New Products & Reviews

A Fly Rod of Your Own

John Gierach's new book A Fly Rod of Your Own is here! This book was just released last week, and we have a limitied number of autographed copies available. They won't last long, so get one while you can!

Rod Review: Redington Classic Trout

Peter recently wrote a detailed rod review on the Redington Classic Trout rod for Hatch Magazine. Here's an excerpt:

"Fly rods store energy when they bend under the weight and momentum of the fly line. They release that energy as the rod straightens, propelling the fly line forward. A trampoline functions the same way: stretching to store energy under the weight of a person, then expending that energy as it launches the person up in the air. For many anglers, the smooth, energy-releasing sensation the hand feels as the rod unloads makes fly casting fun—it also makes casting easy on the arm. If a trampoline is too stiff to bend under our weight, we’ll have to work hard with our legs to make it bend. The same is true for our arms when a rod doesn’t bend."

To read the full review, head over to Hatch Magazine HERE.

Dry Fly Hackle Choices

By Bucky McCormick

All of us here at Blue Ribbon Flies use Whiting hackle for our tying needs, and when it comes to dry fly hackle, there are none better. Stiff barbs, thin, pliable stems, long hackles and excellent color choices have made Whiting the dominant force in the hackle business.  Which type of hackle you choose can be a bit confusing, so I’ll try to make this task a bit simpler. Whiting offers three types of dry fly hackle– capes, saddles, and 100 packs.  Which of these you choose depends on your specific tying needs.

Capes offer the most variety in sizing. I can tie a dry fly anywhere from size 8 to size 26 with a good cape, and they are my choice for almost all of my tying needs. Capes are the best choice if you’re not tying commercially and if the color is one you use regularly for a variety of patterns. Grizzly, brown, and dun all come to mind. Capes have improved immensely over the years, and individual feathers are plenty long enough to tie 2 or 3 flies.

Saddles are great when you are looking for a lot of hackle in one specific size. Saddles will have one dominant size of feather, accounting for about 80% of the saddle.  The remaining 20% will be split between one size larger and one size smaller. For most of us, the cost and limited sizing just do not make sense. Unless you are tying commercially or tie an awful lot of flies in a specific size and color, I would not choose one of these. The hackles are very long, making it possible to tie many flies from each one, but the limited sizing detracts from its value for most tyers.

100 packs are an excellent choice for someone who is just starting out tying or has a specific fly that calls for an odd or seldom used color. Black is a good example. I tie a few ants in 16 and 18 with black hackle, so an entire cape or saddle does not make sense for me. The 100 packs are perfect for these niche patterns and very affordable.

Which brand from Whiting do I choose?  When looking at the different brands in the Whiting line-up, there are several differences to consider.

Whiting is the top of the line as far as amount of hackle, barb density, and variety of sizing. The Whiting line offers many dyed white and dyed grizzly colors to choose from, and in natural colors the grizzly and ginger are outstanding. There are no other hackles that will have higher hackle length or barbule counts. I have a gold grade grizzly with size 20 hackles that are 8 inches long. It is truly amazing.

The Hebert Hackle line does not have quite the amount of hackle or barb density as the Whiting line does, but the quality is still extremely high. Hebert is where I go for natural colors, particularly duns. You’ll find no better colors, nor more choices, in natural duns anywhere. I own several, not because I really need them, but they just look so good. I have found a use for them all, but admittedly, I’m reaching. The natural gingers are also outstanding, as are the Cree when available. The cost is lower than the Whiting line, which makes these hackles even more attractive.

High and Dry is Whiting’s value hackle, and again you’ll find no better feathers at this price. The size variety and barbule count is not as great as Whiting or Hebert, but for the money it’s more than adequate. I have a natural medium ginger in this line. It’s a color I don’t use very often, so paying for the higher grades isn’t worth it to me. The color is great and the quality is still very good. For my needs it’s served me well.

Dyed vs. Natural: I’m a big fan of natural colors. Dying can be just fine and Whiting does an excellent job in both color and consistency, but no matter how good a job they do, dyed hackles just cannot replace the real thing. For this reason, I buy only natural hackle, with the exception of black. Of course, this is a personal choice and I’m sure it makes no difference to the fish.

So there you have it. Hopefully, this should give you enough information so when you make your next hackle purchase, you’ll be getting plenty of bang for your buck.

A Good Pair of Waders

There are two kinds of waders: those that leak, and those that are going to leak. This is a brute fact, known to all fishermen and indisputable over the course of civilization. When you buy new waders, what you're really buying is time. Time until they leak. And how much time you get is, naturally, unspecified by the manufacturer. On second thought, let me qualify that. Time is what we bought back in the old days, when we purchased a pair of Seal Dri's, neoprenes, Red Ball Flyweights or their ilk. These days, wader manufacturers are gracious enough to throw in a moderate degree of comfort along with the unspecified amount of time. In other words, you won't sweat your butt off quite like we did thirty years ago. (If you were unfortunate enough to have owned one of the aforementioned waders, you know exactly what I mean. Seal Dri's, for example, got so hot that on a sunny day you could fry eggs and bacon on them. On the other hand, as a weight-loss mechanism they were unparalleled. I mean, if you had to make weight in advance of a big wrestling match, wearing Seal Dri's guaranteed you getting to your number.) So buying waders really boils down to purchasing some time, a bit of comfort, and paying dearly for both. Yeah, sign me up for more of that.

I don't mean to sound jaded, it's just that I've been soaked—literally—hundreds of times over the years by waders that I believe could have and should have been better built. Which is why I consider all waders lousy until proven good. I don't care how much they cost. Currently, I'm wearing a pair of G4's, by Simms. They're comfortable and they don't leak. In fact, they've never leaked. Not once, not even from a pinhole, in the four long, hard-fished years that I've owned them. (I actually had to look that up, because I couldn't believe I'd stayed dry in a single pair of waders for so long. But it's true.) I consider this to be nothing short of amazing. I'm especially appreciative for having remained dry through the biting cold weather and cold water of past Octobers and Novembers. Priceless, as the ads say.

So for the first time in forty six years of fly fishing, I feel obliged to praise a pair of waders. This is such foreign ground that I'm not even sure how to go about it. Here goes: Simms G4 waders—nothing short of great. I know, sounds a little lame to me, too. But that pretty much encapsulates it. My waders ARE great. Finest I've ever worn, bar none. I give them my strongest recommendation. Don't know what else to say.

Except that I still don't trust them. Not fully. Not yet. Overcoming a damp history takes a while, you understand.

- John

Notes on the Sage Circa

A number of folks have asked my opinion of the new Sage Circa rods.  Seems the rods have been garnering some nice reviews since their introduction.  As I’d heard quite a bit of talk about them prior to their release, it was with great curiosity that I got my hands on an 8′ 9″ 5-weight Circa when they became available last September.  I spent a fair amount of time with the rod, but passed on writing a review of it since the fishing season was still in full swing.  I’m still bowing out on a full review, but here are a few notes.

The Circa rods, according to Sage, are designed with an “advanced slow action”.  Ignore this phrase; it's vacuous and likely the product of an overly enthusiastic advertising agency.  The action of the 8’9″ 5-weight I tested is best described as moderately fast.  Because of this, the rod lacks communication with the caster at close distances (10-30 feet or thereabouts, fishing distances the rod was intended to address).  This is nothing new for Sage; most all of their rods are deficient in this regard. However, the Circa does bend to a greater degree and much nearer the hand than other Sage rods, so some communication with the caster is evident.  It’s not ideal, but it is a clear improvement for the company.

From 30-50 feet, the rod casts more efficiently than any recent Sage model.  Don’t get too excited; that’s not saying much.  The rod is still underloaded at these distances, its stiffness requiring more work from the caster than should be necessary.  (Remember that power and stiffness are not the same thing.  Conflating the two is a major mistake made by rod reviewers.)  By no means is the underloading at these distances fatal to the rod.  In fact, for anglers used to modern rods—and therefore used to working hard—this rod will actually come as a pleasant surprise.  Easier on your arm, and reasonably fishable.

At distances of 60-100 feet, the rod turns into an outstanding casting instrument.  It takes this amount of line to efficiently load the rod (yes—a rod should load from the weight of the line, not just from the caster’s efforts; a somewhat novel concept these days).  When so loaded, the Circa contributes to the cast as a fly rod should.  Casting is pleasurable.

Only thing is, from what I can gather, this rod wasn’t designed for distance work.  So the Circa is somewhat of an anomaly.  For what it was designed for, it’s only moderately successful.  At what it wasn’t designed for, it excels.  In fact, for distance casting I rate this rod right up near the 9′ 5-weight Sage ZXL (a superior distance rod).

On the whole and in consideration of its stated purpose, I think Sage did okay with the Circa.  If they didn’t exactly hit it out of the park, they at least made a rod that is more efficient and pleasurable to use than any other of their recent models.

—John

Readers may find that my comments are at variance with other Circa rod reviews, and wonder why.  I suggest that it has to do with how a rod evaluation is conducted.  I have written here about a methodology that I believe prevents rod evaluations from devolving into statements of taste and opinion. Though this post doesn’t constitute a full-blown review, my comments are made with this methodology in mind.

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