Sunday, November 2, 2014

Light Tippets, Light Weight Full Flex Rods & Big Big Fish

Over the past two and half months I have been playing with some truly unique Landlocked Salmon.  Some of the largest available in North America.  These are lake inhabitants for most of the year and find their way up rivers on their fall spawning run.  They are in every way genetically correct to Salmo Salar that roam the North Atlantic yet never have tasted salt water.  

My normal start to this short, and sometimes very short, season is swinging streamers and leaches with my eleven foot four weight.  I run a Skagit integrated short with tips and leaders that are correct for the situation of the moment.  But this year was very different.  The run started so early that  my favorite style of angling, the pure swing, was null and void.  The fish were not lake dwellers any more and the taste of river life was in their brain. 

For the swing I have no problem using a 2x tippet at eleven pound test. The 4 weight performs perfectly on fish up to ten pounds and my confidence in handling the screamers is very high.
Then there is the darker side of my angling.  My conviction is simple.  "Swing when I can and nymph when I must".  I have no problem hooking up a strike indicator and using weight to correctly fish with nympths and eggs and micro worms and what ever is needed to get the take.  Then I use another four weight in my collection.  A ten foot four inch two hand switch that has medium flex that will let me drop down the tippet size to as low as 5x if needed.  What I loose in tippet strength I gain in the flexibility of the rod and the fast bending forgiveness that sudden rapid movement requires..

For many years now, the fly rod industry has been following the line makers.  That's just the reality of the industry.  The weight of the first thirty feet of a standard single hand fly line determines what designation the line will get.  Juice the weight of the line a bit or lengthen the head and it will seem to cast easier.  That little bit of extra weight that will bend the rod more and let's us slow down or stroke.  So the rod makers working on their marketing make the blanks a bit faster. And faster, and faster and faster.   That is what makes the recovery from bent to straight happens quicker.  Denser cloth that is rolled on mandrels and baked that makes a faster action rod.  

What does that do?

These faster rods are a casters dream.  They fly straight, recover quickly, bend less and get the same transfer of energy and handle those slightly heavier lines very well.  Today we are seeing lines that more resemble a Scandi or Skagit than a double taper.

But there is something missing in this equation.  It is the fact that when we have a fish take our fly that wonderful casting tool must change it's persona and become a tool that plays the fish.  

You know what happens when a crazy ten pound Landlocked Salmon or Steelhead is played on an ultra fast action rod with 5x tippet?  Yep, that's right, you say goodbye very quickly with a snapping high pitched sound of fine quality fluorocarbon.  In addition I ask anglers who fish the steelhead run in New York what weight fast action rod they are using.  The most common answer is a seven weight.  A seven weight fast action rod and 4X to 5X tippets.  Then the next statement is, "I don't understand why I am not landing any fish". 

My position is that a fly rod needs to serve as a fishing rod and if that means it will not cast an ultra tight loop yet cast well and land the fish, then that is the correct tool for the job.

After you have had the great fortune to hook and play a number of such fish you will know the range of your equipment's ability.  The only way we are going to see fly rods that are fish playing friendly is because we demand them from the rod makers.  

In order to have such a rod I must build them myself.  I call them SWIMPH rods.  SWIng when you can and nyMPH when you must.    A simple conversion at the loop connection at the end of the line changes the rod system from a nymphing leader rig to poly and versi leader swing.  Ten and a half feet is the longest I will use as casting single hand is also desired without shoulder injury.  Here is a photo of a beautiful twenty four inch Landlocked Salmon and one of my custom rods.  I have 10' 6" four piece 5 wt's as well as some 10' 4" 4 weights with removable bottom grip available now.  Please let me know if you have any interest.  My price with rod, sock and tube starts at $375.00.  A great choice in a medium action ultra forgiving rod that handles the new Switch and Chucker style lines for a true switch in function.