Archive for April, 2016

The All-Rounder…

Posted in Gear, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , on April 30, 2016 by stflyfisher

You might have heard it as you worked your way up through high school, preparing for college, a profession, or work: “you should go out for track (or band, or the debating club, or…) to be more ‘well-rounded’. Whether that worked out for you or not, there is some merit to the strategy of being a “renaissance man”, so to speak – so much so that a version of the term even eked its way into fly fishing.

The Orvis Company, a giant in fly fishing, began a transition to graphite rods in the early 70’s, thanks to Howard Steere, the superintendent of the Orvis fly rod shop. Steere loved bamboo but had the vision to recognize the potential of graphite as a fly rod blank material. During this era, no company had built a satisfactory graphite fly rod. Orvis eventually came out with their own  and these rods included the Orvis 8’3” All Rounder 7wt. The name of the rod recently caught my eye, especially in light of my parent’s well-meaning lectures to be ‘well-rounded’ in life…

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The Orvis All-Rounder – 8’3″ of versatility…

While there is truly no all-around fly rod, the Orvis All-Rounder is considered by some to be a good attempt at a noteworthy objective in rod design. It is a full-flex rod with great butt strength and a soft tip and because of its design, it has the ability to cast a lot of line or cast short. The rod handles small flies fairly well yet due to its line rating, can throw streamers in the salt. Its short length allows its use in small streams that have close alder growth and cover.

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A description of the All-Rounder found in an old Dan Bailey’s fly fishing catalog…

As I researched the All Rounder, I started to realize how specialized fly fishing product has become. These days one can buy a myriad of fly lines with tapers targeted to specific fish species, casting taper (WF, DT, Intermediate, Sink Tip, etc.,) and even fishing conditions. A recent scan of one online fly fishing store’s inventory showed a Mastery Redfish Warm and Mastery Redfish Cold fly line. Talk about niche fly lines! The same applies to fly rods where the choices must be absolutely bewildering and intimidating for beginners. Material choices have expended and now include bamboo, fiberglass, and graphite, as well as composite blends. The lengths of fly rods range from diminutive 5 foot creek rods to 14 foot spey rods, all offering different cork grip options, reel seats, guide types, ferrule types, and sections, including a return to one piece rods. Actions vary from slow to ultra fast and then there are rods built for specific species or types of fishing, switch rods and nymph rods being recently marketed niches.

And yet, many of the old timers and the greats of fly fishing did just fine without the specialization. Lee Wulff, for example, spent a lifetime pursuing larger fish on lighter tackle and frequently used a one-piece, six foot bamboo rod to catch fish ranging from small stream trout to Atlantic salmon up to 26 lbs!

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I happen to own a Scott G706/3 (7′ 6 weight 3 piece) that is a replica of the fly rod that Scott’s founder, Harry Wilson, first built for Lee Wulff. It supposedly became Lee’s favorite rod and he used it to catch everything from trout to Atlantic salmon to permit.

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None other than Lefty Kreh was interviewed in an excellent video about his fly fishing biography during which he bemoaned the fly fishing industry’s over-pricing of product so that many people – particularly the working class – have not been able to afford to enter the sport of fly fishing. Lefty also discusses fly rods during this video and has an intriguing take on their classification. He breaks down fly rods into 3 categories as follows:

  • Presentation weight – up to 6 weight. These are generaly used for trout fishing where tippet protection is of most importance.
  • Distance weight – 8 to 10 weight. These are used where distance casting and the use of large / heavy flies is common such as with smallmouth and largemouth bass, pike, and carp.
  • Lifting weight – 12 – 14+ weight. Lifting weight rods are almost exclusively used in saltwater fly fishing where the rod’s primary function is to fight and land big fish.

Lefty’s approach would definitely help any beginner angler slim down their choices to a few, rather than pursuing a stuffed quiver of specialized rods such as I now own that fill up an entire corner of my study. And while Lefty doesn’t see much use for transition weight rods (7 and 11 weight), it’s interesting that the All Rounder happens to fall squarely in the gap between presentation and distance categories.

My own start in fly fishing began with the purchase of a St Croix Pro-Ultra 9 foot 5/6 weight 2 piece fly rod. I bought it at a Dick’s Sporting Goods store for $99.00. This rod served me well until I began to read fly fishing magazines and then fell under the product trance they sometimes cast. It wasn’t long before I started purchasing higher end specialty rods under the auspices that they would somehow make me a better angler. It’s ironic that even now, with some very good yet high priced rods in my stable, I’ll pull out the St Croix…

So, I’m on the verge of taking action on the goal of fly fishing for a year with some sort of “All Rounder”, just to see. I’m certainly no Lee Wulff or Lefty Kreh, but maybe fly fishing with one rod could be a good thing. Maybe it would force me to focus on improving my skills, rather than relying on new fly rod design and technology to bolster me up. And quite possibly it would then put a halt to expanding my inventory of fly rods, putting a smile on the wife, reducing credit card debt, and making a seller’s presence on eBay? Stay tuned…

 

 

 

 

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The ideal fly fishing vehicle?

Posted in Uncategorized on April 5, 2016 by stflyfisher

This past December, our family waved farewell to our beloved Subaru Outback, affectionately named Molly by the kids. We bought her in May of 2008, fresh off the auction lot with 76,000 miles on the odometer, yet very much looking like a really new used car. She was born in 2002, a 4 door “sport” wagon with a nice looking silver metallic finish, roof rack, 4 speed automatic, and a 2.5 liter boxer engine under the hood. She could get up and go and was eager to climb hills and gobble up snow, which she always did with ease courtesy of Subaru’s reliable all-wheel-drive system. And as an Outback, she rode with a little more ground clearance. Her interior gauges featured a tachometer, various engine gauges, and even outside air temp. She also sported far-seeing bug-eyed fog lights.

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The old girl in winter mode, waiting for the grim reaper to pick her up and take her away…

Some readers might recall that Subaru got in a bit of trouble after the “Outback” concept was launched for marketing that labeled the car as “off road capable”, apparently hinting that the car’s AWD system was as good as 4WD. Aussie actor Paul Hogan was hired by Subaru and in TV commercials touted the car for rough-terrain driving capability with the ride and comfort of a passenger car. While Molly was not a Jeep, she never left any of her drivers stranded. Some of the places I took her were certainly off-road, most on the way to some Southern Tier river, stream, creek or lake.

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Not only was Molly a capable and safe ride for the kids, she was also extremely reliable. We experienced very few issues and even drove her right on the tow truck (leading her to the slaughter?, yikes!) with 167,000 miles on her. Her original Panasonic battery failed after 8 years of use. I remember removing it when the car would not start and could hardly believe it. As reliable as her engine and transmission were, Molly’s 2.5 liter engine was not exactly stingy on fuel. On the highway one could count on 25 – 26 mpg which was not bad, but certainly not great for a 4 cylinder engine.

In the end, Molly’s undoing was a car’s cancer: rust. Her lighter gauge steel frame and body were not enough to hold up to upstate NY winters and regular baths in road salt. I suspect we could have gotten twice the miles on her odometer before putting her out to pasture, but her underbody was so badly rusted that our mechanic could poke holes through her frame and therefore could no longer pass her for state inspections. Our family has owned 3 Subaru’s and they’ve served us well, save their susceptibility to corrosion.

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Mollie is loaded up, headed to car heaven where all fly fishing vehicles surely go…

I loved Molly as a fishing vehicle for all of the aforementioned reasons, and more. She was not too tall to single-handedly put a kayak atop her roof. And with her rear seats down there was plenty of room for gobs of tackle, gear, and provisions. I am left wondering how to fill the fishing vehicle void she leaves behind.

That’s made me ponder the question of what makes a good fly fishing vehicle. Searches on the internet abound on the topic and everyone has their own particular needs for the specific fishing they do. But for the record, here’s my take on general requirements. Amp up or tune down as necessary…

  1. Off-road capability. I consider off-road capability to be very important as many of the places fly fishers are drawn to are indeed, off-road. It also helps for late fall/winter/early spring fly fishing where snow and ice may be encountered. Off-road capability is all about traction and that’s where some type of all-wheel-drive or 4 wheel drive system is important. I also prefer a manual transmission, though automatics have really closed the gap on fuel efficiency and performance. Off-road capability also includes road clearance. Imagine driving a Corvette over some of the roads used to get to that prized fishing spot!
  2. Cargo space. This is also subjective, but I’d say the ideal vehicle should have enough storage space to support lugging fly fishing gear, provisions, and camping equipment – enough to satisfy a week in the woods. An added bonus is enough room “in the back” to support sleeping in the vehicle if necessary.
  3. Towing power/carrying capability. Most of us in the Southern Tier are, at most, towing a drift boat or small outboard-powered skiff, jon boat, or canoe, and at least, car-topping a kayak or light canoe from time to time. So the power and torque to tow and the ability to roof carry gear or small craft is a plus for any fly fishing vehicle.
  4. Fuel efficiency. Right now, oil is at all time lows, and gas and even diesel prices at the pump are very low. Still, a 4 – 6 hour round trip to a favorite but distant fly fishing destination shouldn’t drain the bank or the tank. And, long legs help if a trip is remote enough to where gas stations aren’t around every bend.
  5. Reliability. The last thing any angler needs is to get stuck going to or returning from a fly fishing trip. Of course getting stuck where one is fly fishing does have some advantages (“gee honey, the car just won’t start” while a fly reel sings in the background), but since most of us have to work and have obligations of some sort at home, getting stuck anywhere is ultimately a problem.
  6. Cost of Ownership. Price is obviously a factor to consider in purchasing a vehicle, but the total cost of ownership should also be considered. Maintenance costs, reliability, and fuel efficiency all factor into this category.

I am a recent diesel convert thanks to my current commuter – a 2.0L VW Passat TDI. While this 4 door sedan offers incredible room and trunk space, a comfortable ride, and a 6 speed manual, its the motor that makes the car. The turbocharged diesel offers mileage that realistically surpasses the 50 mpg mark at moderate highway speeds and gobs of torque on hand (it unfortunately runs a bit short for my version of the ideal fly fishing vehicle in that it is FWD only and lacks the extra cargo space of a wagon). Diesels offer all a fly fishing vehicle could ask for in mileage, towing power, and reliability, but nipping at their heels are other engine options. The improved fuel efficiency of gas engines and the recent addition of hybrids and electrics will only add more options for those anglers looking to squeeze a few nickels out of their fly fishing dollar.

Added to the increase in power-plant choices, power, and fuel efficiency, is a surge in newly designed trucks, SUVs, and crossover vehicles, all easily fitting the fly fishing capable category. And while the more traditional Chevy Tahoe or Silverado might meet the rough and tumble needs of some, I’m going to highlight a few recent entries that might be on my list as a future buy:

  • Volkswagen Alltrack – the concept of an “Outback-beater” that features VW’s all-wheel-drive system (4 motion), 6 speed manual, lots of cargo space, increased ground clearance, and a reasonable price will launch in 2017. At this point, the powerplant will be VW’s 1.8L TSI (turbocharged) 4 cyclinder, but when VW resolves its diesel woes, there could be a 2.0L TDI (turbocharged diesel) under the hood for truly extended fly fishing range (30 city / 44 highway mpg). The Alltrack is a vehicle that blends well with everyday life.
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The VW All-Track

  • Chevy Colorado / GMC Canyon – both mid-size truck offerings from GM will soon be equipped with a 2.8L turbocharged diesel. This diesel puts out 177 horsepower and a mighty 369 ft-lbs of torque and offers fuel economy of 22 city / 31 highway mpg and 7,700 lbs towing capacity. The Colorado / Canyon can be configured with an extended cab for extra passenger room, yet still offers a large bed that can be capped for dry hauling. Extra road clearance and excellent off-road capability make this a winner for remote fly fishing adventures.
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The Chevy Canyon Diesel

  • Jeep Grand Cherokee – the ultimate SUV offers luxury with rough and tumble all wheel and 4 wheel drive options, cargo room galore, 22 city / 30 highway mpg, and 7,400 lbs towing capacity. But that same luxury drives the price of this fly fishing vehicle into hoitey-toiteyville. Jeep is also toying with more diesel offerings and a rebirth of the Jeep Comanche (or Gladiator) – essentially a mid-sized Jeep pickup truck.
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The Jeep Grand Cherokee Ecodiesel

 

After all is said and done, fly fishing is often more about personal choice, i.e., fly rod brand and action, reel drag type, vest or sling pack, and this certainly applies to the type of vehicle one prefers when driving the river road. Style, budget, and purpose all play into personal choice. The criteria listed in this post should help inform those looking to improve their fly fishing “wheels”. And lets hope those wheels lead down the road of better fly fishing adventures…