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Michael Gracie

The Little Scott Radian 753/4 That Could

gear bagIn early 2013 I received a package. The note within said “play casually with the contents, and if you find the time drop us a few words summarizing your thoughts”. So yours truly delivered back some long-winded blather a dissertation, finely detailed results of functionality testing across a myriad of conditions. The subject of the study was a generic nine-foot five that would later become the infamous Scott Radian. Breaking the non-disclosure agreement was an afterthought.

Then the inquiries began. “What if you built this same rod in a three-weight, say sub-eight feet?” “Hey, any thoughts on a 3-weight Radian?” “Don’t you think a Radian Three would be the coolest?”

YOURS TRULY: Man, a fast-action rod with this kind of sensitivity, this tippet-protection, seems perfectly suited for a light-line … uh um … three-weight rod, eh?

ANYONE WITH THE FACTORY’S NUMBER IN THEIR PHONE: Jeezus, will you shut the hell up about that already?!

I will now.

Now will you? Please?

What should a three-weight be able to do? First off, keep 6x-8x tippet intact. Add covering ten to twenty feet with minimal effort. Plus, make do with small flies on standard leaders. But what if it the angler wielding it could also stretch to twice that distance, entice the bite with fluffy terrestrial patterns, and tangle with fish bigger than a six-inch Colorado River cuttie?

“We thought you would leave us alone.”

Fat chance.

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Rod review: Scott S4 905/4

gear bagIt’s closing on two years since I first dropped a bug on the water with a Scott fly rod. The G2 905-4 is a staple of my quiver, unequal in terms of delicate presentation capability. Unfortunately, I’m prone to throwing meat, particularly at dawn and dusk (and midway between 8am and 10am, at 12pm on the hour, and every 15 to 30 minutes between 1pm and sunset). The G2 is a true medium action stick – certainly not impossible, but it is ill-suited for tossing tandem streamers or streamers with tandem hooks. Using another 5-weight which is stiff as a rail for the “dirty bird” methods, I’ve found myself carrying two rods an awful lot.

Circa the time I purchased fiver number two, I’d also spent some time test casting the Scott S4 905/4. Investment difference aside, there’s been slight regret since, which turned into deep anguish a few months back when I was handed the same S4 and told to play with it the rest of the day. Less than 86,400 minutes later it was a permanent addition to the lineup.

What follows are my thoughts…

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Rod review: Mystic M-Series (Parts 2 and 3)

A couple of weeks back I showed you the Mystic M-Series 593-4 and 693-4 in all their detail obsessed glory. I’ve since consumed copious amounts of alcohol with Mystic’s owners (Chris and Dennis) at Fly Fishing Retailer, and have to say it’s a fine bunch of folks up there in Michigan. I’ve also been reminded by Jeff Cooke (guide wunderkind, Mystic Rep, and generally great dude) that despite what I say about looking good being numero uno importante, how the rods fish is actually what matters. That thought hadn’t really crossed my mind, but I took heed of Cooke’s word and worked them as much as I could.

The lowdown on both rods follows. That makes two parts for the full review, not three as previously promised. Readers get luckier by the moment around here.

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Rod review: Mystic M-Series (Part 1)

Mystic logoOnce in a while you actually fool someone into thinking you can actually fly fish. If you fish enough, can spin a healthy supply of ridiculously far-fetched tales on your blog, and are extremely photogenic have mastered Photoshop you might find a handful of people who take you fairly seriously. In my case that scenario happens in perpetuity, a fact realized when a representative from Mystic Outdoors showed up on my doorstep and handed me a couple of rods to play with over the next month.

The two rods from newcomer Mystic are the M-Series 593-4 and 693-4. That would be five and six weights, each running 9′ 3″ in four pieces. I would generally split this review into the requisite two parts, looks and operation on the water, but since I received two rods built for different purposes, I’m doing this review in three parts. Aren’t you lucky?!

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Rod Review: Orvis TLS Power Matrix 908-2 Tip-Flex 9.5

gear bagOrvis’s TLS line has been around quite a few years, and has certainly been the target of its fair share of reviews. But we fly fish in a world where four piece rods are the norm, and when I found this Orvis TLS Power Matrix 908-2 Tip-Flex 9.5 I figured it would be an oddity in my gear closet too. Yea, it’s a two piece, but my arm was twisted into giving it a go. The intended use – tromping around Denver looking for big smelly carp, a purpose for which assembly convenience trumps inability to stuff it into a commercial airliner’s overhead storage bin.

Since it’s an older model, I’ll be brief. This will be a single part review too (lucky you) since I’ve already fished the rod several times.

Fit and finish

The rod came in a nice burgundy colored cordura covered tube, complete with a zip away cap and a black cordura carry handle. There was no rod sock included – a simple divider is built into the tube. More ‘less parts’ is fine by me, and the tube is durable enough that a person could re-purpose it for a friendly came of stick-ball if so desired.

orvistlstube

The rod finish is glossy forest green, and just slightly darker around the wraps. If nothing else, green feels good – I now have less green in my pocket but I can probably spin it as part of some environmental cause. There are two black anodized stripping guides – the rest of the [snake] guides are nickel – and the reel seat is gloss black. The finish on the reel seat looks and feels tough – identical to that on several premium saltwater rods I’ve owned for years that still don’t have a scratch on them.

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Rod review: G. Loomis EastFork FR1085-4 (Part 2)

gear bagIncluding a taste of the Grey Reef

Following up on part one of the G. Loomis Eastfork 5 weight review, I finally had a chance to put the stick through the paces. The location for testing was the Grey Reef – North Platte River, Wyoming.

Casting

I’d previously noted that the rod was very accurate at intermediate distances, and felt a little mushy on the long end. I can’t say I had much of a chance to air it out, but I can say that on a large western trout stream you’ve got all you’ll ever need with the EastFork. I threw weighted and unweighted streamers, including doubles, and did a fair amount of nymphing with it as well. It performed admirably with all. I did not, however, cast any small dries with the rod, but I’m not going to wonder whether it can cleanly turn over a #20 Parachute Adams – the rod isn’t built for ultra-light work (although it still fared well protecting tippets – see below).

Catching

Marketers would like you to think that ‘feel’ is what it’s all about when it comes to fly rods. But while ‘feel’ may make you think you’ve been transported to some mystical place where the trout eat your fly and then swim directly into your net, the reality is far from it. Once you cast your magic rod, you still have to hook and land fish! And that’s where this baby seemed to shine.

During a day and a half of testing on a large mountain states tailwater, I caught and released roughly 25 fish. Better yet, I did most of that on 5X tippet and in very heavy flows. Best…the smallest fish was 17 inches and the average fish probably weighed a couple of pounds.

Loomis EastFork Fight
Bend or break – it bends and bends and bends

To get ’em to net you need a outfit that has leverage in its heart but isn’t so much of a broomstick that you’re on your second spool of tippet by noon. The Grey Reef was running around 2,000 cfs, meaning every hookup was a challenge. And while I pulled more than my fair share of hooks, I only popped one tippet (and I’m chalking that one up to user error to boot).

Here’s the best catch of the test…

Grey Reef Pig
Screwing up the weight average – at minimum I’ll call the rod lucky

Proof is in the pudding. The G. Loomis EastFork has earned itself a permanent spot in my multi-rod tube.

Rod review: G. Loomis EastFork FR1085-4 (Part 1)

gear bagEvery once in a while a person gets stuck in a quandary. My jams usually rear their ugly heads when I’m fishing a lighter medium-action rod, the sun starts to set, and I’ve decided to tie on a couple of leaches and go for broke before my party starts complaining about the empty beer cooler and my unbridled obsession with catching just one more. Yea…I’d fish well into the darkness if I had my way, and unless the day started with a 200-grain line and a Sex Dungeon, I’ve been left wanting for stiff speed on multiple occasions. I finally decided I could either continue making backcasts, and then checking my watch, tying up a new leader, and grabbing a quick snack before beginning forward rod motion, or I could pick up a faster 5-weight. I took the rode more traveled (buying yet more fly gear), and the rod of choice was the G. Loomis EastFork FR1085-4.

I’m going to start by saying I’ve had my eye on a premium rocket launcher in this weight class, but the price, combined with the fact that the only way I could test one required subjecting myself to massive amounts of dealer-tude (a.k.a. dealer bad attitude), means the upper-crust lost on appeal. Secondarily, the folks that pushed me into this stick once steered me into another they didn’t even carry, so I was pretty certain I was getting straightforward advice.

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Review of the Orvis Zero G 906-4 Tip-Flex 10.5 (Part II)

gear bagI whipped this rod around for ten hours straight, just like I said I would. I’m anxious to describe how I feel about its performance, but I think a little primer is due first…

Roughly ten years ago, one of my fanatical fly fishing friends booked a trip to the Bahamas and stuck me with half the bill – so I went, if only to make sure he didn’t bullshit about all the bonefish he caught. We were out on the skiff day one, and he won the flip for first on deck. A few cruisers were spotted, but my buddy couldn’t reach them. Then I stepped up to the plate, and my bat was a rod (sorry – different brand) I had picked up in Miami just a month before during a secret Biscayne Bay practice session. It was a rocket launcher – nearly impossible to load without half the spool in flight, but when she did the bend right it was sayonara Crazy Charlie. Anyway, my buddy sits next to the guide watching, in awe that quickly turned to disgust – finally he gives, and we spent the rest of the day using one rod. When we returned to the dock, I picked up the gear and he sprinted back to the hotel – when I arrived he was on the phone with outfitters on the mainland, looking for that stick. He finally found one, in California, and had the shop do a FedEx Priority (yes, to the Bahamas).

The Orvis Zero G 906-4 Tip-Flex 10.5 may well find itself in a similar predicament. All I have to do is wind up on someone else’s big trout trip – I’ll demand we fish streamers, and then I’ll pull this puppy out. We’ll make sure there’s a company FedEx account handy.
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Review of the Orvis Zero G 906-4 Tip-Flex 10.5 (Part I)

gear bagThere are several people in the world who were tired of my incessant research on a new streamer rod. I’d been searching for months, read reviews until my eyes were sore, and cast at least a half-dozen different models. Sure, I already had a decent rod for streamers (the Sage 690-3 SP), and my short casting stroke and obsessive use of sinking lines and 6-inch pieces of dumbell-ed rabbit strip was pushing it – nonetheless I was pretty satisfied with its performance. I’d been lucky too – no multi-ounce flies had yet knocked a tip off – but I was in need of a backup quarterback just in case. Instead I wound up with what may be a starter – the Orvis Zero G 906-4 Tip-Flex 10.5.

Like my last ostentatious and frivolous purchase rod review I’ll being doing this one in two parts: paint and trim, and track acceleration (reels do the braking). I purchased this beauty from (where else?) Orvis – specifically from the Cherry Creek location. I’d hinted to the folks there that I was in want of a rocket launcher, and a few days ago Kerry Caragher said I had to cast this one. Fast forward to this afternoon – I was back in the shop, BYORL (bring your own reel and line) and out on the grass for a test drive. I’ll have more to report in regards to performance later, but I can say I was false casting 30+ feet of 5 inch/second sinker with barely a twitch of my elbow and some short tugs on the line – you guessed it…I was sold.

Following is the first half of the review, and some pics, of the latest addition to the quiver…
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Review of the Scott G2 905/4 (Part I)

gear bagEvery fishing fanatic needs some new gear every now and again, and I’m no different. My present quiver was purchased between 1997 and 1999, so I thought the time had come.

My choice was a trout rod, slightly lighter than model I presently carry for general duty. After a few weeks of research and a bit of touch and feel, I chose a Scott G2 in a 5-weight…the 4-piece job. Everyone said I made a good choice, but then again, the ones talking were either selling me the rod or going fishing with me this weekend, so I thought I’d throw in my own two cents.

This review is coming in two parts; the first will be aesthetics, which many people find very important (if all the gear everyone wears on the river is any indication), and the second will be performance on water (which is not really what I care about – it is all about looking good – but I’ll humor you).

The rod was ordered last Sunday from Western Rivers Flyfishers in Salt Lake City, Utah (a damn fine bunch of folks over there, IMHO), and arrived on my doorstep yesterday. So here we go (and keep in mind, this review is not being done by a pro – I am a rank amatuer and plan on staying that way)…

Part I – Build and Finish

The rod comes in a nicely constructed tube, which will take a place in the back of the closet when I stuff this puppy in my homemade multi-rod bag. I did note that the tube cap screws on nicely, as compared to the old Sage tubes I ditched long ago:

new-scott-g2-rod-tube

new-scott-g2-rod-tube-1

The cloth is pretty sweet too (as if anyone cares about tubes OR cloth):

Scott rod cloth

Scott rod cloth

Now, for the rod – four fine pieces:

Scott G2

Scott G2

I found no blemishes anywhere on the finish of any of the sections. It is a natural finish, meaning heavy on graphite ribs and very light on epoxy. All the guides were set in place very nicely, with smooth, tight wraps; error free and epoxied flawlessly as well. The corked was initially covered in plastic wrapping, which is of course now in the can – the cork was epoxied over the top quarter-inch, I guess for protection – a nice touch.

The ferrules are the internal kind, and are designed for long wear. This means you don’t need to try jamming them completely together; instead they come out of the womb with a quarter-inch or so gap intended when you put the rod pieces together. Over time, the fit will likely become a bit less snug and the sections will draw ever closer together, but I suspect that will be a long time (unless you are prone to leaving fly rods in door jams). I wax my ferrules every now and then to ensure smooth put-together and breakdown, and on this rod it was no different. The ferrules were dry, and now they are not.

Scott G2 ferrules

Overall, this little joker is a beauty, but I did find one little flaw. The reel seat was slightly misaligned from the fly eye (or whatever the hell techies call it), and this carried on to the first alignment dot on the butt section:

Scott fly catch

The above pic was taken while holding the rod, with reel seated and upright/perpendicular to the floor.

A minor issue, for me in particular, since I don’t pay much attention to those little alignment dots anyway (and the alignment was fine on the other three sections). Inclusive of this “tropical depression,” the rod gets a 9 out of 10 for build quality and appearance.

By the way, this addition to the rod bag was married to a Lamson/Waterworks Velocity 1.5 wrapped with an SA Mastery WF taper (Trout, to be exact, in olive).

Seated, the whole setup is very light and feels well balanced in my hand:

new-scott-g2-with-lamson

I found the exact balance point three-quarters of an inch below the top of the cork, if that makes any difference to anyone.

And here is a close-up of the bride, pre-ceremony:

Velocity reel

Velocity reel

I did get this rod out in the yard, after the nuptials. A few false casts, with tissue-laden leader end barely touching the tree across the street, and a nice loop carrying over the top of the car parked in the driveway next door. Feels smooth so far, although keeping that new line from landing on the blacktop and/or the windshield was a chore.

Part II, the real meat (or fish) of the issue, is coming up at the end of the weekend.