Many of you know I've become quite a spey junkie in these past few years. After building my Z-Axis 5110-4 and going through the arduous learning process, I can finally make some decent casts. It's truly opened my eyes to new possibilities and literally changed my whole primary focus in fly fishing. I absolutely love swinging the two-hander for steelhead! In my opinion, there is no better method or fish in all of angling. Yes, I do love dry fly trout and I do have a special spot for largemouth bass, but like so many others that first grab did me in. I am now addicted to the swing. The tug truly is a drug. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.
Bob, of Sierra Anglers, recently gave me the opportunity to go up to the American River to meet with the Far Bank (Sage, Redington, Rio) rep to test drive many of their new products with the focus on their new spey line up. I've never done much actual reviewing so I'll try and spare everyone the BS and stick to what I thought worked and what seems like another marketing gimmick. With my background in business I understand that in this fast paced world companies have to continue to innovate and push new products out to the market. However, that being said, sometimes there are new products that are good, but just not leaps and bounds better than the previous, older model. I'll try and highlight a few of those as well.
I'll start things off with what impressed me the most.
Sage Method 7126-4 & Sage One 7126-4
This 12'6" 7wt Method was the first rod I test drove and let me just say it was awesome! It is incredibly light in the hand, tossed tight loops, and especially had great "feel." One of the big questions about these new 12'6" models was how they would stack up against the now old 12'6" TCX notoriously known as the "Deathstar." The Deathstar is an amazing rod and I would personally love to have one, but like everything it has its purpose. It is an incredibly fast rod and can toss the big bugs and heavy sink tips with ease. However, it does lack "feel" and doesn't load very deep, especially with a Scandi line. Thats where the new Method and One come in. Both of these rods definitely have more feel. They load deeper, but not too deep to the point where the rod feels flimsy. In a perfect world, where I had every rod I wanted, I would put a Method or One 7126-4 in my quiver for throwing Scandi set-ups and still keep the Deathstar for Skagit/sink-tip/big fly work.
In regards to the difference between the 7136-4 Method and the 7136-4 One, I honestly couldn't tell much of a difference other than the paint job. Both rods are incredible and had similar feel. I would love to own either of them!
Recommended Line Match-up Casted
Scandi: 540gr Steelhead Scandi
Redington 6126-4 Dually
After starting off the evening with the top end rod, I went to Redington's new Dually series. Right of the bat, something that impressed me about this rod was it's styling. Hats off to whoever designed this look. It harks back to early styling of spey rods with an all cork reel seat with chrome fittings. Aside from its looks, this rod casted mediocre at best. It felt somewhat sloppy, but take that with a grain of salt. This rod will also retail for only $249. Stark contrast from the near $1k a new Method will set you back. The Dually is an entry level Spey rod and for a beginner I think it'd be a great rod.
Recommended Line Match-up
Scandi: 400gr Steelhead Scandi
Sage Method 7136-4 & Sage One 7136-4
These new 13'6" 7wt's were the rods I thought had the most to prove to me. I spent a few days floating the Eel this past winter and I used a buddy's 7136-4 Z-Axis the whole time. I love that rod! It can toss everything from heavy winter junk with T-20 sink tips to a light Scandi line and small flies. Unfortunately, I wasn't really impressed with these rods. That's not to say they didn't cast excellently, but they just weren't much (if any) better than the Z. In my opinion, if you have a Z-Axis model, there isn't much reason to upgrade.
Sage One 7136-6
Although the new 7136-4's didn't impress me much, I thought this rod was cool. Yes, you read that right. It says 7136-6 denoting that this rod is 6 piece Spey rod. To my knowledge, I don't think any other company has made a 6-piece Spey. This would be an awesome travel Spey rod for the person who travels to the exotic locale. Plus if space and length were of concern, this rod would be ideal.
New Rio Line Technology
One of the cool things about being able to test these new Spey rods was also being able to use the new line technologies that are accompanying them. Rio really is finding the little annoyances of Spey lines and addressing them. One of the first things I liked is that Rio's new heads will feature a small section of bright orange to identify which end attaches to the running line. Although this sounds stupid, I have witnessed and been guilty myself of putting a head on backwards only to find out after I couldn't make a cast.
Another little new feature to Rio's running lines is quite impressive. They will feature a 15ft. section of orange running line that is called the "handling portion." This is the portion that will attach to the head and features a small taper before transitioning into the regular running line. The reason it is called the "handling portion" is the fact that it will be a slightly larger diameter thus allowing for a better grip before shooting the line. I test drove this new running line on the Deschutes this week and was really impressed. For those that prefer mono running line, but hate how it grips before shooting the line, you're in luck as well! This new handling portion will be a feature on Rio mono shooting lines as well. Lastly, one new feature on all of Rio's product line is their Connect Core technology. This innovation offer's a significantly less stretch core than their old lines. Connect Core only stretches 7% whereas Rio's old cores stretched 20%. I'm not sure whether or not this will translate to a higher hook up rate but it would make sense if it did. It also potentially allows the angler more feel and quicker and tighter hook sets.
Redington Vapen 590-4
Although this was mostly a Spey testing day, I did get to try a few single-handers. Much has been said about this rod already, so I'll throw in my brief two cents. Yes, it does have a non-traditional red grip. Does it feel good? Yes. Would I buy one? Probably not. The reason being is that a new grip really isn't a game changer for me and cork still does the trick. Even though this rod isn't one I would add to my arsenal, kudos to Redington for thinking outside the box and innovating. From a business standpoint, this red grip has got everyone talking and hell publicity is good for the company, regardless if you like the rod or not.
Redington Butter Stick 370-3
Loved this little 3wt! For those that aren't familiar, this is Redington's new answer to the fiberglass revival. Like a typical glass rod, the Butter Stick is slow and floppy. I'm not a fan of using fiberglass rods for everything, but I love taking these smaller sticks out to the little streams and tossing dries. This rod would be perfectly suited for that! I really was a big fan of the looks as well!
Hopefully this little review helps those looking into purchasing new products from Sage/Redington/Rio! Just remember that this is just my opinion and especially with Spey rods it seems everyone has different tastes/preferences!