Monday, December 24, 2012

Redington Link and Rise review

The Redington Link fly rod, the freshwater 6wt version, and Rise 5/6wt reel are my latest subjects to work out, test and review.  When I first received the rod I was impressed with the rod tube to begin with.  A carbon fiber tube and the anodized cap is a beautiful glacial blue that matches the same colored Rise reel perfectly.  I pulled the rod out of its tube and sock and looked at it closely.  Redington has a new way of wrapping the rod called Red.Core2, according to Redington, “To create Red.Core2 Technology, the designers cross-wrapped the mandrel with strands of high strength carbon fiber resulting in increased hoop strength. This minimizes material requirements and greatly reduces the overall blank weight. This new method produces a much smoother blank taper and creates a more responsive rod giving anglers a new level of line load feel and casting control.” 

The rod fit together easily and felt solid when the pieces were seated. The alignment dots were spot-on and the highlight wraps around the ferrules and guides are the same Glacial Blue as the tube cap, this really set the rod off visually.   This is the little stuff in a rod that I really appreciate.   The snake guides all the way up the rod are well aligned and the wraps holding them are clean and precise.  The half wells handle of good quality cork felt comfortable in my hand.  One of the things I really like about Redington, with all their rods, the cork always feels good. 

The link specifically uses another new technology, ExoCarbon which is a “carbon fiber overlay on the rod butt and ferrules to increase strength, provide additional line-carrying ability and greater lifting power. ExoCarbon technology also greatly increases the durability.”  The ferrules are where the rod pieces come together and is traditionally a weak point in the rod, this process really strengthens it up without adding too much weight.
Now that I had all this new technology at my fingertips, I spooled up the Rise with about a hundred yards of backing and Rio Grand WF6F line.  I added a 9ft 3x leader and I was off to the pond. 
I stopped in the yard and casted the rod a bit.  The rod feels light in your hand but as soon as you start to cast it the thoughts of a fragile rod go right out the window.  I stripped about 50 feet of line out and began to cast it.  The rod loads and unloads easily and when I let the line shoot it ran the length and gave me that solid thump.  That red.core2 stuff is for real.  I stripped more line off and was able to consistently throw good tight loops and shoot the line out to 80 feet pretty easily.  I tied on the tried and true olive wooly bugger and began working the bank of the pond over.  A few short strikes from bream were all was feeling.  I worked around until I was facing a good and steady 10mph head wind.  I casted straight into the wind and the rod cut through the wind pretty easily and I was still able to throw a good tight loop out to about 50 feet. 
The next day the weather was nicer so I worked another pond over really well… Found a lot of small bream but nothing to really put any kind of pressure on the rod.  The smaller fish were easily handled and the tip danced but still felt strong.  I saw a small pocket near a culvert and saw water move so I made my way around towards it.  Once I got within casting distance I threw the size 12 Olive Wooly Bugger in there.  I let it sink just a little, one twitch and the water exploded!  Finally, something big enough to put a bend in this rod was on the line.  I stripped line in, tried to get a good hook set and was waiting for a good run to get it on the reel when it came out of the water.  It was a chain pickerel about a foot long and not very happy about the hook in his face.  After a few more jumps and a run towards the middle of the pond, the tippet gave way and he broke me off.  While I was fighting the fish, as short as it was, I was impressed with the bend in the rod.  The tip was soft enough to let that tippet work and I am sure if it was something a little less toothy I would have landed it.  The rod felt solid in my hands and I could feel every twitch and shake of the fish.  I really need to take this rod out and find some bigger test subjects…. 
I made my weekly trip to the salt and I had to take this rod and reel with me.  I know thid particular Link and Rise are not really made for the salt, but I am testing this out and want to see what it will do.  As we pulled up to our first spot we were greeted by a school of hungry redfish, BIG hungry redfish.  I put a fly in front of them a couple of times but no takers for the Link.  We worked our way down the bank, off to another spot and came back.  Did not see any schools but I had a little heavier fly on the Link and I started hitting fishy lookin spots.  After about the eighth cast I felt the line come tight.  Quickly, a perfectly colored, slot sized redfish was on the reel and peeling drag.  He wasn’t a beast, probably no more than 2 pounds but he was burly enough to put a pretty serious bend in the Link and test the drag on the Rise.  Bending deep into the middle of the rod, it never felt like it was nearing the end of the rods capabilities.  As the fish ran and pulled line the rod felt really good.  It never felt like he was too much and the Rise let line out smoothly and on the retrieve it was smooth and took the line back quickly. 

Even though a redfish was probably not in the mind of the designers when they built this weight rod, it will handle smaller ones just fine and I would guess a good sized Rainbow or Brownie would be handled just as easily.  As for the Rise reel, according to Redington, “Its fully machined aluminum construction will perform in any saltwater or freshwater fishing situation.”  I would have to agree.  Although the 5/6wt reel was a little smaller than I would normally fish in the salt, I am sure the 7/8wt Rise would be an outstanding reel for salty critters.   Over all I really like this rod.  From the aesthetics to the power and ability to handle fish easily and smoothly I would gladly welcome a Link and Rise combo into my arsenal. 
The Link of course is available in 9-foot, 9-foot 6-Inch and ten-foot lengths and range from a 3wt all the way up to a 10wt so any of your fishing needs, fresh or salt are covered.  They are all four-piece rods so travelling is not a problem either.  The Rise Reels are available in 3/4wt, 5/6wt, 7/8wt and 9/10wt and are available in 3 colors, Glacial, Charcoal and Mantis.  Of course if you have any questions feel free to swing by the Lowcountry Fly Shop and we’ll take care of ya.   

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gettin Cranky on the Cooper

I have not used conventional fishing gear for the bulk of this year, as a matter of fact I have only picked up a spinning rod twice this year but after an interesting offer from my buddy, Capt. Chris Margate I had to go take a walk on the dark side.   Capt. Margate is the King of Saltwater Crank baits and he offered to take me out and let me see what it was all about.
Normally crank baits are a freshwater lure used for largemouth bass but redfish have the same kind of mentality, ambush predators and love structure as well, so I thought this might be fun.  We met at the landing and launched his 24-foot Shearwater bay boat and we headed out to his favorite hunting grounds.   As we ran down the river, pelicans cruised inches from the water, dolphins swam along in small pods and the smell of the marsh filled our noses.   It was a little overcast and comfortably warm and we both knew the conditions were perfect for early morning fishing.
As we motored up to the first spot and dropped the trolling motor we talked about the lures we would use.  A long billed Rapala was the choice to start with, the current was ripping petty good and spinner baits would not do well in this current.   With the current so strong the spinner baits would lay over on their side and not look right, he explained.  My first cast went straight across the creek and hung itself neatly in an overhanging branch.  Yeah, it’s been a while since I threw a lure this heavy.  We both laughed as we motored over to un-hang my lure.  It took me a few minutes to get the hang of the conventional gear again, but I quickly adapted and was putting my lure where I wanted.   As we worked our way down the bank feeling the crank baits ticking off the structure and digging along the bottom we talked about fishing and the techniques we were using.   As my lure reached the end of the structure it was banging around on and I was about to pull it in to re-cast I felt a sharp tug and the rod tip started dancing.  I pulled my rod tip up to keep pressure on the fish and a beautiful speckled sea trout, close to eighteen-inches came up and was quickly netted.  This was cool.  My first sea trout on a crank bait.  We were off to a good start. After some quick photos the fish was released and swam off back to the structure he had come from.

Capt. Margate has been fishing these waters for over 30 years now and knows every spot down the creeks and rivers where fish hold.  His first boat was a 14-foot jon-boat he bought when he was 14-years-old.  Since he wasn’t old enough to drive, his Mom would take him to the landing and drop him and his boat off and he would spend countless hours exploring the waters around Charleston.  From tiny creeks on the Cooper River to the jetties he ran that jon-boat everywhere.   As he got older he joined the U.S. Navy as a Corpsman and was medically retired later on in his career.  He owned his own business for a while but the pull of the water was strong.  He continued his fishing and learned more and more about the waters and made the decision to become a guide and began his guiding career and never looked back.   I asked him what his favorite kind of trip was and he replied, “I love taking kids fishing, teaching them and watching their faces as they reel in fish is awesome,” he said with a big smile.   We talked about fishing and our favorite fish and spots.

As we worked the section of bank over we got to the end of one spot and moved to the next spot down the creek.   The current was a little slower here so we switched to spinner-baits and fished the bank over pretty well.   No one wanted to get hooked there so we motored to the next stretch of bank.   Back to the crank-baits we went.  After a few casts I felt a tug and the rod bent over hard and the drag started peeling off.  We both looked at each other and I know we had the same thought, that’s a Redfish.   The fish bulldogged down into the structure and fought pretty hard.  I gave it a little slack and the fish swam out of the structure and I was able to get it up and away and close enough to the boat to be netted up.

Twenty-three and a half inches of coppery redfish goodness was lying on the deck and we were both excited.  Another first for me, my first redfish on a crank-bait.   After some quick photos I held the fish over the side facing into the current, after a few seconds her gills flared and with a strong kick of her tail and a splash to my face she was swimming hard back to the bottom of the creek.  We continued down the creek working over spots and landing more trout and just talking about fishing, boats and our experiences in the Military and our families.   As we continued to work down the river the bite slowed down but we both knew the fish were there.  I put the crank bait down and decided if I was gonna step to the dark side today and fish with conventional gear I was gonna go whole hog.  I grabbed a rod rigged up with a popping cork, stuck a mud minnow on the hook and tossed the float toward the bank.  The float was on the water for about five seconds before it was gone and the drag was singing.  Another nice little redfish was in the boat.   We floated minnows down the bank and caught a few more small redfish and trout.  I tossed my float back out under an overhanging tree, as it floated with the current I looked away for a second to say something to Capt. Margate and I felt a tug.  I looked back and there was no float and my line was steadily moving up-current.  I reeled down and the line came tighter and the drag began its beautiful melody.   As I reeled the fish in I thought we had another nice trout until it rolled on its side and I saw the telltale black lines on silver scales of a striped bass.  Another first for me, my first South Carolina striper!

As we fished the tide came back in and the water got a little too deep for the spots we were fishing and we called it a day.  We ran back to the landing, passing dolphins, pelicans and other fishermen.  Another banner day on the water with a great fisherman and friend was in the books.  As you can see he’s a pretty good phtograpger too!   If you’d like to have a great day on the water yourself, from the small creeks we fished,  to the reefs a little off shore and anywhere in between,  give Capt. Chris Margate a call. His bay boat comfortably hold 6 people safely and is a smooth ride.   You can find more information, rates and photos of some of his trips at
Or you can just  give him a call at: 843.425.7259

There is an Echo in the boat

As a fly fisherman I love new rods and reels.  Recently I was able to play with a one-piece fly rod.  It is made by a company called Echo Fly rods and it is called the Prime.  The eight-weight version made it into my hands and of course I had to take it out for a test spin.  I called my buddy Andy and we launched his Maverick HPX and headed out for some low tide, skinny water redfish hunting.    The morning was clear, sunny, cool and there was no wind, everything was perfect.  We made our way down the river and found our usual spot where we knew a couple schools of redfish liked to hang out.  As we poled along the glass calm water we could see pushes along the bank, the telltale sign redfish were cruising looking for something to eat.  Well we had a new rod to play with and a box full of flies to offer them.   Another friend, Chris, was along for the ride and we set him up front first.  Chris has never fished a one-piece rod and I wanted to see his reaction to this light-weight line cannon.   He carefully stripped line off the reel and scanned the bank.  As we poled closer to a creek mouth that had a nice shallow mud flat in front of it we saw the water start to stir.  The school of reds had found something tasty to chase and he began casting towards them.   As he casted and let the line shoot, the size 1/0 black Clouser he tied on shot out and landed with a soft plop.  He stopped, and slowly turned around to look at me with a look of disbelief on his face.  He just made a 60-foot cast with hardly any effort and was amazed.    He had no idea the rod would shoot line like that.   He stripped the fly back slowly, picked up the line again and effortlessly launched another long cast towards the school of feeding fish.   This time he realized the cast was not just a lucky cast or a fluke, this rod was the real deal and he was pretty excited.  As he stripped the line in it came tight and he swept the rod low to the left and drove the fly into the fishes lip and the fight was on.  The water exploded as he spooked his school mates and fish went hauling fin in every direction of the compass.   The fish fought hard and ran and quickly took enough line to get on the reel.  Chris reeled him in and played the fish.   As Andy and I were hooting and hollering about the fish and seeing all the fish running everywhere, Chris turned around and gave us a look and put some heat on the fish.  The rod bent over and the line sang and after a quick fight Chris had a beautiful redfish in his hands.

After seeing Chris cast that rod Andy was antsy as a 4-year old at Christmas so we put him up front next and like a kid in a candy store he was casting the rod in amazement as well.  I own another brand of one-piece rod and Andy has casted that rod but he was really excited about the rod.   He started laying lineout and the rod was singing.

We poled down the bank a little more and found another school of fish pushing along.  Andy is used to casting other rods and kept trying to overpower the rod and it was driving him nuts.  I told him to just relax and cast the rod, let it do the work and almost instantly his casts laid out longer and right on target.  This pod of redfish was not as cooperative as the last pod but a nice speckled sea trout liked his fly and ate it heartily.

We looked at the tide and realized we only had a few minutes before it was dead low tide so we motored up and headed down a small creek looking for pockets of fish.
As we came around the bend of the creek we found a nice flat area scattered with oyster mounds and pools of water where we could see redfish pushing around and chasing down shrimp and small baitfish.  These fish were not interested in any fly we threw at them.   As the water rose and the fish moved deeper into the grass we headed out back to the main river.  I had casted the rod in the pools but I really wanted to feel a fish on the end of this rod.  As we worked our way back I was throwing a fly along a grass edge and trying to work over every pocket and feeder creek mouth.  I felt a tug on the line and set the hook with a low sweep and the fish ran out towards deeper water.  I lifted the rod to keep pressure on the fish and saw the biggest trout I have ever hooked lift its head out of the water, look me right in the eye and shake the fly out of its mouth.   That felt good but I wanted more.  We kept making our way done the bank and I saw a fishy looking pocket, I casted into it.  I stripped the line slowly, nothing.  As the fly cleared the pocket and I was about to pull it up to cast again the line went tight.  Another sweeping strip set and the line was flying out of my hands and coming tight on the reel.  The redfish ate the fly and bulldogged me and then ran straight at the boat.  I threw my arm as high as I could and stripped in line as quickly as possible and was not keeping up when Andy started stomping his foot down on the platform.  The fish quickly adjusted course and swam away from the boat and came tight on the reel again. I wanted to see how this rod handled a decent sized fish, I knew I had a strong enough leader and tippet on so I palmed the reel and really put the heat to this fish.   The rod bent but felt solid and never felt like it was at the end and I needed to let up.   I reeled the fish in and took some quick photos before I released it to fight another day. Another awesome day on the water with good friends and cooperative fish was in the books.