Fiberglass Fly Rods: The New, Old Standard

Original posted @ Ascent Fly Fishing

Article & Photo Credit to Jon Hill of Yellowfin Custom Fly Rods

It’s no secret that fiberglass fly rods have made a big comeback in the last 5-10 years. All of the major fly fishing companies have started bringing back fiberglass into their lineup of rods and there are a dozen of new companies that deal exclusively in fiberglass blanks and kits and full builds.

Starting in the late 1940’s, fiberglass rods started replacing bamboo because of the ease and cost of creating them. Once the new graphite rods came into style, being a lighter material and with a stiffer action, fiberglass was pushed to the side because everybody assumed the new technology was better. If you have ever fished with fiberglass, you know this isn’t always the case.

In my experience with building and fishing fiberglass fly rods in the 2-4 weight range, these are some advantages I have found:

• Slow down!
The deeper flex of fiberglass allows the rod itself to load and shoot the line with less stress and effort on your casting arm.

• Tippet
Coinciding with the deeper flex, less stress is forced upon your knots and your tippet when setting the hook and playing the fish into your net.

• Accuracy
The slower action allows for less line to be loaded in order to get an accurate cast. This is perfect when in tight spots casting 25 feet and less.

• Mending
The taper/action of the glass rod allows for a smoother, easier mending presentation of
the fly.

• Tough
Any rod will break under certain situations, but fiberglass is known to not be as brittle as some of its graphite counterparts. I’ve heard stories of people accidentally bending the tip of their fiberglass rod, instead of breaking they actually just bent it back into being straight and kept on fishing!

• Heavy
One complaint is that fiberglass is too heavy compared to graphite. In my experience, this is partly true but honestly not a noticeable difference. Here is a breakdown of the weight of graphite blanks compared to their fiberglass counterpart.
Graphite 9’ 5 wt. – 1.8 oz. / Fiberglass 8’ 5 wt. – 2.6 oz.
Graphite 9’ 4 wt. – 1.6 oz. / Fiberglass 7 ‘ 6” 4 wt. – 2.0 oz.
Graphite 7’ 6” 3 wt. – 1.0 oz. / Fiberglass 7’ 6” 3 wt. – 1.9 oz.

Finally, the number one reason to give fiberglass a try is that they are fun to cast and catch fish with. The play and action of a fiberglass rod make it a joy to hookset, fight and reel a fish into the net. So the next time you are hitting the creek, pick up a 3 wt fiberglass and you won’t be disappointed!

About Jon Hill & Yellowfin Custom Fly Rods

Jon is a full-time husband/father/9-5’er with a passion for fly fishing and rod building. When not working or coaching his son’s soccer teams he builds custom fly rods for his company Yellowfin Custom Fly Rods, www.yellowfinrods.com. He also writes for Southwest Fly Fishing Magazine where he gets to share his adventures of backpacking and fly fishing in the Rocky Mountains, www.jonathanfhill.com.

If you are interested in a hand-built, custom fiberglass, graphite, or euro nymphing rod for as little as $225 check out Jon’s website at:https://yellowfinrods.com/ or email him at:jfred17@gmail.com

Custom Built Fly Rods

By Peter Stitcher @ Ascent Fly Fishing

Over a lifetime on the water, you are going to own a number of fly rods, but as your arsenal of rods grows, your first fly rod will always hold a special place in your heart!  While decades have elapsed since I purchased my first fly rod, I remember keenly the anticipation and vast investment that went into that purchase.  Having hoarded my allowance, checks from birthdays, and my every penny from my first job, I decided to go big and order a custom 9-foot 6-weight rod from a Wyoming rod builder.  The $300 spent felt like a fortune, and the months of waiting seemed like an eternity, but once I received my rod and held it for the first time, the rod felt like an extension of my arm like only a custom-built rod can feel.  After fishing this rod on three continents and using it to net numerous cold and warm water fish species, I decided to look into purchasing another custom rod and was pleasantly surprised to find how easy and affordable the process has become!

Jon Hill of Yellowfin Custom Fly Rods was introduced to me a couple of months back and it was evident within 5 minutes of conversation that he was passionate about building fly rods!  Proficient at building in both fiberglass and graphite, and able to knowledgeably speak to the specific considerations that go into small creek rods vs. light-weight and far-reaching euro nymphing rods, I wanted to address the elephant in the room and ask him how much a custom rod would cost before getting my hopes up.  I was blown away when Jon told me that getting a custom rod built wasn’t just quick and easy (taking just 3 weeks from design to holding a finished rod), but relatively inexpensive costing just $225 for standard-length  (7′ 6″ – 9′) fiberglass or graphite rod!  While the price was tempting, I had to put these rods to the test and see how they stacked up to go-to Sage, Scott, and Thomas & Thomas rods.  With the action proving incredible and the price tantalizingly low, I commissioned Jon to build me an 8 weight for Bonefish and Tiger Muskie. 

Picking Your Rod Blank & Components

With more than 12 colors of rod blanks, dozens of different reel seat and cork options, and an infinite array of thread colors with which to wrap and accent the rod, it is easy to create a one-of-a-kind rod to match your personality and tastes.  Staying true to our no-frills brand of fly fishing and pulling colors from our logo, I chose a matte black rod blank with gunmetal guides and reel seat, grey and tan cork, and burnt orange, white, and black thread for the wraps.  Jon sent me a photo with the different components that matched my criteria and in just a couple of minutes, I finalized my order.

Feedback Driven Production

When I placed the order, I had selected white thread as the primary color wrap for the guides on the line.  Apart from choosing fly tying materials, I don’t get to choose many colors in our home (if my wife asks me my opinion on a paint color, I trust her to give me one)!   In my mind, I thought that white would look cool, but when wrapped to the rod Jon went the extra mile and shared some sample photos and provided some artistic suggestions.  He allowed me to backtrack, going with a black wrap as my primary, with white and orange as accents, and the results were killer! 

A Made-to-Order Fly Rod in 3 Weeks

I was on a call when I saw the notification from Yellowfin beep through with photo attachments and quickly made my excuses to cut the call short.  The rod looked better than I could have imagined, and when I received it later that day, I found that it cast like a dream as well.  Standing in the street and double hauling an articulated streamer down the road with ease, I could not have been more pleased with my new rod. 
Final ThoughtsIn a sport crowded with big brands and expensive gear, working with Yellowfin Custom Rods to create a custom rod for an honest price was a breath of fresh air.  Like Ascent Fly Fishing in the fly space, there are a number of startup rod, reel, fly line, and tool companies that are pushing back the veneer of fly fishing being a sport of the wealthy and elite and providing exceptional products at prices the everyday fly fisher can afford. More than 30 years into fly fishing I have more fly rods than most, but I look forward to using this new 8-weight and anticipate that it will find a special place in my heart in the years to come.

Camp Chow Freeze Dried/Dehydrated Meals

I have been camping and backpacking in and around the Colorado Rockies for over 16 years. It has become a passion of mine and for me there is nothing better than packing up and heading out into the wilderness for some camping and fly fishing with family and friends. For the sake of ease and weight in the backpack, I have always brought freeze dried meals for breakfast and dinners. Just add hot water and you have a good enough meal to satisfy your intake requirements for the days adventures. All that was fine and good enough, until this year.

 

Every year I stumble upon new products to try out and this year was no exception. Tents get lighter and use different materials for waterproofing and durability. Backpacks get updated and camping stoves get lighter and faster at cooking when trying to boil water in the wind when camping at 11,500 feet above sea level. But this year I found the best addition to my backpacking arsenal, Camp Chow!
Camp Chow is located in northern Minnesota surrounded by the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, off of the Gunflint Trail at Trail Center Lodge. In the past I have visited that area a handful of times and it is amazing! What sets Camp Chow apart from all other dehydrated/freeze dried foods is the quality of their ingredients and it’s combination of dehydrated and freeze dried foods. With other meals, the taste is ok and mostly you have the feeling you are eating straight sodium. But with Camp Chow it’s like eating a home cooked meal.
One of the meals we ate was their beef stroganoff. Labeled as a meal for 4 people, it was true to its suggestion and we actually all had enough for seconds. The ingredients set these meals apart from all others! I’m fairly certain that there were at least 3 different varieties of mushrooms in the stroganoff and some of them were the size of our spoons. The thing you noticed after taking your first bite is it honestly tastes like something you had made at home in your own kitchen. No overpowering taste of salt, no half cooked noodles and chunky bits of something you aren’t quite sure what it is, the Camp Chow Beef Stroganoff was one of the best dehydrated/freeze dried meals we have even eaten!
Another meal we had was their turkey dinner. Again, amazing taste and texture and with the hint of cranberry you could almost picture yourself sitting down and eating it for Thanksgiving dinner. Cooking up two single portioned meals, Tom and myself easily had enough to fill our stomachs. One morning Tom, Shawn and myself had the roast beef hash. Again having great portion sizes, labeled for 4 people, we all had plenty with some even left over. On the other side of the portion spectrum, previously using a different companies meal that stated it was for 2 people, it barely fed myself and my 10 year old son who doesn’t eat large portions at all!
Camp Chow has figured out how to use the best ingredients and package everything together with the most honest portion sizing I have ever used. Unless you are hiking in your own steaks to sear up for a dinner, Camp Chow will be the best meals you have ever had while out in the backcountry. And if you are in a pinch to find something to cook for breakfast, lunch or dinner in your home, they’re as good in your home as they are in the woods.

Hoka One One – Kaha

26 Miles out of the Box

I promise I tried, I tried very hard to find the time to break in my new Hoka Kaha hikers before going on a backpacking trip. I got the Kahas two months ago and after the unboxing I was excited to try them out after all of the positive reviews I’ve heard about Hoka One One and their lineup of products. But then came the fateful soccer game that put everything on hold.

 

The author shows off a beautiful cutthroat trout caught at 12,300 feet above sea level.

 

I truly enjoy assistant coaching my son’s soccer team! Helping nine and 10 year olds develop their skills and knowledge of the game and then watching their improvement each week is a lot of fun for me. At the end of each season, we play a half hour scrimmage where it’s the kids vs. the parents and the kids always enjoy beating us. Last scrimmage,  I was taking the ball downfield and went to pivot and pass to the middle and POP, I went down. My left knee just gave out, popping in and out and I knew I was done for. The next day I could barely put any weight on it and it swelled up to three times the size it was supposed to be.

Three Doctor visits and a MRI later, it was determined that I had a 3 mm tear in my meniscus and needed surgery. I told my Dr. that in a month and a half I had a backpacking/fly fishing trip planned and was it possible to push out the surgery and if it was even possible for me to hike. He gave me a shot of cortisone and told me to do some light stretching and working the leg out and to have fun and let him know if I made it.

 

Views like these make it all worth it.

 

While my Kahas sat in a box in the corner of the room, I was icing my knee and working on the elliptical trying to strengthen my leg enough to make the trip. My friends Tom and Shawn were going with me and I really didn’t want to cancel on them so I was doing everything I could to make it. When the time came to leave, I was definitely not 100% but figured I had to give it a go and see how well I was going to do.

Day 1 started early in the morning with the plan being to hike to a lake four miles from the trailhead with the last half mile or so being off trail bushwhacking since there’s no trail to the lake. Lacing up my Kaha hikers for the first time, strapping my knee brace on and putting my 50 lb. pack on my back, I was as ready as I was going to be for this five-day trip into the Colorado backcountry.

 

Tom caught the cutthroat of a lifetime!

 

Tom was leading the charge up the trail and I was going to take it slower than I would normally hike and stay behind him. Shawn unfortunately wasn’t able to make the whole trip and would be coming in on his own the following day. The first mile was a gradual climb up the valley meandering through tall pines that followed the stream and even though I was a bit slower, everything was going better than I had expected. I did start to have a hot spot at the ball of my left foot, started to worry a bit that my feet wouldn’t hold up with brand new boots and that I would have to deal with blisters the whole trip. Fortunately and miraculously, after about 10 minutes the hot spot disappeared and the hike was business as usual, putting one foot in front of the other without issue.

 

Basecamp

After a little more than a mile and a half, the trail turned and headed up another valley that is a bit more of an incline with a more rocky terrain. Slow and steady wins the race and after an hour we made it to the area where we would have to leave the trail and head off-trail for a half mile bushwhack to the lake we were going to base camp at.

Making it to our camping destination was a huge relief! Before the trip started, my goal was to at least make it to our camp. If I could just make it there, I would have two options. Either my knee would be killing me and I would stay there and hope it got better. Or my knee would hold up and I would be able to do the rest of the hiking we had planned for the trip. Thankfully it was the latter and that I would be able to do everything that was on our list for the five days we were going to be there!

 

Hard work getting to catch Golden Trout.

 

In total we hiked 26 miles, roughly five of those were off-trail bushwhacking. We fished three lakes that are in the area and caught some amazing cutthroat trout and even a couple of golden trout thrown into the mix. That whole time, five days, 26 miles over boulders and rocks and through streams…my Kahas handled everything perfectly! Not a single blister, not a single time when I had to re-tie or adjust them. I’m amazed and thankful that I was able to take them straight out of the box and have them handle every challenge flawlessly for five days.

 

The Kaha’s taking a break next to the glass surface.

 

The author carefully bushwhacking through the off-trail portion of the trip.

Custom Sage X

I was lucky enough to build another fly rod on a Sage X blank. This one was setup on a 10′ 8 wt. with carbon fiber grip and Recoil guides. Shipping for the first time across the pond, Trevor will be using this soon for the brown trout run in England.

The Zenbivy Bed

I truly wish I was a ‘sleep on my back’ type of person. While out in the backcountry of the Colorado Rockies, in a tent on a sleeping pad with a mummy style sleeping bag, sleeping on ones back would be preferred but that just isn’t going to happen for me. For years I had to make do while using a mummy bag but times have changed. Enter the Zenbivy. Half quilt, half mummy, the Zenbivy is an ingenious 2 part sleeping system that allows you to easily sleep comfortably all night in any position.

At the heart of the sleeping system is the down quilt which is filled with 700 HyperDry Duck Down wrapped in a 20d Nylon Taffeta shell. First mainly used by the ultra light backpackers, the quilt is slowly becoming a favorite among the weekend warrior. Technology for the sleeping pad has helped with its redesigned choices for shapes and sizes and the advancement in technology to up the R value of the pads. Matching the Zenbivy quilt with your sleeping pad has never been easier and more comfortable. The second part of the Zenbivy process is the fitted sheet that easily goes with any sleeping pad. With its side zippers and covered pillow area, it easily slides over your pad and attaches to the quilt and allows for a variety of sleeping styles.

To be honest, when I first heard about the Zenbivy I was a little apprehensive. The quilt is straight forward and a no brainer for me, but add to that another piece that needs to be put on a sleeping pad and then connected to the quilt…I thought it would be too much trouble for what it was worth. I was very excited to have proven myself wrong! It’s so simple and easy to set up, not to mention the fact that it weighs in at roughly 2 lb 9 oz. Matched up with your sleeping pad, the Zenbivy sleep system should definitely make it into your over night packs as it is now in mine.

Head over to the Zenbivy website for all the specs and special offers. Also while you’re there, take a sneak peak at what they have coming for March 2019!

Photos: A Trout Every Month, for Almost Four Years!

Originally posted @ Orvis

A few years ago, I was struck by the realization that I was having a pretty good fishing streak, so I decided to look back at my photos and check their time stamps to see just how successful I had actually been. I was able to verify that I had caught a fish in December of 2014, and it was now September 2015. I then discovered that I had caught a fish every month for nine months in a row! Not too shabby, I thought. That was when I came up with the idea to see just how many months in a row I could keep up my winning streak.

This goal might be an impossible feat in certain regions, but in Colorado I can fish all year, so I don’t have to worry about a fishing “season.” Also, there are about fifty locations I can fish within an hour of my house, and although not all of them are fishable year round, there is still an abundance of areas available at any given time. Sometimes, my fish of the month is caught ten minutes down the road, while at other times it’s caught after hiking fourteen miles and fishing at 12,000 feet above sea level. This is one of the many reasons that I am grateful to call Colorado my home.

Having a goal like this makes me get out and fish when I normally wouldn’t do so, taking me out of my comfort zone and sometimes with unthinkable results. This past Super Bowl Sunday, for instance, I went out when it was 12 degrees! Not thinking I would see anything, let alone catch anything, to my surprise the fish were going nuts for the couple of hours I was able to withstand the frigid weather.

For the first year and a half of my goal, I was laser focused on making sure I caught a fish every time I went out. I would get nervous and anxious, thinking “I have to catch a fish today!” During a couple of the winter months, I caught my monthly fish on the last or second to last day of the month, feeling great relief that I had made it in time. But after those first eighteen months, I realized that I hadn’t been having fun and was so focused on my goal that every trip was riddled with anxiety. So I made it my focus to just enjoy my time outside and on the water with family and friends, and use my goal as something to sweeten the pot.

My goal is also a hit with my family; for example my son Brennon gets extremely excited when he’s the one who helps me get my “monthly fish” into the net. My wife enjoys my excitement and dedication, so now I don’t even have to come up with an excuse to get out onto the water.

Here’s to 45 months and counting!