Thomas & Thomas Avantt – First Fishing Report

T&T Avantt

I’ve been fishing the Avantt on local beaches over the last month and I wanted to provide a first report on actually fishing the rod.

I knew this was a phenomenal rod from the casting I did at Emerald Water Anglers and in my extended casting in my backyard (read here).

There are rods that are excellent casting rods in the parking lot but do not always meet expectations as an actual fishing rod. I am happy to say the Avantt was exceptional as a fishing rod.

The Avantt has a very light swing weight. In addition, the shaped grip felt very comfortable in my hand. Together, they made it easy to forget about the rod and focus on the line and where I wanted to cast it; that’s not true of every rod I’ve cast even in light trout rods. The Avantt is remarkable.

I was getting the same tight loops I had gotten in the backyard, even on some windy days where I was getting winds from both and up down beach.

At the distances I was fishing (30 – 60 feet), the rod provided great feedback on the casts I was making. It definitely has a stiff tip but that didn’t prevent it from letting me feel connected to the line. I was using both clouser flies and chum baby flies; both types were primarily sizes 6 and 8.

I’d like to say I caught a big cutthroat that allowed me to assess the rods fish-fighting ability, but that wouldn’t be true. The fish were all small cutthroat and few baitfish that were easily brought to the net before release.

So I’ll continue fishing the rod and hopefully the next report will be on the big one that tested the rod.

Social Media, Ambassadors, and Hero Shots

I came across an opinion piece in the Sweetwater Now, written by the owner of the Wyoming Fishing Company in southwest Wyoming. I’ve not read an opinion piece related to fly fishing so pointed in its criticism of a specific individual. And that’s what I think makes me uncomfortable.

The author’s comments begin with a pertinent observation about the abuse that results from some brands providing incentives to anglers for use of fishing photos. His concern is that this practice may push some anglers into doing whatever it takes to get a heroic shot – even if there is damage to the environment, such as spawning beds.

He comments that he has seen much of this over the 14 years he’s guided, and has, in apparent frustration now called out one abuser.

Citing the cover of the December 2017 issue of American Angler, he goes into specific detail about the incident that caused his reaction. He had very pointed things to say about the Colorado guide involved and his prominent display of brands in the shot, including a Hatch reel and a Thomas and Thomas fly rod. (The author does believe the brands were poorly represented, with which I agree).

The fault it seems to me lies with American Angler magazine that published a photo showing a brown trout with a tail that reflects recent spawning activity. They should have known better.

There is more background on the incident and the author provides additional photos where this same guide has apparently done the same in past years.

I don’t know the guide. So it’s difficult to assess whether this was an apparently repeated case of ignorance, poor judgment, or casual indifference. I think a guide’s job is to educate not only on casting or how to catch fish, but more importantly on the preservation and respect of the fisheries. One would hope he would have been better mentored, if only judged by his behavior in this incident.

I have no quarrel with the concerns the author has expressed. I agree that whether brand ambassadors or everyday fly fishers it can be too easy to make poor choices to get a heroic shot or video of a trophy fish; we should all be abiding by an ethos of take only memories – leave the fish in the water.

But I think the author would have been better served by contacting the brands involved and laying out the points he made in this editorial. Attacking an individual online means both the author and guide will be forever linked, and perhaps tarnished.

In the end, I guess I’m most concerned that this is just another example of the corruption commercial interests can have on everything – including fly fishing.

You can read the editorial here and form your own opinion.

Thomas and Thomas Avantt – Backyard Casting Review

Avantt

As might have been expected from my last post on the Thomas and Thomas (T&T) Avantt, I ordered one in six-weight with fighting butt and aluminum reel seat.

Once I got it from Emerald Water Anglers (EWA), I looked over the rod and saw the fit and finish was even more impressive than observed in the casual inspection in the store.

The rod is delivered with plastic covering the cork and a silver T&T cigar band. I know of only one other rod maker that covers their cork like that – Scott, and no one else that has a band on the cork. Protecting the cork may be a small thing but it certainly speaks of craftsmanship and pride. The unlocking reel seat is a wide band with the T&T insignia, classic and very refined.

Reel Seat

This rod is so beautiful it could be mounted on a wall for display. But that’s not why I bought it.

I wanted to get a bit more of backyard casting to better understand the rod – this time with lines I was familiar with and had actually fished.

I used a Rio InTouch Gold, Rio Coastal Quickshooter (CQS), and a Rio InTouch Outbound (OB) Floating – all in six weight, along with a 7.5 foot Umpqua practice leader in 3X.

I’ll say right up front, this rod cast well with all the lines I cast – both up at EWA and in my backyard; that’s not something true of every rod. At this point, I’m not sure what I’d say was my favorite – might depend on where I’m fishing, so more on that in a future post.

Given I wasn’t taking anyone’s time but my own, I used my standard approach in casting a new rod. I’ve grown wiser and no longer strip off line almost to the backing and try to cast for the bleachers.

I set up my soccer cones in the backyard at distances of 24, 32, 40, and 48 feet, all of which, perhaps not surprisingly, correspond to my fence posts; those lengths represent casts from a bit over twenty to almost fifty feet where most fishing is done on the beach (or chasing trout on rivers).

As I observed when casting with Dave McCoy at EWA, this casts nicely off the tip with about five to six feet of line out. With this amount of line, casting was more about watching the tip and varying casting speed to see how loops were forming. Very nice.

At 24 feet, I found I was accurate with all three lines, though only the CQS and OB had enough mass out to let me feel the line loading. I had to watch the Gold to see how my cast was doing. At the distances beyond 24 feet out to 48 feet, casting was easy with good line feel and I was accurate all distances.

Transition down the taper was smooth as the casts lengthened, but most of the loading is in the upper third of the blank as would be expected with a faster action rod.

In addition, I was looking for any tip collapse with the heavier shooting lines at distance, and that included casts beyond 48 feet. There was none, as I suspected given the stiff tip, making this a great rod for casting heavier lines and flies in the typical conditions on Puget Sound beaches; this rod will also work on windy afternoons on Montana rivers.

I spent some time casting the Gold with different speeds and stroke lengths to see if the rod favored any particular type of cast or under what conditions a cast would fail. From beginner-type overpower casts to slow and easy casts (with a double haul) the rod was accurate and I was able to hit the target area I set up.

This is one sweet rod.

The next step is to take it fishing. I’ll report on that in a future post.

Thomas and Thomas Avantt – Shop Casting Review

Thomas and Thomas Logo

I had been looking for a special fly rod for the last year.

My medical adventure of late 2016 through early 2017 provided me with a good amount of time to think about what’s important in life. I came to the conclusion, as Thoreau wrote in Walden and Other Writings, that it had been far too easy for me over the years to be “frittered away by detail”, and I needed to “simplify, simplify.”

In fly fishing, I decided I wanted to focus more on the essentials of the fish, the flies, and the contexts of time and place – rather than the too familiar path of being gear-compulsive.

For those who don’t fly fish (or any other gear-driven preoccupation – such as golf), it’s ridiculously easy to be caught up in the release of new gear. Fly rods in particular can drive an almost obsessive longing for the magic rod that can turn a poor casting stroke into perfection, or the rod that allows the fly fisher to target species from just beyond the rod tip to the next county in a howling gale. And I had been susceptible to that in the past.

To be fair the latest generations of fly rods are spectacular. Whether from Loomis, Orvis, Sage, Scott, Winston, and others – they are lighter with great tapers and with better materials and manufacturing than was possible in previous generations. I’ve cast many of them and they are all superb.

But I wanted a special rod – one that was not a custom rod but that had custom-rod attributes and was made by a small company of craftsman.

To that end, I started seriously looking at Thomas and Thomas (T&T) rods. I had been reading about them for several years and they seemed to fit the bill.

I emailed Dave McCoy, owner of Emerald Water Anglers (EWA), and one of T&T’s new ambassadors, who said the new Avantt was a better choice as a beach rod rather than the saltwater-specific Exocett. That sounded great to me as the Avantt would also work on the windy rivers of southwest Montana when we go to visit my son and his family in Bozeman.

I made the trip up to EWA in West Seattle to cast the nine foot six weight with the full-wells grip and the fighting butt.

I’ll briefly mention that this is one great-looking rod with superior cork, a matte blue finish, and some of the most impressive guide-wrap work I’ve seen – some rod makers use too much epoxy on the guide wraps; there was none of that on the Avantt. The craftsmanship is impeccable.

Dave brought three lines out for me to cast: an Airflo beach line (seven weight), an Airflo Xceed (six-weight), and a standard six-weight line. The alley behind the shop was good place to cast, except for a passerby who didn’t appreciate the backcast whipping out in front of him. Some people have no sense of humor.

After rigging up the rod, I observed how light in felt in hand and I noticed how the shape of the cork full-wells grip fit naturally into my hand.

I started casting with the seven-weight and worked my way down to the standard six-weight line.

The seven-weight line felt great. I started with less than ten feet of line and began working the line out. As the length of line increased, I began to see this was definitely fast-action rod that had a firm tip. But I was surprised how easy it was to cast and how light the swing-weight felt.

Moving then to the Xceed and finally to the true to weight line, as expected the response was a bit quicker. But the more I cast it with each line, the more I found myself thinking this was a very versatile rod that could handle any number of lines. Dave asked me which of the lines I preferred with the Avantt. and I had to think as each one worked well, but if I had to choose one it would be the Xceed.

Also it seemed to me that the more I cast it the more I was able to stop focusing about the rod and was just focused on the line and cast. Typically, I can feel a fast-action rod in my elbow and shoulder when first casting it. There was none of that with the Avantt.

I was liking this rod a lot.