Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Rumors abound regarding future of St. Croix fly rods

In late July, there was much discussion on the Wisconsin Fly Fishing Forum ( following rumors that St. Croix would no longer make premium fly rods. There were several posts that insinuated that the company was even moving away from making fly rods altogether.

While I agree with many posters on that forum that St. Croix messed up when it discontinued two of the best affordable rods on the market - their green Legend Ultra and the black Avid (replaced with a green Avid that was a terrible rod).  Still, it seemed crazy that with fly fishing participation at an all-time high, and record numbers of young, female and ethnic participants, that the company would simply exit a promising business.

One of the most active forum members, George Cleveland, took it on himself to approach the company directly. Here is the response he recieved:

Hello George—Good morning and thank you for your inquiry.  We are remaining in the fly rod segment of our industry but instead we have made the decision to concentrate on the $300 and below market as well as our conventional rods.  We’re still in but at the lower end.  I hope this helps answer your question.
Best Regards,
Chris Raymond
Customer Operations Manager
St. Croix Rod
Ph: 715-762-3226 ext. 147

What does this mean? Probably that all future fly rods will be built at their Fresnilla, Mexico, facility.

Here's what I do know. When touring the St. Croix factory last year, I was told - and it was visibly evident - that with booming sales, the Park Falls facility is at maximum capacity. With fly rod production split between Mexico and USA, it would make sense to consolidate all fly rod manufacturing at one location.

My hunch is that if all the rods are made in Mexico, then it would be foolish to make rods that sell for premium prices that would have to compete against USA-made rods at those same prices.

At one time, St. Croix was a leader in the budget fly rod market. I believe with some reorganization of their pro staff and some input from dedicated anglers, they could well be a strong contender to TFO, Echo and Redington.  Their new revised Imperial series - including their upcoming Imperial Salt - are certainly outstanding rods. The new Mojo Trout series is impressive as well. The Mojo Bass is one of the very few true "bass rods" on the market, and comes at great price.  

Thursday, July 11, 2019

TFO unveils new fly products at ICAST

Temple Fork Outfitters is at ICAST in Orlando this week, with several new offerings for 2020 in the New Product Showcase. Three of which will interest our readers.

The Axiom II-X is a variation of last year's revamped Axiom series. It has the new Axiom technology paired with the fast-action tapers found in the TiCrX series. The Axiom technology embeds a double-helix of Kevlar that acts to buttress the rod's carbon base under compression. Axiom II-X rods deliver high energy for long casts with incredible tracking. They also absorb shock better, with faster recovery.

The NXT Black Label series is designed to make fly fishing simple and affordable. The kit includes a TFO Pro II medium-fast blank, either 5-weight or 8-weight, a matching cast aluminum NXT BLK II or III reel, a premium weight-forward floating line, and 20-lb Dacron backing.

The BVK SD series of reels is now one of the best reel values on the market. That's because TFO took the popular BVK, added a fully sealed drag system, and didn't raise the price!  The new drag also has a wider range of settings. Like the BVK, the BVK-SD is machined and anodized, and so good for saltwater use.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Demystify publishes review of Shadow Assassin reel

Readers often ask about fly reels advertised on Facebook, which are not found at retailers.  Shadow is one of those.  Like Allen, Taylor and several others, Shadow does direct sales via their website. While they offer a variety of products, it's their two budget-priced fly reels that get most attention: the Assassin and the Gladiator. Both are bar-stock machined, with carbon fiber disc drag.

Recently, Demystify - one of the web's leading fly fishing news sites - gave their review of the Shadow reels, including real word testing.

The Gladiator sells for $134 (currently on sale for $99). It claims a "water resistant drag". It comes in a few color options (gunmetal, red, green). But like many cheap reels, there's a low spool diameter to width ratio - the 7/8 model has a diameter of 3.46 inches and width of 1.18 inches. Still, it probably is satisfactory for marsh fishing.

The Assassin is definitely a notch up. It claims a "waterproof drag" with an amazing 20 pounds of drag strength!  It also promotes its use for saltwater. It comes in gunmetal or blue/black. The diameter/width ratio is much better - for the 7/8 model the diameter is 4.00 inches and width is 0.9 inches. This compares to many premium reels such as Galvan, Bauer, etc. It sells for $205, but currently on sale for $174.

As the article's author states, the discounts might indicate some new models or revisions of current models are forthcoming.

Want to know how the Assassin performed in real world testing?  Here's the link to the Demystify article.  CLICK HERE.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

St. Croix to unveil new Imperial Salt at ICAST

We're just days away from ICAST, the world's largest conventional sportfishing trade show. And while Fly Tackle Dealer is no longer merged with this event (IFTD will be in October), that doesn't preclude ICAST from having several new fly fishing products in the New Product Showcase.

As mentioned before, several companies - St. Croix, Pure Fishing (Hardy, Fenwick), TFO and others - make both conventional and fly tackle. For this reason, attendees will see and sample their new fly products for 2020.

Among the fly products to be featured at ICAST will be the new St. Croix Imperial Salt fly rod series. Available in six weights from 7 to 12, all in 9-foot length, the fast-action Imperial Salt combines SCIII carbon with St. Croix's patented IPC mandrel technology. Components are designed to withstand the toughest marine environments, such as Sea Guide PVD coated stripper guides with zirconia rings.

Made in the USA at their Park Falls, Wisconsin, factory, the Imperial Salt comes with a 15-year transferable(!) warranty. It also comes with a rugged rod case. MSRP ranges from $340 to $380.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

ICAST, IFTD, EFTTEX: The countdown to 2020 products begins now

We're a month away from the largest fishing trade show in the world.  But this year, it won't include most fly fishing products.

From 2012 through 2018, the International Fly Tackle Dealers (IFTD) show was merged with the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) show.  That merger ended last year when the American Fly Fishing Tackle Association (AFFTA), which hosts IFTD, made the decision to once again hold their own event. IFTD will be held in Denver on October 16-18. The decision to split came as no surprise, but the date did. Before the merger, IFTD was traditionally held in August.

ICAST still has considerable relevancy to fly anglers. First, there are several companies that make both conventional and fly tackle, so it's likely we'll see new fly rods and reels from those companies.  Second, about two-thirds of the exhibitors at ICAST deal in products that span tackle choices. Those product lines include clothing, kayaks, waders, electronics, shoes, books, cutlery, artwork, coolers, sunglasses, and many more.

While we won't be attending ICAST (we will be at IFTD), we'll be monitoring the show highlights on various sites and Facebook and spotting the products we find most interesting to readers.

However, there's another show to consider and it's being held this week. The European Fishing Tackle Trade Assocation Expo (EFFTEX) is taking place in Brussels. Several fly companies are on hand revealing new products for 2020 (which will be available to retailers this Fall).

Temple Fork Outfitters will have an updated NXT outfit, featuring a new reel, new rod, and new (better) line. Also, a beefed-up version of the popular Axiom II rod, called the Axion II-X, offered in heavier line weights.  The BVK reels are being updated with a sealed drag system.

Sage looks to be replacing their BASS series fly rods. The new PAYLOAD rods are being promoted as capable of delivering big flies and heavy lines. It'll feature a powerful tip, transitioning to slower butt to allow a more relaxed casting stroke, and for more leverage when fishing fish. The sad news is that these rods will all be longer than the 8-foot lengths of the BASS series, even up to 9-feet, 2-inches!  Rod weights will range from 6 to 11. MSRP will be $550.

Sage is also introducing the Trout LL Series. This looks to be an updated version of the legendary Lightline Series of two decades ago. Newer KonneticHD technology matched with classic tapers.  The rods will feature a mahogany blank and the Sage Super Grip. Weights will range from 3 through 6, with lengths from 7'9" to 9'0". MSRP will be $800.

Rio has several new fly lines at EFTTEX, but the one that will interest readers the most is their new Technical Trout line. I say that because unlike some of the newer freshwater lines that have copied upon saltwater tapers (short, heavier heads) the Tech Trout lines will have a long head and back taper to improve loop stability and long range control. MSRP will be $79.

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

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!