"Sometimes, you just need to go downstairs and waggle a rod..."

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Rod Love, Part 1: Unstructured Glass

I guess, if you think about it, Rod Love could be a good name for a porn star, but I am not a dirty bird like you, so that never crossed my mind... Instead, I think it's a good name for a blog post about an awesome fly rod. As I have often said and written, fly rods are the coolest tools ever invented by man, so I might as well write about them, huh? The first rod in this series is an awesome 8' 4-weight Unstructured Glass beauty.

You may not have heard of Unstructured Glass rods. They are built by a terrific rod builder/educator/music composer/blogger in Boston named Vladan Milenkovic. Vlad builds rods made out of fiberglass, graphite, and even a fiberglass/bamboo combination. His rods are innovative, to say the least. My 8' 4-weight rod is unlike any other glass rod I own. It is more powerful than any other 4-weight rod I know of, yet the tip is surprisingly supple, so short casts can be made with a deft touch. When I recently took it to a glass rod casting session that was put on by my local Trout Unlimited chapter, it got more raves than any other rod I brought. Several people could not believe it was glass, and others could not believe it was a 4-weight. It is truly unique, and awesome.

Beautiful thread wraps.

Here is what Vlad wrote about this exact rod on his blog: "This was a demo rod for The Fiberglass Manifesto loan program. It is in remarkable shape. While the rod cloth has few small stains, the rod almost looks unfished. This series of rods really went "under the radar." A true 4wt medium fast taper, blonde glass. Exceptionally nice quality flor cork handle, burgundy micarta seat w/bright hardware (tapered ring), and hand-painted "brookie spots" artwork by my signature wraps. Matching color guide wraps with red single turn thread inlays. Guides are original Belmar-style Mildrum stripper and Snake Brand snakes and tip top."
The awesome Brookie Spots above the cork, and Vlad's signature wraps.

The super cool linen micarta reel seat insert. Don't feel bad, I had to look up what micarta is too...

If you would like to check out some of Vlad's other work, head over to his blog at https://rodcatalog.blogspot.com/. It sounds like he won't be selling his Unstructured line of glass rods any more, but he has tons of other cool stuff to read about.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

New Flies!

Hey, I just updated the Store page here on The Riffle, and added a ton of new flies you can buy, plus our stickers are now on the Store page as well. Just click on the My Store tab up on the top of the page, or click this link right here to go to the Store and check it out. Yay flies!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

We've Got Stickers, Yes We Do!

I think I missed the boat when this whole sticker craze happened, but in recent months I have noticed that it does actually exist, and my whole philosophy on life is "Better Late Than Never". So, I have joined the hordes and masses and throngs, and I have designed a sticker to promote this ol' blog. And I think it turned out even better than I ever expected it would:

These stickers are 3"x 3", and would look great on pretty much anything: car window, fly box, guitar case, fly tying box, truck window, bumper, boat, forehead, wall, laptop, desk, refrigerator, trapper keeper, reel case, trombone case, toaster, toaster case, any other kind of case, etc...

These awesome stickers will be for sale in the near future on the ol' blog for $2 each, including postage, but if you "Like" this post on Facebook or Twitter, you will be entered into a drawing for a free one. Who wouldn't want a free sticker to put on one of the aforementioned items? I can't think of anyone! "Like" away! I will announce the winner next weekend!
There's one for your fly box, toaster, trombone, truck window, Thule topper, and forehead!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Kiap-TU-Wish Open House

Some of you might have seen the title of this post and wondered "What in the world is a Kiap-TU-Wish?" Well, I will tell you. It's an awesome Trout Unlimited chapter in western Wisconsin, right in the heart of the area in which I learned how to fish for trout. I don't know if the word Kiap-TU-Wish is an acronym, or maybe a compound word, or just a bunch of grammatical jibberish, but the name comes from letters taken out of the names of local trout streams: Kinnickinnic-Apple-TROUT UNLIMITED-Willow-Rush. This chapter has been doing great things for the local trout streams for several decades, and I am proud to have been a member, off and on, starting over 30 years ago.

Kiap-TU-Wish is doing something new this year for the September meeting. They are putting on an Open House at a local brewing establishment, in hopes of getting their message out to some new people, and maybe even getting some new members signed up. It is happening this Wednesday, September 5th, at the Rush River Brewing Company in River Falls, Wisconsin, from 6PM to 9PM.

The Open House will include fly casting demos, fly casting games, Tenkara and fiberglass rod casting opportunities, fly tying demos, the chance to learn about fly fishing opportunities for women, and you can learn about Kiap-TU-Wish and all of the volunteer opportunities that are available. My buddy Peter and I will be manning the fiberglass rod casting area, and we'll have a plethora of glass rods for you to try out, both modern and vintage. That alone is worth the price of admission, which is nothing, but there will also be beer, soda and pizza to enjoy, so if you are anywhere within a 1000 mile radius of River Falls, you should come to the Open House. If you do, swing by the fiberglass rod casting area and say Hi!
Come out and try some awesome glass rods!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

New Vs. New

I am a fan of fiberglass fly rods, at least in some line weights. Once you get up to a 7-weight or bigger I think graphite is superior, but for 6-weight and under, I prefer glass. I like it's buttery smooth feeling and the way you can actually feel it loading and unloading, unlike some of the new super-fast graphite rods. I am a glass junkie!

I got my start in glass with vintage rods, for two reasons. First, because when I got into glass there weren't many rod makers building glass rods. And second, the older rods could be had fairly cheaply. My first glass rod was an old 5'6" 5-weight Eagle Claw rod that cost me under $20. It was short, but boy, could it cast. After that Eagle Claw I got old rods from Fenwick, Garcia, Heddon, and many others. Within a short time more and more modern rod companies started offering glass rods. And, in the last few years there have been a bunch of low-cost modern rods showing up on the market. Most of these rods are made in China or other foreign lands, but hey, a fly rod is a fly rod, so who cares where it was made. Am I right?
UltraGlass 8' 5WT 3-piece

Aventik 8'1" 5WT 4-piece

I have been especially intrigued by a couple of rod brands that have popped up: UltraGlass and Aventik. Both are readily available on ebay, are made in China, and cost somewhere around $100 or thereabouts, including shipping. I felt as though I was in need of a 5-weight pack rod, although I probably didn't actually need one, but since both UltraGlass and Aventik make one of those, I decided to try them both and see which one I like the best. Both arrived this week, so let's do some casting!

To start my tests, I used the exact same reel (a Lamson LP-2) and the exact same line (a brand new 5-weight WF line from Maxcatch) on each of these two rods. And the rods are set up similarly, as well, the only difference being the Aventik is an inch longer (8'1" vs. 8').  I took them out in the yard next to my office and gave them a go. I should state that the yard next to my office is always windy, as there is very little shelter around and the wind comes howling off the wide open soybean field across the road. That was the case today when I did the testing.

The first thing I can say is that these two rods have very different actions! The UltraGlass is very fast for glass, possibly the fastest glass rod I have ever cast. And it has some power! I was casting 60' casts fairly effortlessly with minimal exertion. Most of my casts while fishing are under 40', though, and the UltraGlass did not seem all that capable of making the shorter casts with any delicacy. It was quite difficult to make shorter casts at all... The less line I had out the more the rod felt like a broomstick. Maybe that would be solved by moving up a line weight to a 6, but since it's labeled as a 5, I wanted to use a 5.

The Aventik rod had a much more fluid and slow action to it; it was an action that I preferred. You could feel it flexing and loading, like most other glass rods. And it loaded easily with 15-20' of line out. I could still cast for distance, like with the UltraGlass, but the closer casts felt much better with the Aventik rod.

As far as aesthetics go, both rods were finished very nicely, and come with quality accoutrements. High quality cork grips, nice wood reel seats, and neat guides and thread wraps came on both. The Aventik comes with single-foot guides, which aren't my favorite, but they serve their purpose so I will try not to complain too much. Both rods come with nice, sectioned rod bags and cordura-covered rod tubes with carrying straps. It's pretty amazing to me that these nice touches are included on such inexpensive rods...

All in all, I like both the UltraGlass and the Aventik rods, you know, because they are fly rods and all fly rods are awesome. But for my taste I would rate the Aventik higher on the castability scale. The UltraGlass feels a little too much like graphite for my taste. If I was looking for a nice 6-weight rod, I would think the UltraGlass might be perfect, but I am not, so I would choose the Aventik. If you have a chance to try either of these rods, let me know what you think!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Tough Day

I learned about Eagle Creek a few years ago. What I had learned was that it’s a trout stream that flows through the town of Savage, MN, which is a suburb of Minneapolis. I had also learned that Eagle Creek was the site of a big brouhaha between conservationists and developers back in the day, with the conservationists coming out on top. Now there is a wide corridor along the entire length of the stream in which nothing can be built. 

Our first look at Eagle Creek.
Bryon's fly choice to start out with.
My buddy, Bryon, and I went down to Savage to check it all out. What we found was a very small trout stream flowing through a tangle of trees, weeds, and brush that didn’t look like it had seen many fishermen recently. The stream looked like it had had some habitat improvement, as it was narrow and deep in some spots and had undercut banks that looked very fishy. The problem was that it was so small. I could step across it in many spots, and where it widened out it was too shallow to hold any fish. Despite the fishy-looking spots, it was almost impossible to get into position to make an accurate cast without snagging some weeds, getting caught on the backcast, or spooking whatever fish there were. At least the water was nice and cold, because the air temperature was hot! Overall it was a pretty miserable experience, and no trouts were caught. Perhaps we will go back to Eagle Creek again in the Spring, so there won’t be as many streamside plants to deal with.

No fish yet, but at least my new floppy hat was keeping me shaded.
Since our efforts at Eagle Creek went unrewarded, we decided to check out the nearby Credit River, which supposedly supports trout in some areas, and for sure is supposed to have a healthy carp population in others. Where we stopped the river was very low and clear, and there was no sign of any piscatorial life whatsoever. Strike 2.

So we worked our way over to the Vermillion River. The Vermillion is known to hold trout; rainbows are stocked near the town of Farmington; browns reproduce naturally throughout the rest of it, although not at real high numbers. We fished right in Farmington, and in a couple of hours the only fish we saw were some big ol’ carp finning slowly in one of the deeper pools. We would have happily fished for the carp, but they were hiding out in a jumble of downed tree limbs and overhanging branches. Strike 3.

The fishing was bad, but the casting was great with my T&T Heirloom glass rod.
A fishing report without any fish is pretty weak, so we did stop at a local lake on the way home to catch some bass and/or bluegills. Bryon caught both, but my terrible luck continued, at least for a while. Finally I caught one little bluegill on an orange wooly worm. After that I figured I might as well quit while I was ahead. It was a tough day!
Bryon with a sweet backcast.

Orange Wooly Worm

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Slowing Down With Glass

There for a while I was getting pretty fast and furious with buying and selling fiberglass fly rods. If I saw one that I wanted to try, I would sell off a couple of the ones I already owned, and snap up the new one. If it turned out I wasn't a fan of the new one, I would sell it off and find something else to try. Seemed like I was receiving 2-3 rods in the mail every week, and mailing off just as many.

That frenzy of activity has slowed down in the past couple of months, almost to a complete stop. It got to a point where I really liked all the rods I own, so I didn't want to sell any of them off. And spending time online looking for rods isn't the healthiest thing I could be doing, so I thought I better curtail those activities.

There was one niche that I wanted to fill, though, and I got a rod that filled it last week. I wanted a fairly inexpensive pack rod that I could just throw in the trunk of my car to have in case of any fishing emergencies that might arise. You never know when you might need to fish, so you better have a rod available, I think. And I think I got an almost perfect rod for that niche.

It's a 4-piece 7' 5/6weight vintage glass rod made by the Timberline Rod Company. Timberline was owned by Bill Franke, a custom rod builder based in New Hampshire. He used Lamiglas blanks for his rods, as well as for the L.L. Bean labeled pack rods that he made for that company. As you probably know, Lamiglas makes some awesome fiberglass fly rod blanks, and my new Timberline rod is no exception.

To be totally cliche, it's buttery smooth yet packs some power. It casts very accurately in close, yet I have had no trouble getting it out to 50'. It seems like it will be a great all-around rod that should work in most situations that I might come across around here.

I also got a new, cheap reel to pair with it and keep in the car. It's a Marado Revolution, which was super cheap, but should be OK for what I will be using it for. And hey, if it breaks, it's not a big deal, I'll just find another reel.