A Tatoo Remembrance and A Class Act

Sage Leg Tatoo

People get tattoos for any number of reasons, too many perhaps to articulate or even understand. As someone who has no tattoos and has no plan to get one, there is at least one purpose for a tattoo that I can understand – and that is for remembrance.

I came across the following post on the Sage web site. For those who have not heard of Sage, it is one of the top-tier fly rod companies.

An individual named Douglas Derrick contacted Sage and related his story of growing up with a brother and sister (Dustin and Kristen). The two traveled to Nepal and Peru in 2006 to join their father who was working with Doctors Without Borders. After the father returned to the States, they then attempted to climb Mount Artesonraju in the Peruvian Andes. Someone slipped on the climb, and both and another climber all fell to their deaths on June 27th, 2006.

Before they left for Nepal and Peru, Dustin had left Douglas his fly rod – a Sage TXL fly rod and told him to keep track of the number of fish he caught with it. After their deaths, Douglas attempted to return the rod to the now grieving father who lost his only children.

The father told him to keep the rod as Dustin wanted him to have the rod. In 2008, Douglas moved to Portland, Oregon. Sometime after, his home was burglarized and the rod along with other items were stolen. To continue his homage to his dead friends he got the tattoo shown above.

Someone from Sage recently saw the photo on Instagram, which also had the background story attached.

The Sage repair department staff were moved by the story and decided to make an exact copy of the rod to send to Douglas. The TXL model was introduced in 2005 and is no longer in production – so Sage went out of its way to build a custom rod; including adding Dustin’s name and the date of his and his sister’s deaths.

I have a number of Sage rods – each is outstanding for its intended purpose. This story also reminded me of the outstanding men and women who people Sage.

You can read the original post here.

Sage X Fly Rod: More Casting

I had previously discussed that I had gotten to cast the Sage X (see here). At the time I had commented that I thought the rod was subtle, i.e., it wasn’t a rod that one picked up and either liked or disliked.

As it was, that comment seemed to reflect what I was reading in a number of forums. The Sage X is a fly rod that needs to be cast with varying strokes, power, and fly lines to find the magic for an individual caster. It takes a while to establish the relationship.

Since then, I’ve had a number of opportunities to cast the Sage X – particularly in 6 weight. And I will say unequivocally it’s a brilliant rod. It throws tight loops with little effort – I’ve noticed even my back casts get tighter with it. And I’ve not shot a cast over 75 feet with no hauls before.

Casting with both Intouch Rio Gold and Intouch Rio Perception, as well as the SA MPX, I think the Gold is the best all around match for it – if tossing only streamers I might lean to the MPX.

And it got me to thinking I should go back and cast the five weight again.

I’m thinking the X might be coming to me soon. Just need to sell a rod or two.

Sage X Fly Rod – First Impressions

Gig Harbor Fly Shop held a casting party last night for the new Sage X fly rod. In addition to the beer and impressively prepared hors d’oeuvres, the representatives from Sage brought a good number of X models in additions to other existing Sage rods. All rods were available for casting at nearby Skansie Park.

I’ve been casting long enough to know that it takes time to really understand how a rod performs in one’s hands (and how that may change with different fly lines). Last night provided an opportunity to cast a number of rods several times, but I don’t think the length of time was sufficient to form any final conclusions. So, consider this a set of first impressions.

I got to cast the following X models: 9’ 0” 5-weight with Rio’s Intouch Gold; the 9’ 0” 6-weight (with fighting butt) with Rio’s Coastal Quickshooter; the 9’ 6” 6-weight with Rio’s Coastal Quckshooter, and the 9’ 0” 8-weight with unknown line. In addition, I got to cast the Sage MOD 9’0” 5-weight with Rio’s Intouch Gold, Perception, and Grand.

Of all the rods tested, I really liked casting the 691 (9’0” 6 weight with fighting butt). I felt like I was having an easy time getting my timing down with it. The rod just felt right. The line shot a mile with almost no effort – though to be fair I think that was due to the new Quickshooter line, which I think I’m going to buy and replace my Rio Outbound line. The reel was the new Sage 6250 – very smart looking reel.

The 697 (9’ 6” 6-weight) was also a nice rod; easy to cast and powerful. But I would like to have cast it side by side with a 9’ 6” 6-weight Scott Radian, which is a great rod.

I can’t say much about the 9’ 0” 8-weight. I really suspect it was the fly line but I couldn’t get much of a feel casting it. And by the time I picked it up the casting area (with trees close behind) was getting crowded, with fly rods on the ground everywhere – making it difficult to put the rod through its paces.

The biggest disappointment – at least last evening – was the 9’ 0” 5-weight X. I was casting the Rio Intouch Gold, I could not get a sense of the rod. It felt light in hand, but I couldn’t get the timing down. I would like to have tried a Perception or MPX line on it. This model has gotten a lot of good reviews so I’m thinking I didn’t really see what it’s capable of doing.

The MOD testing was interesting. I liked it best with the Intouch Gold, but the Perception was nice on it too. And I think it was a much better casting rod, at least last night, than the 590 X. And for it’s moderate action, it could carry a lot of line and get some good distance.

As I finish this post, I’d have to say I think Sage has a winner in the X. But it seems to me that its capabilities are more subtle than with previous Sage rods; meaning that it’s going to take some time casting it, and adjusting one’s cast, at varying distances and with a number of different lines to find out where its magic and promise exists for the individual angler.

I plan on doing that.

Bozeman Road Trip – And R. L. Winston Rod Company Tour

Simms

My son David, and his wife Jamie and daughter Bridget moved to Bozeman Montana last Spring.

Two weeks ago I made a driving trip over to see them and their new house. A flight would have been quicker but I prefer driving and seeing the country whenever possible. And this was my first solo road trip since I got married.

Coming into Montana was a treat. It’s been about a decade since I’d been there; way too long. As I crested the Continental Divide east of Butte, I recalled it’d been 40 years that month since my first visit to Montana and Yellowstone.

I was living in Idaho Falls at the time while training at the Naval Reactors training site 40 miles west of Idaho Falls. Long, long days and not much sleep was the norm; good practice as it turned out for life later in the submarine service.

But the rotating shift schedule we worked did offer 5 consecutive days off once per month. And that gave me the time to make my first visit to Yellowstone; saw a moose in the park. Coming out on a late snowy Sunday afternoon I saw a man wading in the Madison river. That was my first time seeing someone fly fishing.

Back to the current trip.

The time in Bozeman was fun. Got to see the Simms building – the source for so much gear for so many fly fishers. Sampled the local beer and had a great meal at the Montana Ale Works. Did a quick day trip to Big Sky and West Yellowstone. And just had a wonderful time. Driving out of town I was figuring ways to stay.

Rather than heading back on the interstate, I headed southwest to drive through Ennis and Virginia City on the way to Twin Bridges. Ennis may be among the most storied fly fishing towns around and Virginia City is a historic gold mining town.

The final part of the trip was along the Ruby River, a tributary of the Beayerhead River, which joins the Big Hole River near Twin Bridges to become the Jefferson – one of the tributaries of the Missouri River.

Winston Fly Rods

I got to Winston Fly Rods about 20 minutes early for the daily 11AM tour. Winston Fly Rods sits at the southern end of Twin Bridges, Montana, which has a population of 375 per the last census (the entire county has less than 7,000 people). It was quiet except for the wind. With the rivers and mountains, I thought if you were going to choose a place to build fly rods this would be it.

I was greeted by Adam who asked if I wanted to cast any of the rods while waiting. The office was lined with all the rods in the Winston inventory. I chose the Boron III Plus in a six-weight saltwater version and took it out to the casting lawn in front. It was smooth and easy to cast both against and with the wind. Quite a change from the rod it’s replacing – the Boron III SX.

The tour started near the front of the rod building area and gave me an overview of the rod building process – stopping to indicate a door behind me where the green paint is applied that makes Winston rods so beautiful. He said he couldn’t say much about it except that it’s all proprietary and closely guarded. And later in the tour he said the green thread used for trying on the guides was also proprietary to Winston.

He showed me a rod blank after it comes out of the rolling and heating steps – it looked like the natural finish of a Scott rod. He explained why Winston believes the sanding process is required, by saying they find very small numbers of errors that can only be detected by the operator of the sanding machine. Any blank section that fails at this point is destroyed.

We walked through the various stations in the rod building process. Along the way I met a number of the Winston staff who without exception were friendly and extremely proud of the work they did. I talked to the guy who does all the repair work, the woman tying on a guide on a returned bamboo rod (she said can do all guides on a typical rod in about one hour). While she wasn’t there (it was lunch hour) Adam mentioned they have one woman who has been doing all the script work on the rod (model, weight, and serial number) for over 15 years.

We wound up in the room where final inspections are done. Adam showed me a couple of the rods that were marked for minor rework. He looked at one of the rods and saw the problem. Handing me the rod he indicated where the problem was but I couldn’t see it.

Winston has 30 employees working at the facility; in addition, they have 12 contractors in the local community who do the tying of the guides. It was clear to me everyone of those people build every Winston rod with pride and attention to detail.

I had thought going in the tour would be a quick walk through. But I spent almost 50 minutes on the tour and likely could have stayed longer if I had more questions. As I left the tour Adam invited me to come back anytime I was in the area.

I have appreciated Winston rods for some time. But this tour gave me a peek at what truly makes them exceptional – and that’s the people who put so much of themselves into building them.

And I’m going to have take another look at the Boron III Plus rod.

Sage SALT Five-Weight Review

Sage SALT

Most anglers looking for a fly rod for Puget Sound saltwater fishing typically start with a six-weight. The thinking is that it’s a good all-purpose line weight to handle most of the year’s fishing: from Sea Run Cutthroat Trout to Pink Salmon (in odd number years) and smaller Silvers (Coho). Chum salmon, however, require an eight-weight or better fly rod.

I started with a six-weight Winston BIII-SX. Beautiful as all Winston rods are, but it was stiff and heavy. Even worse was its big brother in eight-weight. Both soon found their way to eBay. After trying many rods (and I mean many – sometimes going back to an earlier candidate), I wound up with a great six-weight: the Scott Radian. It meets all the requirements for a good all-purpose rod for Washington. In addition to Puget Sound saltwater, I think it’d be a great rod to take over to the Yakima.

But it’s still a six-weight and I had been thinking I wanted a five-weight for Puget Sound. The truth is that most of the year’s fishing is for Sea Run Cutthroat Trout. Salmon season is four or five months long at best. And last year was a bust as no one had much luck with all the Coho that should have been coming in.

So I wanted the lighter-weight fly rod that would provide a bit more fishing fun with the smaller fish, but still land them quickly to make sure they weren’t exhausted when released. Lucky for me at about this time Sage had released its new SALT fly rod in line weights 5 to 16. it was the replacement for the well-regarded Xi3.

Gig Harbor Fly Shop’s writeup of the rod (here) convinced me, so after test casting the rod in nearby Skansie Brothers Park, I brought one home.

It is a sweet rod, from the beautiful dark sapphire color of the blank to the always excellent cork Sage uses, to the anodized aluminum up-locking reel seat and rubber fighting butt. One thing I thought was very useful, particularly if one gets the SALT in a number of weights, was the laser-etched rod weight on slide band.

The rod itself weighs 3 11/16 ounces. What’s interesting is that i think it feels and casts like a much lighter weight rod.

The tip response is fast but loading the rod further down the blank seems to be a more moderate action. Sage has said the tip provides the quick shots required in tropical saltwater fishing while the rest of the blank provides the action to go after longer range targets. Who am I to disagree? All I know is that it’s a fun rod to cast.

I did start casting it with a Rio Outbound Short, but found the casts and loops were too ragged for me. I switched to a full length Rio Outbound and everything settled out.

One thing to note is that Rio no longer offers the full length Outbound Floating / Intermediate in five-weight (the Outbound full floating is still sold in five weight). I went looking on eBay and was able to get a couple of the lines. Hopefully Rio will introduce a new line soon to replace the WF5F/I.

This feels like a rod that will be a good companion for many years to come. And while it may not work for dry flies, it can probably toss a streamer on the Yakima or in Montana (as Blake mentioned in his writeup).

To Buy a Spey Rod Means Actually Having to Spey (Cast) One

Farbank Spey Day

The latest newsletter from the Gorge Fly Shop has a blog post on a recent Farbank (Sage, Rio, Reddington) Spey Day held in Bend, Oregon on March 22nd, 2015. John Garrett, one of their Product Specialists, noted that it’s much easier talking with customers who’ve actually cast a rod than someone is mired in YouTube videos and online reviews – and having no actual experience with the rod(s) they ask about. He tells of his experience with a customer who had called fly shops all over the country and was frustrated by all the conflicting opinions; said customer had actually never gone into any local fly shops and tested any rods.

I confess – I’ve been guilty of that too (too many times in my life). Given life working in a corporate cube, it’s often easier to surf the web and get absorbed in product reviews and videos than going down to the fly shop after work or on weekends and putting cork in one’s hands.

And it’s not just Spey Casting or fly fishing. I was in a bike shop once (actually testing and buying a bike). The owner said he had these kids continually coming in with the latest issue of some bicycle-related magazine. They’d spend hours discussing and asking him about gear ratios, frame geometry and the like. He said to me, “I always tell them…why don’t you just go out riding.”

You can read the blog post here.

George Cook on Your First Spey Rod

spey casting

Blake Merwin, owner of Gig Harbor Fly Shop, had a conversation with George Cook – the outstanding Pacific Northwest representative for Sage – about Spey rods.

Any discussion about Spey rods and Spey casting can soon sound like a foreign language for single-handed fly casters thinking about picking up two-handed casting. Blake ignored the complexities of head lengths, grain weights, and T14 and asked George three simple questions: would a switch rod be a good rod for learning to Spey cast (the short answer is no); what should someone new to Spey look for in a first rod; and what’s the best rod for local anglers looking for a do-it-all Spey rod for Washington waters (13′ 6″ – 7 or 8 weight).

You can read the interview here.

Gink & Gasonline: Giving Scott Some Love

Gink & Gasoline has praise for Scott Fly Rods – discussing the new Scott Tidal and the Bamboo SC rods in a video interview with Jim Bartschi, Scott Fly Rods President and their chief designer.

I’ve cast the Tidal on the lawn – very smooth and easy casting. I’m still considering adding an 8-weight for local salmon and that’s in the running with the Scott S4s. I’ll let you know what I decide.

You can hear the interview here.

A Question of Balance: The Rod’s Butt Section

Beginners to fly fishing read, or are told, that a rod and reel should be a balanced outfit. That is further amplified by the instruction that each should be of the same weight – so a reel made for an X weight line should be used with a rod built for a X weight line.

Then as the fly fisher continues in the sport, another consideration emerges – the feel of the rod in hand, i.e., the notion of a rod being tip heavy or butt heavy due to the relationship of the physical weights of the rod and reel (particularly the latter).  Common sense thinking is that a heavier reel doesn’t work with a lighter rod – creating a butt-heavy combination, or a light reel with a heavier weight rod becoming too tippy.  And this doesn’t even get into the arcane discussion of whether the balance test should be done with line on the reel or how much line should be stripped off to measure the balance. Or the even more esoteric static balance versus dynamic balance (balance during actual casting).

I came across an even more interesting twist on all of the above.  I had mentioned in a previous post that I had been doing some testing of rods and lines, both to test fly lines and potentially finding a replacement for a BIII-SX (read here).

One of the interesting things I discovered during the testing was the way in which the rod’s butt section affected my perception of the rod. I was casting a Scott Radian 9’ 6” 6wt. I had a Hatch Finatic 5 on it, loaded with a Rio Outbound 6-weight line.  When picking up the rod I found myself thinking it felt clunky and unbalanced.  It was noticeable though somewhat less during the casting.

I then picked up a Winston BIIIX (also a 9’ 6” 6wt) and put on the Hatch reel. It had a less clunky feel though I could feel the weight of the reel. The weight was apparent but it felt better. Casting was no problem.

I then disassembled the rod and took the reel off. I closed my eyes and had both butt sections given to me. It was noticeably obvious that the Radian’s butt section is much heavier than the Winston.

I’ve not been able to find any published rod weights on the Radian yet, but feel in hand suggest the overall rod weight is about the same range as a BIIIX or Helios 2. In looking at the rod butt lengths they are all approximately the same length (some differences in blank length

A visual and tactile inspection of the Scott leads me to think the reel seat itself is heavier than the other rods. Given its position in the rod it has a more noticeable affect than weight spread along the rods length (say from the weight of heavier guides).

I put a lighter weight Galvan Torque on the Radian (with all four sections assembled) and the rod felt right in hand. Casting was easy and the Radian is a terrific rod.

After all of the above, is there some mystery of the universe (or of fly fishing) revealed?

Of course not. The only thing to be relearned is that all of the received wisdom and technical specifications are meaningless in the face of actual experience.  True of fly fishing – or life.