RiverFly Flyfest 2015

Why you don’t need another fast-action fly rod

FlyFest 2015, and why you don’t need another fast actioned fly rod…

Our annual community fly fishing event is called FlyFest, and the weekend of events just wrapped again for another season. Put simply, FlyFest is a community event that our flyshop runs each year, to promote fly fishing through international guests, as a way of inspiring and saying thanks to our local customers. For an island that sits under ‘Down Under’, our Tasmanian fishing community is one of the most informed groups getting around, always showing a thirst for new knowledge and information around the world. I guess is a by-product of island life: we are always looking outward, rather than inward. So when our flyshop

organised for Kiwi casting guru Carl McNeil, of Epic Fly Rods, Once in A Blue Moon and Casts That Catch Fish Fame, and fellow angler Canadian-Australian April Vokey to head down for the weekend, we knew that we’d get an attentive audience. The plan was simple: April would bring the IF4 film fest to Tasmania for the first time, while Carl would head-up our casting field-day at Josef Chromy Vineyard (free of charge to our customers), and explain why you don’t need another fast-actioned fly rod. That following afternoon, we’d head back to the shop, and a heap of budding fly rod builders would learn the tips and techniques of building a fly rod, using Carl’s Epic Fly Rod Kits.

So what did we learn? Following a great pre-movie social session of pizza and drinks at the RiverFly 1864 flyshop, where April and Carl re-enforced their reputations as great fly fishing ambassadors and approachable industry ‘names’, Tasmania was introduced to fly fishing North American style. Rare golden trout in the high Sierra’s, bull trout in the Rockies, tarpon in downtown Florida, heli-fishing in Quebec, and of course Frank Patterson. But the crowd favourite of the night was definitely the roosterfish of Baja, and there was more than a few anglers wondering how the hell to get from Tassie to Mexico at the unofficial St John Bar after party.

After dusting off the cobwebs with a few long blacks on Saturday morning, we headed off to our private lake at Josef Chromy’s, the venue for our casting field day hosted by Carl. In planning the day, Carl and I discussed what we would cover: we could do another run-of-the-mill, homogenised casting clinic, or we could talk about what’s often ignored: a rundown on the benefits of slow-actioned rods, choosing the right flyline taper for the job, and then demonstrate why all five weights aren’t equal. We chose the latter.

If the hundreds of anglers I guide per year are anything to go by, the world is in love with fast-actioned carbon fly rods. So Carl’s first question to the audience was ‘why would you want a medium actioned, fibreglass fly rod’?  According to Carl, the answer lies in his favourite fly fishing, which is targeting willow grub feeders. Kiwi grub feeders, much the same as Tasmanian grubbers, are generally the largest fish in the river, live amongst the thickest of snags (willow trees), and require the most delicate and accurate presentation of a size #20 imitation. Imagine that scenario for a second, and you’ll quickly realise what would happen if you tried presenting a #20 grub, into a thicket of snags, drag free on 3lb tippet, followed by a hand to hand tussle with a 5lb trout. Basically, the angler would lose. And that is why the last thing that most anglers need is another fast actioned, carbon fly rod. Instead of saving your dollars, and walking into the local flyshop and purchasing the latest and greatest canon, we need to be matching the rod to the actual style of fishing we are planning to do. You see, fast actioned fly rods are brilliant fishing tools for high-line speed, straight line presentations, with standard or heavy leaders and flies. Flats polaroiding is a classic example where fast-actioned rods excel: a fish is spotted cruising at speed, requiring a fast presentation, often at distance or into the wind. What fast-actioned rods are not naturally good at is slack-line casts, soft-presentations, and fighting big fish on light-breaking strains. So why do we all own fast actioned rods? Owning a three, five and seven weight fast-actioned fly rod is much the same as owning a small, medium and large adjustable wrench, whereas it might just be a better idea to own a wrench, a screwdriver and a hammer. It’s about matching the right tool to the job, and the concept was well received by the attendees.

The rest of the field day was on the topic of flylines, and why we also need to specialise our flyline tapers to what flies and fishing situations we are fishing. Once again using willow grubbers as an example, a gentle-tapering flyline would be ideal, whereas the flats-fishing scenario might require a more compact head to turn the bigger fly over quickly, and into a more aggressive wind. This was a great topic, that resonated with what RIO fly line guru Simon Gawesworth had to say just a few months before, on his visit through Australia.

The talk was backed up with an open casting session, where the thirty or so attendees got to test out a range of rods: from the super-fast actioned Sage Method, right through to the medium actioned Epics (580 and 475), Orvis Helios mid-flex and Sage Circas, all matched with differing flyline tapers to further illustrate the point. It was great to be talking to Launceston angler Stephen Hill about his thoughts from the day, which went something along the lines of ‘I never realised it, but I own a four and a six weight fly rod, both fast-actioned, and regardless of weight, they are essentially the same tools. But Carl’s opened my eyes to the fact that I could just as easily own four five weight rods, and still have a completely different set of tools based on tapers and flylines.

The final event for the weekend (other than getting to be the first in the world to use the new prototype Epic Carbon Rod) was the rod build session. Using Carl’s awesome Epic Rod Built Kits (which contain everything you need to build a rod, including the blank, resins, runners, threads and jig), ten or so rod builders watched as Carl took each through the steps of building your own fly rod from a blank. Plenty of laughs were had along the way (including Carl attempting building without his glasses), and each customer left with the confidence and knowledge to build their new Epic glass rods.

From Simone and I, we’d like to offer a big thanks to the anglers in our local community who attended the various events. Both Carl and April remarked how cool it was to hang with the Tassie guys, who took them on-board as one of the extended fly fishing family. To April and Carl, a big thanks, and we can’t recommend these two highly enough as positive ambassadors for fly fishing.

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