The Flats have Heated up – Literally

We have had record, or near record heat, for closing in on a week. Yesterday, the Gulf of Mexico was a rocking 91 degrees! And the skinny water up inside the Harbor is even hotter. Hell things cook at 112! Yes, the flats have heated up – literally.

The fishing pundits say the fish have all moved out to deep water, and that anglers must do the same. They might be right. The fishing on the flats has been dismay.

Runt Red

Runt Red

Saw a few fish yesterday, including a pompano, and a school of reds on the first of the incoming. So all is not lost. Today I caught a runt red and a small snook. Maybe if we get a heavy rain at night, the flats may cool a bit. Can’t wait for fall.

 

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On the Flats with the Super Moon Blues

Did you seen the moon the last couple of night? It was a super moon. Not only was the moon full, it was in perigee. Which is to say the moon was at its closest point to the earth, some 221,765 miles away. That’s 30,ooo miles closer than a moon in apogee.

Super Moon

Super Moon

Soon after I first got down here, anglers told me flats fishing was alway poor the day after a bright moon night. Well, it hasn’t proven to be right 100 percent of the time, but its true more often than not. Believe me.

Why would a bright moon ruin the fishing the next day? The commonly held belief is that a bright moon allows game fish to feed all night. So the next day, fish aren’t hungry. Frankly that doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. In fact the opposite may be true. Under a bright moon game fish may feed less on the flats. Why? Without the cover of darknes, game fish would have a harder time catching forage. In response, game fish may actually drop off the flats to feed in the darkness of deeper water. Hence there are less fish on the flats the following day. Just a guess.

How was the fishing the days during the super moon? Awful. On the flats with the super moon blues.

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Short Fly Rods are Fun

If there is a trend in fly rods these days, it’s toward longer ones…..Switch, and Spey come to mind. These elongated sticks have their merits, I suppose, but lets take a look at the other end of the spectrum – short fly rods. These days, you rarely hear much about them. Yet they are useful and fun.

Short Fly Rods are a Hoot

Short Fly Rods are a Hoot

So what constitutes a short fly rod? In my opinion it’s any rod under 8 foot. Angler often call them Flea Rods, Flea-Flickers, Midge Rods, or Peewees. These things have been around for a God’s age, at least dating back to H.L. Leonard’s 36L Baby Catskill. Payne, Young, Orvis, Hardy, Garcia, Fenwick, Sage, Scott, Winston – to name a few – all make them at one time or another.

Some folks bad mouth short rods. Their beefs fall into three areas. First they will tell you short rods are lousy fish fighting tools. Really? Tell that to Lee Wulff. Actually short fly rods are excellent fish fighting tools as long as the anglers at the far end know what they are doing. Next you’ll hear that you can’t cast very far with a short rod. Ok, some truth there. Short rods are rarely distance machines. Typically they are most effective out to about 35 feet or so.  But, frankly most trout fishing is done inside that range. So this is not a big deal. And lastly people point out that short rods make it difficult to “mend” line. True enough. But you can compensate a bit by improving your “reach”cast, and your”curve” cast.

So why plunk down your hard earned moola on a short fly rod? Well they are clearly the choice in tight quarter; yes, you can actually do a ‘bow & arrow” casts if needed. Short rods are also super accurate. Believe me they are precision machines. And because of their low profile, they are very sleathy too. Trout are less likely to see them waving around. And the forward cast travels lower over the water, so it lands lighter.  Short rods are also easier to store, and easier to rig up. They make landing fish easier too.  And they are more fun with a fish aboard. Yeah, short rods are a hoot.

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Lunch in Matlacha

Andy's Seafood

Andy’s Seafood

Took a lady to lunch today in Matlacha. We ate at Andy’s Seafood by the drawbridge. Quiet spot this time of year. In fact we were the only sit-down customers. Andy’s has some of the freshest fish anywhere in Florida. Why? They catch their own. Fabulous grouper sandwich! Try it sometime.

Despite the tropic heat, Matlacha remains a very cool place, with lotsa color, local Art, and loaded with eccentric vibes.  Down right funky Caribbean feel. Anything goes attitude. Hippies,rednecks, musicans, anglers, and artist.  Check out this main street mannequin. And check out this store front. Now there’s an interesting mix of goods.

Matlacha Mannequin

Matlacha Mannequin

Art and Stun Guns

Art and Stun Guns

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A Heddon Riptide Saltwater Bamboo Fly Rod

Five years ago I did a piece for Fly Fishing in Salt Waters magazine, entitled Cane on the Coast. (A copy here.)  The article chronicles the early history of bamboo fly rods in the salt, covering from about 1900-1950. Which are the same years saltwater fly-fishing first came to light.

In the story, I highlighted a Heddon Riptide saltwater bamboo fly rod. It  is a 9-foot, 3-piece, 2-tip, cane rod built in the 50’s specifically for the brine.  I found it on consignment in a fly shop in the late 1980’s. The  rod was in perfect condition. I think the asking price was near $200 – half of what a high-end graphite rod cost at that time. It was a deal considering the rod had just been refinished at a cost of $100. Apparently the rod’s owner had prepared the rod for a trip to Anticosti Island, but guides and friend convinced him to swap it for something more modern.  My good luck.

Heddon Riptide Saltwater Fly Rod

Heddon Riptide Saltwater Fly Rod

Heddon Riptide

Heddon Riptide

It is a beautiful fly rod. True eye candy. Heddon cane rods do not demand top dollar from collectors, but not one argues the quality of Heddon rods. They were exceptionally well-made. The rod is tempered, which strengthen the strips and gave them a rich, deep color. The fittings are stainless steel or heavy chrome to ward off the ravages of the salt.  A half-wells grip joins a sturdy down-locking reel seat, capable of accepting a butt extension. The extension is quite long, and follows the style favored by salmon anglers in those years. A tag on the rod sock says the rod weighs 5 1/2 ounces without the reel seat. With the seat it likely falls between 6 and 6 1/4 ounces.

 

Heddon Riptide Butt Extension

Heddon Riptide Butt Extension

Prior to the 1960’s, fly lines were rated using an alphabetical system. The system was not based on line weight, but rather on line diameter, and ran from “A” to “I”.  Since weight and diameter don’t always go hand and hand, translating between the old system and the new is bit tricky. But we can venture this. An “A” line was approximately equivalent to a today’s 9-weight.  A “B” to an 8-weight line. And a “C” to a 7-weight. So on and so down to “I”.

Heddon Riptide GBG

Heddon Riptide GBG

As you can see above, the Riptide was rated for either GBG or C line. Lets call that a double taper 8-weight, or a level 7-weight. I fish it with a modern 8WF. To the left, in the photo  you see that the Riptide was also known as the model 19#. The “9” is for 9-foot. The “2  3/4 F” refers to the size of the butt ferrule, of which was probably the largest Heddon made.

In the process of doing a feature  on Harold Gibbs (copy here),  I went up to Cape Cod and interviewed Al Brewster. He was in his 90’s at the time and still very lucid. Al had a wealth of information on the early days of saltwater fly-fishing along the New England coast.  And he was good friends with Harold Gibbs. (Unfortunately Al has since passed on.) He told me that the Riptide was a respected rod in its day. And that he owned and used one at one time. He told me Montague cane rods were popular too. Gibbs preferred Orvis rods.

The Riptide followed me to Martha’s Vineyard several times. Where it saw occasional light-duty. Outfitted with a Medalist 1498 reel and an 8-weight line, I took it along Lobsterville Beach, and Dogfish Bar, in early evening, casting for striped bass. Big cane rods tend to feel a touch tip heavy, and this rod is no exception. Still it casts well and covers fish out to about seventy-five feet. When twilight arrived, I always returned the Riptide to the car. Swapping it for my trusty Sage RPL+ (here).

Believe me there is a special thrill in using antique tackle. Whether its an old cane rod or  vintage fiberglass, these rods are time machines, transporting you back to the roots of our sport. Try it sometime. I think you’ll enjoy it.

 

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The Winston Big Game Fiberglass Fly Rod

A large number of people have stopped by to look at the glass rods. So, let’s do one more. After that I’ll show you a beautiful old, six strip, split bamboo fly rod. It was one of a handful designed 60-years ago specifically for salt water.  

Several posts ago, we discussed the smallest Winston glass rod available in the 70’s and 80’s. This time around, we’ll look at the largest, the Winston Big Game fiberglass fly rod – a 9-foot, 2-piece rod  for 12 or 13-weight. 

Winston Big Game Fiberglass Fly Rod

Winston Big Game Fiberglass Fly Rod

The catalogue described it as a heavy-duty rod for truly large saltwater fish. To that task, the rod has a reinforced butt section with the necessary power to subdue fish in excess of 50 pounds. The Big Game rod wears multiple stripping guides. They are not carboloy, but of a modern insert design. It has a double uplocking, Cal Air aluminum reel seat. Since this seat positions the reel forward away from the body, no butt extension was offered. The rod tips the scales at a hefty 7.5 ounce. At this extreme end of the fly rod spectrum, fiberglass is clearly showing its limitations. Today a graphite 12-weight rod weighs two ounces less.

Ritz Grip

Ritz Grip

You could order the Big Game with either a half-wells or a Ritz grip. Mine has the Ritz. Credited to Charles Ritz – writer, inventor, and hotel kingpin – this grip has a simple continuous taper. It is smallest in diameter down at the reel seat, and then gradually expands as it climbs to meet the winding check. It is a comfortable grip and transfers power from the hand to the rod very well. I like it. And, unlike a wells type grip which has dips, the uniform taper allows you to easily reposition your hand.

I purchased this rod not out of need, but out of a desire to complete my collection. It was clear at the time that graphite was taking over and that Winston fiberglass rods were going the way of the Great Auk. I used the rod on occasion, however. From a boat, I launched very heavy sinking lines to striped bass. And, off Newport, Rhode Island I used it to cast to Blue fin tuna.

I hope you enjoyed a look at another example of fiberglass fly rod history.

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Casting a Kabuto 7-foot, 3-weight Fly Rod

It’s time to talk about casting that Kabuto 7-foot, 3-weight fly rod we looked at a few posts back. www.kabutorods.com   This rod has a progressive taper. The action is moderate (mid-flex), but faster than the older Winston glass rods mentioned on this site. That comparison is a bit tenuous, however, because the Winstons have many years of use.

Kabuto 7-foot, 3-piece, 3-weight Fly Rod

Kabuto 7-foot, 3-piece, 3-weight Fly Rod

Given how much we anglers vary (height, weight, age, strength, and athletic ability) casting is always a subjective experience. With a 3-weight line, this rod loads in the upper 1/3. And for me, the Kabuto casts comfortably. It is accurate and very much at ease out to 45 feet. I tried a 2-weight line as well. The rod cast it, but felt underlined. Unfortunately, I did not have a 4-weight fly line handy, so I tried a 5-weight next. The rod loaded much deeper – down at least to the stripping guide. Yet the rod cast surprisingly well, courtesy of the power in the butt section. Hence, a 4-weight line is definitely an option. This range makes the Kabuto a versatile rod, capable of adapting to the owner’s casting style and needs.

Finally, here are two general thoughts about small glass rods. Short rods have one distinct disadvantage; they make it harder to mend line. This quickly becomes apparent when casting a dry fly over a complex current. The remedy lies in improving your curve-cast, your wiggle-cast, and your reach-cast. Next, when an increase in distance is required, a fast tip-action graphite rod usually responds well to an increase in casting force. A slower fiberglass rod often doesn’t. And, the slower the rod, the truer this becomes. So what do you do when that big trout pops up a bit farther out? You lengthen your casting stroke-the distance your casting hand travels from front to back.

If you’re interested in learning more about these fly rods, visit this excellent site www.thefiberglassmanifesto.blogspot.com Have a great day with your glass rod.

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A Winston Fiberglass 9-foot, 8-weight Fly Rod

Ok, lets do another fiberglass rod. Hey, we’re on a roll. This time we’ll look at a larger one. It’s a Winston fiberglass 9-foot, 3-piece, 2-tip, 8-weight fly rod. This rod came from a series Winston built –  once upon a time – for salmon, steelhead, bass, or light saltwater. I used it in the brine for striped bass. It was ordered as a “‘set” with the 6-weight in the previous post. They arrived together in an 2.5″ diameter rod tube.

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Winston Glass 9-foot, 3-piece, 2-tip, 8-weight

Overall, this is a handsome rod. It has a half-wells grip. The reel seat (Cal-Air?) is very attractive, down-locking, and excepts a removable butt extension. It has a rosewood insert. The rod’s weight is listed as 4 5/8 ounces. Rod color and wraps are the same as the 6-weight I posted prior. Spigot ferrules, once again, and 2 carboloy stripping guides.

Winston Glass 8-weight Reel Seat

Winston Glass 8-weight Reel Seat

The catalogue called the action “moderate”. Fair enough. Yet I don’t believe this rod is simply progressive. To me, it feels slightly parabolic, suggesting a compound taper. Initially I lined it with a 9-weight shooting head and mono running line. Then I swapped it for a full length WF8. The WF8 handled big flies better, and caused fewer tangles -a major boon. Either way the rod effortlessly threw a long line. And it is a wicked hoot with a bass aboard. Man, you gotta love it. Still this rod saw little use for one reason only. I soon learned that a Winston glass 10-weight was a more appropriate general-purpose striper tool.

I’ve had a blast covering these “oldies but goodie” glass rods. Hope you liked reading about them. Let me know if you did. I have more Winston fiberglass rods I could cover.

If you’re interested in learning more about glass fly rods, visit this excellent site www.thefiberglassmanifesto.blogspot.com

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A Winston Fiberglass 8-foot, 6-Weight Fly Rod

Today there are a growing number of fiberglass fly rod fans. And with good reason. Glass rods can be great. So I thought it would be fun to cover another one.  Truth is I own seven Winston glass fly rods, ranging from the smallest one they made to the largest.  In this post we’ll look at a middle of the road model – a Winston fiberglass 8-foot, 3-piece, 2-tip, 6-weight fly rod.

Winston Glass 8-foot, 3-piece, 2-tip, 6-Weight

Winston Glass 8-foot, 3-piece, 2-tip, 6-Weight

This is the first Winston I bought. As with the rest, I acquired it directly from the factory. Even now, it is still my favorite all-around trout rod. From the Beaverkill to the Bow River, I have caught more trout on this rod then any other. It weighs 3 1/8 ounces. The action is progressive, and in today’s world would be listed as slow-to-moderate. Although intended for a 6-weight line, early on I found it was best in my hands with a DT5. As the seasons slipped by, I switched to a WF5 and never looked back.

Like all Winston glass, this rod is brown with red wraps, tipped in turns of clear. Built with phenolic resin, it wears a down-locking reel seat, cigar grip, carboloy stripping guide, and spigot ferrules. In the casting department, this is a terrific performer, able to work in tight, yet ready to reach out. Even after 30 years of hard use, it will easily cast 40 feet and farther.

Winston Rod Sock Label

Winston Rod Sock Label

This rod along with the Stalker – mentioned in the post below – became my streamside dynamic duo. Ready to deliver anything from a size 8 streamer to a size 20 BWO. On occasion, I carried both  down the trail. The 6-weight rode in my hand. The Stalker, in its tube, rode on my back. Most of the day, the 6-weight was the right wand. Then as the light faded, and the fish rose, I switched to the Stalker.  The duo made for a great day on the water.

If you’re interested in learning more about glass fly rods, visit this excellent site www.thefiberglassmanifesto.blogspot.com

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Winston Stalker Fiberglass Fly Rod

Available in ’70s and ’80s, the Winston Stalker fiberglass fly rods were designed to fish with the delicacy of Winston’s famous “Lettle Feller” bamboo rods; which had had been around since the ’30s, and first developed for small dry flies on Catskill streams.

20140621_Winston Stalker_0058

Winston Stalker with Two Tips

There were nine models in the Stalker series, ranging from an 8-foot, 6-inch, 4-weigh, down to the one shown in photo above – a 6-foot, 6-inch rod, for a 2 or 3-weight line. I purchased it directly from Winston eons ago – and have enjoyed it immensely ever since.

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Original Winston Rod Label

The blank is tobacco brown with red wraps, tipped with a few turns of clear. It has a spigot ferrule and a German silver slide-band reel seat. At an ounce and two thirds, it is a feather in your hand. It casts a fly with just a hint of fly line outside the rod tip. With five feet of fly line out, the rod comes alive, and delivers smoothly and accurately out to twenty-five feet and a bit beyond. It’s a joy. All of this with a 2-weight fly line. As you might imagine, the Stalker is best with dry flies size 14 on down. BWOs, Tricos, Sulphurs, small caddis, and midges, fit the bill nicely, as do terrestrials flies to match ants, and beetles. And fear no fine tippet, amigo. The rod is very forgiving. Rear right back on it. Capable of turning a bluegill into a blue fin, and a fifteen inch trout into a river monster, this tiny rod can also morph a so-so day into a memorable one. Peewees rods are very cool. If you’re interested in learning more about glass fly rods, visit this excellent site www.thefiberglassmanifesto.blogspot.com

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