Monday, January 5, 2015

Twisted and Tied Leader Feedback

Recently I sent out a bunch of hand Twisted and Tied Fly Leaders for field testing. Though I haven't heard from many of the field testers yet a few have reported back. As I had hoped, and expected the feedback is very positive.

Mike Gillen at Fringe Element Fly Fishing posted his review in August 2013 about the leaders he tested. The name on the packaging is Dragonfly Angler but the leaders are the same. 

More recently this is what field testers have to say.

"I had the opportunity to try out a J Wood Fly Fishing leader several times last month. I was using the 8’ 4X leader with a nymph rig and small yarn indicator to stalk (and catch) some picky trout on the South Platte River in Colorado. I have tried thread furled leaders for nymphing in the past, but found that they didn’t sink fast enough to get my bugs down where I wanted them. I have also used many mono tapered leaders that, while convenient for rigging up quickly, were too stiff in the thicker sections and didn’t cast well. The J Wood Fly Fishing leader I used performed much better than both the thread furled leader and the tapered mono leader. Pros: Strength: I had no issues with breakage when snagged on the bottom or hooked into larger fish. Presentation: I was able to get my bugs quickly to the desired depth. Casting: The leader turned over like a dream, allowing soft delivery of my nymphing rig. Cons: The hand twisted butt section makes it difficult to quickly adjust/slide an indicator without compromising the structure of the line. But… This could also be considered a “Pro” since the indicator stayed put unless I really wanted it positioned higher or lower on my line. I look forward to using the 9 ½’ 6X J Wood Fly Fishing leader for casting dry flies in the warmer months ahead."
David Moore- Castle Rock, CO


"Here is my opinion from 1 to 10. Conditions were 77degrees, wind 10-15mph. Layout out out of leader when laying down; 10. Casting into the wind 10-it sliced through the wind. I compared it to the Orvis leader I had on right before yours and it did not perform nearly as close. Durability; 10-no issues and held up with hitting all the debris in the water. Over all i like that you can use the braided section. Over and over I cast into the wind and it was like the wind wasn't blowing. I decided to use dry flies at some point and use floatant on the line and it worked perfect. when I was done, I wiped it off and it worked great. The braid visibility under water was minimal. In my experience, these are great leaders and I plan to use them again on my next trip. If you have any questions, let me know. Thanks for giving me the opportunity and I feel privileged to have done this testing."

Nick Haxhijaj- East Bernard, TX 

Nick also posted this video. of trout fishing the Guadalupe River in Texas.


"I gotta say....the leaders you sent me. I absolutely LOVE them! I have fished them hard the times I have gone out and they work far better than the leaders I have been using. I plan to keep testing them."
Sam Stone- Marrietta, GA


"Those leaders were great I'm still using them."
Dan Patch- Sebago, ME

Sunday, January 4, 2015

An Unexpected Surprise, Mike Gillen Rod

On December 23 a pleasantly surprising package arrived at my doorstep. I knew my good friend Mike Gillen of Fringe Element Fly Fishing was sending something but I had no idea what it was until I saw the mailing tube. Earlier in the year I had crafted a landing net for Mike and this was his way of thanking me for the net and some long distance mentoring.

Over the past few years Mike has become a go to tester for many of my fly patterns and leaders. We are constantly swapping ideas related to just about everything fly fishing. At some point he started picking my brain on the subject of rod building. Mind you I am not exactly a guru at it but with  over 140 rods under my belt no novice either. It has been a pleasure sharing some of my now mostly unused knowledge with him. I can only have so many rods and in 2010 I started focusing on net building. So when the mailing tube arrived I was ecstatic to see what was inside.

Unknown to me Mike had for many weeks been picking my brains about specific components- reel seats, grip shapes and guides. All the while I thought I was helping him build a rod for himself and telling him these are just my preferences. When I pulled the rod from the cloth sleeve it was not a complete surprise to see a rod that perfectly fit all my specifications for a small stream fiberglass fly rod. From the finely shaped cigar grip to the nickel silver winding check and unlocking reel seat the rod meets my specs to a T.

Being a perpetual pain in the ass my first instinct was to go over the entire rod looking for blemishes. There are none! The placement of the guides, grip, reel seat and winding check is spot on. The windings are done in Antique Gold silk and finished with spar varnish. This makes for beautifully transparent wraps that allow you to see the precision ground guide feet. Everything I would expect from a seasoned rod builder. Here's the thing, the serial number on the rod is 002. Yes that's right this is the second rod Mike had built. Having all those rods under my belt it's easy for me to recognize the level of accomplishment he has achieved in a very short time. Ladies and gentlemen I believe we have another fine rod builder on our hands.

Being completely honest there was one thing that concerned me about the rod was the blank, but not too much. I've purchased some products from Angler's Roost in the last few years and mostly I've been happy with my purchases of fly tying materials, rod components, a pair of reels out of curiosity and a pair of lines but I have intentionally avoided the rod blanks Johnny sells. Call it a prejudice. Over the years I've tried not to lock myself into any one niche, it tends to limit possibilities. But for some reason I have always been weary of rod blanks made overseas opting to stay with U S makers. Like I said it's a prejudice, or at least it was.

Yesterday I was finally able to lawn test the rod. It is 7' long rated for 3/4 line. Back to the guide placement for a bit. Mike fitted the rod with one stripping guide and eight snakes plus the tip top, enough guides to accommodate the deep flex of the blank. I started with my normal testing line a weight forward Orvis Wonderline in 3 weight. I always use the WF Wonderline for consistent comparison. I was quickly pleased with how easily the rod handled the 3 weight. So pleased I didn't notice I had casted all the way into the backing until it slipped through my hand. Even with 90 feet of line and 8 feet of leader out the guides the rod still felt crisp and responsive. I stripped the line in and cast it back out paying more attention. At about 50 feet is where I started to really feel it flex just into the cork. Again I was able to lay the entire line, leader and 10 feet of backing out the tip top.

I switched spools on my Lamson Liquid loading up a 4 weight. For my taste this line is where the sweet spot lies with this rod. At around 30 feet I started to get a good feel of the flex in the cork but not enough that it felt too soft. At 50 feet the rod responded as well as it did at any time during casting. I had no problem whatsoever being completely in tune with what the rod needed to cast well. This is where the guide placement really started to mean something. Too often I've cast glass rods, mostly inexpensive vintage rods, that didn't have enough guides and the casting suffered from uneven travel through the guides, not so here. With the WF4F I was able to lay out the entire line but it was not quite as crisp, pretty or accurate as with the 3 weight. But really when do you need a 90 foot cast on a small stream.

Just for grins I strung up a 5 weight to see what happened. The short version is this. I was hitting a skillet size target very accurately at 35 feet. Beyond that there was too much flex to control accuracy.

My conclusion is this. For medium to large, not giant rivers I will be loading up a 3 weight line for distance and accuracy. As a 3 weight the rod has the push to very accurately fish up to 60 feet in the real world. For small but open streams a 4 weight line is the ticket. The rod also roll cast best, at least on the snow covered lawn with the WF4F. For small cramped streams I may even load up a 5 weight to see hoe it does in really cramped quarters.

Keep in mind that all this casting was done on a 200 foot wide lawn where I have established distance markers. The area is protected from winds even in the 25 mph range we had today. I use my hand twisted leaders and a small yarn "fly" so it is all very controlled. Only stream time will tell if the rod performs as I suspect it will while casting in the real world with swirling winds and back cast obstructions. And only being hooked into a live fish will tell how it behaves in the fish fighting capacity. My guess is it will do just fine. As soon as I get a chance to try it out I will let you know. Until then if you are wondering about these blanks or looking for a rod builder Mike Gillen and Angler's Roost are a good combination.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 Thank God it's Here

So here we are again. One year has officially ended and another is underway. Thank God! Some years are just better than others. As personal annual cycles go 2014 has not been the best in recent memory though it has by no means been a personal worst. There are things harder to swallow than medical issues.

 All in all though the tough times have been offset by the thrilling ones.We were blessed with a new angler to the family. He, Hunter hasn't held a fishing rod yet but I think he better learn to stand first. Luckily the task won't be left solely to his grandpa. I put a fishing rod in his dad's hand at the ripe old age of 2 and he like me has never looked back.

Sharon and I were able to do some camping and fishing in the late spring visiting one of our favorite spots on earth. Sorry I won't be divulging where it's at. Some places are just fine the way they are. I will say though that the fishing is good, the scenery is great and the people we meet there are excellent.

With an abundance of small feeder creeks and a good size river at our campsite the cutthroat and rainbow fishing was a long overdo treat for both of us. But that was also the trip when we realized the old bum knee was going to need one more reconstruction. We didn't let it stop us though.

I was able to get out a few times through the summer and hit some of the more easily accessible trout water. Trout were hooked and landed, photographed then released. Then there were the trout that released themselves.

There were other outings too that kept the year in fishing from being a near total bust. On a day when other anglers were fighting the wind just to catch a few small trout then moving on I stuck it out, tried something a bit different and it paid off with a pair of really good trout.

Another trip south to the Sunshine state gave us more time with the rest of the younger half of the Wood clan.

Fall brought the opportunity to do a bit more fishing and test some new equipment. Having picked up another of my favorite rods, a vintage Orvis Silver Label and a new reel a little time on the water was required despite a flooded kitchen and a leaky shower. The rod and reel performed just as I had hoped. The reel was actually a pleasant surprise, though not that much a surprise. The rod is just one more in a collection of full- and mid-flex Orvis graphite rods.

Regretfully the remainder of the year was filled with kitchen and bathroom rebuilding in a mad rush to be done before having that bum knee rebuilt again. Though not quite a breeze the back side of that is going well. I'm not up taking over the fly fishing world just yet but that could be just around the corner.

For the past five years I've been working on building a small fly fishing based business. That effort has been strained by one procedure after another and the resulting recoveries. I have high hopes that struggle is now behind us and 2015 will be the break out year for J Wood Fly Fishing.

Look for a new website to go live soon with a wide variety of flies, more leaders and some new net models through the year.

Thanks to some uncanny luck and a very generous friend I have some new equipment to test this year. You can count on the fact that I will be expressing my opinions on the rods, reel and line once I'm able to put them to the test.