Dec 12

The Ten

Christmas came early.  My first re-married Christmas is off to a fine, fine start. This is my gift from the Mrs., a 10 weight. Just what I wanted.

I went back and forth between a 10 and 11, but in the end I settled on the 10.

I’m excited to find something to throw this at. I got a Redington to stay true to my “cheap is good” beliefs. I think this is a fine stick and I look forward to feeling something big and nasty pulling on the other end.

My new rod. Happy to welcome it to the family.

My new rod. Happy to welcome it to the family.

This is not the first Predator I’ve had my hands on. I caught my big (for me, anyway) Cuba tarpon on a Predator 11 and I cast a 9 in Hawaii (unsuccessfully) back a year ago. So, we have some history. This stick is workman like. It is not overly fancy (although it is blue and my daughter loves blue), but it is just a good, honest rod at a pretty decent price. This rod will be with me for a long time and that is good value:money.

Aug 12

Boron III SX

At the show I got to cast the rod that won the award for Best Saltwater Rod, the Winston Boron III SX. It is a nice rod and it hits all the high notes for premium rods.

Super Fast Winston

The folks that like Winston Rods for their saltwater fishing have not told me that they liked super fast action rods, but they liked the little bit of moderation, the feel and touch you get with a slightly slower rod. I wonder if this rod is going to hit all the right notes for the anglers that already love Winston rods.

It casts well, it looks nice.

Now, while this is a really nice rod, I don wonder what makes it “the best” from the show’s perspective. I’m pretty sure I’d rather cast a Helios 2 or a Sage One over the Winston, having cast all three of those rods now.  I guess it comes down to personal taste and how you like to cast.

Evaluating a rod comes down to so much personal bias. For me, it is a good rod, but it isn’t going to get the “Bjorn’s Top Saltwater Rod” award. Anyone have one and think it is the bee’s knees?


Jul 12

I’m going to say it’s the reel

OK, yesterday we heard from Davin (Flatswalker) with his post “Trust me, it’s the rod.” Today, I’ll take a little time to expand on my belief that it is reel you should focus on.

I won’t say that rods aren’t important. Heck, it is pretty hard to fly fish without one. However, when it comes to fly fishing in the salt, I’d focus more on the attributes of the reel than I would on the attributes of the rod.  Here’s why.

Me, casting, before I even did it very well.

Casting Abilities Trump Rod Abilities

Casting is at the core of fly fishing and learning to cast well is one of those things that pays real dividends. You may be a decent caster, but you can be better and it makes sense to put energy toward that end.  I’ve cast a fair number of rods from the Gold Standard to the Tin Standard and I’ve come to the conclusion that the importance of the abilities of the rod decrease as the abilities of the caster increase.

If you have a slower rod, you modify your casting stroke accordingly and you again modify your casting stroke when handed a faster rod. If you are capable of processing the feedback the rod is giving you, you can put that information into your cast and that gets you where you need to go. If you can’t adapt you are going to be limited to the one rod conforming to your static and unchanging casting style.

A good rod helps, but how many more feet is the rod going to get you?  How many more inches of accuracy?  I’d say the ROI you get from a bonefishing rod starts to drop off dramatically after about $300 (and maybe even $250). If you can pick up an Orvis Helios (a fine rod, by the way) and pound out an 80 foot cast (which I freely admit is almost as useful as pounding out an 80 foot cast while fishing for 5″ trout), I don’t think you suddenly lose your ability to cast when you pick up the Redington Pursuit at 1/6th the price. You certainly would be able to cast more than 1/6th the distance (13 feet). Would you really not be able to cast 70 feet with that rod?

See, I’m betting you would.

That’s really a foundational concept for me.  The casting ability of the angler is paramount. Good rods help, but lesser rods do not prevent the same end from being achieved. If the average shot is 50′ in a 12 mph wind, I’m betting rod selection (if we are talking 8 wt.’s from $120 – $800) would only be responsible for fractional differences in overall accuracy.

Let me just be clear… I LIKE GOOD RODS.  I really do. If I had $1,000 I could get a good rod and a good reel.  If resources were more constrained, however, I might put more emphasis on the reel because my (really very modest) casting abilities can compensate for a more modestly priced rod, in most cases.

Loading at close distances

Some rod issues can really get in the way of your fishing.  When wade fishing you tend to see fish much closer than when fishing from a boat. When you are casting to a fish 25 feet away it can be harder to get the uber-fast rods to load with minimal line out.  This can cost you fish.  However, if you are wading, you can up-line and you’ll find it much easier to load the rod at a shorter distance.  Even using a redfish line (which can be .25 to .5 weights heavier than bonefishing lines) instead of a bonefishing line can help. Now, who wants to carry around two rods? Not me, really, but if you know you are going to be mostly on the boat, or mostly on foot, you can line your rod accordingly. Problem mostly solved.

What is prone to break?

When I think about all the things that can go wrong out there on the flats, I tend to think about the many, many ways reels can fail.  The cast has been made, the fish has eaten and is streaking off across the flat and your reel is hesitant, halting, protesting with odd sounds… it isn’t good. Your drag if failing.  Tenkara bonefishing is not very practical, so you are going to need your reel to be functioning, and functioning well. A bonefish can swim upwards of 25 mph, which requires some machined goodness on the other end.  That reel you caught that big trout on just isn’t going to do the job, most likely.  If it does work once, it might not work twice and almost certainly won’t at the end of your trip to Andros.

The salt and the sand and the shear power of the bonefish can combine in many gear-destroying ways. Having a reel capable of putting up with the harsh conditions is critical.  I’ve been out on the flats with reels not up to the job and it is a horrible position to be in.  When the reel fails, that is it. You are done fishing.

Well, that isn’t going to work well.

How often does the rod fail?  Beyond stepping on it or chopping off the top 1/4 in the ceiling fan back at the lodge, it is very unlikely the rod itself will actually stop working. Beyond something falling off, snapping in two or coming apart I don’t even know really how a rod could stop working.

Reels, on the other hand DO stop working. I have had four reels bite the dust on me on trips, and one bite the dust in testing (which may be why it has become difficult to actually get more reels to do testing on). The most memorable was an Cabela’s large arbor that I got as a gift. I was down in Mexico and managed to hook into a 12 pound Jack. That reel was so toast. Ever turn of the handle there was a scraping and the drag became uneven and clunky. I landed the fish, but that reel never fished again. It was not up to the task.  It would have landed 20″ trout until the end of time, but you put a 12 pound Jack on the other end and the pretender gear gets sorted out rather quickly and objectively.

Sealed drag or unsealed drag?

Actually, I don’t care so much.  For me, a sealed drag is better because I’m crap with gear maintenance.  Unsealed drags, like those iconic cork drag reels, have been put to hard and continuous service for a long time, so they obviously work. I tend to need my reels to be less needy of my attention.  That said, if I had a Tibor, I’d likely sleep with it on the pillow right next to my head (as I would with a Nautilus or that F1 from Ross).

To sum it all up

I look at the rod vs. reel debate through an ROI lens. I know that I can pay to avoid reel failure, but I’m not convinced I can buy another 10 feet to my cast. I, like Davin, love gear. I’d have it all if I could. All of it.  All the good stuff anyway.  Of course, to have that much money I’d likely have to go into investment banking and destroy countless lives.  Would it be worth it? Probably, but I’m no good with numbers, alas. So, in my current resource-constrained state, I need to put the money where it is going to do the most good.  I’m pretty sure I’d rather avoid reel failure over having a lighter/stronger rod.  I’d like them both, of course, but when push comes to shove, I’d grab the cheap rod and the badass reel.

Jul 12

Trust Me, It’s the Rod – Guest Post by Flatswalker

This is a guest post by Davin over at Flatswalker.  When I spouted off about “It’s the reel” he replied. I thought you all might like a little more light shed on his views (as I did). Tomorrow, I’ll reply with my own thoughts (here is that post).  But for today…


I’m a tackle snob. I try not to be, but there it is. I might not own the best gear, but I think I do. I have a penchant for ultra-light, yet sturdy tackle, and generally believe in “Final Decisions”—that is, spending time and (often good) money to buy something once, and own it pretty much for life.†

However, in my line of work I do get to cast a lot of rods in a lot of price ranges. I also get to watch folks compare their rods and mine. My conclusion: Rods matter. I’ll go farther and say it’s about the most important decision you can make before embarking on a bonefishing trip.

We tend to fall back on habit when our brains shut off at the sight of a tailing bonefish (or when the guide starts yelling cast now, cast now, 40 feet!) Then we revert to our default cast—the cast we’ve practiced most and is the most natural for us, regardless of the rod in hand. If you’ve chosen your rod correctly then you’re in great shape when you have to rely on instinct.

When you don’t have a lot of time, you need to feel the rod.

Here’s The Problem: most of us don’t chose our rods correctly, especially for salt water. Our choices are usually based on arbitrary criteria like affordability, or “Orvis is for posers” or “my buddy/the fly-shop guy/Andy Mills says these rods are awesome and he knows way more than me” or (worst of all) how far we can cast the rod.

The critical factor in choosing a rod is how you cast. Is your casting stroke short, long, relaxed, fast? Can you double haul? Do you have great timing instead? These are actually the first questions you need to ask when selecting a rod. How far you can cast it will have next-to-nothing to do with how it actually fishes. Trust me.

In fact, I’d say that needing to distance cast is a relatively narrow niche in saltwater fishing—especially sight fishing. Generally  you’re called upon to reach that redfish at 40 feet, or that bonefish at 50. Maybe you need a longer string for spooky permit, but you’ll likely be using a 10-weight at that point so 60 feet shouldn’t be too much trouble. Any farther than that and—for sight fishing—you’re into the realms of fantasy. Even if you can bomb it out there to 80 feet—unlikely—you probably won’t be accurate enough to put the fly where it needs to be to feed the fish.

Ok, there are some aspects of bonefishing that might be obvious but I should have listed at the outset.

  1. First, you need to see the fish. This will usually happen between 25 and 80 feet. Any farther and you probably won’t be able to see it—bonefish being relatively small, excellently camouflaged fish in a giant ocean. Any closer and you’ve probably already spooked it.
  2. The fish has to see your fly. Hail-Mary cast in the general direction won’t get it done. You’ve got to place the fly deliberately where the fish can see it without spooking it so that you can…
  3. Feed the fish. This is the bottom line. If you can’t reach the fish before it gets too close, or put the fly where the fish can see it, then you won’t feed it.

That is what this is all about and my experience with rods is that most have holes in their performance. This is particularly true with the new generation of fast-action sticks, the true rocket launchers that make us feel like we can reach any fish on the horizon.

Here’s the straight skinny: ultra-fast rods are the worst rods for bonefishing. I say this for both the expensive and inexpensive sticks. If you can’t feel a rod with less than 30 feet of line out the tip, you’ll miss most bonefish. Bonefishing happens between 30-50 feet. That’s pretty close, and they’re usually moving toward you. You have very little time to get the fly out and feed the fish. If you’ve got to make half-dozen false casts just to load the rod, that fish will be inside 30 feet by then and you’re done. Game over. Redo from start. What you really need is a rod that allows you to cast to that sweet spot in 1-2 false casts. You should not be struggling to feel the rod, and you should be able to accurately present the fly inside 30 feet.

Before you protest, think this through. Your rod is roughly ten feet long, so is your leader. That means with only five feet of fly line out the rod you’ve got close to 25 feet. How many rods do you think allow you to feel five feet of fly line? ‡

See what I mean? Too far is rarely a problem. What is a problem is accuracy, and that means casting the right rod for you, first of all, and then considering the conditions you’ll be fishing in. We’re talking bonefishing here, and that means breeze—8-18 knots all the time—and the varying distances depending on if you’re wading or being poled. For wading practice 30-50 foot casts, with a few shots inside or outside. If you’re on a skiff then 40-60 feet. Flies will be relatively small and light—generally #6-#2 hooks with medium bead-chain to medium lead eyes for weight. The perfect bonefish rod will allow you to easily load the rod in close and still reach the medium distances of 50-60 feet in these conditions. It is a lot to ask of a rod, so take your time and choose wisely.


The rod, the reel AND the beer. Perfect.

†Obviously, not every purchase falls into this category. Beer, bread, and boxer shorts, for instance, seem like ongoing investments… at least for the foreseeable future.
‡ Plenty; they’re called 3-weights.

Jul 12

Budget Bonefishing Rods

I figured I’d update a post from a while ago about budget rods for bonefishing.

In truth, the rod is way less importance for bonefishing than the reel. If you have cash-eesh to spend, spend it on the reel.  What you have over, spend on the rod.  Here are some options that I’m pretty comfortable recommending.

The Redington Pursuit – $120

Redington has really emerged as of late as a price leader.  Their gear is serviceable and workman-like. You won’t impress the pants off your buddies at the fly shop with your Redington, but then, the fish are less label conscious.

That will get the job done.

Echo Ion – $190

Echo continues to be one of the least promoted rod companies out there. I seem to never hear about them, but what I’ve seen of them, I’ve liked.

The Echo Ion

Rise Balance – $125

I’ve been a fan of the Rise Company for a while. They are the little guys, the newcomers and it is hard not to root for the underdog.



There are rods that sell for almost $800 and those are fine, fine sticks. I’ve fished some of those and I can attest to how magnificent they cast. If my payday ever arrives, I may own several such rods.  For now, when I’m looking for a rod to buy, I don’t look for the rods in the $750 area, I’m more interested in what value might be found in the lower ranges.  Luckily, we anglers live in a good age.  There are a lot of options at a variety of price points.  There are even rods to be had south of $200. These rods will catch bonefish.  They may not be the equal of the $750 rod, but, in a pinch (and when you are pinching pennies) they will do the job.


Apr 12

Packing is Done – The Reels are Rigged

What is going to get packed is packed. The rest of the time before I take off is really just moving from one place to another. The trip is more or less set in motion.

The last reels arrived a couple days ago and yesterday was supposed to be the day that I got backing put on all those reels.  Then… call from my daughter’s school that she was sick. So, I scavenged. I managed to pull backing off a few of the reels staying home and am now fully set.  Here’s the reel list…

For the 8’s (Sage One, Mystery Prototype)

  • Orvis Mirage
  • Ross F1

For the 10 (Orvis Helios)

  • Ross Momentum
  • Ross CLA
  • Orvis Mirage

For the 11 (Redington Predator)

  • Redington Delta

The lines are a mix of Orvis, Rio and SA lines and for the tarpon rods (the 10 and 11) I have both floating and either clear int. sink tips or full clear int. sinks as well.

I’m feeling fairly well equipped. In fact, I may be over-equipped and I’ll have to consciously switch reels and rods from time to time to make sure I get some time with different rigs.

Four rods. Six reels. Seven spools/seven lines.

I’ll be carrying on the rods and the reels and I’ll be hoping the rest of my stuff makes it there.

Tomorrow morning I get on a flight for the first leg of the journey.  I’ll meet up with the others down in Mexico tomorrow night and from there, the adventure begins.

Jan 12

The Most Expensive 8 wt. in the World

UPDATE (4/17/2012) – Yup… still running the 70% Off Sale, which does not appear to have ever ended.  The EXT is still $238.50.

UPDATE (4/18/2012) – They are running a sale right now that actually looks like a sale. $238.50, which is really way down from the $358-$430 numbers with $795 seeming to be steady as the MSRP.

UPDATE (3/26/2012) – March Madness Sale… The EXT continues to have an MSRP of $795, but now is back to $358.50.  This means this actually IS a sale of -$80.

UPDATE (3/2/2012) – They’ve changed their tune a bit.  Now they say the MSRP is $795. Oddly, the old price, for the $1,195 rod was $358.  Now, with the lower MSRP it is now $430. (I think they’ve also unsubscribed me from their marketing emails)

UPDATE… Super Bowl Sunday and I get an email from Albright. 70% off… Free Shipping… Sounds familiar.

So… is the EXT from Albright the most expensive 8 wt. in the world? Well, depends on how you look at their numbers.  See, the MSRP is $1,195.00.  Um… that would be the the priciest 8 wt. on the planet (by $300+).

The NRX =$760

The Sage One =$730

Winston iiix = $810

Orvis Helios = $825

Well… that just sounds a bit crazy, no?

Don’t worry though… they aren’t selling the EXT for $1,195. You can get it for the low, low price of $358.50. Yup… 70% off the MSRP.

Here’s the thing… that rod has never sold for a grand. Never.  It never will. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad rod, but it isn’t a thousand dollar rod.

I have an Albright. It is a decent stick. It was very good in terms of price. I think it was about $90 and it casts like a $130 rod. It’s a deal. The question Albright needs to answer is if the rod is money for value at $358.  It might be that.  There is a good chance it is.  They don’t need to say it casts well for $1,000 because there is no 8 wt. that should cost $1,000.

Come on folks. Play it straight.

(I’m not the only one who has noticed, it seems.  Hatch Magazine has as well.)

Dec 11

A review I found of the Echo3

I am currently cultivating snot. A nice little cold had settled in my head and is kind of preventing a lot of holiday merrymaking, but I still have a few days to kick this before I put on the red hat. So… at least there is that.

Since I’m sick (and tired, of course), I’m glad I found a nice review of the new Echo3 rods via the This River is Wild facebook page.

Echo is an interesting company to me.  Never before have so few marketing dollars been spent on what seem to be pretty good products. It is almost as if they don’t really want you to know about them.

I don’t think I’ve ever fished an Echo, although I’ve played with them at a few consumer shows.  What I’ve seen, I’ve liked.

I got a few 8wts and 10wts and this past week down in the Bahamas I personally got to fish and test out these rods on some big bonefish and dolphin! These rods are beasts! They are powerful, fast action rods that have the ability to generate enough line speed to cut through some serious wind.

Mar 11

Field & Stream, Best Fishing Gear of 2011… Pursuit from Redington

I’m big on value, so I was interested to see the Field & Stream pick for best gear of 2011 being the Pursuit from Redington.

Of the fly rods tested (some pushed $800), nothing could touch the Pursuits for value.

via Field & Stream Picks The Best New Fishing Gear of 2011 | Field & Stream.


The reason nothing could touch them might have something to do with the Pursuit coming in at about $120.  They run up to a 9 weight and comes in 2 or 4 pieces.  Basically, if you are looking for a back-up, or if you are getting into the sport or if you just like value… well… $120 is kind of hard to beat.

I was going to get a Pursuit loaner for Andros, but it turns out they weren’t going to be able to get it to me in time, so I’m bringing a couple other Redington rods along, in addition to my Rise 8 and maybe one or two other rods… I’m not going for long enough to get all the gear I want out into the field, that’s for sure.


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Nov 10

Rod Review – Sage Xi3

I was fortunate enough to get a couple of loaner roads from Sage for my trip to Belize.  It felt a little like Christmas when the package with two new Xi3’s showed up.  I had a 7 wt. and a 10 wt. which armed me for everything I really needed in Belize.

The 7 wt. was used most and was an especially good rod for hunting Belizean bonefish, which tend to run a bit smaller in size than Bahamian bones.  With the 7 wt., I up-lined to an 8 weight line, which cast very, very well at the short distances that you tend to be fishing when wading for bonefish.  I am fast becoming a fan of up-lining when you know the distances are going to be short.  These fast, modern rods have difficulty loading on shorter casts, say 40′ or under.

Xi3 - a great stick.

I cast the 10 for permit and for tarpon and was happy with how the Xi3 did when delivering some long casts with some bigger flies.  The 10 weight I actually cast with a 10 weight line (a Wonderline provided by Orvis, which did great service as well).   The 10 weight didn’t feel heavy and it had plenty of power.  When I hooked into that big Jack that rod bent to the cork, which was fun to watch.

The Xi3 has a rather major price-tag, which is really the only drawback of the rod.  You can feel the quality in the stick and I’d love to bring one out on the flats again at some point.  When I finally move up to a top tier rod, the Xi3 will certainly be in the running.