A Pile of New Rods

A Pile of New Rods

Plus, RIO's Nymph Line, Hollander's reel & two intriguing gadgets

  • By: Jim Reilly
  • , Ted Leeson
  • and Buzz Bryson

Orvis Zero Gravity Fly Rod The Zero Gravity series is Orvis' latest entry into the high-end, high-tech flyrod market. Borrowing from the lightweight, composite technology used in the military's F-22 jet and unmanned drone aircraft, Orvis says the Zero Gravity series is the strongest, most advanced rod they've ever made. What sets the Zero Gravity rods apart is the use of a new carbon scrim system that is lighter and stronger than the fiberglass scrim used in other Orvis rods. This, combined with Orvis' thermoplastic curing process, reduces blank weight while producing a tough, strong rod.Despite its lighter weight and delicate appearance (Orvis did an excellent job in dressing this rod), the Boron fibers incorporated into the butt section give the Zero Gravity plenty of backbone to handle big fish and long casts. The components on the Zero Gravity are top of the line: the eye-catching reel seat is made of nickel-silver anodized aluminum (to save weight) with a burled maple insert on the freshwater models and a Texalium insert on the saltwater models. Silicone carbide stripping guides and a crimson scratch-resistant finish complete the package. I fished a 9-foot, 5-weight, mid-flex model quite a bit this past summer and I was pleased with its power and versatility. From tossing bass poppers to casting full-sinking lines and streamers for monster browns on Maine's Kennebec River, to dryfly fishing on the Delaware and nymphing on the Bighorn, the Zero Gravity performed as well as you would expect from a rod of this pedigree and price. I would suggest though, that anglers out West choose a tip-flex model to deal with the high-wind situations out there. Prices range from $655-$675 for 4- through 9-weights. Four- and two-piece models are available in tip- or mid-flex actions. -Jim Reilly

RIO Nymph Line Nymph fishing, done well, requires quite a bit of focus. Fly placement can be as critical, if not more so, than with dries. Takes can be subtle, often beyond detection. Many are only barely detectible, almost sensed rather than seen. Every visual cue helps, beginning with a high-floating, easily visible line tip. And with the continuing, even increasing, popularity of nymph fishing, it's no surprise that specialized lines have appeared targeted to nymph anglers. RIO's Nymph line is one of these, and it has all the attributes to make it a fish-catcher. The line itself incorporates RIO's new patent-pending RIO AgentX Super Floatation Technology, as well as the SlickShooter finish. The latter offers a line-tip with a specific gravity as low as 0.65, compared to the more typical floater in the 0.85 ( /-) range. RIO also incorporates its welded loop, which the company says will eliminate the problem of water wicking up the line's core and sinking the tip. It floats well and it's slick, but does it allow the angler to cast and control nymphs? Righteously! The line has a long belly and long back taper, both of which help with roll casting, mending and general control of the line. The shorter, steeper front taper helps to turn over heavier/bulkier flies better. Coupled with a proper leader (long butt, steep transition, and a not-too-long tippet), this line will practically throw a sinker for you (to only slightly mix sports). Because of its longer belly and steeper front taper, the Nymph line might feel heavier, as if it's loading the rod more than a standard WF line of the same weight. I like that, because a well- and quickly loaded rod will minimize false casting, and the game is fishing after all, not casting. Finally, what about its visibility? The bulk of the line is a light green, pretty visible in itself. The final eight or so inches of the tip, however, is orange-essentially, a built-in, smooth-casting strike indicator. So, if the Nymph line is that good, can one simply use it as an all-around line? Well, sure, but unless you primarily nymph fish, it might not be the best choice. The very factors that make it work well with heavier flies-primarily the solid turnover-make it a bit less delicate than it should be for dryfly presentation, particularly on flat water. But take the Nymph line for what it is: a well-thought-out, well-executed line that will increase your chances of success.

Redington CPS Rods New for 2005 (having been introduced at the fall 2004 trade show), Redington's CPS-Core Performance Series-rods have turned a lot of heads. First off, the rods are quite well finished, and look great sitting in the rack. Then, when you see the price-$249 regardless of model-you think Wow. This could be cool if it performs. It does, and well. I've had the chance to fish extensively with the 5- and 8-weights. Of course, 5-weights are the bread-and-butter rods of the industry, and if one line weight will make or break a new series, the five would be that one. The CPS 5-weight carries that responsibility with ease. It feels light in the hand throughout a normal range of casting distances, something that not all light-line 9-foot rods do well. Dries and nymphs can be presented in close or to more distant targets with minimal thought (i.e., adjustment) by the angler. Switch to a bit heavier leader and a popping bug, and the CPS becomes a bluegill rod extraordinaire. Those are the situations most of us use a 5-weight to cover, and the CPS delivers without a hitch (or wind knot!). The 8-weight, more and more, is also becoming a do-it-all line weight, as it is asked to cast heavy nymphs on large streams, push wind-resistant poppers under low-hanging limbs to lurking largemouth, toss Clousers on sinking heads to schoolie stripers, and fire bonefish and redfish flies accurately through stiff winds to tailing fish. Asking one rod to handle all those tasks, while still allowing the angler to enjoy using it, is quite a tall order. On a recent trip for redfish in coastal North Carolina with friends Chuck Laughridge and Captain Gary Dubiel, we gave the 8-weight a good test. The trailing edge of a front was blowing through, and with the temperature having dropped several degrees overnight, the fishing prospects were marginal at best. But the sun was shining, so we crossed our fingers and had a go at it, all in the name of testing gear. The forecast had been for winds of 10-15 miles per hour out of the northeast. And they were-but only in the several lee areas where Gary took us. Chuck wryly observed that the proper interpretation of the forecast was to add the figures together, and 25 wasn't far off in open water, at least for the gusts. So challenged, we first set a testing baseline by casting with a premium $600 rod. Then we took up the CPS, and found it a worthy alternative at less than half the price. The 8-weight's action was similar to that of the 5-weight, loading up easily and quickly with a standard weight-forward 8-weight floater, even when we were casting some bulky redfish flies. We also overloaded the rod a bit with a 300-grain Streamer Express line that had an intermediate-density head, and the rod still handled the load well, albeit flexing deeper into the butt section. In fact the heavier line and its denser head actually punched into the wind a bit better than the floating line. Both the 5-weight and the 8-weight were extremely well-finished. Blanks were straight, "painted" a pleasing green with no traces of blemishes or dust. Guides (including Fuji stripping guides with silicone carbide inserts) were laid on straight and the wraps neat and well-finished. Fittings were quite nice too. The cork was unusually nice on both rods (better, in fact, than on many more expensive rods), well secured to the blank and smoothly finished. The reel seats were more than adequate: the 5-weight having polished aluminum components with a wood insert, and the 8-weight a black anodized aluminum seat with a short fighting butt. Is the CPS a Sage with a lower price tag? Hardly. The Sages have more highly refined tapers, to be sure. But as one dealer observed, most casters will find that the 8-weight CPS delivers about 90 percent of the performance of the Xi2, at less than half the price. Something to consider, if you're on a budget. The series is complete, covering line weights 3-12. All are 4-piece and most are 9-footers, with several 81/2-, 91/2- and 10-footers.

Hollander Reel If the name Bill Hollander rings a bell, you've either got a helluva good memory or own one of just a handful of his original Cutthroat trout reels produced in the mid-1980's. Hollander suspended his reel-making efforts in 1988 to pursue his real, grownup job-developing precision seismic and gravimetric instruments. A few years ago his company, High Precision Devices, resurrected the idea of reel making, and last year introduced the next incarnation of the Hollander reel, appropriately called the Phoenix. Aside from its distinctive-and to me, handsome-appearance, this reel incorporates some interesting, high-end features. A machined titanium foot dovetails into the single-sided frame. Spindle bearings are fully sealed. And the spool release is part of the spindle rather than the spool, which makes spare spools (both standard and large-arbor design) simpler and therefore less expensive. I'll confess that I was most interested in the Kevlar-pad caliper disk drag-mainly because I've never fished a caliper system that I was really satisfied with. A few exasperated designers have explained to me over the years that caliper disks are the same mechanism used on the brakes of high-end racing cars, and I in turn assured them that the next reel I drive at LeMans will most certainly have a caliper drag. In fishing, hydroplaning and fade are my chief complaints, though I have others. So I was curious how this version of the idea, particularly with so much of the mechanism exposed through large backplate ports, would fare. The Model P-50, the first reel in what is to be a series, is sized for 5- to 7-weight lines-trout and light salmon/steelhead. Finding myself a little short on trout and steelhead last spring, I decided to test drive this reel on some Belize bonefish instead. The ad copy says "fully saltwater compatible," but I called to check anyway. "Sure!" they said. "Go for it!" This kind of reluctance naturally makes me suspicious. But the upshot is that the reel performed flawlessly on a number of regulation-issue Turneffe Island bones, up to about 5 pounds-good frame strength, smooth pressure for the long runs, sensitive startup inertia for the sudden surges of which those fish are passionately fond. It handled a few larger bones just as well until they were lost through operator error. My one very minor complaint is that I find the reel handle a bit short, for saltwater use anyway. But this is really a freshwater piece of equipment, ideally sized for big trout and steelhead, and I have no doubt it would handle them with ease. The Model P-50 goes for $500 with a conventional spool; additional spools run $80-$95. -Ted Leeson

Speedtech Angler's EDGE Plus Fishing Predictor What in the world is it? Well, just think of it as the Solunar tables gone high tech. The Angler's EDGE Plus Fishing Predictor is a pocket-size instrument designed to predict fish-feeding activity based on several known natural influences. The Fishing Predictor starts with basic sunrise/sunset, moon phase and time of day information. It then integrates real-time barometric pressure to predict when fish will be feeding. The output algorithm is, according to Speedtech, developed using a "total of over 40 years of fishery research experience and personal observations." With your input of time, date, altitude latitude and longitude, the Predictor will display current fish-feeding activity, future predicted activity (for either four hours in "present" mode or for 24 hours in "future" mode), weather forecast (symbolically, as either sunny, partly cloudy, cloudy or rainy), moon phase, relative sun and moon position. Does it work? Well, the odds are with it. A keen student of fish behavior can tell you that fish do react to certain natural rhythms. For instance, many fish typically spawn on a full moon: if you want to find bluegill on the beds in North Carolina, go fishing on a full moon in May. In the shorter term, fish react to changing weather conditions: strong fronts that bring rain or temperature changes. It makes sense to combine those major influences when attempting to figure out what the fish will do. There are, of course, other factors affecting feeding fish and your ability to catch them. The Predictor-any predictor, for that matter-can't account for them all. Seasonal changes in runoff, residual impacts from floods-a myriad of factors can throw off any predictor. Look at how often the long-term weather forecast is wrong (right, that "long-term" weekend forecast the weatherman misses every Wednesday). But again, does it work? Well, I had only a few weeks to try it, and I'm honestly not sure whether I caught more or fewer fish than I might have, had the weather been different. I go fishing when I can, and let weather affect me only when it is so bad as to make fishing nigh impossible. But for those who do keep meticulous records of their fishing trips, or who want to understand those factors that typically influence their success, the Fishing Predictor is an excellent learning tool. Even if you don't use it to make decisions-and I'd not recommend anyone use such a tool to decide not to go fishing-it can help you understand natural cycles better. Tides are of course affected by lunar cycles. Some fish feed strongly during bright, full-moon periods, and less so during the adjacent daylight hours. Checking the Predictor will remind you not only of when these conditions are occurring, but when they are occurring simultaneously.

Heinz Reel/Line Winder Read that again: "reel/line winder." This handy little gadget is a line winder, but in a pinch it can double as a reel. Fly fishers are becoming more versatile, covering the surface with a floating line, and then probing the depths with intermediate and sinking lines. They will thus be changing lines more often. Having an extra spool or second reel is nice, but can be expensive, especially with the larger, machined saltwater reels. The alternative-peeling off a fly line onto the stream bank or boat deck to change over to another-invites at best a messy situation. A line winder offers an attractive option, but only if it's easy to carry and use. The Heinz winder is constructed of tough plastic, with an easily adjustable clamp that fits over the rod grip. Once mounted, the fly line can be quickly transferred onto the winder from the reel. Pop the spool off the winder-it's friction mounted-and pop the spare spool on (the winder comes with two spools)-and you can switch lines within a couple of minutes. Not as fast as changing a quick-release spool, but about as fast as changing spools on that big saltwater reel, and no chance of dropping a tiny screw! The spare spool is fairly compact, and is a perfect place for storing extra line. In fact, spare spools are available at a modest cost. It's large enough to hold pretty much any fly line. Used as a reel, the winder is a bit klutzy, but nonetheless can be employed in an emergency. The package includes a spacer, intended to allow the winder/reel to fit snugly over a reel seat. This works fine on a larger saltwater reel seat, but on the smaller-diameter seat of a trout rod, and even with the spacer in place, the winder/reel is a bit loose. In the latter situation, it's simple enough to shift the "reel" forward onto the grip, where it will clamp snugly. While one wouldn't choose to use the Heinz winder over a "real" reel, it is certainly functional, to the point of even having a simple, rudimentary "drag." Not a tarpon killer, but certainly better than a beer-can reel! The best thing about the Heinz winder is that it is quick to use. It will fill up a reel-size pocket in your vest or tackle bag, and whether that's a fair use of space will depend on how often you change lines. I normally carry an extra reel with me "just in case," even while trout fishing with no intention of switching lines. When bass or saltwater fishing, I'll typically carry a plastic bag full of lines of various densities. Thus, I'm a fan of line winders, and have for years carried one made by Struble in my gear bag. The Heinz reel/line winder offers a viable alternative, and one you might want to consider. Winder with two spools is $39.95. Extra spools are $12.95, or two for $22.

G. Loomis RoaringRiver Spey Rods If you read the January/February issue of FR&R, you probably noticed that we named G. Loomis' new RoaringRiver two-handed rod series as one of the best new products to debut at the 2004 fly-fishing trade show. In his RoaringRiver write-up for us, veteran Spey angler Darrel Martin praised the rods not only for their impressive performance on the show's casting pool, but also for their completeness as a family of rods-there are models for three distinct styles of Spey-casting in a well-thought-out variety of lengths and line weights. For instance, the RoaringRiver Greased Line Spey Rods are for traditional two-handed casting, while the RoaringRiver Stinger Spey Rods are designed for Scandinavian-style casting, and the Roaring River Dredger Spey Rods are for Skagit-style casting. In addition, while most of the rods are made with Loomis' top-of-the-line GLX graphite, the company also offers a few less expensive rods for each of the three casting styles. The seven Greased Line GLX's, from a 14' 8-9 weight to a 17' 10-11 weight, are priced from $815 to $980, while the two Greased Line Deveron rods (a 14' 8-9 and a 15' 9-10) retail for $430 and $480, respectively. The five Stinger GLX Speys (12'6" 7-8, $730; to 15' 10-11, $900) are accompanied by three Stinger Spey Altas (12'6" 8-9 to 14' 9-10) at $400 to $430. And the four Dredger GLX's (12'9" 6-7 to 14' 9-10 for $730 to $850) are complimented by the three Dredger Kispiox rods (12'9" 6-7 to 14' 9-10) that retail for $410 to $430. Darrel said it well when he wrote, "These rods will introduce many new anglers to the two-hander-never has it been so simple and so accessible." In fact, they introduced me to two-handed casting, and I'm glad they did. Last fall, I spent four days on British Columbia's Kispiox and Skeena rivers, using a number of different RoaringRiver rods as I fished for steelhead. This was real on-the-job training for me, as I had never Spey-fished before, so I can't give you a professional opinion on the rods' performance to match the positive review Darrel has already given us. But I can tell you this: Within about two days, (and, of course, with the help of some good instructors) I was able to get several different RoaringRivers to work well enough for me that I actually caught a couple of wild steelhead. Not only that, but I truly enjoyed this new-for me-style of casting, especially my newfound ability to sling ever-longer lengths of line with these huge but light-feeling rods. There's a lot more to the different styles of Spey-casting than I'm able to go into here, but in general, the Greased Line rods flex through the mid-section when fully loaded and are designed for traditional casts of 50 to 150 feet. The fast-action Stingers were made for hurling longer (33'-46') shooting-head lines-though they're fine at throwing a floating line as well-while the Dredgers have a softer action and are ideal for shorter shooting heads. -Paul Guernsey