Moderately Priced Rods

Moderately Priced Rods

Imported rods by Temple Fork and Albright, plus Griffin's Montana Mongoose Vise

  • By: Buzz Bryson
Temple Fork Outfitters When Rick Pope was first introducing the Temple Fork Outfitters fly rods at the fall trade show a couple of years ago, I almost didn't try them. Thankfully, I overcame my initial thought of "How good can an imported rod be, packaged in a clear plastic tube, without even a bag?" I recall casting the 5-, 8-, and 10-weight rods, and thinking they were smooth-casting, moderate-action rods. Not bad, plastic tube and all. Rick offered to send me a couple to try, and with fall season coming on, I asked for a trout rod and an albacore rod.The trout rod was the same 9-foot, 5-weight, and it worked fine. I was impressed, probably more initially that it was about as good a rod for the price (under $150) as I'd fished with. It was simply a smooth casting rod that loaded quickly, easily covered the water and controlled line well at all reasonable fishing conditions. Shortly thereafter, I tried the 10-weight on albacore. It too, loaded well and cast smoothly, although perhaps it was a little lacking in butt strength if one needed a heavy-lifting rod. Both were rods that I could be happy fishing with, price tag aside. Still, I had to wonder if Rick could find a niche for these rods, given TFO's "new kid" status along with the "stigma" of overseas production. Well, he did, and he continues doing it with a fine product at a reasonable cost, and absolutely first-class customer service. For 2004, Rick has revamped the entire line of rods, and he's teamed up with old friend (his and mine) Lefty Kreh, whose stamp of approval is on each rod. There are three series of TFO rods, including the Series 1, the Professional Series and the TiCr Signature series. The Series 1 includes nine rods, from 2-weight through 10-weight, and from 6 to 9 feet in length. All are two piecers, and sell for $89.95 to $99.95. The Professional Series, essentially the original series Rick introduced, but refined by Lefty, includes 22 models, from 2-weight to 12-weight. Most are 4-piecers, but there are also 3- and 6-piece models. Prices range from $139.95 to $159.95 for the 3-and 4-piece models; $224.95 for the 6-piece rods, and $299.95 for the three two-handed rods. Finally, there is the TiCr Signature series, which includes 8 models, from 5- through 14-weight. All are 4-piece, 9-footers, with the exception of the 14-weight rod, a 3-piece 81/2- footer. Prices range from $199.95 to $229.95, with the 14-weight at $299.95. The rods are generally well-finished-more so, as you would expect, in the higher-priced models. The Series 1 is a moderate-action rod that casts well over all normal fishing ranges. The Professional Series, at least those I've cast and fished with, are really fine rods. They are light in the hand, load well, and their moderately-fast action will suit the majority of anglers. I used them on trout, both wade fishing and float fishing, and found them well suited to casting a wide variety of fly sizes and types, and also to protecting the tippets. The new TiCr Series are guns, with fast actions and an abundance of power in the butt section. Consider them for situations where you roam the big waters, need to reach out, make quick accurate casts, buck the wind, or pull hard on a fish. I particularly liked the TiCr when using sinking head lines. Temple Fork Outfitters rods have been talked about at length on various internet bulletin boards, and are becoming more widely available in fly shops. While I initially had carried one or two on a trip as a backup rod, I found myself using them more and more as my primary rod. And that's for one reason only: they fish really, really well. I'd definitely check them out. Albright Rods Albright Tackle introduced new rods at the fall Fly Fishing Retailer Expo, and Jim Murphy agreed to send me a couple to try out. The 5- and 8-weights I sampled are but two of the nine rods in the EXR series. All are 3-piece 9-footers, covering line weights 3 through 12. The shorthand in the series' name is for represents the rod's external scrim which, according to Jim, protects the high modulus graphite core, providing great longitudinal load and stretch. The final wrap is fused silicate, which provides great impact resistance. All in all, this is a blend of technology that is designed to produce a rod that not only fishes well, but is durable to boot (not that there are really that many of us who bash our rod tips on limbs or with beadheads). The rods I tried, which are standard production models, were very well finished. The blank had a emerald metallic-leaf finish. While some would no doubt call it garish, I found it a pleasant contrast to the typical drab rods normally seen. Reel seats, grips and guides were all first class. No problems cosmetically. Performance-wise, the rods work really well. With all the high tech put into their design, I was concerned that they would be overly fast, as some still equate "fast" with "best." 'Tain't so, as most anglers know, and I think Albright struck a good balance. These rods are not too fast, not too slow. I ran them both through my backyard testing course, which gives me a relatively standardized comparison of different rods over different distances, and with different line, leader and (hookless) fly combinations. I honestly couldn't find any faults with them. I did get to put some time on the water with the 5-weight, which only reinforced my thinking that this was a sweet rod. The EXS rods, in line weights 3 through 9, retail for $325. The 10-weight is $365, and the 12-weight goes for $395. While I only tried the top-of-the-line EXS series, Albright offers three other rod series: the Topwater (2- and 4-piece, 3/4 - 10/11 weight), GP (General Practitioner, 2-, 3- and 4-pieces, 3/4 - 10/11 weight) and the A-5 (5-piece, 4- 12-weight). Prices for these series range from, respectively, $69 - $89; $95 - $125 ($250 for two-handers) and $195. Complete outfits are available as well. Griffin Montana Mongoose Vise Bernard Griffin-or at least his extensive line of vises, bobbins and other tying accessories-is well-known to most fly tiers. For 2004, Griffin has introduced a new vise, the Montana Mongoose. At first glance, it was pretty impressive. Packed in a padded storage/travel case, the vise came with both C-clamp and pedestal bases, bobbin cradle, material clip, a ceramic bobbin and a hackle gauge. The C-clamp opens to just over 11/2", so it will fit on most table tops. The clamp is nicely finished matte aluminum, as are most of the vise components except the pedestal base and jaws, which are matte black to reduce glare. Before using the C-clamp on nice furniture, you might want to add a piece of felt or rubber to the clamp's screw base and top. The pedestal base is a nice balance between being beefy enough to not tip over (a non-slip rubbery base helps), and light enough for easy transport. The vise's post is an internally-threaded two-section design. The full-length post is designed to give considerable height adjustment when used with the C-clamp. Removing the lower section makes the vise just about the right height for using the pedestal base at an "average" tabletop height. At the business end, the Mongoose exhibits more attention to detail. The vise is fully rotary, with the rotational resistance adjustable using the rear jam nut. "Rotary" vises that won't allow quick adjustments can become frustrating; on the Mongoose, the head can be easily "tuned" (ensuring that the hook shank remains on the same axis as the shaft). The head is slotted for making fine adjustments, and then secured by a simple screw-lock. Larger adjustments are made by repositioning the jaws (also easily done) into another of four holes on the head. The jaws are of the Mongoose utilize the two-screw parallel jaw arrangement, which has proven itself in many popular vises. Griffin says the jaws will adjust to hold any hook from size 28 up to 4/0. He's right; I tried it. And reminded myself in the process how much "fun" it is to work with those sub-size 20 hooks. The Mongoose is a nice-looking, nicely-made, and eminently functional vise. $175. Wade Deeper Temple Fork Outfitters 214-638-9052 www.templeforkflyrods.com/ Griffin Enterprises 406-257-7027 www.griffinenterprisesinc.com Albright Tackle 866-FLY-REEL www.albrighttackle.com