Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Echo River Glass fly rods

For 2019, Echo has replaced their "Glass" series rods with River Glass, targeting a more specific realm of fishing. There's a dedicated contingent of glass anglers who enjoy the feel of the rod loading and the superior shock absorption they offer. The River Glass was designed in different lengths to cover the widest range of freshwater applications.

River Glass rods come in either Glacier blue or Amber. There are six rods ranging from a 6'9" 2-weight (which was a joy to cast!) to an 8'6" 5-weight.  The shorter rods come in 3-piece, the longer rods in 4-piece. 

At ICAST, I asked the Echo representative whether the River Glass is made of e-glass or the more modern s-glass, which is lighter, stronger, and faster. He responded "it's s-glass".  The weight of the 8'0" 4-weight is only 3.0 ounces, which leads me to believe this is correct. When casting the rods, they had a fairly fast action for glass and a high recovery rate, with the capability to make 60+ foot casts without much effort.  MSRP is $249, which is on par with most s-glass rods.

Echo's Bad Ass Glass goes Quickshot

Echo is a division of Rajeff Sports, a small Washington-based company founded by Tim Rajeff. Tim, like his brother Steve, has been a successful world competition caster. His love of casting led him to rod design - with a dream of building great casting rods for the masses.  Tim's dream has been a successful reality.  Echo's budget-friendly Base, Ion XL and Carbon XL have all received high accolades.

In 2016, Echo introduced the Bad Ass Glass fiberglass series. Built from the same e-glass (electrical grade) fiberglass that your grandfather's rods were made from. But with high-tech resins that reduced weight and added strength. Even so, these 9-foot rods had a noticeable swing weight.

For 2019, Echo is replacing the BAG with the BAG Quickshot. Same glass, same resins. But at 8-feet long, there is a significant lessening of swing weight, faster action, and more precise casting. In fact, the BAG Quickshot was one of the ten best casting rods - out of four dozen - we tested at ICAST!

With so many makers going to ultralight, ultraslim saltwater blanks, it warms the heart to feel a rod that has enough power to horse a jack crevalle, musky, tarpon, or big bass and know it'll most likely survive any trauma.

BAGQ rods are a gorgeous translucent sky blue color, have anodized reel seats, and come with a matching sky blue case. It also features Echo's lifetime warranty. Models are all 8-foot, and range from 6-weight to 10-weight. MSRP is $279.  For details, go to www.echoflyfishing.com.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Sage Dart fly rod

Advancements in nanoresins and taper technology have allowed  manufacturers to make rods that are stronger, lighter, and with a narrower profile. In some cases - such as rods used in the pursuit of big game species - having an ultralight, thin-profile rod can actually be counterproductive. As this technology has evolved greatly over the last few years, I've felt that a stellar application for all this tech would be in small water rods.

Apparently, Sage agrees. All this high tech has been applied to their new DART series. These ultralight, ultrathin rods all are 7'6" in length (except for a 6'6" 3-weight) and range in weight sizes from 0 (yes, zero!) to 4-weight.  Although designed exclusively for small water applications, the KonneticHD system used in these rods deliver quite a punch for their length. On the distance test, I was consistently putting out 60 feet of line using the 6'6" 3-weight!

While distance capable, that's not the purpose of the Sage DART. It loads with only a few feet of line outside the tip top, and makes highly accurate casts to close targets.  Test casting the 3-weight and the 1-weight was more fun than the law allows!  In the "bend test", the 1-weight displayed a solid moderate taper.  Battling a half-pound bluegill on that rod would be a joy... just imagine hooking into a rainbow trout! Such high tech thrlls come at a premium price.  MSRP is $700.

Thomas & Thomas Zone fly rod

I've written about the comeback of T&T rods before, but I'll summarize here. At one time Thomas & Thomas was one of the industry leaders. Their lineup ranged from the budget-friendly Emerger series to the powerful saltwater Horizon series, with several excellent trout series. A couple of ownership changes resulted in decline in sales and new products. In 2014, coffee shop entrepeneur Neville Ormand - and fanatical fly angler - bought T&T and brought back founder and master rod designer Tom Dorsey to help design the finest American-made fly rods using new resin and taper technology.

Since their comeback, industry praise has been universal. Their Exocett and Avantt series are two of the best rods made today. All of their offerings have been in the premium category - until now.

With the new Zone series, T&T hopes to reach out to a greater audience. These rods fall in our mid-priced category, from $495 in trout models to $525 in the saltwater models, and will compete against popular rods in that range such as the Orvis Recon and Sage Motive.

The blank is a gray finish and uses the same proprietary StratoTherm resin found in their Exocett and Avantt series. Reel seats and guide wraps are a stunning blue color. The freshwater models have single foot guides, while the saltwater versions use stainless snake guides.

Test casting the Zone rods, I felt the saltwater models were better than the freshwater models, when compared to their competition. The Zone 8-eight reminded me a lot of the old Horizon, except a tad lighter in weight. While not as slim in profile as the TFO Axiom II or Sage Foundation, that's not a bad thing. Having a slightly beefer butt section means this rod should have some good lifting power. Our "bend test" seemed to confirm that. Of the nearly two dozen mid-priced saltwater rods we tested, it was definitely in the top three! 

Blackstrap Tubes - Expanded Collection

Oregon-based Blackstrap Industries is a developer and manufacturer of UV protection gear. Their made-in-the-USA products include face masks, neck gaitors, gloves and sleeves. All are antimicrobial (anti-odor), lens safe and machine washable. In addition, Blackstrap is corporate sponsor of Trout Unlimited and supports conservation efforts across the country.

For 2019, their multi-functional tubes (aka, gaitors) are expanded to new prints. Each feature a UPF rating of 50+ (blocks out 97.5% of UV rays), is breathable, moisture-wicking, and lightweight. It works to block harmful solar radiation, but also to keep face and neck warm in cold conditions, and prevent windburn. MSRP is $19.99. To learn more, go to www.bsbrand.com.

DeYoung Lifeproof Phone Case

When it comes to angling artwork, Derek DeYoung has emerged as a superstar. The Michigan native recognized his talent at an early age, and with support from his parents, made art his life goal. After earning a degree from Kendall College of Art and Design, he pursued his passion although struggled financially like most artists.

But thanks to the subject matter of his work, he's making giant waves in the fishing community. His collection of fish art includes original paintings, coffee mugs, boat and cooler wraps, clothing, drinking glasses, greeting cards, phone cases and more.

One of DeYoung's more popular items are phone cases, featuring his artwork as skins. He offers three lines of cases: the "Tough Case" (shockproof), the "Tough Extreme Case" (shockproof, water-resistant) and now the "Lifeproof Case" (shockproof, waterproof). While the cases are currently limited to iPhone and Samsung, Janell DeYoung tells us her husband may expand to the popular Motorola phones (we certainly hope so!).  MSRP ranges from $20 to $45. To learn more, go to www.derekdeyoung.com. 

Fishpond Flattops Wader Duffel

If you're like me and tired of having to lug around oversized duffel bags because the only sizes they come in are "extra large" and "jumbo", then you'll love the new Flattops Wader Duffel from Fishpond. It measures a more manageable 24 x 13 x 14 inches, and weighs only 2.3 pounds. Perfect size for today's ultralight packable waders and boots (which fit in a separate mesh compartment below).

The upper compartment still has beaucoup space for clothing, vests, etc.  The molded bottom provides support as well as keeping the bag clean and dry from wet ground.  Along with the Fishpond Rod and Reel Case, it's all you'll need for heading to your favorite destination. Just as important, it's environmental friendly... made from Fishpond's exclusive Cyclepond recycled nylon material. The 4200 ballistic fabric is abrasion-resistant . MSRP is $149.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Fishpond Thunderhead Chest Pack

Fishpond has been around for about 20 years and during that time, has risen to one of the top brands in fly fishing accessories. Headquarted in Colorado, their focus on the past decade has been sustainability by manufacturing products made from post-consumer waste such as recycled fishing net nylon and up-cycled industrial waste nylon.

For 2018, they've adapted their Cyclepond material into several new submersible packs. The one probably of most interest to the broad range of coldwater, warmwater and kayak anglers is their Thunderhead Submersible Chest Pack. Made to protect your gear in the worst conditions, it features waterproof submersible zippers, 1680D TPU coated recycled nylon, integrated tippet holder and much more. MSRP was TBD, but expect it to be around $200.

Orvis + Fishe Groovy Sling Pack

In 2015, Linda Leary founded Fishe Wear with the purpose of creating functional fishing fashion for women. After two successful years of growth and many new products, Fishe has teamed up with Orvis to create a new sling pack featuring Fishe's original Groovy Grayling pattern.

The Groovy Grayling Sling Pack allows for all-day comfort, while providing beaucoup accomodation for fly boxes, tippet spools, tools and other necessities. A side bottle holder that fits medium-sized stainless canisters as well. MSPR is $89.