Sage and Redington Rods

Sage and Redington Rods

Plus Ross' Evolution Reel, Rods by Route 37 and SA's L2L Connector

  • By: Buzz Bryson
Route 37 Rods Route 37 Fly-Fishing Company is a new, Michigan-based rod manufacturer that targets the mid-price flyrod market. The rods are assembled in Michigan and built from IM6 graphite. The Winesap series comprises their top-of-the-line trout rods, and these have titanium guides, anodized aluminum reel seats and high-quality cork grips. A neat feature in this series is the band of wood that is embedded at the top and bottom of the grip to prevent any chipping or wearing on the cork. Company co-found Erick Lubbers told us this was an idea he and his partner (both former professional athletes and pretty big guys) came up with after repeatedly wearing away the cork at the top of their grips.It's a nice touch and shows that these guys are thinking about the details. An interesting feature of both trout series is that the rods are all in-between-weights. Both trout series begin with a 3/4-weight and go up to a 5/6-weight in various lengths and piece configurations. Although Lubbers describes the rod actions as medium to fast, I found that if you go with the higher weight line, it creates a pleasant, slower action that can be felt the whole length of the rod. I used a Winesap 4/5-weight, four-piece, 8-footer, as well as a 9-foot, 4/5 in the Bowery series, throughout the spring and early summer this past year on everything from bass and trout to landlocked salmon, even chucking lead with them for mackerel in the salt. I was able to whip out a lot of line in just a few backcasts with those rods and, even more importantly, they simply felt so sweet while casting. In fact, I felt a particular affinity for that little Winesap eight-footer, which seems to have been designed for the cramped little streams of Maine. In addition, over the course of those months the rods held up well to my, shall we say, caviler attitude towards rod storage and transportation. They're tough rods, and I'll be using them quite a bit in the future-especially that eight-footer. The prices for Route 37 rods range from $160 to $240 for the Bowery series, and between $220 to $295 for the Winesap series. Add $30 or $40 dollars depending model for a very cool aluminum rod case. Both series have four-piece rods beginning with a 3/4-weight, seven-footer, on up to a 5/6, nine-footer. The two-piece rods start with a 4/5, 7 1/2 footer; up to a 5/6, nine-footer. They also come with a lifetime replacement guarantee. Route 37 also offers 11 bigger rods in two and four pieces from a 7/8-weight up to a 14-weight in various lengths and pieces. These go from $265-$390, without the rod case. --Jim Reilly Sage Xi2 Saltwater Rods Sage's RPL-X was the definitive modern saltwater rod series for a number of years. It was tough, giving no quarter in casting or fighting fish in the hands of experienced anglers. Some liked it with the labeled line size, some preferred a line size heavier; the choice was personal preference. With the influx of new-to-the-sport fly fishers, the X lost some favor, as these anglers were perhaps more accustomed to easier-loading trout rods. Sage responded by bringing out the RPL-Xi series, which was described as being more "user-friendly." The Xi rods had a bit softer tip for easier loading, and while many liked it, others preferred a stiffer tip, particularly when casting heavy flies and sinking lines and punching casts into the wind. The new Xi2 offers anglers the best of both rods, and it might just suit all of the people all of the time, to badly misquote Abe Lincoln. Sage has built the Xi2 with its "Generation 5" and "Modulus Positioning System" technologies. According to Sage, the end result is a lighter, livelier rod that has an enhanced level of feel. While feel is not something that can be quantified, I can say that the rods I tried did cast both floating and sinking-head lines well. The floaters loaded the rod easily and quickly in close (which was the concern of some with the original X), which can be major issue with cruising flats fish. The power transitions smoothly and the tip holds up better than in the Xi, (which was a concern for the less-than-smooth casters trying to chuck lead long distances). The rods will aerialize as much line as the caster can handle. Sage has continued to incorporate that strong butt section, so the rod won't give up on a fish. The Xi2 rods span every line weight from 6 through 14, thus covering any fishery from Spanish mackerel and small bones up to billfish and tunas. All are 4-piece, and all are 9-footers, except the 14-weight, which is an 8-footer. All models have a full Wells grip, and a extended ("fighting") butt section, appropriately sized to the rod's intended usage. The big sticks, 11- through 14-weights, have a fore grip, although the 11- and 12-weights can be ordered with or without the fore grip. The blanks are a handsome dark blue, and finishing is absolutely first class. Prices range from $620-$695. To complement these rods, Sage has also introduced the Equator Taper floating fly line. The line has a braided monofilament core for extra stiffness in tropical heat. The tapers generally feature a longer front taper and a much longer rear taper (although each line weight has its own weight-specific taper). The design allows a good caster to aerialize a long line and turn it over with a tight loop to punch through the wind. That extra bit of front taper will then help settle the fly well. Available in line weights 6-12. $58. Tom Merritt, a fishing buddy, and I gave the 8-weight Xi2 a test on one of Tom's secret bass ponds. While a largemouth doesn't have the tug of many saltwater fish, casting to them can be every bit as challenging. Casts can range from short to long. And accuracy is paramount, if you hope to get the fly where the fish live-under overhanging bushes and docks, around stumps and logs. Tom and I gave the rod a good workout, catching a number of bass, with Tom topping me with one well over six pounds. I'd like to say it was the home water advantage, but he had just let me have a couple of casts into the same area ahead of him. The Xi2 did well. With only 20-30 feet of a WF floater out, it took a bit of snap to load it, but that's the case with any rod. Beyond that distance, the rod came on like a four-barrel kicking in on a V8, and never let up. Ross Evolution Reel Ross Hauck makes nice reels. And the FR&R staff, a tough bunch when it comes to evaluating gear (particularly for the annual FR&R awards), has consistently recognized Ross' design genius, sense of aesthetics and ability to incorporate those into a tough, relatively inexpensive reel. The Evolution is just that: the next step in Ross' legacy. What's so great about the Evolution? First off, it's eye candy. The design combines both traditional and contemporary design features with first-rate finishing in a package that will please pretty much any angler. The Evolution is a large arbor design, but by paring every excess sliver of metal, the reel is light, and doesn't create any pendulum-type momentum that too-heavy large arbor designs exhibit on light rods. In fact, the Evo's lightness makes it a perfect match for today's lightweight rods. And the proportions are just perfect for my tastes, not being too wide or deep. Internally, the Evolution shows off the best Ross has to offer. There is the sealed, zero-maintenance Delrin drag, which has plenty of adjustment. And it has both in- and out-going clicks, which Ross has tuned for just the right amount of sound-a subtle volume that creates just enough noise to tastefully alert your fishing companion that you are hooked up. I've used an Evolution (the 3, for 5-7 weight lines) for pretty much a full season now, catching everything from bass to trout, with panfish, shad, stripers and some others tossed in. I've put it on 4-weight rods, and 8-weight rods, and it's worked just fine on all, thank you. It has found a more-or-less permanent home on a favorite 6-weight rod, which is where I hoped it would be happy. It is, and I am. There are six models of the Evo, ranging from the little "0" (for 1-3 weight lines) to the 3.5 (for 6-8 weight lines). Weights range from 3.4 to 4.5 ounces and prices from $250-$330. Extra spools are available for $115-$152. Redington Rods Redington has focused on affordable rods, and I tried several of them. The Crosswater is Redington's bargain basement series, yet it is capable of some serious fishing. The series includes eight rods in 2- and 4-pieces, covering line weights from 3/4 to 9/10 (all models are rated for two lines). I tried the CW907/8, a 2-piece rod rated for 7/8 lines. With a 7, the rod was a bit underloaded for my tastes, although it cast fine. Switching to an 8, the rod loaded more quickly, but would still cast reasonable distances. The rod's action was relatively unsophisticated, yet it performed very capably. The blanks are unsanded and the rods are finished with basic yet adequate components. The grip was a full Wells type, with a composite uplocking seat. Nothing fancy, but completely serviceable. Considering this model was $79 (they start at $59), I'd say it was an excellent value. Next up was the RS2, and I tried the "littlest guy," a 5' 9", 2-piece, 4-weight model. This is clearly intended as a small stream rod, and it would work well there, although I thought it needed a 5-weight line to load it more quickly. This type of rod needs to load right away, turning over the leader and a few feet of line-a long cast would be 30 feet. The rod components and finishing were fine, although the reel seat on this little rod was proportionately too large. Again, though, we're talking about rods in the $159-$189 price range. The RS2 series features over three dozen models, from 2- through 12- weight, and in lengths from the shorty I tried up to 10-footers-a wide selection indeed. Finally, I tried two of the Wayfarer models, a 9-foot, 5-piece, 5-weight, and a 9-foot, 5-piece, 7-weight. At another step up ($195-$250), the Wayfarer models were a bit nicer all around, including components, fit and finish, and casting. There are 19 models in the series, in 5- and 7-pieces, and 2--12 weight. The 5-weight was an easy casting rod, one that I could fish happily anywhere. It carried its five pieces well, not being overly tip heavy as are some rods with ferrules near the tip. I felt comfortable casting it at all distances, which is all one can ask from a rod. The 7-weight was just plain fun; it was by far my favorite of them all. It loaded easily, was lively feeling, and was a joy to cast. Redington has covered quite a range of price points, with some rods that will appeal to a variety of anglers. And that is a great place to be. L.L. Bean Stripping Basket Some, at best, rate stripping baskets equal parts pain-in-the-neck accessory and can't-live-without necessity. I'm one of the latter. There's nothing more frustrating than not being able to control the line at your feet, either because the current carries it downstream or tangles it around your legs, the wind blows it around or off the boat deck, or in the case of sinking lines, it just disappears somewhere beneath the water's surface. I often remember the photograph in Joe Brooks' classic, Trout Fishing, of Joe holding up a brilliantly colored, leg-length rainbow taken from New Zealand's Tongariro River. Almost as eye-catching as the fish is the stripping basket Joe used to control the shooting head he was using-a cardboard box prominently labeled "Wattie's Sliced Beets." L.L. Bean has introduced a new stripping basket that isn't much more expensive than Joe's cardboard box. At only $19.50, the Bean basket packs a lot of features. It's made of sturdy polypropylene, with a fully adjustable two-inch wide web belt to hold it comfortably (and with a quick-release buckle for easy removal). Every part is completely waterproof, corrosion-proof and fast-drying. The basket itself is curved to fit nicely on the hip (or on any part of that spare tire around the waist that many of us have), and has no sharp edges to jab the wearer or catch the line. Inside there are seven cones to keep line from tangling while allowing it to shoot freely on a cast. The approximate dimensions are 17x11x6 inches. The depth is particularly significant, as it is deep enough to hold line securely, but not too deep to be a bother when wading out a bit. There are no holes in the basket. Some prefer this, so that a bit of water in the bottom can keep the line wet for better shooting. Others would rather have holes, so an errant wave or misstep won't fill the basket with water. For those, the conversion can be made with an electric drill in about a minute. I suspect Bean designed the basket with the thought that the modification would be just that simple. A neat feature is the "rod holder," simple depressions on either side of the basket where a fly rod can be set while retying a fly, wading, just waiting or, hopefully, unhooking a fish. Scientific Anglers System L2L Connectors I'll have to admit to chuckling at SA's John Stark when he first showed me the prototype of the then-unnamed quick line-to-leader (L2L, get it?) connectors, and asking him if it had been a slow design year. But John knew I was just ribbing him, and he also knew that he was onto a product that would certainly be beneficial to beginning anglers and more than a few intermediate and advanced ones as well. The L2L connectors serve two purposes. First, even if you can't tie a nail knot, you can successfully use the L2L connectors. Second, if you can't see your fly or line very well, the connectors are a light orange color, thus serving double duty as a strike indicator. The L2L connectors are easy to assemble. The leader-end connector comes pre-attached to a variety of SA trout leaders. For the line side, simply slide the tip of the line through its connector, tie an overhand knot and pull the knot tight, inside the connector. Then you just snap the two halves together. It's that simple, and SA includes a simple tool to make it even easier. About the only problem you might have is getting carried away: the "If one or two knots are good, three will be better yet" syndrome. Stick to the directions. An extra knot or two in the fly line could fill up the female connector, keeping the male side from seating completely. On the water, the L2L casts well. I tried it on my favorite tailwater, in broiling late spring heat. I was using a 4-weight, light enough that if the L2L were going to affect casting, it would. I started out with the nine-foot 4X leader, cut off the tippet, added about two feet of 6X and about that much 7X, along with a little ant pattern. I figured why not give the connector every opportunity to catch a too-long tippet or otherwise influence the cast or presentation. When I intentionally hurried a cast to form a tailing loop (a problem that never happens accidentally; not ever), the L2L never once snagged the tippet. Nor did the connector appear to interrupt the smoothness of the turnover, crash onto the water or otherwise interfere with the good casts. The L2L did float well, and it was visible. Admittedly, I was using a pretty bright line anyway. It was under conditions such as casting into the bankside shade, or when the sun went behind the scattered clouds leaving the flat water will a dull glare, that the L2L shined. It did help visibility. I also tried a few micro-nymphs on the shallow flat. Normally under those conditions, you'd prefer to watch the fish for signs of a take, but it was tough at the distances we had to cast. There, the L2L transmitted subtle nuances, although they were most often the moss or rocks. The L2L isn't designed as an easy-to-change connector; it's intended to work as long as the life of the leader. Nor is it one you'd use with a stout tippet, as it tests at around 10-12 pounds. But SA makes those points clear. The connector appears plenty durable enough to last as long as a leader butt section does, and SA limits the available leaders to those testing well below the breaking limit. About the only negative I saw is that, on a reel filled to capacity, the connector is bulky enough to bind a bit when wound onto the spool. The L2L isn't necessarily intended to replace the knot or loop-to-loop connection at the line-leader junction. It is however, designed to give beginning and knot-challenged anglers an easy-to-connect, highly visible, and smooth-casting alternative to any knot-induced frustration that lessens their fishing enjoyment. To that end, it succeeds, uh, without a hitch. L2L-$3.95; L2Lleaders-$3.75. Sage 800-533-3004 www.sageflyfish.com L.L. Bean 800-441-5713 www.llbean.com Scientific Anglers www.scientificanglers.com Ross Reels 970-249-1212 www.rossreels.com Redington Rods 800-253-2538 www.redington.com Route 37 www.route37flyfishing.com