I took the first of the test rods out to the water with Jeff Roop today. Weather was poor but there was a lot to be learned from the trial. The wind was blowing cold and drizzly from the north/northwest between rainy spats and there wasn't so much as a chub swimming around. Despite this, the excitement of a season not far on the horizon and the promise of new places, people and things to experience was in the air.
<font size="1">Roopster on the reins</font><!--1--></center>
When I walked into the shop, Pete Sorensen was discussing fine points about a rod he's building. Smitty had one of the new test rods lookin' (almost) like a real fishing rod. Well not quite, but it is been left unfinished to allow rapid assembly and disassembly according to adjustments we wanted to make along the way. There will be time for permanent wraps and sturdy reel seats later on, when the dimensions are known. Today, it's about being able to move something around on a whim. To the uninitiated, the rod does not impress. But to the trained eye, one can quickly see how the cork tape can be unwound to make way for a fine burl cork grip, and the exposed underwraps just means of holding the eyes in place for the time being. Tape would serve just as well.
Anyway, Jeff and I hopped over a creek flowing into Kingston Bay to reach a tidal grass flat just down the street from the Rod Builder's Workshop. I felt like a kid on Christmas Day, taking a summertime toy out in the snow just because. We started with the 425 grain QD Cortland, which casts very well on another factory two-hander I own. It seemed a little LIGHT for this rod, despite the fact that this line feels real clunky (chuck and duck). Although it was easy to throw 60 feet without false casting or double hauling, it felt like there were not enough grains to really get the rod into a groove.
This was not a bad thing! I hope we end up with a 13wt rod that takes nothing at all to throw. I wish for the ability to throw huge flies into the surf and handle big fish just as easily - without making the angler pay the price for casting all that.
Next was a 12wt intermediate, then a special Spey shooting head design given to me by Mike Kinney of Seattle. The Spey head performed best, but there was more to try. We ran back to Smitty's to grab a 525 grain 444 line (more grains! >grunt<
and on the second shot the whole flyline shot from the rod with no false casting or double hauling. Unfortunately, the piece of mono I had knotted on the line didn't stabilize the line's head, which is almost impossible to stabilize anyway. I went back thru the other lines for good measure and was able to throw the whole 12wt intermediate to the backing two or three times but with no consistency. Eventually, it was time to conference with Smitty back at the shop.
I decided the 525 won't do unless I can stabilize the head with a very stiff heavy butt section on the leader. Many of you know how blunt of a front taper this line has. The 325 is a sweetie but the 525... is a boater's line if you know what I mean.
The 12wt, although it had promise, wasn't enough to really load this rod. A denser head with a quick front taper seems in order, but the experimentation continues.
I've now got an excuse to break out the box of chopped lines I have from my hybrid Spey and sinktip days out west - but this time to build a taper that suits the inherent power of this two-hander in a manner that exploits it's potential. The search continues....