Get A Grip!

Get A Grip!

Beavertail grips; rods by St. Croix and Orvis; Loon's Flak Jacket; Galvan's Torque reel

  • By: Buzz Bryson
St. Croix Legend Ultra For 2004, St. Croix has incorporated its IPC-Integrated Poly Curve-technology into the Legend Ultra fly rods. First used in 2000 in selected models of the company's spinning and casting rods, IPC was subsequently used in the Legend Elite fly rods. IPC allows the rod to taper in a continuous curve from tip to butt, distributing stress along the entire blank and making a stronger overall rod. In addition, the new Legend Ultras sport slim-profile ferrules making for a neater overall appearance.In fact, although the matte green finish has been retained on the blank, both the components and cork have been upgraded, so I should say neater and more handsome. The new rods are, according to St. Croix, also a bit faster. I tried the 9-foot, 5-weight 4-piece model, and, to be honest, didn't notice a great deal of change in the speed. The action was moderately fast, well set up to carry plenty of line while still protecting a light tippet. Although the Legend Ultra has been replaced as St. Croix's top-of-the-line series by the Legend Elite, the new Ultra is sweeter than ever, and should be given serious consideration by anyone looking for a reasonably priced, top-performing rod. The newly redesigned Legend Ultra Series still encompasses a full "fleet" of rods, including 19 models in four- and five-piece versions, covering line weights 4 through 10, and lengths from 81/2 to 10 feet. Prices range from $300 to $340 (note that prices have held the line, in spite of the improvements!), and all are covered by St. Croix's excellent service and lifetime limited warranty Angler's Roost Beavertail Handles Visit any flyrod manufacturer, and sooner or later they'll get around to talking about cork, and the lengths they go to in order to obtain the finest possible cork for making their rod grips. Many of them go as far as to establish personal contacts in Portugal, the Iberian nation that is to cork what Russia is to caviar. Good, smooth, blemish-free cork is one of the hallmarks of a fine fly rod, and Wye Yoshida, owner of Canadian rod-handle company Angler's Roost, obviously believes that it is hard to have too much shapely, high-grade cork to wrap your hand around. Angler's Roost sells an array of Sage 4- and 5-piece rods including TCR's SLT's; XP's, to which the company's Beavertail cork handle has been added. A beavertail is just what this grip reminds you of as it flares and reaches way back toward the rod butt, hiding the front of the reel seat and covering the entire top of the spacer. Yes, a Beavertail handle does make a fly rod look quite distinctive. But my next question, after I got done admiring the one that came on a 5-weight TCR I had borrowed, was how would it fish? I got the chance to find out after I took the rod to an unusual but gorgeous spring creek in the high desert country of eastern Washington State. While the handle did not do anything dramatic such as adding 10 feet to my cast, I found that I really enjoyed using it. If felt good in my hand, and in two days of spring-creek fishing, I never felt the slight discomfort of the rod grip's butt end pressing against the heel of my palm the way I often will when using an ordinary cork handle. In the end, a decision about whether to use a rod with a Beavertail handle will depend on whether you like the look and the feel of this extra-generous helping of cork. I did-on both counts. And if you're on the fence about the Beavertail handle because of the expense, there isn't any-at least not when you buy a Sage travel rod. Angler's Roost sells its Beavertail-enhanced Sages at the same price you'd pay for a standard-issue Sage in a fly shop. On the other hand, if you want a Beavertail added to your own favorite rod, Angler's Roost will install one for $120. -Paul Guernsey Galvan Torque Reel Entering its 10th year in the flyreel business, Galvan has introduced the Torque Large Arbor fly reel. The reel is an attention-getter right out of the box, as every spare bit of metal (6061 bar-stock aluminum) has been removed from both frame and spool, the cutouts giving the reel a striking appearance. Even the drag knob and reel foot have been skeletonized to minimize weight. The Torque is hard-anodized in a matte finish, and completely saltwater safe. The drag system is a stainless steel/thermoplastic combo, and should hold up well against the toughest fish. My only complaint is that there are four-plus turns of the drag knob between full-off and full-on, about twice as many turns as I'd prefer. The reel is easily converted from right- to left-hand wind, and the spools themselves are easily changed via a center push-button lock release. Rather than ball bearings, the spool rides on maintenance-free bushings. The crank is large (my preference, although some like them smaller to reduce the chance of knuckle-busting), tapered and fluted, and is very comfortable. There are six sizes of the Torque, T-4 through T-12, sized for that corresponding range of line weights and appropriate backing. The extreme weight loss program shows, as the largest model weighs only 8.6 ounces! Available in antique bronze and black, the reels are priced at $280-$450, with extra spools available at $126-$203. Loon Flak Jacket Loon has introduced the Flak Jacket for those anglers who want to travel light and/or roam far astream. Sleeveless, it's more of a vest than a jacket, but is clearly designed to carry all the essentials. Since any fly-fishing vest is primarily concerned with carrying flies and keeping them accessible, let's start there. The Flak Jacket has two hinged, semi-rigid platforms that flip out 90 degrees giving instant access to a pair of fly boxes-a very convenient arrangement. The fly boxes are held in by hook-and-loop fasteners, and can easily be swapped out for similar-size boxes, making it convenient for those who organize their flies into systems. Since there is no metal apparent in the Flak Jacket, it is equally suited for life in the hills or on the beach. In addition to the fly boxes, there are several other small pockets to hold other odds and ends, including, if I counted correctly, two tool pockets, four tippet-dispensing pockets, six pockets for miscellaneous items, a large cargo pocket and a mesh pocket. Add in a couple of zingers, and if that's not sufficient storage, there are enough D-rings to attach a virtual toolbox. The mesh pocket has shock cord stretched over it, making it ideal for stuffing in a rain jacket. The Flak Jacket also has a water bladder hydration system, befitting those who seek out distant waters for their fishing. The Flak Jacket is constructed of tough Cordura nylon, and lined with a mesh foam fabric to make it comfortable and cool to wear. Adjustment straps on the shoulders and waist make it easy for one size to fit most of us, whether wearing a t-shirt or heavy fleece. Complaints? Not really. It's perhaps a bit heavy, but that's a minor trade-off for the rugged construction. The product reflects some serious thought, and is reasonably priced at $89.95 Orvis T3 Fly Rods The T3 series from Orvis isn't new, but the sweet little 763 model (71/2-foot 3-weight) is, and it's too nice to not mention. First off, it's a looker. The fine finish on the blank is completely smooth and sullied with nary a speck of dust. The finished product is superbly done, from the nice uplocking nickel-silver reel seat and Amboina burl insert right down to the thread wraps. Inside, the 763 employs the popular T3 technology, including compound tapers and thermoplastic-enriched thermoset resins, making it tough enough to be a rug beater (although we'd not recommend that). The performance is there, too. The rod is light in the hand, and balances well with an appropriately sized reel. With a DT3 weight line, the rod, rated as a mid-flex (6.0) by Orvis, loads easily up close, making it an ideal small-stream weapon. At longer distances (longer by 3-weight standards, that is), the rod's action remains crisp. In fact, I tried a 4-weight line, and the rod didn't begin to feel sluggish until I was casting distances beyond which you'd normally fish this type of rod. Up close, the 4-weight line worked well, and some might even prefer it for the really small streams. I got to fish the 3-weight on the type of stream for which it is designed: narrow, with overhanging vegetation, and skinny water from lack of rain. The little rod strutted its stuff, firing casts into tight pockets, handling a two-fly setup (beadhead dropper under a dry) well, and protecting light tippets on some nice fish (indeed, it was a nice day of fishing, and catching). I can't see anything Messrs. Lepage and Rowinski at Orvis left on the table with this rod. It's a winner all the way, and might be my favorite of all the T3 series. Wade Deeper Angler's Roost 877-726-0440 www.anglersroost.net Orvis 888-235-9763 www.orvis.com Galvan Fly Reels 209-588-2812 www.galvanflyreels.com Loon Outdoors 800-580-3811 www.loonoutdoors.com St. Croix 800-826-7042 www.stcroixrods.com