Art Flick Chapter Trout Unlimited

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Home Member Gear Picks/Reviews

Post Date: July 27, 2015

Gear Review:  Cortland Line Trout Boss HTX

 The latest fly line purchase in my quest for the “Best” five weight trout fishing line was the Cortland Trout Boss HTX. This is the second generation of the Trout Boss with some alterations in taper, coating, color and performance. I strung up the line, did some lawn casting with several different rods, and then fished it for several weeks to see how it performed on the water in real world fishing conditions.

I don’t think that I could write a fly line review in good conscience without including a bit of educational information about fly line tapers and fly rod casting mechanics. At the same time, I don’t want to make a complicated subject even more confusing. The drastic variability between weight forward fly lines of the same AFTMA/AFFTA standards is confusing to say the least. To understand fly lines in detail is beyond the scope of this review, but I will try to provide the reader with a basic understanding of how various line characteristics affect how fly rod/line combinations feel and perform as I discuss the TB HTX. 
The first thing that I would like to discuss is the purpose of this line. This is a weight forward 5 weight floating fly line that I purchased to fish primarily the Catskill free stone rivers and any other medium to large trout streams & rivers where good fortune may take me. My first priority is the presentation of dry flies to rising trout under a variety of environmental conditions. My second priority would be the casting of nymphs and small streamers.  I’ll start with the simple fly line characteristics and progress to the more complex.
A great fly line will slide nicely through the guides and float well out to the tip not only on day one, but on day 10 of a fishing trip. This is for me a Utopian request. All new fly lines zip through the guides on day one. Most seem to get sluggish, dirty and the tip starts to sink after a week on the gunky West Branch of the Delaware River. I’m not one of those guys who cleans his line at the end of the day when on a fishing trip. I clean it when it is necessary and hopefully that isn’t very often. The Trout Boss HTX does not disappoint here. I think that this is the lowest maintenance line that I have owned. After some lawn casting, a few local day fishing trips, and two one-week fishing trips, the TB HTX line was still floating and casting well enough that I didn’t feel a need to clean it. 
Next up is color. Everyone has their preferences and opinions on line coloration, and I don’t believe that it makes much difference to the trout. I do have a theory (which is not supported by any scientific evidence) that it is easier for a trout to see a dark line silhouetted against the backdrop of the sky than a light one. Also I do prefer a line that I can see on the water even in low light. That means a light colored line. Bright orange is my preference for teaching but I don’t like it for fishing. Even if it doesn’t scare the trout, it scares me. To me it seems out of place on a beautiful trout stream. White lines may be more visible against the backdrop of the trees, mountains, or whatever else is behind it. The Trout Boss HTX has chartreuse head. It’s called something else but it is chartreuse. It’s a little bright for my liking but not too bad.  My favorite is the light green of the 444SL or a pale yellow line.  The running line is light gray and the transition is easily seen. That is a good thing. I did note that while fishing the West Branch of the Delaware one evening and casting to a trout 50 feet across the river, a nice brown began to rise twenty feet out where my line had been continually drifting over.  I guess the fish didn’t notice the bright chartreuse color.
Fly lines are rated by the AFFTA (American Fly Fishing Trade Association, Formally AFTMA) by measuring the weight in grains of the first 30 feet of fly line. This was the length of most weight forward fly line heads back in the day.  Nowadays there are different length heads and tapers for every species of game fish on the planet. Tapers vary from most of the weight being near the front of the head to most of it being in the rear. Multiple colors, textures, line densities, and outrageous claims of perfection by many manufacturers must be nothing short of bewildering to the novice fly fisher looking to buy a fly line. The Trout Boss HTX is 140 grains at 30 feet which means it is in the range of a true five weight line. It has no fancy texture but has a nice, quiet, smooth coating which feels neither too soft nor too stiff and is without memory issues.
Let’s look at the anatomy of a fly line and how its characteristics affect performance. Weight forward fly lines are made up of a head and a running line. The head is made up of a tip, a front taper, a belly, and a rear taper. This is followed by a thin running line. We will start at the leader end. This is called the tip. Most often a thinner section of the line of about six inches to a foot long. This is the transition point between the line and leader. If you are not getting good turnover with a properly executed cast, cut the tip off and tie the leader to the end of the front taper with a nail knot. Most often there is a welded loop on the end of the tip for easy loop to loop line-leader connections.  These loops are very handy if you change leaders often. They don’t slide through the guides easily which can be a problem with landing big fish on long fine leaders. The Trout Boss HTX comes with a loop which cracked behind the weld after about a week of fishing. This was not a deal breaker. Cut the pre-formed loop off and learn how to tie a nail knot. You will be a better fly fisher for it.
Moving back we have the front taper. Narrower toward the tip and thicker moving back toward the belly. A long front taper provides a more delicate delivery of the fly since the more massive area of the line is farther back away from the leader and much of the energy dissipates as the line gets thinner as the line unrolls to the target. A shorter front taper provides more mass close to the leader for easier casting at close range and stronger turnover. I prefer a long front taper for trout fishing with dry flies. Tip: If you can’t feel the rod “load” at close range, try casting using the tip of the rod with a narrower casting arc instead of that old 10 o’clock-2 o’clock motion. You will then create nice narrow accurate loops and appear that you know how to cast. The Trout Boss HTX has a nice longish front taper of about 10 feet. This turns over leaders nicely even with some wind. I generally fish with leaders 12-18 feet long and this line does the job well. Even on a breezy day fishing the Delaware with a 15ft 6x leader and a small emerger pattern, laying out 50 foot casts to rising fish was a pleasure.
The belly (or body) of the line sits between the front and rear tapers. On the Trout Boss HTX it is 29’ 6” which is on the long side. Fishing with the belly and front taper of the line within the tip ring of the rod is like fishing a double taper out to about fifty feet or so and it has all of the same wonderful benefits. Excellent loop control, awesome roll casting, easy mends in the air and on the water, and the ability to lift all of it off of the water. With a shortened leader it delivers small to moderate size streamers and indicator rigs without much trouble. The rear taper is of moderate length at about 6 feet followed by a 10 foot section of “handling line” which is a slightly thicker section of the running line. This eases the transition from the head to the running line and is nicer in hand for hauling. The color change from chartreuse to gray after the rear taper is a good visual cue to know where the head ends. This is helpful to shooting lines to distant targets. I usually like a medium length belly and a long rear taper. I didn’t detect any abrupt step down when feeding line out. The line will shoot well with just the head out of the rod tip but also handle some overhang (running line out of the tip ring) pretty well without hinging. I’ve had all of the head and the handling line outside of the tip and loops remained reasonably stable. The running line is relatively thin for good shooting ability. 
So, Is this the best five weight for you? Of course I can’t answer that for you. Any line that excels at one extreme is going to falter at the other end. A great rod/line match makes casting to fish a beautiful thing. If possible always try to cast the line with your rod at the distances that you fish before you buy. There is no perfect line for all types of trout fishing in all conditions. This line offers a good middle ground for most trout fishing techniques with the edge going toward long casts with dry flies. Small to moderate size streamers and nymph rigs are handled pretty well but there are better lines for that if that is your primary technique or if you like to throw lead around. If you are like me and fish dry flies whenever possible but still want to nymph and streamer fish when necessary, this is a good choice. If you like to make long graceful casts across the river to the far bank, this line may be your new best friend. If you like to shoot line at close range, there are better choices. If you are lazy like me and don’t want to clean your line on a 10 day fishing vacation, you will love this line. If you don’t want to hear your line singing through the guides while you are false casting and wear the skin off of your hands, you will appreciate this one. If you like a chartreuse color fly line. Here it is.
 Tony Ertola

IFFF Certified Casting Instructor
NY State Licensed Fishing Guide
Custom Rod Builder
Gear Geek Extraordinaire

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Post Date: April 19, 2015

Gear Review:  Redington Sonic Dry Fly Waders

 Breathable waders, in my opinion, may be the greatest technological advancement in fly fishing gear in my lifetime.  Their lightweight, airy feeling and freedom of movement are amazing compared to my old rubber or neoprene waders of yesteryear which were heavy, bulky, and left me clammy, sweaty, and uncomfortable. My first few pairs of breathable waders were inexpensive models that if treated with care, would endure a couple of fishing seasons at best. They were worth every dollar spent!

Nowadays, I prefer to purchase higher quality gear that I can depend on. Since I have crested “The Hill” and I am now in my nifty 50’s, I like a few bells and whistles that make things easier for me when out on the river. One of these new indulgences is zippered waders. This is something that I thought I’d never buy. I had little faith in the waterproof zippers and heard rumors of problems with them. I’m happy to report that these issues seem to have been resolved in the present generation of Redington’s zippered waders.

Well, it’s come to the point for me to either buy zippered waders or give up drinking coffee, and I was not about to do the latter. It is such a hassle when visiting the streamside vegetation, to have to remove my vest and drop my waders down whenever nature calls. Nothing is as obvious as to what a fisherman is doing with his waders down around his knees when standing in the bushes on the bank of the river. At least with zippered waders, one can keep the vest on and waders up and pretend to be looking for insects or berries. Prior to buying zippered waders, I tried the Orvis Sonic Dry convertibles for the same purpose. They are very good, super-light waders, but they do not comfortably pull down low enough for my intended purpose. Also the booties are too big for my feet in the needed tall size in that model.

On to the Sonic Dry Fly wader review.  My first impression when taking them out of the box is that they are light weight but seem sturdy and well made.  They are heavier duty but lighter than most other waders that I have worn. These waders fit me perfectly. There is no extra bulk and I have full range of movement. Internal and external pockets are well designed as are the belt, loops, and suspenders. The neoprene booties are formed for right and left feet. All of the seams are sonic welded with no stitching.  The zipper slides up and down easily even after over a year of heavy use and it goes low enough to get the job done without having to bend over. I’ve worn them steelhead fishing in Pulaski NY with ice buildup on them and have slid down an icy embankment on my bottom. I’ve bush-wacked through thorns that have torn my shirt and slid off jetty rocks in the saltwater and still no tears or punctures in the waders. I am frequently above my hips in water and have not yet had a leak. The zipper is still water tight.  In all four seasons I have never felt clammy in them. After hiking into backwoods locations, all that sweat evaporates in short order with the proper wicking clothes on under these waders. I’ve never taken these off to find moisture build up on the inside. In the warm weather I keep the zipper down for extra ventilation.  

These are certainly the best waders that I have ever worn and I anticipate getting my money’s worth out of them with a couple of more years of hard use. These Redington Sonic Dry Fly waders are not cheap but are significantly less expensive than the Simms zippered waders.  If you have no need for the convenience of the zipper, you can get the Sonic Dry (no fly) model with all the same quality and save about a hundred bucks.  I do recommend that you visit a local dealer and try them on to get the best size and fit from the many available options.   >>>Redington Dealer Locator<<<

     RIVER BAY OUTFITTERS/ 445 Merrick Road / Oceanside, NY 11572/ 516-415-7748/ 

     DICK'S SPORTING GOODS/ 630 Old Country Rd./ Garden City, NY 11530/ (516) 247-6400/

Highly recommended!

Tony Ertola

IFFF Certified Casting Instructor 
NYS Licensed fishing guide  
Custom fly rod builder 

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Post Date: January 15, 2015

Gear Review:  Douglas DXF5904 

 

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In December 2014, Paul McCain of River Bay Outfitters asked me to test drive a new rod that he is considering selling in his fly shop.  The rod is a Douglas DXF5904. It is from Douglas Outdoors. This is a new joint venture of the Barclay family from the Douglaston Salmon Run and Jim Murphy the founder of Redington Fly Rod Company, Albright Tackle, and former President of Hardy North America. These rods are made in Korea and like some other rods made in Asia, offer premium quality at a lower price than the many rods made here in the USA. 

Being a fly fishing gear geek extreme, I own and fish many fly rods with actions from soft to ultra-fast, from bargain bin sticks to premium high end rods.  In this review I will try to remain objective and give you a basic idea of the build quality, action and performance that you can expect from this rod. As a disclaimer, I do give casting lessons at Paul’s shop.

Every fly fisher has their own preferences as what makes a rod a “good” one.  My preferences have continued to evolve over the past 35 years of fly fishing.  If I were to recommend only one trout rod, it would be a 9 ft. for a 5 wt. line with a medium fast action.  This outfit is the “do-it-all” tool for fishing medium sized rivers which are commonly fished all over the world. The rod should be able to cast small dry flies as well as handle weighted nymphs and streamers.  Sure, an 8 ft. 4 wt. line rod might be better suited for small stream dries and a 9 ft. 6 in. 6 wt. line would do a better job with the heavy stuff on large rivers but being able to switch tactics on stream is really important if you want to consistently catch trout. To do this, the 9 ft. for a 5 weight line is the most versatile tool in the shed.

I spent about an hour and a half casting this rod on the grass.  Although the weather conditions weren’t ideal to test a 9 ft. 5 wt. line trout rod, I agreed anyway since I just can’t say no when it comes to casting fly rods.  Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to fish the rod so this review will be limited to the less than ideal, grass casting performance.  I would love to get my hands on the rod again in the spring to fish it on the Catskill Rivers. If I do so, I will update this review.

There are many great fly rods out there at varying price levels.  This rod is considered a mid-priced rod at about $325. It comes in a triangular Cordura covered rod tube that is so light that I thought that it was empty. Inside was the rod neatly wrapped in a cloth sock with a Lifetime Warranty card.  The rod is a 4 piece tip over butt ferrule type that is the standard configuration for most rods these days.  The reel seat is an anodized aluminum, uplocking style with a very nice satin finish burl wood insert whose beauty rivals many of the premium priced rods.  In my opinion this looks so much nicer than the graphite inserts that have become so common. The grip is typical reverse half wells that is good quality and without the bleaching that often tries to disguise the filler. I found the size and shape to be average and thus a good fit for most casters. The blank is nice and straight and has a stealthy greenish grey carbon matt finish with large chrome snake guides and a single #12 ceramic ring stripper.  The wraps are simple with an unimpressive epoxy finish (only a rod builder like myself might notice). The ferrules are well fitted and the rod feels light in hand.  The usual waggle test hints at a moderate fast taper, high modulus, quick dampening rod.

I strung up the Douglas DXF5904 with a 5 wt. Cortland 444SL fly line that is a true 5 wt. AFFTA line. Starting very close at 20-25 ft., I was hitting the targets easily but the rod did not have much feel or feedback with the 444 SL. In all honesty, if I’m going to be doing much fishing this close I’d likely be using an 8 foot four weight.

At about 30 feet, this rod starts to come to life.  It has a nice, even progression of power and my casts were effortless and confident. 30-45 feet seemed to be the sweet spot for this rod with this line.  Coincidently, this is the range that we most often fish a 9 ft. 5 wt. fly rod.  I like to use the term “intuitive casting”…Just pick a target and hit it.  No need to think much about the cast.

Carrying about 50 ft. of line, the rod was beginning to flex deeply into the butt section and not really recovering with the crispness that I like for hitting distant targets. I was hitting targets out to 75 ft. but this would not be my rod of choice for long range casts.  For most trout fishers, this shouldn’t be a deal breaker. Once again if I wanted to fish in the 50-75 ft. range, I’d probably choose a six weight rod.

Rod actions and tapers are always a compromise between casting near and casting far, casting with delicacy or casting with power, protecting light tippets or chucking lead. There are no perfect “do it all rods”.  All that is advertising hype.  The Douglas DXF5904 finds a nice balance between fast and slow, stiff and soft, and performs admirably for me at the range I most often fish for trout. Do I recommend this rod for you?  I recommend that you cast it along with a few other rods at your local fly shop or a fly fishing show. Cast them at the ranges that you would normally fish. Bring your favorite line or take note of the line that casts well on the rod that you choose and buy both.  I think tha t you’d be hard pressed to find a better rod at this price.  If you’d like to cast farther or more accurately than you are now capable, take a lesson and practice, practice, practice...
 
Tony Ertola

     IFFF Certified Casting Instructor 
     NYS Licensed fishing guide  
     Custom fly rod builder 

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