New for Early 2008

Orvis Helios rod, SA's new line and more

Orvis Helios

Helios rod

Helios is the sun. And the new Orvis ZG Helios rods shine. Claimed as the lightest rods ever made, a 9-foot, 6-weight 4-piece weighs only 21/4 ounces. And do not forget the 9-foot 8-weight, at 2 ounces. Orvis is able to do this by building on technology introduced in their Zero G series rods: Instead of the heavy fiberglass scrim used in the construction of most fly rods, Orvis uses a graphite scrim; when paired with a thermoplastic resin, it offers greater strength with less material. Orvis then set out to reduce the total weight with woven graphite spacers and "ported" or drilled locking nuts. Even the stripping guides are lighter-solid titanium frames around NanoLite ceramic rings. An added touch is the nickel-titanium snake guide that pops back when crushed.

I found the Tip-Flex 9-foot 6-weight remarkably light in the hand, responsive and powerful. Here was a smooth, sensuous pleasure in the cast. The Tip-Flex 8-weight was assertive and powerfully progressive, a casting joy without fatigue. This rod could easily replace my 10-weight. And I bet no angler can cast the Tip-Flex 4-weight without a smile. When my brother cast the rod, he dryly noted that we now have rods lighter than the fly lines they toss. Not quite, but the Helios is rising, and it is a new dawn in rod-making.

The 4-piece Helios rods will be available January 2008 in 13 models, from 3- to 10-weight. Any angler should be able to select an appropriate rod-Tip-Flex or Mid-Flex-to match their personal casting tempo. Every rod comes with the Orvis 25-year guarantee for repair or replacement. $775.
-Darrel Martin


Konic Reel

One of the more impressive products I've seen for 2008 is the Lamson Konic reel. Spool and frame are pressure cast from an aluminum alloy, but don't be mistaken; this reel is light years beyond the brittle, heavy, aesthetically sloppy, painted winches that one typically associates with a cast-metal reel. The Konic has wonderfully precise rotation; a tough polyurethane finish; and a trim, clean appearance. The guts of the reel, a fully sealed conical drag and stainless roller clutch, are identical to those used on the more expensive Lamson models. The drag knob advances through two full revolutions for precise tension settings, and operates as smoothly at the high end as it does the low. And like other reels in the Waterworks Lamson line, the large-arbor design here is a pleasingly practical balance of weight, diameter, spool width and line capacity.

Although I can't comment on the saltwater sizes, I have used Lamsons with this drag in the trout weights for a few years, with flawless and maintenance-free performance. So far, the Konic has given the same results. This is a whole lot of reel for what is, these days, not a whole lot of money. Four sizes, from 3- to 10-weight; $119-$149.
-Ted Leeson

Gamma Technologies
Dual Tapered Tarpon Leader

Much goes into tarpon fishing long before you step into the boat. Given the size, strength and aerobatics displayed by big tarpon, knots are critical if you hope to stay attached for a battle that tests both tackle and angler. In fact, guides and anglers obsess over knots, and some insist on using only knots they personally tied. With the time required to tie the bite-tippet, class-tippet and butt sections together, most anglers choose to pre-rig a dozen or more flies prior to going fishing. The rigs are stored in a stretcher box, to keep the bite tippets straight and to allow for a fairly quick change of flies. But a stretcher box adds yet more bulk to the angler's gear, and for those who "chase silver" only once a year, it's a bit of overkill.

Gamma Technologies, maker of Frog Hair and Deep Blue leaders and tippet, now offers its Dual Tapered Tarpon Leader. The leader incorporates a stiff butt section (for better turnover of bulky tarpon flies) and supple, but tough, tippet sections, including both the class and bite tippet. Before you say, "So, all tarpon leaders do that," consider that the leader is entirely knotless. And, the Deep Blue material allows the leader to be rolled into a package little larger than those for trout leaders. Take it out, give it a stretch and it straightens right out. Try that with stiff bite tippet.

The Dual Tapered Tarpon Leader is 9 feet long, and comes in both 16- and 20-pound class-tippet sizes, with 80-pound bite tippet. Although I don't expect these will meet IGFA specs (which require certain min/max lengths between knots), they sure will make most tarpon anglers' lives simpler. $9.95.
-Buzz Bryson

Scientific Anglers
Mastery Series Sharkskin fly lines

Conventional wisdom says fly lines are supposed to feel smooth, even slick, but Scientific Anglers' new Sharkskin line certainly has a rough feel to it. Nevertheless, it casts like crazy. How is this possible? As one would expect, the answer is complicated.

First off, the lines still incorporate all the AST magic like most SA lines. The innovation here is that SA microscopically altered the line's surface through a process they call "microreplication." The line's normally slick coating has been textured with a microstructure that gives it the rough feel of shark's skin. When asked about the process, SA's Jeff Wieringa said the texturing process is actually an old technology originally developed for planer applications (screens and lenses) back in the 1960s, but this is the first time it has seen a three-dimensional use.

According to Wieringa the genesis of the project began with a brainstorming session on ways to make line tips float better. "We thought of the lotus plant's [naturally hydrophobic] microstructures, where water falling on them forms droplets that roll right off, taking any dirt with them. We built a device that could form the microstructures on the line manually, proved it worked, and went from there."

In terms of performance, the microreplicated structure reduces the line's surface area, and less surface area means less friction. Less friction means higher line speed, and higher line speed means longer casts. Less friction also means the line is easier to pick up off the water and to mend.

So is the Sharkskin worth $100? Well, I reckon I'm about as skeptical as most people, but after putting the line through its paces at the bass pond, I can say I'm convinced: I found it easy to pick up off the water, it flew through my rod guides and it seemed to float better. The Sharkskin has beauty that is more than skin deep.

Mastery Series Sharkskin fly lines are available in 3- through 8-weights. $99.95.
-Buzz Bryson