there are deals to be had. If you don’t, there’s no better time to take extra-special care of your gems.

I’ve always been the type to give my rods a quick wipe-down after use; if they’re saltwater jobs, a warm, wet rag works overtime. Waxing the ferrules (tea-light candle wax is fine) after every couple of outings is also part of the repertoire. And my latest discovery was cork cleaning (with emphasis on ‘late’).

I have some rods that I’ve owned for a dozen years, and I’d never cleaned the handles. A friend said it was probably a bad time to start trying, particular since some of the corks were downright black – the suggestion was to start using the cheapo backups/loaners (the ones I’m loathed to cast myself – I call them my “guest handicappers”). But, a little warm water and some Soft Scrub with Bleach did the trick – here are the corks on the rods I’ve gotten wet in the last couple of years, after tidying them up…

The one at the top is the oldest in the quiver. I’ve had all the pure saltwater rods at least seven years, and they’ve all felt heavy use (i.e. lots of sunscreen) albeit prior to my move to Colorado. The second, third and fourth (from the top) have seen the most recent workouts – the second was bought early last season (’07) and the fourth was bought in late September (’08). All the corks now look the same – like I just pulled plastic wrappers off them.

Note: Your fishing buddies might already be getting stingy about sharing the single malt, and they’re going to be hard pressed to loan you their new S4 if your own rods look shabby too. So get scrubbing.

Fly fishing is the world’s biggest Ponzi scheme

Diehard fly-fishers already know this

First, you mortgage your life for a collection of very expensive gear. Before you’ve gotten any return on your investment, you get all your friends involved and they buy sloughs of pricey rods and reels. They soon find the sport is a lot more difficult than it looks, so to soothe their sore shoulders (not from casting – it’s the chip on said shoulder causing the pain) they lure yet more people to fly fishing. In turn more high-priced graphite and aluminum wonders exit the shop.

Along the way millions of leaders are broken, billions of indicators and egg weights come loose, and trillions of flies are snagged on overhanging tree branches and mangrove roots. ┬áIf you’re lucky, someone in your long line of friends wants to get involved and happens to have more money than you – they buy all the gear you can’t afford (and then you just borrow it).

To hell with all the rhetoric about getting back to nature, having time to reflect, converging with zen states of being – fly fishing is the most aggravating thing a human being can do. The only way anyone involved in the insanity ever gets a return on their investment is…uh…well…they won’t. Never will. A slight consolation is that if you take really, really good care of your gear you might be able to pass it on to your progeny.

We are all suckers.

Anyone reading this who actually fly fishes more than once a decade is now concurring wholeheartedly. And as irony would have it, some folks intimately related to Madoff Investments own part of Abel reels – Singlebarbed and Moldy Chum have more.

What I really take offense to is the notion of Madoff Investments being history’s biggest Ponzi scheme. It’s fly fishing, dammit, and I am in possession of shit loads of AMEX statements to prove it.

Now where’s my bailout?

Where did your fly rod come from? Or for that matter, your car?

Is it made in America, or did you pick it up wholesale via China? Taxes may be part of the problem, but I suspect scaling (i.e. having enough varieties of carbon to suit everyone’s fancy), plus inevitably high marketing expenditure, also puts a lot of small shop rods out of reach of the average consumer.

My own quiver, which is made up of a variety of fresh and salty Sage, Scott and Orvis rods, means I’m contributing to the local economies of Bainbridge Island WA, Telluride CO, and Manchester VT, respectively. I also have one Loomis, a 12 wt. GLX which I bought before the company was acquired by Shimano (Shimano, right?) and one Penn (another 12 wt., carried around as a backup to the self-described fragile GLX – yes, I’ve seen several break). Don’t know where either came from. The median age of my rods is around eight years, meaning I’ve been very satisfied with my choices despite the expense.

And I swear by Lamson and Tibor reels (Ketchum ID and Delray Beach FL get all my coin).

Sad to say my vehicles are a different story. While I’ve owned some domestic autos they’ve rarely possessed the off-the-shelf quality or remained as consistently reliable as my fly fishing gear.

Then again, maybe I’m asking too much.

UPDATE: On scale, Paul Graham. Fly rod makers are the ‘high-res’.

Burning a diehard fly fisherman (and customer) for life

Or…”Early Signs of a Struggling Industry,” whichever title you prefer.

There is a certain amount of pomposity amongst the fly fishing set that I’ve always tried to avoid. It could be a shop you walk into where nobody pays any attention to you because they assume you’re a newbie (despite the fact that is an incredibly stupid business move), or someone who builds a product worth half as much as they’re asking for it because they want you to think it’ll last a lifetime. The bottom line is friendliness and simplicity are my positive drivers, and when it doesn’t exist I turn and run.

Twice this year I’ve been burned by the hoity toity, and it was the last one that spawned this post. I fear the fly fishing industry is headed in the wrong direction if the treatment I experienced is any indication.

No Deposit, No Return

I was gearing up for spring/summer about the time a local shop moved a little closer to home. I probably dropped by three or four times, each visit costing me between $50 and $100. One day I bought a new fly box, along with some foam inserts and a divider. Got it all home, and upon assembly realized the divider didn’t work for me – it was poorly designed and cramped up the box. So I took it back, along with the receipt, the following day.

When I handed it all to the shop clerk, he retorted “It’s opened…I can’t sell that,” and pushed it back across the counter towards me. Mind you, the total bill was almost $90, I was asking for a refund of $16, and the packaging wasn’t ripped to shreds either – he could have easily put a little piece of tape on the product…and sold it. Take a close look at that picture, and tell me what you think. I’ll also point out – he couldn’t have been a bigger prick about it!

The nitwit took the easy route, and he paid for it. Since that time, I’ve bought a new rod, two new reels, enough flies to fill a small pickup bed, and numerous other gadgets, goodies and consumables (think leaders, tippet, indicators, weight – you know, the expensive crap you have to buy all the time after you mortgage the house for the rods and reels). I pass by that shop several times a week – it would be plenty convenient to stop in before each weekend, but that will never happen again. Instead, I frequent a pricier shop, or drive ten miles out of my way to another.

The rod repair is free – but we’ll need a lien on your boat to ship it back to you

Yes, a rod was broken on the last outing. I was partially implicated in the death, and agreed to pay for half the cost of repair. Now, the manufacturer is playing the “sole supplier” game. They are charging a nice little fee for a new blank and the associated labor, and frankly that’s fine with me. But they are gow-gow-gouging on the shipping cost – I suspect they’ve marked it up a couple hundred percent. They’re either the only one with a blank, or they have an obligation to fix it. But, you have to go through them, and they are going to make you pay out the ass one way or another.

The sad part about this is fly rod manufacturers once had pretty decent warranties. Said warranties were lifetime, the cost of their rods were usually reflective of it, and their treatment of the customer in turn mirrored the cost…high end. But this rod originally retailed for less than a couple hundred bucks – and they are charging something over 20% of that price just to ship it back. I’m throwing the bullshit flag here because I own a half-dozen rods from this company (I’m not naming names because bad publicity is usually better than no publicity). I don’t think I paid less than $500 for any of those sticks, and I’m certain of another thing: they just lost my business – I’ll never buy another rod from them again, and I’ll bet I’ve still got a good forty-plus fishing years ahead of me.

End note

The customer isn’t always right, but that doesn’t mean you have to kick them in the groin every chance you get. I for one don’t mind kicking back, even if it is only with my wallet.