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

"Write what you know. If you don't know, make it up..." - Scott Hanson

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.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Jam Knot & Whip Finish

Through all of the beginning fly tying lessons I have taught over the years, two things seem to give novice fly tyers trouble on a somewhat consistent basis. First is the jam knot, which is the act of starting the thread on the hook. Second is the whip finish, which is the knot that I prefer to use to finish the fly. To be honest, I teach all my beginning students to use a half hitch when they are first starting, but inevitably somebody asks about the whip finish, so I will show that.

First up, the jam knot:

Next up, the whip finish:

Let me know if you have any questions!