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Posts from the ‘Gear Reviews’ Category

5
Dec

TFM Stickers and a Sweet Piece of Glass – Gray Wolf Products – Swift Epic 686 !


For those of you that have ever cruised in the “fishmobile” you know my love of fly fishing stickers.  What can I say, I love to fly the flag of brands and causes that I support and associate with.  So with being a recent glass man (Thank you Shane at Gray Wolf… more on that later!) I had to hit Cameron at The Fiberglass Manifesto up for some sweet TFM stickers.  Right now it is spitting freezing rain outside so they will have to wait another day or so before making their way to the vehicle.

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No disrespect to Cameron’s sweet sticker swag but the truly big news is that I am now the proud owner of my first custom build glass rod courtesy of Shane Gray at Gray Wolf Rods.  So first a disclaimer.  I have received nothing free or even discounted from Gray Wolf or from Carl at Swift Fly Rods down in New Zealand.  I wanted to talk a bit about the build experience, the service supplied by both, and the excitement around how the rod turned out and the frustration of not being able to fish this beautiful stick yet!

Let me start with the blank selection first.  I wanted to build a glass rod primarily for carp and smallmouth.  I liked the idea of being able to load a rod in tight situations and make a smooth accurate presentation.  (something that can be a bit more challenging with todays faster rod blanks)  The rub was I also needed the rod to be able to throw a larger weighted fly than most trout situations mandated.  No disrespect to the larger rod manufacturers offerings but I needed something heavier than a 5 weight, longer than 8′, and with a bit more backbone.  After reading, and reading, and yes more reading, I came across a great review on the Swift Epic 686 that Cameron had done.  It even came complete with a picture of the rod with a sweet slab of bronze attached to it.

If there is a guy out there that knows his glass from his ass, that would be CM so who was I to reinvent the wheel.  I interviewed a couple of Rod Builders all of whom were great sources of information and I felt the best fit for me was Shane.  He listened well, gave good advice, and was incredibly responsive to emails as well as calls.  The truth of the matter is that custom rods are not for everyone.  They are not cheap by any stretch (nor should they be for the artistry that goes into them) and they don’t typically carry the same type of rod warranty that you get with factory rods.  The flip side is that you can get the exact rod you want… exactly how you want it…. from wraps, to reel seats, to stripping guides.  Your rod, your way!

Which leads me to Swift.  The Epic is categorized as “fast glass” which is not to be confused with “Helios 2” fast but is definitely more stout than many of the more traditional glass blanks on the market.  (see Swift’s site for more technical details)  I was a bit unsure of a line pairing so I hopped on their site and sent an email through their contact tool.  I was truly a bit surprised when the response I got was from the Director, Carl McNeil.  We had a great email exchange and he was extremely helpful in helping me choose a taper that matched my targeted species and casting style.

The only thing left is to take this beautiful rod on her maiden voyage.  If you are in the market for a custom build I can tell you with absolute sincerity that you won’t be disappointed with what ends up in your hands from Swift or from Gray Wolf.

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Tight Lines and Loose Pants,

MBL

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12
Aug

Vedavoo Tightlines Sling Gear Review


So for those of you that have been following this blog for a while you know that I rarely do gear reviews and this is not by accident.  I always found it to be a bit transparent when a company approaches a blogger, gives them free crap, and then asks them to say something nice about it so you will all go out and buy one.  In the interest of being consistent, I have not received free gear (yes, I paid for it!), I don’t work for Vedavoo, and Scott does not have naked photo’s of me making out with a carp that he is holding over my head…. (there may be said photo’s but to my knowledge, Scott doesn’t have them!)

So I met Scott from Vedavoo (www.vedavoo.com) at the International Fly Tackle Dealers Show in Vegas last month.  We chatted for a few minutes and when I told him I was a sling pack kind of guy he suggested I try his out.  I currently own an Orvis sling as well as a Patagonia so I was a bit skeptical to pony up for a third but his story was so darn compelling that I couldn’t help myself.

As much as Vedavoo makes some pretty cool gear… I will get back to that shortly…. they truly embody the American spirit.  All of their gear is hand sewn (many by the owner himself!) in America with all American made fabrics, buckles, lashings, etc….   If you have ever worked in a manufacturing environment (even a small one) you know that you can send this work over seas for a fraction of the price it costs to make it here.  For this alone I tip my sun bleached truckers cap to Scott and his team.  I love my country and if I can do my share to support our local economy then that is a band wagon I am more than willing to jump on!

Ok, so it’s made in America, he is a fly fisher, boy scout, helps old ladies across the street, and is an all around nice guy… yada yada yada.   How did you like the sling Mr. Brownliner?  Don’t leave us hanging in suspense.

OK… LOVE it.  So much so that I gifted my other favorite gently used sling to CW as his had seen better days.  Let me start with the basics.

Functionality

It sits perfectly in the small of my back when I’m fishing and is in perfect position when I slide it around front to change flies, tippet, etc…  There are multiple ways to attach gear so it is a really flexible platform for those of you that are picky like me.  One of my pet peeves about slings or packs in general is that many times gear dangles and swings or is exposed.   99% of the time it is no biggie but it usually becomes a disaster when you get that one shot at the fish of the trip and you realize that your fly line is looped around your hemostats which were dangling from your sling!  I found it pretty easy to make sure that there were very few situations where my tools would be in the way yet were very easy to access.

vedavootightlinessling

The aspect of the Tightlines Sling that I love the most is that appeals to my minimalist tendencies.  You can travel with the full deluxe pouch as pictured above, or remove the pouch and still use the sling for a light day on the stream, pond, etc…  Accessing the different compartments is fairly simple as a few buckles hold the top of the pouch snug to the sling.

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The feature that I particularly liked was the tippet spool holder.  Now for those of you that like to carry 0X  through 7X this may not be your preference but I rarely carry more than 3 or four tippet spools at any given time and I loved how there were not dangling spools or protruding holders to deal with.  The sling does not feature any molded compartments or fold down work stations and that is just fine with me as I have never been a big fan and don’t really use that sort of thing.  The Tightlines Sling is an exercise in simplicity and clean functionality which really spoke to me.

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Gear Capacity

This is not a magnum sling or a guide pack.  If you are looking for something to carry massive amounts of gear then this is not the right product for you.  (Check out www.vedavoo.com for some larger capacity bags if that is your interest)  I found the pack was perfect for carrying two good sized fly boxes and all the tools you would need for a basic day on the water.  The only critique I would lay on the design would be the desire for an integrated water bottle holder or to have lashings on the bottom of the deluxe pouch or the sling itself to be able to add one.

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Workmanship

Nothing short of outstanding.  Everything was well stitched and put together with attention to detail.  I looked it over multiple times looking for some “hand made” flaw and I couldn’t find a darn thing.  The folks at Vedavoo adorn all of their products with the red white and blue and this has been well earned.

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So should you pony up the $109 for the Tightlines Sling?  In my book…. hell yeah.  If you are geeked up about wearing products that embody the spirit of quality and have respect for another guys hard days work then you will love how this sling makes you feel inside.  If you are a fan of functional simplicity that flat out fishes well then you will love this pack makes you feel on the outside.  For me it was a win/win and I am sure will enjoy it for many trips to come.  If you are interested in learning more, reach out to Scott over at Vedavoo.  He is a super nice guy and very responsive.  You can catch him at:

www.vedavoo.com

scott@vedavoo.com

Tight Lines,

MBL

13
Sep

Bad Blogger!


Damn…. I can’t  believe how long it as been since I posted.  I am truly sorry but life has had a funny way of getting in the way of my fun lately.  So where were we?  I have quite a few things on my mind today so this will be a bit of mish mash all thrown together… consider it like fly fishing chili… a little of this, a little of that in one tasty bowl.

So I have managed to hit the creek a few times but sadly the conditions have just been down right crappy for sight fishing so carping was pretty much out.  On the other hand, the smallie fishing has been somewhere in between steady and prolific.  A few weeks back CW brought about 20 to hand in a couple hours with some very nice sized chunkers by creek standards.  One of the things I love about our local creek is that is is such a pot luck fishery.  We were swinging and stripping streamers and mostly expecting the smallmouth bite to be on.  CW had an early morning walleye surprise.

CW Walleye

Not to be outdone, I ended up with a drum that just about ripped the rod out of my unprepared hands as I was swinging a streamer through a shallow run.

Mr. Brownliner Drum

Mr. Brownliner and a game drum!

So other than a few trips down our local creek, life has been crazy but good!  I started a new job that entails some travel again and I have managed to make the most of my evenings on the road.

A few weeks ago I was in Michigan and managed to fish both the Grand and the Muskegon.  I had the pleasure of spending an evening on the Muskegon courtesy of the good folks over at Mystic Fly Rods.  (more on that later)  Fish were rising and we had a bunch of fun fishing dries to rising browns and bows.  Sadly it was too early for the salmon to be in yet but that didn’t stop me from giving it a good college try.

The next evening, I fished the Grand River around Grand Rapids for kings and summer run steelies.  Unfortunately for me I was early but some ever cooperative smallies made what would have been a fishless day slightly better.  As I was fishing the riffles in town my swung fly came to a dead stop and we were hooked up.  As I was attempting to clear my line, my slack got looped around my reel handle and before I could say fudge monkey it was over.  All I was left with was this cruel reminder to never fish for kings with a streamer tied on a light gauge bass hook.  (note to self made)

king salmon damage

king salmon damage

So back to Mystic Fly Rods.  So most of you who know me are painfully aware that I have made sure that this blog does not turn into an advertising forum for the highest bidder.  I have not monetized the blog and I do not intend to.  I don’t work for any fly fishing companies and have no financial commitments that obligate me to say anything about anyone.

Having said that, if you are looking for an extremely well made fly rod, that casts beautifully, and won’t cost you a mortgage payment, you MUST check out Mystic.  They are an American designed and made product that is not your typical value slot rod company.  The M series is a sweet stick with a fast or med-fast action depending on the model.  I have thrown their 5 wt for trout and their 8 wt for chrome and both feel fantastic in the hand.

One of the more interesting things about the rod is the length.  They come in 9’3″ and 10″3″ in the rods I used and I don’t know if it was the taper or the extra 3″ but I loved them both.  This of course beckons the age old question as to whether size matters and does an extra 3″ actually make a difference.  I was not in a good position to answer so I did what any good journalist would do and called in an “expert”.  So I called…. No, not Lefty Kreh…. Not one of the Rajeff brothers… Nope, I called my wife (who by the way has never picked up a fly rod in her life)  and she assured me with her best spousal grin that a rod can be too long or too short depending on the water you are fishing but in most cases an extra 3″ can make all the difference.  In any case, you can check them out at www.mysticoutdoors.com.

Hopefully it will not be this long before my next post as I am heading out this Saturday with the good folks from www.internationalanglers.com to learn how to spey cast!  It has always bothered me that I had not learned so this is my golden opportunity to change that.  In the mean time….

Good Luck, Tight Lines, and don’t worry about those extra 3″!

MBL