Friday, November 2, 2012

Fall River Fly Rod Review

In the year that I have been writing posts on Southern Utah Hunt and Fish, I have been privileged to review quite a few items that are sure to enhance the success of the hunt, and items that make life a bit easier for those that love the outdoors.  This time is different.  Seldom does an item come along that just all around enhances the experience, where the item seems to bring more enjoyment than the outing itself.
7 Months of waiting, it's finally here!

Back in March, I came across a post that basically slapped me in the face on the Outdoor Blogger Network.  OBN had partnered with Fall River Fly Rods, Montana Fly Company, and RIO products to offer one amazing contest that would result in the ultimate giveaway.  Fall River Flyrods had provided a hand crafted bamboo 8', 5 weight rod, (valued at $1600.00), Montana Fly Company coupled the rod to their Madison II Reel (Rive Rock 5/6 weight), topped of by Rio's Trout LT DT5F Fly Line.  An amazing package, I was ready to hit the comment button to get myself entered in the drawing for this dream package for any fly fisherman.  I mean, who has a bamboo fly rod?  Most of the fly fishermen I look up to only dream about having a setup like this as part of their rod collection.  But there was a catch!

The package would not simply be given out as a giveaway, this was to be a one of a kind contests, and one that would be a thrill in itself to be a part of.  Sixteen lucky contestants would be chosen from around the country as "finalists" for the package.  The fly rod, reel, and line would make it's way around the country to each of the 16 finalists, each participant would have 2 weeks to fish with the rod before sending it on to the next in line.  After everyone has had their time to fish with the rod, all will reconvene via web cast, and 1 lucky person in the field of 16 will provide the final stop for the rod, it will finally have a home.  I wanted that home to be with me, so I signed myself up.

So, what's so special about a bamboo rod?  Most all rods in use today are graphite.  Bamboo is becoming a long lost tradition and art, this used to be about the only way a fly rod could be found.  Fall River Fly Rods are a step up from the past, however.  This is not your grandfather's rod.
Fall River uses only the best bamboo direct from suppliers in China, and where much care and concern go into making sure the bamboo meets tolerances of .001" after being split, tempered, and planed, before being attached to a fly rod blank.  From Fall River Fly Rods:

"Each bamboo fly rod is appointed with a natural agate stripping guide set in nickel silver, polished and hand fitted nickel silver ferrules and a nickel silver winding check and reel seat which holds a distinctive wood burl or inlaid wood spacer.

All threads used are the finest Japanese silk, hand wrapped with tedious attention to detail.
Cork handles are turned here in the shop from the finest Portuguese flor grade cork we can get in any profile you like including cigar, western, full-wells, or half-wells. These cork handles are left natural and any pits are not filled with wood glue and cork dust so as to look more authentic.

Each bamboo fly rod comes with hand turned ferrule plugs, a cloth bag and is fitted in a Presentation Grade hardwood hexagonal rod case custom built for the bamboo fly rod to insure your investment will be around for future generations. Custom monograms, engraving, inlays and thread work is available."

Here's a link to the original post on the Outdoor Blogger Network:  Check it out as you will learn how special Fall River Fly rods are.  There's not many companies out there making hand crafted bamboo rods, and the special craft is a real treat for any lucky angler that owns, or wishes to own one of these rods!

A week later I was ecstatic to find out if I had become apart of this journey.  Reading down the list, Host #7 Jason Porter!  Sometime in September or October the rod would find it's way to the mountains of southern Utah!   Here's the link with the announcement on the OBN: 

Now, the waiting would begin!

A busy summer's work during one of our busiest fire seasons ever kept my mind off of the rod for a good deal of the time.  Returning from fire assignments, I went straight into hunting season, and now began to worry about juggling hunting time and getting in some fishing with the rod before sending it along it's way.  As the elk hunt ended, the rod showed up just a day prior to my muzzleloader deer hunt starting.  This, however was perfect as I was camped near several good lakes, and I would have nearly 4 days after the hunt of my allotted 2 weeks of time with the rod to fish!  Timing was also perfect for good fishing, as cold weather had just settled in, and trout fishing in the high elevation waters of the Boulder Mountain (Aquarius Plateau) was just about to get good!

Now in my deer camp on the mountain, I finally found time to open the package the rod was shipped in.  I was like a kid at Christmas as I took the rod from it's wooden case and fabric sheaths.  What a gem!  I was now more excited to fish than hunt!  Taking the reel from it's cloth case I was stuck by the beautiful craftsmanship and detail that went into this amazing reel.  Yep, my own rod/reel setup was now a bit lame!  Digging deeper in the PVC tube that the setup had been shipped in, I also found a fly case that had been a part of the journey.  Each fisherman had placed a fly in the box to add to the nostalgia of the experience.  That nostalgia was topped of by a journal that had each fisherman's experience penned to it's pages from each stop along the rod's journey through our great country.  I lay in my bed that night for hours reading each angler's story of their time spent fishing with this amazing setup.  Photos, sketching, and even flies taped to the pages, it was a truly humbling feeling to be a part of this journey that brought together some truly gifted anglers and personalities from all corners of our nation.  What a feeling to be a part of something so great!  I was going to do my best to make the most of the experience myself.  My lofty goal?  To catch as many trout species as possible in my area; rainbow, brook, Colorado cutthroat, tiger, and splake trout.  Catching all 5 would be tricky, and it would require some travel, but I could do it.

I embarked on a hike for my morning deer hunt, thinking about the 3 hours or so I would have to fish during the middle of the day.  I probably rushed the hike a bit, and after a quick bite to eat headed for a nearby lake just up the hill from my camp.  Here I would be able to check off my list rainbow and brook trout, and who knows, maybe an arctic greyling.  On the shores of this beautiful lake, with the aspens beginning to turn that golden color that makes fall my favorite season, I put the rod together for the first time, tied on a bead head prince nymph, and pushed from shore in my float tube.  The conditions were perfect, now if I can just find the fly the fish want!

Out just past the weedline, I made my inaugural cast with the Fall River Rod, MFC reel, and Rio line.  It was a complete failure!  Thinking back to the instructions that came in the package, "this isn't your grandfather's rod".  In simple terms, older bamboo rods of the past took a good deal of effort to cast.  Heck, MY fly rod took a lot of effort.  I was trying to hard.  Relaxing the draw, and with more "flip of the wrist", the line spooled out and took an impressive glide across the water.  OK, I'm getting it now.  And Bingo!  First cast, not even out as far as I wanted and I had landed a nice 18" rainbow!  Check one off the list, albeit the easy one!

Fish number1!
 So now the truth, I'm not much of a fly fisherman with a fly rod!  I can't cast well at all.  But I found with a few tries I really had a lot more ease with this rod than my own.  However, I still opted for my traditional pattern of tossing some line out, and "trolling" it around the lake with my float tube.  Each pass along the weed line seemed to bring success!  The first couple of fish were almost a shock, as I felt like the rod was about to fly out of my hands, or that I had tied into a monster fish!  Words cannot describe how it feels to catch a fish on this rod.  So much play and action, I know those passing by had to wonder what the guy in the float tube was giggling about!  Hands down some of the most fun I have ever had fishing, and I wasn't catching anything more than normal as far as size goes.  In no time I had landed myself a brookie; small, but still another species marked off of my list.  The color of the young brook trout, highlighted by the stunning background of the fall colors topped it all of for me.  These are images that I hope will never leave my mind, one of the most incredible days of fishing I have enjoyed!  The 3 hours turned to 4, and when it was all over I lost track of how many I landed, and my little prince nymph looked more like a bead with a bit of mangled thread.
Boulder Mountain brook trout.

Hunting took my priority list again for a few days, however I was able to return to the lake for one more short trip.  The fishing wasn't nearly as good, but the fall colors were now brilliant and alive, and the day was just as relaxing and fun.

Fall's yellows contrasting with the reds of the desert below.
 A week later, it was time to get serious to land my three other species.  I loaded up my grandpa, Marvin Porter and headed to the other side of the mountains to a cluster of lakes that held the species of target.  Our hour drive was filled with laying out our plans, and telling stories of our past trips.  Arriving at the trail head, the rod was loaded onto my ATV where it began a nearly 2000' elevation climb to the alpine lakes.  Up the rocky trail, through several stream crossings, the blanket of aspen leaves on the ground, and the stunning view of the desert below, we rose to nearly 10,000 feet to begin fishing.  At our first stop, it took a while to get things going in our favor.  After trial and error, I finally found something they wanted, and I was able to land a cutthroat trout.  Not a native Colorado river cut, but a Bonneville cutthroat, at least it was another species, and another 18" fish!  After some "coaxing", I was also able to land the second species of the day, a tiger trout!  I could see some great tigers swimming around, they were stubborn however, and a catch of 3 small tigers and a few cuts would have to do.

The Aquarius Plateau looms at 11,000 feet, 1000 feet above this lake.
We bypassed our next lake, opting to take the hike into the largest and most beautiful of the lakes where surely we would hook our last and most difficult species, splake trout.  The mile-and-half hike took us under the stunning cliffs of the Aquarius Plateau, that reached over 11,000 feet above us.  Now fishing at 10,000 feet we had no trouble getting into the rainbows, and boy did they fight!  Some of the best rainbow fishing I have had in a while.  The splake were stubborn on flies however, and to land one I finally had to put down the fly rod, and opt for throwing a castmaster and little Jake's with the spin rod.  I did finally land my splake, my 5th species in a week, I just wish it could have been on the Fall River Rod.

Bonneville Cutthroat
Tiger Trout


  I guess this is also a "review", and here I am lost in the experience.  This has to easily be my longest post!  I have always tried to hook my viewers up with what is good, and affordable.  Maybe not top of the line, but what gets you by when you are on a budget.  I rarely say that something so expensive is worth the cost.  I have to say, if I had the money you bet I would buy a Fall River Rod, complete with MFC reel and Rio line!  I would encourage anyone else to do the same without regret.  This is truly one of those special items that does the job, and adds a factor that "creates" it's own wonderful experience.  I will admit that I often found myself more concerned with not breaking the rod and treating it with care, but even if it was mine, a hand crafted gem like this should be cherished and afforded top notch care.  Maybe I can't afford the rod right now, but I will definitely be out to get my own Montana Fly Company Reel, coupled with Rio line!  Check out some of these amazing patterns that MFC offers on their reels:  This is just a taste of the options they have available.  Rio also offers 3 new lines in their LT DT trout line series:  The reel was a piece of art in itself, and the fly line was so incredibly smooth and I had no problems with memory retention or anything like that.  The only negative to the entire experience is that it's not mine!  Here's for hoping!  We will find out within a month or so I imagine.

It was a difficult thing to do to package the rod back up and send it off to it's next stop, not knowing if I will see it again.  I will always cherish my time with the rod, as I still see the shine glimmering from the fine bamboo, the greens of the fine silk thread and golden eyelets reflecting from the water.  It looks like something you would rather have on the mantle above the fireplace, rather than in rough hands over water.  That may be true, but why do that when you could be on the water, having the experience of a lifetime with a beautiful Fall River Fly Rod!