Monday, May 8, 2017

New toys and never ending rain

Due to the wader problems I wrote about last week, I had new waders this weekend.  I purchased the Patagonia Rio Gallegos waders - non zipper version.  And, I'm wondering already if I should have spent the extra money for the zipper, but I do like the waders a lot.  The gaiter was very different than with Orvis waders - a bit tighter to the boot, and harder to hook onto the laces, but just not that big a deal.

Overall, I found them to be very comfortable, warm, a perfect fit (I'm 5-10, 215, size 11 shoe and the XL is a perfect fit for me).  It was pouring the entire time I was fishing (I'm a glutton for punishment, I suppose), and I stayed comfortable in the waders the entire time.  River temperatures were cold and my feet and legs stayed warm.

So, I now have three pairs of waders.  An older Orvis Silver Sonic wader that works just fine and will likely end up used by my wife most of the time.  Newer Orvis Silver Sonic Guide waders that currently need a repair.  I need a sunny day to repair them, due to the resin that seals the patch being UV cured.  And, the new Patagonia waders.  And in reality, they all work just great.  I would have to say that the basic Orvis Silver Sonic waders have the fewest whistles and bells (no belt loops, cheap suspenders, no waterproof pocket for my phone, and are just a bit lighter than the other two pairs.  But, it's a luxury to have those options available.

After yesterday, I'm pretty sure that the Patagonia waders will be my go-to pair, for the most part, at least until the water starts to warm up.  And, I may sell one of them, to be honest.  Two pairs is almost a necessity in New England, while three pairs are overkill.

My other new toy yesterday was something I didn't really expect.  I've been looking at 5 weight rods recently.  I have a 3 weight, high stick nymphing rod from Hardy (Zenith line, Lamson Litespeed reel).   I have a 4 weight Winston Passport - only 8' that my wife primarily uses.  It has a Redington Zero reel.  Next, I have my favorite rod - an 8'6" Hardy Zenith 4 weight, with a Hatch Finatic Plus reel.  This rod is a bit undersized at times on bigger rivers, but it's truly an amazing rod and reel.  And, from 1995 or so, I have a Sage RPL+ - 9 foot, 5 weight.  But, in reality, this rod is very stiff and fishes more like a six weight.  I keep an Orvis Access reel on this rod with six weight line.  Lastly, I have an old bamboo rod from the late 1930's - a long term loaner from a friend who only fishes Tenkara these days.  That rod will only get out in special conditions - mostly stockies where I know a big fish is unlikely to break the rod tip.

But, what I've been missing is a true 5 weight.  And, I've been lusting after one for a while.  I had a handful of rods in mind - all high end stuff that I can't really afford.  Scott Radian.  Orvis Helios 2.  Loomis NRX LP, and Hardy Zephrus.  A few other options exist, such as one of the Loop rods that gets great reviews, and at a slightly lower price point, but those four rods above have all been cast and I know I'd be thrilled with any of them.

I have an extra spool with 5 weight line for my Hatch Finatic Plus reel, and that's easily my favorite reel, so I don't need a new reel.  My plan has been to sell the 3 weight and use that money to finance the 5 weight.  I simply don't use the Euro Nymphing rod as much as I'd expected, and it's often too windy to cast a 3 weight on anything but the smallest rivers in New England.

So, on Saturday, my wife and I headed to Syracuse to pick up our daughter from her freshman year of college.  As we got back to Lake George, I asked my wife if it would be OK to stop in at the Orvis Outlet store to look around.  Mostly, I wanted to look for some shirts for work, and a new bed for our dog, but I wanted to see what rods were in stock as well.  You can never really take the fisherman out of some people.

Across the 5 weights in the Helios 2 line, there are 3 rods.  Two are 9 footers - one a tip flex and one a mid flex.  And, the other is a mid-flex 8'6" rod.  From having cast them in the past, I knew my favorite was the 9' mid flex, then the 8-6 mid flex, and finally the tip flex.  I really like the tip stiffness in the mid-flex rods, and the accuracy at close distances.  Yes, you give up some distance, but I've got my Sage rod for days where I need distance.  And, the lightness of the rods is just amazing - 2.25 oz. for the 8-6 rod.

So, as my wife poked around the dog beds, I discovered there was an 8-6 mid-flex Helios 2 rod in stock.  It was selling for $479, well off the $795 list price.  Now, in the Outlet Store, below a certain price, the normal Orvis warranty does not apply.  So, if you break the rod, you need to pay for the repair, but a general repair is typically less than $100.  So, that risk is real.  Most of the rods in the outlet store have some sort of checkered past.  They may have been damaged casting in the main Orvis shops.  A tip section might have broken and been repaired.  There might be blemishes. The rods are clearly marked as "Outlet" rods, so the lack of warranty is clear.  But, we couldn't find a thing wrong with this rod.

Orvis also had a deal where if you applied for an Orvis credit card (I already have one, but my wife doesn't), they will give you an additional 20% off your purchase.  So, after some conversations with my wife, and knowing the store was closing soon, I headed to the parking lot to cast the rod.  I was amazed at how stiff it was at its light weight, how easily it threw nice tight loops, and how accurate it was in short.  Just like last time I had cast it, I was enamored.  With no water in the parking lot, one area I couldn't really test was roll casting, but most rods that aren't too slow do just fine with this type of cast.

I don't whether she really loves me or she's just a pushover, but my wife filled out the credit card application in case I wanted to buy the rod.  That brought the price down to $385, or about $410 with tax - less than half the suggested price.  And, with my wife's blessing, I pulled the trigger.

So, despite the disgusting rain yesterday, I had to fish - new waders and a new rod.  (And, somehow, I'd gotten both of them for less than the price of the rod alone - not a bad week of deal seeking).  I focused on a stretch of the Third Branch of the White River - a place where a dam had been removed last season.  This spot holds some big browns and the state had also stocked some brookies in the area in the past week, although 1000 brookies for 10+ miles of water is very much hit and miss.  After an hour at this site (they did a great job with the stone work and constructing a shoreline conducive to fishing), I moved upstream to keep looking for those elusive brookies.  It's now well into May and I've hooked just one fish and landed zero so far, so the need to catch a fish is growing.

But, all I got was rain, rain, and more rain.  Finally, after a couple hours, I headed to a beaver pond that always yields a few small brookies and some occasional rainbows.  And, I got shut out there as well.

I will write more detailed reviews on the waders and the new rod over the next couple months.  My initial impression of the rod is that it will become my #1 rod very quickly.  I honestly love every rod I have right now, and the only rod that doesn't get fished a lot is the 3 weight.  To be honest, that rod is now for sale if anyone ever reads this blog and has any interest.  I'm willing to make a good deal on the rod and the reel and even throw in some Rio Euro Nymph leaders.

In just a few words, the rod is quick, stiff, accurate, mends very well for a rod of its light weight, and it's everything I hoped it would be.  I was using Orvis's cork strike indicators yesterday, and I think they may be my new favorite strike indicators.  They have a bit of heft to them compared to the Thing-a-ma-Bobs, and you can make a minor adjustment without moving your fly a long distance.

Now, I just have to not break it going forward (In 40 or so years of fly fishing, I've broken 2 rods and I'm not too scared about that happening now, to be honest).  Plus, I know that Orvis can repair the rod for me if I do manage to break it.  I could probably break it 3 times before my total price equaled the retail price of the standard issue rod.

So, no complaints so far.  More details to come in the future.  And, if your timing is good, the Orvis Outlet stores are certainly a way to get some of the best gear out there for more reasonable prices.

One last thought.  The rod is stunningly gorgeous.  The construction is top notch.  The color is a beautiful dark blue.  Orvis has now added the little "dots" to line up rod sections during assembly, something I first saw on the Hardy Zenith rods.  If the weather holds, I'll get out on Thursday evening after work.  Hopefully, the new rod will give me my first fish of the year that night.  And then, on the 18th, I'm taking a vacation day to fish the trophy waters of the Black River down south.  On that river, with most fish in the 16"-20" range, I would normally fish the Sage rod.  This year, I think I'm going to put the stiffness of the new Helios 2 to the test.

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