Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A rat in the grass

I rolled up to a walk-to flat I haunt hoping to at least see some tailing redfish this morning.  As I stepped out of the Jeep the 20-plus mile-an-hour winds hit me.  Dang.  I strung up my fly rod and sipped my coffee waiting on my buddy to show up.  We got all geared up and started walking to our spot.  The wind was kicking pretty hard and we wondered if we’d be able to get a cast off at all.  As the water rose and the wind stayed steady we watched.

  The grass got shorter as the water rose and the tension was climbing as well.  I closed my eyes and took in the smell of salt water and pluff mud.  I love this time of day.  The sun barely peeking over the horizon, the sound of water around my legs and the soft pull of the mud on my shoes. 

 Spring has sprung here in the Low-Country.  The fiddler crabs were out in force, crawling about and in and out of their holes.  We stood three talking about redfish and flies and how bad we wanted to catch one.  As the water rose over our knees Austin saw the first tail.  About 15 feet out and moving right.  I stripped line out and looked for him to show his tail again.  Nuthin.  I blind casted to a few choice looking clumps of grass and waited.  Then I hear Austin suck in his breath and try moving as quietly as possible as he moved towards me and there less than five feet from him was a beautiful sight.  In the early morning sunlight a big redfish tail flopped lazily back and forth.  I began to cast and with all my might I managed a ten foot cast into the wind.  Perfect cast to where he used to be.  I waited, I waited some more and about twenty feet to the right the tail popped up again.  A quick double haul and with the wind this time I dropped the fly in his path.  I mended my line and waited to feel the pull.  Nuthin.  Ghosted on us.  Never saw another sign of him.  We worked around a little at all the tails we saw, trying to cast into the wind and getting a fly close enough but apparently not close enough.  I worked my way down wind a little and saw one small tail then gone.  I turned around and saw something floating on the water near Austin.  It looked like a small piece of wood.  “Dude!  It’s a mouse!”  I heard above the wind.  As I made my way over I saw this very large mouse or a small rat paddling away. 

He got close enough to Austin and looked like he was going to climb aboard.  Austin gave him a quick push away and he continued his paddle.  I had two visions in my head at that point.  One was of a big ol redfish crashing on him and having a mammal snack for brekkers and the second was how I was going to tie up a rat pattern to target them on top water.   We worked our way down the flat looking for more fish.  I caught up to the rat and he was still paddling away.  He got hung up on my fly line and hung on for dear life.  I figured he had survived swimming around all those reds and he deserved a break.  I dropped my fly rod and he climbed aboard.  I dragged him over to a clump of grass and reeds and dropped him off.  

 Thinking I had paid up my karma debt, I figured it was time to hook a fish.  The wind kept howling and rising more than we thought it would.  Austin suddenly froze and started stripping line from his reel and he got that tunnel vision and I saw the fish.  A nice slot sized red working over a clump of grass.  He was down wind and an easy cast for Austin.  He let fly and dropped the fly a foot from the grass.  I saw the fly sinking and the fish moved towards it and there was a big swirl and boil.  Austin set the hook and the fly came flying back at him.  No sign of the fish.  Nada.  Gone without a trace.  With white caps in the grass we decided to walk back down and wait on the water to move out.  We sat on an old chunk of driftwood and debated on the fishing this year so far.  The water started moving out and we walked our haunt again. 

We worked over all the usual holes and found no more fish.  We were beat up by the wind and decided to call it a day.  No hook ups but seeing tailing redfish got my winter blood racing and ready for the next set of flood tides. I guess since I did help that little rat out with my fly rod you could say I did catch a “rat” today.   As always a great day of fishing.  Getting back out and seeing those fish tailing away was some good medicine and was sorely needed.  Welcome Spring.  Welcome back tails.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The St. Croix Bank Robber

Recently a St. Croix Bank Robber has fallen into my grubby little paws.  I have been playing with it for the last few days.  Casting and fishing and generally enjoying this rod on the water.  The Bank Robber was designed with Kelly Gallup and was specially designed for throwing streamers.  The version I got was the 9ft, fast action 4 piece 7wt rod.  It has a beautiful silver finish to the rod, the cork is nicely shaped , a little stiff, but it’s not MY rod and I won’t have it long enough to wear my hand shape into it but it fits my hand well.  The rod comes in a beautiful grey hard case like most St. Croix rods.  According to the St. Croix website it is made of “Super high-modulus SCVI graphite with NSi resin in lower section for added power with reduced weight. Featuring 3M™ Matrix Resin for unparalleled strength and durability”.  Fuji “K” stripper guides and hard chrome snake guides run the length of the rod along with alignment dots, which I really like, and another thing I really like, this rod was designed and handcrafted in Park Falls, U.S.A.   As with St. Croix rods it is backed by their limited lifetime warranty. 
When I first got this rod I assembled it and took it out behind the shop, slapped a demo reel on it and started casting.  The rod is pretty stiff and has a fast action to it but I prefer to throw a fast action rod.   The rod loads easily and it is really hard to make a bad cast.  Don’t get me wrong, I made plenty of bad casts, but it is light in your hand and a real joy to throw.   After I dumped 80ft of fly line and ten or so feet of backing through the tip top a couple times I took it apart and started thinking about the flies I was going to throw with this thing.  I sat down and thought for a minute… Streamers, this rod was made for streamers so that’s what I tied/threw.  I had a selection of flies all laid out and ready to go.

I stepped out into the sunny Saturday afternoon and felt the sun on my face and the wind blowing.  Ten to fifteen from the Northwest , I can deal with that especially with a 7 wt.  I am very fortunate to have a couple acre pond in my back yard chock full of Bass, Crappie, Bream and Perch and it is about 50 feet from my back door.  This is my playground.  I had an Okuma SLV 7/8 strapped to the rod loaded with Scientific Anglers 7wt redfish line.  Hey, all but my 2wt and 6wt are salt water rods.  I had to work with what I have.   I walked over to my favorite spot and at the request of a friend tied on a 5/0 hook strapped with 8-inches of fur and feathers to see how it would throw (sorry Chad biggest I could tie).  Well it did.  It wasn’t pretty.  The rod did not like the big fly, especially after it got wet and really heavy but I was still able to get it out a good 30 feet.   I snipped off that monster and decided to start small and work back up.  I selected a size 6 Micro Clouser with mono eyes and started chucking it.   The line shot through the guides, loaded and unloaded and an 80ft cast unfurled.  I stripped the fly in and a tiny bream took the fly.  I stripped him in and turned all 4 inches of this behemoth loose.  The rod barely bent.  A few more casts and a few more tiny Bream and it was time for fly #3.  I tied on a size 10 modified Clouser with bead chain eyes,  I call it the “Bufflehead” and started chucking.  Same result.  The rod loaded and unloaded beautifully.  The fly launched out and landed with a soft plop.  Now a nice sized wake started in the direction of my fly… As my heart began to pound I slowly stripped the fly.  One strip… two strip… BAM!  Big swirl and he was on.  Of course at that time it was a 25lb Largemouth and it had rows of shark teeth and was tail walking like a Marlin but… it was a good solid 2lb bass and he did come out of the water and tail walk a little.  The second venture out of the water and my fly came loose and flew back towards me.  The rod was bent pretty good and the feel of the fish fighting was all the way down the rod.  It felt very solid and I could feel every head shake and bump.   As my heart returned to a normal cadence, I shifted a little to the right and casted again.  Test hell, I wanted another shot at that bass!  Several cast later and no takes I went back to the test.  I worked my way around the pond picking off bream here and there and I saw the swirl.  Near a drainage pipe, there was some activity.  Every few minutes something was rushing the bank.  I have seen crappie do this before.  I selected a size 1 Bufflehead with gold bead chain eyes started my cast and let it fly.  The soft plop of the fly hitting the water and settling was met with a rush and the line tugging.  A quick strip set and it was on.  Something with a little bit of shoulders was pulling but not jumping.  I knew I had Mr. Crappie on board.  The rod was bent and he fought well.  Not big enough to get on the reel or take line back,  I easily stripped him in and posed him up with the rod for a quick pic. 

 I snipped off the Bufflehead and tied on a size 10 Muddler Minnow.  Lighter than the Bufflehead I expected a little shorter cast but the rod performed again and launched the fly as far as I wanted to reach.   I switched up flies, heavy, light, long, short.  When I stepped it up to heavy lead eyes tied on a M4, the rod did not like it.  It felt very clunky and tugged hard at the end of each false cast.  I slowed down the cast and the line straightened out and I was able to get a good cast to where I wanted.  It took a few casts to find the balance of the rod and fly but it was doable.  I would stick to lighter bead chain weight eyes on flies if you go with a weighted fly, the un-weighted flies, no matter the size or profile seemed to fly easily and cast like a dream.   
Overall the rod casted beautifully, unless you had an 8-inch monster fly or a really heavy salt water pattern.  All in all I threw 17 different streamers and countless casts.  The lightness of the rod and the ease of casting made it easy to forget how long I was out there.  As the light slipped away and I couldn’t see my flies anymore I packed it in and began writing.   As I think back on my afternoon and this rod I am impressed, with the rod not myself in case you were wondering.  This rod retails for about $400 and is very stout.  The 2lb bass on the line fought hard and you could feel the bend and the fight but it felt solid.   It casts like a dream and it light enough for me to throw with my bad shoulder for about 4 hours and not get tired.  I am not sure how this handles in moving water or against big Bows or Browns but for a pond rod it is pretty nice.  Maybe a little over-gunned for my pond but I felt I could tangle with a 8-9lb Bass and it would have handled it without a problem.  I still have a day or two of it in my possession so maybe I can stretch it out a little and find a big bass and see what is can do. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

New Logo

I was working on a new logo design for a friend when it came to me... I need one for TRC...  I sat down and started working on it.  Behold the new TRC Logo...
    I used this to make some cards and after this weekend I am hoping to have a flurry of new fly rods heading my way for some testing and review here.  If any of you has any new fly fishing gear and would like it reviewed here contact me and we'll get it worked out. 
    Recently I got to get my paws on the new St. Croix Bank Robber... While this rod won't rob your piggy bank it will make you consider holding up a fish on the end of it.  Casting is very easy and this rod is very forgiving on new casters.  Plenty of flex and a ton of backbone. 
    Another new rod I have had the pleasure of casting recently is the Temple Fork Outfitters Bug launcher in the 5/6wt.  This rod comes as a kit, with rod, reel, line, and a beautiful hard case for transport.  A softer rod than I am used to it still casts a mile and is easy to load and get your fly out to the fish accurately.  
     I have not had a chance to fish these rods yet but as soon as I do, full reviews and photos will follow.