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Fly of the Month: Ritt's Fighting Crayfish
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2020 PENNSYLVANIA FISHING LICENSES, PERMITS AND ...

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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 01/27/2020 (9774 reads)
By Alan Ritt

Ritt’s Fighting CrayfishThere are times when I just don’t feel inspired to sit down and tie more of “the same.” Whether “the same” means flies others and I have tied for years, or it means patterns I’ve conjured up and like to think of as more or less mine. The point is a change is needed.

During one of these restless periods a decade or so ago I was thinking to myself that I didn’t fish nearly enough large flies. You know, the ones regularly hanging from the jaws of those fish in the pictures of each day’s newest instant hero. Not that I felt like I should be that hero, but sometimes you just want a shot at a larger fish. Another streamer or leech pattern just wasn’t what I was craving though. I wanted something more interesting. My mind gravitated to the crayfish.

Though there were a lot of effective crayfish patterns around, I wasn’t convinced there weren’t improvements to be made. I needed a pattern that would swim, crawl or rest in a realistic posture and was snag resistant enough to fish around cover where crayfish are commonly found. The details of the trial and error are entertaining stories of their own (like the version that, though heavily weighted, floated in the surface film).

Suffice it to say I did come up with a pattern that has been extremely effective for many species of fish and in many types of water and fishing conditions. The pattern incorporates the hard shiny carapace and multitude of legs, antennae and other appendages of the natural. It has lots of movement in the water, even when not being actively manipulated. The hook not only rides up, but the posture of the fly places the hook eye down and the bend up in the water column to make it relatively snag free even without a weed guard (or fish guard as I think of them). And unlike all other crayfish patterns I’ve seen, the main arms and claws do not lay limply behind the fly as if it was dead, but are held high like a natural warding off a predator and collapse behind the fly when stripped just as a live crayfish holds them when swimming.

I’ve used this fly myself to catch trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegills, crappie, bullheads, silver salmon and bonefish. Others have told me of catching carp, walleye and pike as well. Below is the recipe, vary the color to match the crayfish in your local waters (there are many variations) and let me know how you do! My flies are available on MyFlies.com and also my own web site has patterns and information on my tying demo appearances, lessons, guide services and flies as well as my contact information below.
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 01/20/2020 (266 reads)
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Forum member Andy Ranieri (Krayfish) shares his knowledge, experiences, and tips fishing the regional big waters in the latest podcast with Steve and Coty. Andy spends time talking about the Delaware and other big rivers in the region. Check it out.

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The Open Air Project is a podcast by Coty Soult and Steve Sunderland. The podcast is about hunting, fishing, and the outdoors. The vision for The Open Air project is to share with people the stories of them and their guests, all while educating everyone in the process. They feel that learning is a never-ending journey, one that they intend to share with their audience. They enjoy we can learn, meet unique people, and make few friends along the way, we feel that we've accomplished our goals.

Website: http://theopenairproject.com
iTunes: The Open Air Project Coty Soult & Steve Sunderland
Stitcher: The Open Air Project
Tunein Radio: https://tunein.com/radio/The-Open-Air-Project-p1037344/
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 01/14/2020 (317 reads)
The second attempt in the last week to get on the board for 2020 turned out to be an outstanding day of fishing at Muddy Creek. Maurice hit me the night before to get out today to Muddy Creek on Monday. I quickly abandoned my plans for the Gunpowder and started packing up the SUV.

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We arrived at about 11:00 with temps in the mid-forties and cloud cover. The clouds stayed with us all day and temps moved up to the upper forties. Water was just a little off-color, running at 180 CFS and at about 46 degrees. It could be considered a normal winter day in SEPA.

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Maurice pointed out what really made conditions work is the very warm weather and rain just two days before. On January 11th the water temps reached about 51. January 12th was 65 degrees with about .8 inches of rain after midnight. This raised the water temps and changed the clarity of the water to just a little off-color when we got there. The normally sluggish deep holed trout were moving around more, with a better chance of them feeding.

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We started out pretty quickly getting some hits and trout My first fish landed just before noon and Maurice followed right along or vice versa I can't recall. I pretty much stuck to fishing a black Palmer streamer all day.

The best section of the stream for me was a longer deep bending hole. After we caught a couple, I was now drifting my streamer at the end of the hole. Frist cast is a strong bump and miss, second cast strong bump and miss, third cast bump and miss and now I got a glimpse him. The fourth time, bam he came back for more and made the hook-up! A lot of fun.

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Most of my fish were pulled out from opposite bank and the fish striking on the swing. An occasional little twitch helped give the streamer some slight action.

Maurice stuck to nymphing for the day with a bead head and wet fly dropper 18” up the line hitting more of the deeper holes and runs. We did really well catching many fish for the day. We had fall stocked bows, TU holdover browns and Mo caught a wild trout to close the day. The stocked fish looked in good shape and were all 10"-14".

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I even saw a few ~#26 BWO? coming off sporadically a few times during the day. There were a couple rises at one hole. Enough excitement for me to put on a dry fly, but really it was only a Hail Mary and had no luck.

We wrapped up the day after 4:30 and made our way back up the hill to the cars talking about one of the best days we had for a January in a long time.

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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 01/08/2020 (354 reads)
After a busy spring and early summer of fly-fishing, or at the end of the season is a good time to give your gear a little attention. Your fly line especially could use some love during the year.

The UV rays of the sun and common chemicals can break down your fly line over time. Sunscreen and the deet in your insect repellent can easily do the most common damage. After a short time even mud, salt and dirty water can weaken the effectiveness of your line unless you periodically clean and treat them carefully.

In this video, Brian Flechsig at Mad River Outfitters offers a detailed step-by-step guide on how to clean your fly line and why you should do so!

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Published by Michael Lohman [GenCon] on 01/05/2020 (428 reads)
To all PAFF members, family, and friends:
You are invited to attend and participate in the 2020 PAFF Eastern PA Fly Tying Jamboree, to be held on Saturday, February 15, from 10 AM to 5 PM. This event is being hosted by Michael Lohman GenCon . Please feel free to contact me with any questions. This event will be held at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, in Slatington, PA. Directions can be found here: http://lgnc.org/.

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Everyone is invited to attend and watch the demonstrations, get tips from the tyers, and have a great time. We particularly encourage beginner tyers to attend, and we'll have beginner instruction set up at a table. Details to follow.

As always, we need to recruit a team of volunteer tyers of all skill levels to participate and we ask that you register your willingness to give a demonstration by signing up in this thread. Each tyer will be given 15-20 minutes to tie and explain their chosen demo fly. Tyers will tie one at a time, proceeding around the room. Please choose a pattern that fits into one of the following categories, and list it in your signup post. Duplicates are OK, but try to pick a pattern that hasn't already been chosen.

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Categories:
- Catskill style dries
- parachute style dries
- comparadun and hairwing style dries
- emergers
- imitative nymphs
- attractor nymphs
- terrestrials
- wet flies
- streamers
- "other" flies

Tying on a large hook (e.g. #12) makes it much easier for the audience to see what you are doing. It really helps if you practice your "demo" beforehand, especially to keep within the time limit. Having all the materials laid out beforehand is also good. We should be able to fit about 30 tyers into the rotation. If we have extra time, that time will be used for Q & A sessions following each demo. We request that the tyers explain techniques as they go, rather than just tying the fly, and explaining afterward. This can easily make a 5-minute tie into a 15-minute tie, so be prepared.

Things to bring:
• All Tools and materials to tie your chosen demo fly. A tying lamp and any extension cords you need - there's an ample number of outlets on the walls behind the tying tables.
• Bring any food or drinks you'd like to, but save room for dinner! We'll provide spring water on ice.

It's a good idea to get there and set up your tying gear before 10 AM. We'll have access to the hall at the LGNC at 9 AM, so please be ready to start tying at 10 AM. We'll also be holding a raffle at 5 PM of donated tying materials and flyfishing gear. Any donations to this raffle are welcome, and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, as a "thank you" for allowing us to use their beautiful facility for this event.

We'll be heading over to Riverwalck's Saloon after the event for drinks and dinner. Directions to Riverwalck's Saloon can be found here: http://riverwalcksaloon.com/ Let the hostess know you are with Paflyfish, and she'll take you to our tables.

Looking forward to a fun and educational day, meeting new PAFF members, and seeing old friends and fishing buddies! Please sign up in the forum thread here, and don't forget to list your chosen demo fly. Let the games begin!

GenCon Michael Lohman
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 01/02/2020 (969 reads)
By Brian McGeehan at Montana Angler Fly Fishing

On a recent hosted trip to Jurassic Lake Lodge in Argentine Patagonia I tested 5 of the 6 rods from the 6 Weight review. I chose not to take the Sage LL along as it was definitely not designed for high winds, big flies and bigger fish. Jurassic Lake is an incredibly windy place littered with giant rainbows. I considered leaving the Orvis Helios 3F behind as well, but because it was my overall favorite after casting in the park I wanted to see if any of that would transfer in Argentina.

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To read part one of the 6 weight review click here: 6 Weight Fly Rod Review - Part One

I kept the fly lines consistent with the previous testing in the park. For the first five full days of fishing, I fished with one of the five rods for an entire day. This allowed me to get to know the rod over several hours of fishing. Not a completely fair comparison as some days were windier than others and different beats sometimes presented unique challenges. Fishing the river, for example, didn’t require very long casts and we were more sheltered from the wind, while another part of the lake called the Bay of Pigs usually required extra-long casts into a headwind. One thing I can say about all of the rods is I was impressed at how well they performed when landing the large and powerful fish of Jurassic Lake. Each rod had enough flex to protect tippets from breaking and hooks from straightening out while also bringing fish to the net relatively quickly.

Helios 3F
The Helios 3F was my overall favorite in the original 6 weight review that took place in the park. That being said, it did not perform as well at Jurassic. I felt like it struggled to cast larger dries beyond 30 feet and when I wanted to cast longer distances in wind I couldn’t get consistent powerful casts out. When I shared this sentiment with our Orvis rep, Jamie Lyle, he responded with “I prefer the F until I need the D. When comparing the Orvis H3F to the H3D I concur with Jamie that for most situations I prefer the feel of the F, but at Jurassic Lake the D, as well as other more powerful rods performed better.

Helios 3D
After casting this rod on the lawn at varying distances and fishing it in challenging conditions at Jurassic Lake I would feel very confident taking this rod out on the boat to throw larger dries and streamers or if there was wind predicted for the day. However, if I knew most of my casting was going to be at 30’ or less I might opt for another rod. The H3D was a joy to fish with at Jurassic and I am curious to see how this rod would perform with a streamer tip line and larger streamers out of a boat.

Asquith
The Asquith was probably the most surprising when comparing my time in the park to Jurassic Lake. When casting in the park conditions were calm and wind was non-existent, while the Jurassic day was one of the windiest days of my fishing career. On the lawn I rated it as my least favorite rod and really did not enjoy the shape or feel of the grip in hand. At Jurassic Lake it fished like a champ. By the end of the trip I felt like this was one of the top performing rods in these conditions, if not the very top. I could shoot out 70’ of line in heavy winds and cast large dries with ease. I also did not notice the smaller grip at Jurassic Lake for some reason and found no issue with the grip while fishing.

Sage X
Based on the fact that the X was one of my favorites for mid to long range casts on the lawn it was easy to assume that this would also be one of my favorites at Jurassic Lake. This rod performed well at longer distances, in the wind and with larger dry flies attached. It wouldn’t be my first choice for fishing Paradise Valley Spring Creeks or the Gallatin River, but I wouldn’t hesitate to bring it along as a boat rod for some of our larger rivers. For me this rod did best at mid range, good at longer distances and not my favorite when fishing short.

Sage Igniter
Unfortunately the Igniter drew the short straw with conditions while at Jurassic. The day was one of, if not the windiest day of fishing I had ever experienced. To add to the challenge I was assigned to the Bay of Pigs for one of the half days, which is the most challenging beat to fish in heavy winds at the lodge. I struggled to lay out casts in the strong headwinds at the Bay of Pigs past 30 or so feet and most of the fish could be seen closer to 50’ out. I managed to get a few casts out, but not many. Later, I was able to fish Left of the Mouth, which is much more forgiving in the wind. It performed equally well to the top performing rods. In hindsight I should have made a point to fish the igniter again on a calmer day. If I had to guess, I would have struggled just as much, if not more with any other rod on the list in those conditions. I owe the Igniter another shot and feel like it would perform well as a boat rod chucking large streamers, big dries or a heavy nymph rig.

Conclusion
In the end I learned that you cannot judge a rod by the way it casts on the lawn. It is important to have a good understanding of what the intended purpose of the rod is before making a decision. And in some cases you may not fully understand how a rod will perform in specific circumstances without first hand experience. How a rod performs is not only reliant on its design and conditions, but your own personal casting style. If I can offer one piece of advice it would be to cast prospective rods in the most realistic setting possible. If you intend on using a specific rod to fish bigger flies at 40-60’ it would be a good idea to cast at those distances when you test the rod. Additionally I would suggest tying something on to the end of the line that will more realistically simulate a fly that you intend to cast. When testing a rod at a fly shop you may want to bring your own fly with the hook cut off and request that you be allowed to cast the rod with that particular fly. Not all shops may be open to this as it increases the odds of breaking or damaging the rod. What fly line you cast the rod with is also critical as different lines can dramatically affect the overall experience. Finding a local fly shop that is knowledgeable and sensitive to these differences will increase your odds of choosing the right rod and fly line that will be a good match for the intended fishing situations.

Brian McGeehan is a Pennsylvania native and has been guiding Western rivers in Montana, Wyoming and Colorado for 20 seasons. He is a licensed Montana outfitter and owner of Montana Angler Fly Fishing based in Bozeman, MT.
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 12/19/2019 (254 reads)
Another great video from Tim Flagler at Tightline Productions with detailed instructions for tying a Hare's Ear Wet Fly.

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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 12/12/2019 (1850 reads)
Pennsylvania Trout Streams (Updated for 2020)


With nearly 16,000 miles of wild trout streams and nearly 5,000 miles of stocked trout streams, Pennsylvania has something to offer every trout angler. Within these waterways there holds a range of stocked, naturally reproducing and native trout. There are many different types of regulations depending on the stream and season. Take some time to learn where you can go to find some fly fishing opportunities in the region. The map below is just one slice of select streams across the state that are managed to hold trout. Explore these locations in the map, but there are hundreds more and not all the best spots are listed. You will find your own favorite locations by taking some time to research and do your exploring. The Paflyfish Forum holds countless posts on fishing locations and is another great resource before you head out onto the stream. There is no "Easy Button" to find the best place to fly fish, but a lot of fun in the search.



Stocked Trout Waters
These waters have significant portions that are open to public fishing and are stocked with trout by the Commission (PFBC). About streams and stocking schedules can be viewed on the PFBC Stocked Trout Waters page.

Class A Wild Trout Streams
Streams that support a population of wild (natural reproduction) trout of sufficient size and abundance to support a long-term and rewarding sport fishery. The PFBC does not stock these streams. A listing of these streams is provide by the PFBC in this Class A Waters PDF to download.

Special Regulation Areas
Waters that have tackle, harvest or other restrictions. There are a number of different regulation categories. Many of these waters can be fished year-round. See the map above for more details.

Stream Sections that Support Natural Reproduction of Trout
Stream sections supporting naturally reproducing populations of trout. A wild trout stream section is a biological designation that does not determine how it is managed, therefore, these streams may also be stocked with hatchery trout by the PFBC. The PFBC provides a PDF with the names and locations of these streams.

Wilderness Trout Streams
Wilderness trout stream management is based upon the provision of a wild trout fishing experience in a remote, natural and unspoiled environment where man's disruptive activities are minimized. Established in 1969, this option was designed to protect and promote native (brook trout) fisheries, the ecological requirements necessary for natural reproduction of trout and wilderness aesthetics. The superior quality of these watersheds is considered an important part of the overall angling experience on wilderness trout streams. Therefore, all stream sections included in this program qualify for the Exceptional Value (EV) special protected water use classification, which represents the highest protection status provided by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Additional information can be found and discussed in the Fly Fishing Locations Forum. After you go out and fly fish be sure to share stream conditions in the Stream Reports Forum.

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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 12/03/2019 (475 reads)
HARRISBURG, Pa. (November 27) – Just in time for the holiday season, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is excited to announce that 2020 fishing licenses go on sale beginning December 1!

"When you buy a fishing license now, you really get the most value for your dollar," said Amber Nabors, Director of the PFBC Bureau of Outreach, Education and Marketing. "Not only will you be covered for every fishing season for the rest of this year and next year, but if you like to buy your license at a store, you can avoid the long lines we often see around the start of the spring trout season."



All fishing licenses and related permits purchased now are valid for up to 13 months, from December 2019 through December 31, 2020. Licenses and permits can be purchased at www.gonefishingpa.com at more than 700 issuing agents, county treasurers' offices and at all PFBC regional offices.

In addition to licenses and permits, such as the trout/salmon or Lake Erie permits, customers may choose to purchase vouchers that can be given as gifts and be redeemed by recipients.

"We are always looking for ways to spend more time with our families and friends," said Nabors. "Vouchers make great gifts for the avid angler in your life or even someone new to the sport. If you want to introduce someone to fishing, buying them a license voucher can be the nudge they need to join you on the water this year."

The price of an annual resident fishing license this year is still $22.90. Multi-year options are also available in 3, 5 and 10 year increments. The most popular add-ons, a trout-salmon permit and a Lake Erie permit cost $9.90 each, or $15.90 for a combination permit. Once again for the 2020 license year, customers can purchase a collectible fishing license button for $10. This year's button features a pumpkinseed sunfish design and is customized with the angler's individual license number (buttons are not issued at the time of purchase and will be mailed to the buyer within 3-4 weeks).

In 2020, anglers who visit a license issuing agent in-person can receive the Fishing Summary book free of charge. The book, which outlines current fishing regulations and laws, seasons and creel limits, and safety information also includes advertising and coupons. An identical, digital version of the Fishing Summary book can be viewed and printed for free at www.FishInPA.comOpens In A New Window, or viewed on the free FishBoatPA mobile app for smart phones.

"Pennsylvania anglers have a lot to look forward to this year," added Nabors. "In 2020, we will be more than doubling the number of trophy-sized trout being stocked in lakes and streams across the state and extending many of our Keystone Select Stocked Trout Waters. We'll also be increasing the number of Golden Rainbow Trout that we stock prior to the spring trout season and stocking them in-season for the first time ever. The FishBoatPA app can help you keep track of stocking locations and the expanded special regulation areas closest to you."

Customers purchasing a 2020 license can once again can support their favorite PFBC programs through the purchase of voluntary permits for Bass, Musky, Wild Trout/Enhanced Waters, and Habitat/Waterways Conservation. These permits are not required for fishing and carry no additional privileges, but all funds generated through them are reinvested into their respective programs.

While youth anglers under age 16 do not require a fishing license, they must have either a Voluntary Youth Fishing License ($2.90) or a free Mentored Youth Fishing Permit to participate in various youth opportunities throughout the 2020 season. This includes the Mentored Youth Trout Fishing Days, which occur on the Saturdays before the openings of the regional and statewide seasons.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is a user-funded agency that operates primarily on funds generated through the sale of fishing licenses, boating registrations and associated fees. The PFBC receives no Pennsylvania General Fund tax revenue to support its programs.

Related 2020 Fishing Dates:

December 1, 2019 – 2020 Fishing Licenses On Sale
March 28 -- Regional Mentored Youth Trout Day (18 southeastern counties)
April 4 – Regional Opening Day of Trout Season
April 11 – Statewide Mentored Youth Trout Day
April 18 – Statewide Opening Day of Trout Season

2020 Summary of Pa Fishing Laws and Regulations
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Published by Dave Kile [dkile] on 11/11/2019 (741 reads)
By Brian McGeehan at Montana Angler Fly Fishing

No fly rod is the perfect rod on every river on every given day. I have often fallen in love with a rod on one river, fishing in one style only to curse it later under different circumstances. I have also found that over and over again that the rod I fall in love with behind the fly shop is not the one I fall in love with on the river. To complicate matters, I have lost track of the number of times that I have listened to friendly arguments between fishing guides on which rod is “best” - it is like listening to sports talk radio hosts argue who is the greatest quarterback of all time; there is really no definitive answer. With this no win outcome in mind we set six of our favorite 6-weight fly rods head to head in different environments in the hands of different anglers to at least provide some reasonable guidance to how rods actually perform on the water.


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Spoiler alert: Our heads are still spinning and we aren’t sure if we are any wiser after completing this endeavor than when we began, but we did learn a few things.

We are frequently asked, “What is the best rod for Montana fishing”. Our canned answer is a 9 foot 6 weight with floating line. This is the catch all rod that can handle our most common fishing scenarios on many of our most common fishing scenarios in Southwest Montana. No rod is perfect for every scenario but a 6 weight has enough back bone to toss smaller streamers yet still provides enough “feel” to throw dry flies on a windy day. A 6 weight is hands down the perfect big river nymphing rod. When someone is buying their first fly rod for fishing our local rivers we generally steer them towards a 6-weight for these reasons. Of course the follow up question is then “which 6 weight should I buy?”. Now the answer gets a little more complicated!

There are quite simply a lot of really great fly rods on the market today. 20 years ago it seemed like whichever rod incorporated the newest generation of space age graphite would win the “best rod” race. While rod technology including new graphite fabrics and new “nano” resins continue to help make lighter and stronger rods; simply relying on lighter and faster doesn’t always produce the “best rod”. In the early stages of graphite rod development the race was to produce stiffer and stiffer “fast action” rods. Today’s resins and graphite fabrics all have the potential to make hyper fast action rods; but that is not always what an angler needs. In the past the most expensive rods tended to be fast action with higher density graphite fibers while the price point rods were “slower action”. As rod materials and designs have advanced, most rod makers are placing more focus on application specific rods. A price point rod can often be “hyper fast” but feel like a broom stick while many rod makers are producing high end (and expensive) slower action rods that feel buttery smooth. Rod tapers are now just as important as rod materials.

The goal of our review process was in part to provide some first hand feedback on some of today’s finest top of the line fly rods. A secondary goal, however, is also to educate fly anglers on the importance of understanding that no one rod wins every race. You need to also analyze your own fishing needs and then match that to the style of rod that makes you happiest most of the time.

Important Disclaimer: Rods Feel Different On the Water!

Over and over again I find that rods just feel different when you are out fishing with them. Quite simply fishing conditions on the water are always different than on a manicured lawn. To complicate matters; how much you enjoy (or dislike) a rod also depends on how and where you are fishing. The rod that you love roll casting on a small stream might be the one you hate when trying to punch a streamer in the wind. On the contrary, the rod that everyone falls in love with behind the fly shop - that casts 100 feet and hucks a heavy streamer on the water on big rivers in the wind may feel like it has “no life” when targeting more intimate settings like accurately presenting a dry fly to rising trout. Our goal with this rod review series is to take different genres and brands of high end rods and put them into real life fishing scenarios.

Of course, when you are purchasing a rod in a shop - you can’t always take 6 or 7 different rods out for a real world spin on real world streams and rivers. So one of the goals of this review is to provide feedback on how rods were perceived test casting them on the lawn and see how that translates into “happiness” on the water.

General Overview of Rod Review Test Procedures
Our simple goal in mind was determining which fly rods “feel the best” in specific on the water applications. Basically we want to know which rods will be the most enjoyable to fish with when you are on the water. With this in mind we basically chose to ignore rod weights, swing weights, rod deflection curves and bonus points for good looks. We also decided that it is nearly impossible to quantify “feel” so we intentionally tossed out the notion of any point systems and will focus on qualitative descriptions of specific rods in specific situations. We recognized at the outset that it would be hard to crown specific winners and losers; but we also realized early on that every angler is different in their casting stroke and fishing priorities and what is most important is that you find YOUR winner and avoid YOUR losers.

Rods Tested
We opted to select 6 premium price point rods (generally retailing between $875 and $1000) with a spectrum of rods that were designed for different applications (high powered canons for long distance and wind all the way to more moderate actions that “feel” buttery even on up-close casts. All rods were 9 feet in length.

Sage Light Line

Orvis Helios 3F

Orvis Helios 3D

Sage X

G-Loomis Asquith

Sage Igniter

Line pairings
Matching a rod up with the correct line is extremely important in evaluating a rod. Most line manufactures now make both true line weight lines and “line and a half” line weight lines. For this review we used the new Orvis Pro lines in both a 6 weight “trout taper” and “power taper”. Trout taper is essentially a pure 6 weight while power taper is essentially 6.5 weight. We did some quick experimenting and felt like the Sage LL, Orvis H3F and Sage X were best matched with a trout taper while the Asquith, Igniter and H3D were best matched with a power taper. Some of these rods could use either - for example the Sage X feels a little zippier at longer length casts with a trout taper but has more feel at 30 feet with a power taper.

Baseline - Casting on the Lawn
We can’t emphasize enough that trout don’t live in grassy fields. Casting rods without water only provides a small glimpse of what rod you might actually truly enjoy in a fishing scenario. This is, however, where most folks actually test rods before buying. A grassy lawn was also the easiest location to jump from rod to rod with multiple people trying multiple rods. So even though we strongly caution you to choose a rod solely because of how it feels “behind the fly shop”; we did want an even playing field and a baseline to at least begin the comparisons.

What to avoid when “lawn casting”
When you are testing a rod in an artificial setting like a yard or an ally behind a fly shop; what seems to always happen is the caster quickly spends all his or her time firing longer casts that in reality are MUCH longer than what they would actually cast on the water (at least in trout fishing scenarios). Even on larger waters, most of my casts are under 45 feet when I am fishing and on smaller waters I rarely cast beyond 30 feet. Once you gun too much line out it is difficult to manage and your catch rates go down. Fishing in the grass also seems to provide a bit of a depth perception issue. What seems like a “normal cast” on the water seems absurdly short when you are on an expansive sea of grassy lawn. Conversely, a nice “medium” length cast in the grass is actually much longer than you often need to make on the water. Finally, if you use a rod for nymph fishing and streamer fishing you are also adding a fair amount of weight into the system (a common use for a 6 weight) which definitely changes how a rod casts when in application.

One of the traps you can easily fall into when testing rods on lawns is having a bias towards the rods that feel the best at longer distances. It is just simply “fun” to gun longer cast when in a big open field. This is compounded if you have a buddy with you since you might look a little silly make lots of short “trout fishing” casts with all of that green to play with. To avoid this tendency we set out a series of cones at 30, 45 and 60 feet. Many trout fishing casts are under 30 feet and 60 feet is about as far as you would ever actually cast in a real life fishing scenario. We didn’t even let anyone cast beyond 60 feet even though some of these rods can easily shoot out to 100 feet when in the hands of a competent caster.

Sage Light Line

Brian:
The LL was my “in the grass” winner for short casts. This rod felt very different than every other rod I tested. The cool aspect of the LL series is that you are using the entire rod on every cast, even at short range which gives it a very smooth feel (until it is overloaded). The rod loads easily on short casts and flexes all the way down to the butt. When I ran back and forth between rods and only focused on short casts up to 30 feet this was the rod that I looked forward to casting the most. You can really “feel” every cast. It has a silky, relaxed feel and is very enjoyable. As I pushed the rod out to longer lengths I quickly started to max the rod out. When I was working hard and focusing I could still make 60 foot casts with the LL but I really needed to pay close attention to my timing. So on one hand while the rod is “easy” to cast close in, it felt like work at longer distances. The sweet spot for me was definitely at or under 30 feet. The good news is for a lot of my trout fishing, especially when wading smaller rivers like the Gallatin I am often making shorter casts. So this rod was my favorite under 30 feet. At 30 feet it was probably a tie with the Orvis H3F which also still had “feel” up close but felt zippier and more powerful. I still enjoyed the rod at 45 feet but I had to really make sure my timing was right - although it through great loops when I was on my game. I felt like if there was any wind or if I was hucking any weight at 45 I might be in trouble. At casts longer than 45 the rod wanted to collapse a bit and I was flexing right to the handle. Long casts aren’t really what the LL is designed for but that was certainly confirmed on the grass.

Casey:
Casey also loved the feel of the Light Line up close and compared it to “grandmas cobbler”: it just makes you feel good. Casey waxed poetic on the LL on shorter casts - just a “smooth rod” when it wasn’t overloaded. On longer casts he started to get into trouble and had to “push the rod” resulting in a tendency for tailing loops if the timing wasn’t dialed in.

Pierce:
Pierce also voted the LL as the best rod under 30 feet “The nine iron of fly rods, everybody hits it great in close. It felt very accurate at typical fishing distances, a great stick”. Pierce quickly acknowledged that the LL is very much an application specific rod and gravitated to the other rods with more of a tip flex at longer distances. Even though he readily admitted the shortcomings of the LL at longer lengths; Pierce voted this his favorite rod - “Sure it isn’t the most efficient rod for longer casts or in the wind but this is a “fun rod” and I like a fun rod when I’m fishing”.

Matt:
Matt wasn’t feeling the love of the LL. He self admittedly prefers a fast action rod and this was his least favorite rod of all we tested at every distance, even up close.

Zach:
Zach also really enjoyed the LL at 30 feet and under and placed it as a tie with the Helios 3F at close distances. He felt that the rod started to bog down quickly once he extended casts beyond 30 feet and for longer casts.

Jimmy:
Jimmy also voted the LL as one of his favorites at 30 feet and under. He placed the LL and Helios 3F at the top of the “happiness” factor when rod in hand for close casts with a slight edge to the LL. At 45 feet Jimmy was still impressed with the LL and felt that he still had some power at mid range casts with it but he rated it 2nd behind the Orvis H3F at mid range in terms of favorites; so still a strong contender out to mid range for him. Jimmy also felt like the LL dropped off quickly once pushing beyond 45 feet.

Louis:
Louis had glowing praise for the Sage LL and rated it as his favorite rod both at close range and medium ranges. He enjoyed the slow, buttery smooth loops that the rod casts. It should be noted that Louis also has an aversion to fast cars, fast woman and fast fly rods. He freely admits that he works hard every morning to fight back the desire to dress in full tweed.

Orvis Helios 3F

Brian:
This was an impressive rod and probably my overall favorite in most situations on the lawn. It was the only other rod that felt really good in my hand on short casts. I would say the Sage LL was still the most “fun” at super short range but by the time I pushed out to 30 feet I enjoyed the H3F equally as much as the LL. The really cool thing about this rod is that it seems to have a fairly wide “sweet spot”. At 30-45 feet the rod really excels and felt the best in this range of any rods I cast. While some of the other rods got the nod at 60 feet, the H3F still retained good power at longer range and was still pleasant to cast. Although I did have to pay a little more attention on longer range casts, my loops were still very tight and I never felt like I was working too hard at distance. I mostly use a 6 weight for throwing bigger dry flies or nymph fishing larger rivers. In these scenarios I generally am casting between 20-45 feet and this is the heart of the sweet spot for the H3F.

Casey:
Casey felt that the H3F performed most similar to the Sage LL, except it had a faster feel without as much flex at the handle as the LL. He described the rod at feeling great on shorter to mid range casts, but prefered several of the other rods in the test beyond 45 feet.

Pierce:
Pierce also felt like the H3F was the only other rod outside of the Sage LL that still felt really good on shorter range casts. “I felt like the Helios 3F had more power at mid range than the LL but for my casting stroke I had to work a little harder on longer casts. So all in all the H3F has more versatility than the LL and extends well to mid range but I preferred some of the rods with more tip flex once beyond 45 feet.”

Matt:
Matt also acknowledged that the Orvis H3F was one of the best rods in the closer ranges typical for trout fishing casts. Matt still prefered the “fastest” tip flex rods at all ranges, even short range. Matt was still impressed that the rod had a lot of power for as much “feel” as it offered and it was easy to cast tight loops.

Zach:
Zach ranked the Orvis H3F as his overall favorite rod in the grass casting session. He described it as “just felt great in my hands”. Zach really enjoyed the H3F both at closer range as well as mid range. At longer ranges some of the other rods outperformed the H3F but Zach still felt it had enough power and enjoyed the smooth feel and tight loops, even at 60 feet.

Jimmy:
Jimmy also rated the Orvis H3F as his overall favorite rod of all of the contenders. In closer range under 30 feet he placed it second in fun factor behind the Sage LL and considered it the only other rod in the group that still was enjoyable at close range. At mid ranges of 30-45 feet Jimmy felt that the H3F was effortless to cast, producing tight and accurate loops. At longer range Jimmy reported that the H3F still was throwing tight, accurate loops. He felt that it didn’t have quite as much power as a few of the other rods at 60 feet but still had plenty of “juice” to get it done at longer range.

Louis:
The smooth yet zippy Orvis H3F put a smile on Louis’s face and met all his criteria for a castable fly rod. “If I was going to buy one rod in the group this would be it, I like a nice moderate action rod that I can still feel in close but that has enough guts to make a longer cast when I need to. Casting this rod is the next best thing to listening to hockey on AM radio.”

Sage X

Brian:
The Sage X is another one of those rods that feels great in your hands and seems to effortlessly cast tight loops, especially at mid range casts common on larger Western rivers. I felt like the Sage X had a progressive action similar to the Orvis H3F although it seemed to have a narrower sweet spot. Although the H3F felt smoother under 45 feet once my mid range casts extended past 45 feet the Sage X was exceptional. The Sage X also was similar to the Orvis H3D although its sweet spot was at slightly closer range than the H3D which outperformed the X at longer casts. So while the X doesn’t have as much feel on the very short casts once you get to 30 feet you are able to start to load the rod and at longer mid-range casts it is a smooth canon. At 60 feet, just like the H3F I was still able to throw tight loops but I had to work a bit and make sure my timing was dialed in. This struck me as being a great all around 6 weight, especially if you are regularly nymph fishing larger waters or want a streamer stick for small to mid sized streamers.

Casey:
This was Casey’s favorite “one-quiver” rod based on lawn casting results. It felt great at mid range casting distances but still had enough power to extend out to longer trout fishing range casts. It didn’t provide as much feel in close as the LL or H3F but it also didn’t feel like a broomstick either.

Pierce:
The Sage X was Pierce’s favorite rod for mid-range casts between 30 and 45 feet which is a great range for trout fishing on many of the bigger rivers that we spend a lot of time on. It didn’t have the power of the Igniter or Asquith at long range and Pierce questioned how it would perform as a streamer rod or in wind, but was confident it would still have enough back bone to still get it done if the chips were down.

Matt:
Matt gave the Sage X a thumbs up. As a fan of faster action rods he felt like the X could still had enough backbone and zip to match his casting style yet offered some smoother casts up close than some of canons like the Igniter.

Zach:
Zach also enjoyed the Sage X at mid ranges but felt that it didn’t offer much feel at closer range and he struggled with it a bit at longer range. So in its sweet spot it zips line effortlessly when at mid range; but he felt the sweet spot was just a little narrower than some of the other rods he cast.

Jimmy:
Jimmy didn’t get a lot of love to the X at distances under 45 feet and felt like the LL, H3F and H3D all felt better in close casting scenarios and even to typical mid range trout casts. Once his casts extended past 45 feet the X quickly jumped to the top of the pack and where he had it as a tie with the H3D for mid range casts and beyond. He felt that for his casting style the Orvis H3D and Sage X compared very similarly overall.

Louis:
Louis appeared clearly distressed when casting the Sage X. We couldn’t quite make out his words as he mumbled to himself, but it appeared that some sort of spiritual battle was taking place within his inner being as the seductively smooth loops the rod cast conflicted with his aversion to the deceptive line speed it produced. Although he was still smiling at 30 feet, he appeared to break into hives at 60.

Orvis Helios 3D

Brian:
The Orvis H3D is a smooth yet powerful rod. I had no problem making casts to 60 feet and had good loop control while doing so. The 3D felt just a little more effortless than the Sage X at the longest casting ranges in our test (60 feet which we felt would is about as far as we would practically cast in a trout fishing scenario). At 45 feet the Sage X feels a little smoother than the 3D but they were similar. For short casts there is still some “feel” in the 3D, but the LL and 3F definitely surpassed it on the fun meter when up close and personal. Although the H3D performed very well at 60 feet, when casting the Igniter and Asquith those rods felt like the line wanted to just keep going. Although casting beyond 60 feet is never really required the power to do so often comes in handy on big wind days. I felt like the Orvis H3D struck a nice blend of having great “feel” at mid ranges with great power potential for punching wind. My gut feeling was this would be a great all around big river rod for nymph fishing.

Casey:
Casey felt that if he had to buy one of the rods after just casting it in the grass the H3D would be a top contender. He felt it was most similar to the Sage X and gave the Sage X higher marks at mid range while the H3D felt better on longer casts. For fishing larger Western rivers like the Madison and Yellowstone he felt like the H3D would be a great match when you are frequently making mid range casts with some wind to contend with.

Pierce:
Pierce enjoyed the H3D. He described it as fun and zippy at 45 feet when it started to come to really come to life. It matched his casting stroke well. Although it wasn’t as fun at close range as the LL or H3F it still retained some “feel” on closer casts, but was mostly just loading the tip. At mid range it felt smooth and powerful. On longer casts it flexed deeper into the rod but still maintained good power. Pierce described the H3D as a great design for a 6 weight on Western waters where nymphing heavier stoneflies with some wind on bigger waters is often the norm.

Matt:
As expected, Matt enjoyed the H3D based on his affinity for faster action rods. Matt felt that the rod loaded well at mid range but still had enough power to extend to longer casts. He felt the sweet spot was somewhere around 45 feet when casting in the grass without weighted flies, streamers or nymph rigs.

Zach:
Zach felt that the Orvis H3D offered a good blend of power and touch. He noted that the rod is underloaded at close range casts, but starts to feel smoother on casts beyond 30 feet and it felt better and better as casting length increased out to 45 and 50 feet. At 60 feet Zach described the H3D as still providing plenty of power although not as effortless as the Sage Igniter on the longest casts.

Jimmy:
The Orvis H3D made a good impression on Jimmy during our lawn casting tests. It struck him as a great overall rod with a lot of power. Like several of the other guys Jimmy didn’t feel like it was quite as smooth as the LL, H3F or Sage X on closer casts but it felt very smooth on mid range and long range casts.

Louis:
“NO...just no! Can someone please bring back the Light Line, or better yet some M#%%F&%G Bamboo? And how many times do I need to ask for a dry martini around here?

Sage Igniter

Brian:
The Igniter is an impressive rod for what it is designed for - power and distance. This is light and balances well in the hand but feels too stiff on short casts where there wasn’t enough line to load and flex more than just the tip. At 30 feet you can start to load the rod but you need to pick up your casting rhythm to do so. This accelerated casting stroke and high line speed required a lot of focus when up close to make sure I didn’t punch the rod too much. At 45 feet I still had to accelerate my casting rhythm to generate a high line speed to feel the rod but once adjusting my casting stroke the rod felt great and I had good control.of loops and accuracy. The igniter just feels better and better as you make longer and longer casts. At 60 feet the rod is effortless - the line just seems to come flying out of the rod and I still had great accuracy. I had to restrain myself from making some hero casts as the rod felt like it wanted to just keep going. The Igniter is definitely an application specific rod - if you are going to fish it up close you may need to line it up an entire line weight (7weight). If you love fast action rods, have an accelerated casting stroke or need to punch wind or make longer casts on bigger water this would certainly be rod to consider.

Casey:
Casey wasn’t feeling the love from the igniter on shorter casts. He described it as feeling really touchy on short casts, with the rod mostly casting from the tip. The rod felt progressively more forgiving as casting lengths increased. Once beyond 45 casts the rod really started to shine and felt like a Kentucky Derby Pony. Although this wasn’t Casey’s favorite all around rod, he felt like it would be the go to rod in windy conditions or when longer casts are needed.

Pierce:
“I like a fast rod, and this rod is just like a sports car. It might be overkill in a lot of situations but I love the idea of having the rod that I know can always get it done, even on longer casts and in the wind. This is definitely the consummate parking lot rod!”

Matt:
Also a fan of hyper fast rods, Matt loved the igniter and placed it as his 2nd favorite rod, just behind the Asquith. Matt also agreed that the rod really shined at the longest casts but he also enjoyed it at mid range too. It was also interesting to watch Matt’s casting stroke which was similar to Pierce’s with a very aggressive, faster cadence using a lot of body and extending the casting hand far from the shoulder.

Zach:
Zach really liked the Igniter. It was his second favorite behind the Orvis H3F. He acknowledged that it wasn’t great in close but it made the longer casts with ease. “If I needed a rod to punch wind or make a longer cast - at least in a big grassy field with no trout or wind, I would pick the Igniter”.

Jimmy:
Jimmy acknowledged that the Igniter had power it spades. It wasn’t one of his favorite “fun” rods but he also acknowledged that he was having a hard time evaluating it in a grass field and felt that he needed to cast it “with some bunny fur on the end”. “I’ve got a feeling I would like this rod a lot more on the big water casting big bugs”.

Louis:
Louis wasn’t a fan of the Igniter: “Let me reiterate - I really, really don’t like fast cars, fast women or fast fly rods...and where did I set my tweed jacket?”

G-Loomis Asquith

Brian:
The Asquith is an impressive rod and one that was arguably the most polarizing among the rods tested with some guys loving it and others rating it as their least favorite. As I was working my way through the rods we had laid out, the Asquith was the first of the “fast action” rods that I picked up. The power the rod offers is substantial and you immediately want to just start gunning longer casts. It handles even the longest casts well and at 60 feet the line wants just keep shooting. At shorter casts the rod still isn’t completely a dead stick but, this was not its forte. It wasn’t as buttery smooth as the LL, X or H3F at 30 feet but you could still load it by picking up your casting cadence. This rod somehow “feels” different than all of the other faster action rods that punch well at mid range and long range. It was hard to place a finger on why but when I was switching back and forth between the X, H3D and Igniter I noticed more similarities than differences. When I picked up the Asquith after spending some time bouncing back and forth between the other faster rods in the group it was noticeably a different animal. Often when I switched back to the Asquith I wasn’t impressed - but then if you kept casting you slowly adjusted and kind of thought “hmmm”. After little more casting you really started to enjoy it. I think part of the reason it feels so different is that it is the only “power rod” that offers a smaller cigar grip vs. the half wells grips on the other rods. So right away the rod feels different in your hand simply due to the grip. I tend to really like a cigar grip on 6 weights while other guys prefer half wells. I also had some previous bias with this rod as I spent a week with it in Argentina including punching big dry flies at Jurassic lake in crazy wind where it performed magnificently. I kept trying to envision wind blowing or big bugs on the end of my line. I left feeling a little perplexed by the Asquith...or maybe intrigued. There is no question that this rod offers power in copious abundance; you need to spend some time with it to fully take it all in. After a session on the grass my interest was piqued and I felt like I needed to get the rod back out onto the water.

Casey:
Casey didn’t love the Asquith and placed it near the bottom of the rods we tested. Interestingly Casey felt that the rod was enjoyable up close but he lost control with it once he got passed 40 feet.

Matt:
"This was hands down my favorite rod, I liked it better than every other rod at every distance. It felt smooth up close but still had plenty of power at 60 feet. It was easily the best rod I’ve ever cast.”

Zach:
Zach felt that the Asquith was the least forgiving of the rods he tested. “It seemed to magnify any casting errors I made”. I couldn’t really “feel” the rod until longer distances.

Jimmy:
Jimmy rated the Asquith as his least favorite. He felt like the rod didn’t feel great in his hand due to the smaller cigar grip. “I’ve got big hands and need a big grip, the half wells grips just feel better”. Jimmy did acknowledge that the Asquith had loads of power both at mid range and longer casts.

Louis:
Unfortunately we weren’t able to receive feedback on the Asquith from Louis. When presented with another fast action rod he entered a catatonic state. After reviving him with smelling salts we sent him home early for the day.

Summary
We all felt like parking lot heroes after spending a day on the lawn with some great rods. Having the opportunity to switch back and forth from one rod to another was a pretty cool way to get a feel for the potential each rod had. All of us felt like we really need to get these rods on the water to fully evaluate them, but a few trends certainly developed. First off it was clearly evident that no single rod was going to be the “best rod” in every scenario. Each rod had “sweet zone” where it felt really terrific. In general the rods that had lots of feel, with a smooth feel in closer distances tended to feel a little overpowered when casting at long range. Others cast at distance with control and ease but lost their “feel” and didn’t load well in close.

Our second observation was that all of us had slightly different casting strokes, which greatly impacted how we perceive the different rods. The guys with aggressive, full body casting strokes tended to gravitate toward the fastest action rods while those of us with a more compact stroke sought out the moderate action rods as our favorites.

Our main takeaway is that you really need to evaluate what kind of water you will fish most often, as how you “like to fish”. You also need to determine what you value most - do you want a rod that will always get it done in tough wind even at the expense of not feeling as smooth in tighter range; or do you prefer a rod that feels like butter at closer trout casts yet takes a lot of work when the wind kicks up? Finally you need to cast a rod at the distances you most often fish (don’t get caught into parking lot hero casting) and find one that matches your casting stroke.


Brian McGeehan is a Pennsylvania native and has been guiding Western rivers in Montana, Wyoming and Colorado for 20 seasons. He is a licensed Montana outfitter and owner of Montana Angler Fly Fishing based in Bozeman, MT.

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