Long Tackle Talk...
Like this thread and think some of the comments are really useful. I've got several rods, from budget to top-end, and as a bonefish guide I get to cast all types of rods, both American and European: Sage, Scott, St. Croix. Loomis, Powell, Redington, Cabela's, Orvis, Winston, Hardy, etc. By far and away the best bonefish rod I've ever cast has been the Winston BIIx 8-weight. Unlike almost every other bonefish rod out there, it actually does what you need a bonefish rod to do: Cast short and long. So many rods nowadays are super-fast and only load with about 40 ft of line out the tip, or you have to over-line them to cast in short (which in turn can make long casts kinda' fuzzy). I agree with Juro that stiff rods are sort of a pain (for bonefish), and unfortunately some rod companies are betting the bank on this type of rod. You have to work twice as hard to start the loading process for this type of rod and close-in casts are very hard indeed.
Before I say more, let me make it clear that my useage of equipment is fairly specialized. I wade-fish for bonefish and permit (and the occasional tarpon). I do fish from the skiff occasionally, but over 90% of my fishing is from foot. That means that you can get much closer to bones without their knowing than from skiff... they can also do the same. This means that very short casts are often required. I've had several clients hook fish with the leader in the rod tip and 20-ft casts are very common. Usually these casts take place on cloudy days in less than ideal conditions - those days where the bonefish just seem to materialize "right there, 30 feet, 1 o'clock, cast now!" Casts have to be quick and accurate in these conditions or you don't catch fish. It's that simple. First time I fished the Winston BIIx, we hit three fish in a row, bang, bang, bang: all within 30 ft and 2 over 5 pounds. Decent fish... and we'd only had 4 shots in that half-hour. Typically that type of fishing yields about 50% success rate or less. The fish just come at you too fast, too close in. But since using that rod we catch way more fish, because it just loads and handles so well in close.
Of course, you can load 'er up and toss 90 ft of line too. No worries. It just loads smoothly down into the butt and handles that line easy.
I have also fished many types of reels, from the ridiculously expensive Hardy's to the modest Orvis Battenkill. For my clients I fish Abel Super-8's (now that they have outgoing clickers), but my personal reel is a Lamson Lightspeed 3. It's bigger, lighter, faster, and I feel the smoothness of the drag rivals other top-end reels like the Abels. Best part, the price is about half what you'd drop on those pricey reels. I especially like the Lightspeed now that they've replaced the dodgy clutch with a stainless version (which they'll do for free, by the way). It also has a crazy tough anodized surface ("guide finish") which I've fished hard in the salt for over 4 years and shows ZERO sign of corrosion. (No special care; just spray it off after a day on the water and you're good.) Finally, due to the large arbor size and placement of the handle the pick-up rate on that reel is flat out the highest of any reel that weight, which can make all the difference when a bone turns and runs back at you, which they do... size does matter, folks.
I also own one of the Ross' new Cimarron LA 8-weights. For the money it's a great buy. It's light, big, anodized, and the drag is very smooth and supposedly made from a new heat/friction-resistant material that should do away with the notorious problems their saltwater line had. I've still to put it through the ropes, but it's held up to its first few bonefish perfectly.
Now we come the the section where I have very strong feelings on the subject. First, let me say that for wadefishing for bonefish by far the worst lines I've fished are SA lines. I've owned several and also several lines that they produce for other companies (Sage, Orvis, etc.) Let me put it simply: they flippin' sink! You've got maybe a week of use (if you're lucky) and then it's over... no more floaty-float. Compair that to an old Cortaland 444 TropicPlus line which I fished hard with clients for 2 years and it still floated, no problem. Bang for your buck, Cortland TropicPlus. I also fish Rio lines, which are simply the best lines out there for casting into the wind. (Due to their stiff mono core which gives them backbone.) I also just fished this new Flip Pallot line that I think Cortland makes. Anyways, it's a great bonefishing line that flies in the face of several conventions that most WF Bonefish lines adhere to. First, it's bright, dayglo orange. The idea there (which I've been thinking for years) is that to fish all lines are dark silhouettes anyways, whether they're bright orange or pale blue. About the dumbest thing is making lines sandy colored, which only hides them from the angler above... who needs to see the line the most.
Here's the logic: in order to know where your fly is sitting on the bottom you need to know where the end of your flyline is. That way you can estimate how far past that your fly is based on the length leader your fishing. If you can't see the end of the flyline (cause maybe it's pale blue or sandy and blends in with the flat from above) then you can't tell where your fly is and can't fish it properly. Day in and day out I'm looking at the end of that flyline to see where the fly is. A line that was easier to see would sure be a big advantage. Remember, the fly has to be in the zone in order for the bonefish to see it and then eat it. No zone, no fish.
The other interesting thing about this line was its very short front taper. Also, the main belly of the line was right up front. This means that the line loads the rod right away for short, quick casts. Of course, this is very different from the long front taper and belly of the Rio Bonefish line, a line obviously designed with Keys bonefish in mind. I'd have to say that outside of that very specialized fishery most bonefishing takes place 60 feet and under. A line that loads a rod very quickly would be perfect for that type of everyday bonefishing. In fact, not a week before casting this new Flip Pallot line a friend of mine was visiting to catch bones. The visability was less than perfect so most of his shots were coming very short (20-40 feet). He was having trouble loading his rod with so little line out and had a devil of a time being accurate with a partially loaded rod. When we measured it, the front taper of his line was over 10 feet. He chopped about 7 feet off and bingo, the rod loaded much better. You might think that lack of taper would make the flyline splash down that much heavier, but it's a trade-off. If you can't get the fly to fish on time, it doesn't matter how delicately the line lands.
Anyways, I'm still undecided on this new line, but a lot of it does make sense. For now I'll keep fishing my Cortland 555 Tropic Lazer Line and chop the heads off my SA lines to make cheap running lines for my shooting heads. Heck, they sink anyways.
On the water,