The Kudo Awards

The Kudo Awards

Kudos ('k(y)a-dos) [Greek kydos; akin to Greek akouein, to hear] award, honor; prestige Yes, "Kudos"... a word that makes anglers hunger for

Kudos ('k(y)a-dos) [Greek kydos; akin to Greek akouein, to hear] award, honor; prestige Yes, "Kudos"…a word that makes anglers hunger for the finest fly tackle, for the true stories of great fly-fishers who are larger than life-and also for a certain chewy candy bar that is not half bad if you've been out fishing for a while. Each year at this time FR&R surveys the fly-fishing landscape in search of those pieces of superior tackle that deserve to be recognized with…a Kudo Award.In addition, ever since we began giving out Kudos back in 1985, we have also awarded Angler of the Year honors to an outstanding fly-fisher who has done something special for the rest of us, for the sport itself or for the natural resources on which fly-fishing depends. There are a couple of new twists to this year's Awards. First, instead of one Angler of the Year, for 2006 we have chosen two AOY's, for the first time ever. Both of them are men who have contributed greatly to our sport over the past few decades, but have never received the recognition they deserved for their extraordinary efforts. Secondly, a couple of products are making their second appearances on the Kudo Awards podium. One is a superb family of fly rods that first appeared in the early 1990's, remained unchanged for a long time, and then managed to retain much of their old magic following a recent total makeover by their manufacturer. The other is one of the world's finest, most durable reels-a 1997 Kudo winner that has seen only small improvements since it first caught the attention of our Awards jury. Why is this reel receiving yet another Kudo? Because after all this time, small improvements were all it needed… Along with the staff editors of this magazine, our Kudo Awards jury consisted of Jason Borger, Buzz Bryson, Brad Jackson, Steve Kantner, Rick Kustich, Ted Leeson, Darrel Martin, Will Rice, Rick Ruoff and Jack Sayers. They're some of the finest and most experienced anglers in the field, and we thank them for their efforts. Once again, we've also included a Readers' Choice Award, the winner of which was chosen by FR&R readers who voted on our Web site, www.flyrodreel.com. Angler of the Year-Craig Mathews "…a spectacular and versatile fly fisher, a keen conservationist, and one of the most passionate anglers I know." -Nick Lyons Readers' Choice Award-St. Croix Rods "Value and performance with a 'Made in the USA' label." -Paul Guernsey Frog Hair Leaders and Tippet Material "Frog Hair knots easily…knots are small…and can be fished with confidence. Frog Hair is a delight to work with-and a pleasure to fish." -Buzz Bryson Krystal Flash Fly-Tying Material "There was no question in my mind that a bit of Krystal Flash sweetened up my flies, and the trout seemed to concur." -Ted Leeson Loon UV Wader Repair "Because it is so simple and easy, you'll not hesitate to use it either." -Buzz Bryson Winston's Boron IIx Fly Rods "Driving power, plus delicacy." -Darrel Martin Simms G3 Guide Stockingfoot Waders "When it comes to one pair of waders that can just about 'do it all' (and do it very well), the G3 is a breathable benchmark." -Jason Borger Tibor Reels www.tiborreel.com Tough and dependable Thirty years ago-1976-Tibor "Ted" Juracsik introduced the Billy Pate reels. Those reels established a benchmark for toughness and durability, most notably among some of angling's toughest critics, the Florida Keys guides. Most of these guides are notoriously particular about keeping their tackle in top-notch working order; the worst time for a reel to fail is when a client is hooked to the tarpon of a lifetime. In this salty environment, some reels require daily attention to function well; others don't. Asked about the Pate's need for routine maintenance and cleaning, a guide once told me, "Sure, my Pates get washed regularly: Every time it rains. They just don't quit!" A tough, tough reel and a tough act to follow. Almost 20 years later, in 1995, Ted introduced his Tibor reel, a most fitting namesake. Outwardly, the Tibor was strikingly different from the Pate Reel. Most apparent was the larger arbor, quite a radical innovation at the time. The large-arbor spool, with its "doughnut" appearance, was certainly an eye-catcher, but everything about the reel put function before form. First, Ted didn't just increase the arbor; he retained capacity by increasing the overall diameter. Ted paid attention to the third dimension, width, as well. Some reels are too narrow, which also cuts capacity. Some are too wide, making it difficult to wind line evenly, particularly in the heat of battle. But the Tibors are perfectly proportioned, holding plenty of line and retrieving it evenly and quickly. For instance, the popular Everglades, one of five Tibor models, is designed for bonefish and redfish, and holds 200 yards of 20-pound backing, and a 7-, 8- or 9-weight line. The Riptide holds 200 yards of 30-pound backing and a 10-weight line-perfect for permit, mid-size tarpon, false albacore and the like. The other models, from the 6-weight Freestone to the 14-weight Pacific, pretty much cover the fly-fishing universe. To really appreciate a large-arbor reel, one needs to attach a strong, long-running fish to it; a bonefish would work, though one of the shallow-water tunas is better and, for sheer excitement, a tarpon on the flats tops them all. I remember when I first fished a Riptide for albacore the fall after the reel's introduction. After years of cranking them in on a standard-arbor reel, the Riptide allowed me to, well, "rip" the line in. The next spring, armed with the Gulfstream, I felt like I was gaining a measure of revenge on the tarpon (ah, but then those giants have so many other ways to beat you!). One measure of the Tibors' popularity is that the International Game Fish Association has recognized it multiple times for setting the most world records in IGFA's annual contest. An even better measure is that thousands of everyday anglers have chosen Tibors. Nor has Ted rested on his laurels since his Tibor Reels won their first Kudo Award in 1997. Although owners of the original Tibors still fish them daily without problems, the reels have evolved. Most notably, Tibor offers the QuickChange system, which allows the angler to change spools quickly and easily with no (that's zero) loose parts, other than the spool itself. The "Spool 2," an ultra-large arbor spool, is another recent option. For those who don't need as much backing (or who simply switch to a small-diameter gel-spun backing), these spools have proven popular. Responding to the clamor from the light-line aficionados, Ted introduced the Tibor Light series, the three models of which further broadened the marquee's appeal. The Pate reels set a standard of durability. The Tibors equaled that standard, and set a higher one for performance. Tibor: a really nice man, a truly superb reel. $475-$730 for the Tibor line and $330-$373 for the Tibor Lite reels. -Buzz Bryson Patagonia's Stretch SST Jacket www.patagonia.com > 800-638-6464 A lighter, stylish take on the classic When I first read about Patagonia's new, lightweight Stretch SST Jacket, I was skeptical. Surely, I thought, nothing could replace the standard, tough SST. The new jacket touted "Deluge DWR finish," "Storm HB barrier," "Houdini draw-cord hem," and other such phrases-all sounding more like hyperbole than function. The original SST Jacket, first introduced in 1989, had become an item of angling outerwear often imitated but never matched. Why would Patagonia want to change an excellent product? The answer was hidden in the jacket. Despite the advanced technical design, the new Stretch SST is clean and attractive. Garry Sandstrom of The Morning Hatch Fly Shop in Tacoma, Washington, notes that the jacket avoids the "fishy facade," something that screams "fly-fishing." Some customers, in fact, purchase it for street or travel wear. However, do not be deceived: Much of the angling function is covert. First of all, you do not have to root around in a plethora of pockets like, as Patagonia claims, a "pig after truffles." Patagonia has wisely ascribed to the "big and few" pocket design rather than the "small and many." Two generous breast pockets, tucked beneath front flaps, accommodate oversize fly boxes. These pockets, placed high on the jacket for deep wading, are zippered and waterproof. Included are two large, inside, zippered pockets, each a generous 10 inches deep and 8 inches wide. The men's back pocket, hook-and-loop-closing and top-opening for deep wading, spans the full width of the back. Y-joint sleeves add freedom for casting or rowing without adding fabric. Although offering a clean silhouette, it is a full-cut jacket that accommodates a plump vest or layers. A snap system and Houdini draw-cord hem shortens the men's model for deep wading. An adjustable billed hood, nestled in the collar, can protect face, glasses and hat. D-rings buried beneath the front flap hold retractors, flotant, and other small gear. An over-cuff creates a clean sleeve that avoids snagging lines. A hidden rod-butt holder that snaps up inside the jacket and a hook-and-loop strap inside the left top pocket cradles the rod when an angler replaces tippets or flies. And these are only a few of the hidden features. Despite all these covert goodies, the Stretch SST has a fine, soft-garment feel that drapes smoothly. Although this jacket claims traditional SST parentage, the new Stretch SST fabric is unique. The stretch fabric achieves its elasticity with a woven, crimped-yarn construction. The jacket is a full four ounces lighter (23.5 oz.) than the standard SST (27.5 oz.), and compacts to about three-fourths the volume of the standard SST. The lady's jacket is a scant 19.5 ounces. This offers a big advantage where weight and volume may be critical for packing or air travel. The women's jacket is a soft, muted gray-blue with darker trim (cyclone/cavern blue trim). The men's jacket (bog green/dove-gray trim) reminds me of evening rain in a Northwest forest-a lovely, subtle gray-green. After wearing this jacket for a season of travel, rain and wind, I found that the Stretch SST offered other new advantages as well. Patagonia has again redefined modern angling outerwear with clean, light and breathable toughness. Kudos to an attractive design and remarkable fabric. The men's Stretch SST (bog green/dove-gray trim) retails for $325 in small to extra-extra large. The women's Stretch SST (cyclone/cavern blue) retails for $315 in small to extra-large. -Darrel Martin Cortland Precision Trout Floating Fly Lines www.cortlandline.com > 607-756-2851 A line that's superbly angler-friendly What's green and tan and floats all over? The new 444 SL Precision Trout floating fly line. Cortland has incorporated a lot of intelligent features into these new lines, the most immediately noticeable of which is the color. Two-tone floating fly lines, while widely accepted in Europe for many years, have been largely ignored in the US. On this side of the pond however, we are finally catching on. Straw colored at the head, with an SL green running line, this line changes color at the maximum pick-up point-about 43 feet-so it becomes elementary to know when to start another cast. I find it especially helpful when making roll casts in moving water. In addition, the new Rocket 2 taper packs a whole lot of technology into the business end of this weight-forward line. Lighter lines-3-weights, for example-have a 10-foot front taper, a 7-foot body, and a 25-foot back taper. Heavier streamer sizes, such as a 7-weight, have a shorter 8-foot front taper, a 7-foot body, and a 27-foot back taper. The longer front taper in the lighter lines allows for the delicate turnover these outfits are designed for, while the shorter front end of the heavier lines gives a little more punch for big flies and windy conditions. Next, the newly developed Duraslik finish nearly doubles the durability of these lines. As the name implies, it keeps the lines slick through a combination of internal and external lubricants. The use of this line over time triggers an imperceptible ooze of these lubricants throughout the life of the line. In other words, the slickness is there to stay. And I'm happy to report that the Precision lines hold onto their stiffness even in Florida's heat, where I use them for bass fishing. Lots of other lines turn to linguine when pushing a popper in the Everglades sun. But wait-there's more. Did I mention that this is the first series of lines ever to be issued in half sizes? Not a gimmick with labeling: This is the real deal. Industry standards determine the weight, in grains, of the first 30 feet of fly lines. In other words, the first 30 feet of a floating 4-weight will weigh in at 120 grains, and a 5-weight at 140 grains. So the weight of a 4.5-weight Precision 444 SL falls exactly between the two, at 130 grains. This allows anglers to make subtle adjustments in tackle balance, and that's important because, given the great diversity in rod actions these days, not all 4-weights feel the same. Some are soft, and some are cannons, and not every caster can easily adapt to the nuances of such tackle. This is where the half sizes, up or down, can add quite a bit of feel to the rod. $55. -Rick Ruoff Temple Fork Outfitter Rods www.templeforkflyrods.com > 800-638-9052 Value-priced; professional performance Along with being one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet, Lefty Kreh will, if you ask him to, be as constructively critical as any angler I've ever known. Regardless of whether you're a prince or a pauper, when you ask his opinion about a piece of tackle, be prepared for the unvarnished truth. And listen; the man knows of what he speaks. Thus, when Lefty cornered me at the trade show several years ago and told me with considerable enthusiasm (think kid in a candy shop) that I had to try a new rod, I listened. Rather, I practically ran to keep up with him, as he took me straight to Rick Pope's Temple Fork Outfitter's booth. Rick, with a big grin and the same enthusiasm as Lefty, handed me a rather plain looking rod, saying simply, "Cast this and tell me what you think." I was impressed that this prototype cast really well. And when I learned Rick planned to retail them for around $150, I told him I thought he'd have a winner. In retrospect, that was a laughable understatement. Rick sent me several of the original Temple Fork Outfitter rods (now the Professional series) later that fall. I tried the 9-foot, 4-weight on tailwater trout, and quickly decided it was as good as or better than any similarly inexpensive rods. The TFO didn't feel heavy in the hand, as some inexpensive rods do, its moderate action cast well over a nice distance range and it was handsome, in a Spartan sort of way. OK, it was pretty plain, but that didn't bother me at all. I kept thinking here's a nice rod that costs about 25 percent of what a premium one does. Performance-wise, it certainly came awfully close to the top-close enough that many anglers might not be able to tell the difference, or wouldn't care; a fact well-proven by the TFO's wide popularity. After the full day's fishing, it became a favorite of mine, regardless of price. The 9-foot, 10-weight got a workout on false albacore. Its action was basically a scaled-up version of the 4-weight: a smooth caster over a wide range of distances. Rick has subsequently shared models from the Series 1, Professional, TiCr and TiCrX series with me. I, in turn, shared the rods with others, seeking feedback. And that feedback has been consistently good. Although some of my testers prefer one action over the other, or perhaps a line weight different than the listed one, all have been impressed with the value. In fact, "impressed" may be the wrong word. Anglers are both amazed and delighted that these fly rods cast well and cost as little as $89.95. At the other extreme, the most expensive model, a 12-foot, 12-weight, is $299.95. Not insignificant, but hardly as pricey as many fly rods. And, with Lefty Kreh now leading TFO's design team, you know that the rod's going to perform, whatever its price. Probably the most talked-about aspect of TFO is the warranty service. Rods break regardless of price and (at times) skill level. Car doors or wayward feet afflict us all. TFO has a very simple warranty: For the owner's lifetime, the rod will be repaired or replaced for $25. What's unusual about the warranty service is how quickly rods are repaired/replaced. Temple Fork Outfitter rods are not without critics-and many of those criticisms have to do with the rods' origins. They are made in Korea. But while many of us prefer to buy American-made fly rods, it is good to keep in mind that the ability to make choices is part of what makes America great. In addition, more and more American flyrod companies recently have been turning to Asia for their lower-price lines of rods-and in doing so they are merely continuing a fly-fishing industry outsourcing trend that began over 15 years ago with flies tied in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia and Africa, followed by hooks and reels made in Japan and England, and technical angling clothing manufactured in a number of "offshore" locations. Personally, I'd rather concentrate on the fishing, and commend Rick on making these rods available. In offering a fine product, modest prices and exceptional customer service, Rick, Lefty and TFO have made anglers and competitors alike sit up and take notice. -Buzz Bryson G. Loomis GLX Rods www.gloomis.com > 800-456-6647 The magic is still there When G. Loomis' GLX fly rods first appeared in the early 1990's, it was clear from the get-go that they contained a certain magic. Although not much to look at, these charcoal-gray fishing sticks felt lighter in the hand than just about any other high-end rod then being manufactured. As casting tools, they were sweetly, almost infinitely progressive: Even the 8-weight loaded up with little line off the tip, then kept on adding power with increasing lengths of line until you were throwing as long and as accurate a cast as you needed, or wanted. One of the greatest testaments to the quality of the original GLX is that while many, and perhaps most, Kudo Award-winning fly rods have vanished within a few years, inevitably replaced by something "newer" and "better," this 1995 Kudo Award-winner from Loomis remained virtually unchanged until about three years ago. As the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But when you are talking about technology, change does come, even to a classic. Loomis rod designer and international casting champion Steve Rajeff eventually decided that he wanted to give his customers a range of actions to choose from. He also wanted to produce a set of beefier GLX's for saltwater use, and he wanted all his high-end rods to look as good as they cast. First came the CrossCurrent GLX's, in line weights 6 through 12 (in a wide variety of configurations; $340-$725), which were introduced at the annual trade show in late 2002. Not only were these heavy-duty rods visibly stouter than their predecessors but, according to Rajeff, the top half of the rod is a half-line-weight stiffer than the CrossCurrent's classic counterpart, while the bottom half is a full line weight stiffer. "The result is a rod for more aggressive casting, for saltwater fishing, and for casting in the wind," Rajeff says. A year later came the StreamDance GLX rods, in three different rod actions, from Presentation (the slowest) through High Line Speed and Maximum Line Speed, and in line weights from 2 through 6 ($575-$645). Then in 2004, Loomis introduced a variety of fine two-handed GLX rods [see "A Tackle Showcase," January/February 2005, and "New Gear," November/December 2005]. All the new GLX's sport superb cosmetics as well as rugged, lightweight nickel-titanium RECOIL guides, which bend rather than break, then spring right back into place. While I am happy to report that diehard Classic GLX fans will still be able to get two-piece models of their favorite rods, they really ought to try the new ones first, because the new GLX's have a great deal more in common with their ancestor than just the name. For one thing, they're all made with high-Modulus GLX graphite, and for another, all the ones I've cast so far seem to have retained that effortless ability to fish both in tight and much farther out. In fact, I recently took an 8-weight CrossCurrent on a week-long trip to Labrador, where I ended up using it to throw sinking lines as far as I could, and also calling on it to make extremely short dryfly casts. Like the GLX of old, the CrossCurrent did everything I asked it to-and gave me a lot of casting pleasure at the same time. In other words, the magic is still there. As for the StreamDance GLX's, I prefer the faster actions, since they're close to what I've grown used to in the classic rods-but not everyone is as set in their ways as I am, and isn't it nice to have a choice? -Paul Guernsey 2006 Readers' Choice Award Orvis Battenkill Large Arbor and Mid Arbor Reels www.orvis.com > 888-235-9763 A proven favorite Even when you have a great product, sometimes there is a temptation to dress it up, trick it out and raise the price for next year's catalog. Orvis has a proven success in the Battenkill Large Arbor series of reels and, to their credit, the company has resisted making changes where none are needed. Importantly, they have kept the price points close to $200. Quality and a good price: That's the reason FR&R's readers voted for the Battenkill Large and Mid Arbor reels as their favorite pieces of gear for this year. They are certainly two of mine. Since their inception, the Battenkill LA's have been with me for every kind of fresh- and saltwater fishing, and I must say that I have yet to experience a malfunction. The offset drag system has handled any number of long-running fish for my clients in saltwater-and I know of no better test. I also like the rapid retrieve of large-arbor reels for working big fish and, almost as important, when just reeling up to move to a new spot. One thing that I do with these Orvis reels that may be just a tiny bit unorthodox is to go down a size in the reel from the recommended match for a particular line weight. For example, one Battenkill LA I use is recommended for line weights 1-3, but I generally use it for my 4- and 5-weight lines. That's because I don't like the look or weight of an overly large reel on a delicate rod, and the aesthetics are much more to my liking one size smaller. In order to make up for the loss of backing capacity in the smaller size, I usually go with spun gel for an equivalent amount. But just how far will a 20-inch brown run, anyway? And for anglers who pursue fish that can leave you several hundred yards away, Orvis has created a common-sense solution by introducing the Battenkill Mid Arbor reels. Featuring the same bar stock design and anodized finish, this reel has a new center-line drag system that is factory sealed, eliminating salt, sand and dust as an excuse for why the big one got away. The drag goes from full-on to off in only two turns, which is nice, and has positive click stops. As the name implies, the arbor is midway between large and standard (small), giving it about 25 percent more capacity than the Battenkill LA. Again, spun-gel backing can give you far more backing than you will ever need. If you have a bonefish go more than three football fields, take two aspirin and call me in the morning… The styling of these reels is quite nice, creating a classic look. Available in black and titanium, and a matte silver finish, the Battenkills simply look great on a rod. We all dream of the trophy that goes deep into the backing, and this reel will let you sleep better at night. $119-$229. -Rick Ruoff