Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Fly Rod for Barred Perch & Corbina ~ the Red Truck 5110-4 Switch

Red Truck 5110-4 switch with 7/8 Diesel Reel
   Fly rods are like golf clubs – ideally you need more than one. Also, like golf clubs, some rods are more versatile than others. Still, there's always one in the bag most appropriate to a given situation.

In my last post we took a look at the Red Truck Diesel fly reel as a designated beach reel. Red Truck Fly Fishing Company is a small California based outfit owned and operated by angler-designers committed to offering high quality gear at fair prices. Devotees of fly fishing tradition, Red Truck has an eye for classic styling as well as quality construction, and that is evident in the Diesel reels -- and fishing the Red Truck 5110-4 switch in the surf, I found that to be true of this rod as well. 
In my work as a guide I get to cast a lot of rods, on-stream and in the surf (I’m a saltwater junkie). As more fly fishers discover the California wet sand, I meet other fly fishers on the beach and the conversation invariably turns to rods, and what constitutes the ‘ideal’ rod for surfperch and corbina.     

Devoted beach casters know the advantages of using switch rods in the surf – rods that may be cast both two-handed and in the single-hand modes. Light, ‘trout model’ switch rods of 10’ to 12’, throwing the 7 to 9 weight lines popular for the surf, are ideal for surfperch and corbina. The long rod casts farther and affords commanding line control in the surf. I’ve cast a spectrum of rods in this class from various makers, and the problem I have with most of them is they perform best in two-hand mode, while tending to be awkward and tiring in the single-hand mode. Which is okay for those who have mastered a couple Spey casts – yet not so good for those who want the length, but would prefer to cast with one hand.
Red Truck 5110-4 ~ two-hand mode

Enter the Red Truck 5110-4 11’ #5 ‘Trout’ switch rod. This one comes with both a rear grip for Spey, and a short butt for converting to single-hand. No switch rod I’ve cast performs Spey casts as well as a full-on Spey rod. And, as I pointed out, they tend to be clunky cast with one hand. A switch rod is usually a compromise. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the Red Truck, as a two-hander, good as the best I’ve fished in its class – and by far the best I’ve used in single-hand mode. Lined with a 7wt sink tip, I cast the Red Truck as a single-hand through a four-hour session in the surf, and it is a pleasure.

For its class, the Red Truck possesses a fairly wide grain window due to its length, coupled with a semi-parabolic, progressive action. I would call this rod a medium-fast action, yet it holds its load well, which makes it forgiving and friendly to those with a slower casting style.
Red Truck 5110-4 ~ single-hand mode

 I am very impressed with this rod and love using it in the surf – though, a nitpick, I think the ambiguous #5 weight designation is confusing, as the rod is neither an AFTMA 5wt or a #5 Spey. (I wish rod manufacturers would make it easier on potential customers and themselves and simply print the rod’s grain window on the rod). After casting the Red Truck #5 with a number of lines, I determined its grain window to be 150-280 grains (I emailed the Red Truck rep and he confirmed this). In single-hand mode it will throw an AFTMA 5wt line in a (hypothetical) pinch. But it starts to come into its own loaded with a 6wt – making it useful for fishing big dries, nymphs and bobber set-ups on big water. For me, casting single-handed in the surf, the Red Truck performs best loaded with a 7wt or 7-1/2wt line – good for swinging streamers on big water – and perfect for turning over the heavier flies required for surfperch and corbina. In Spey mode, the Red Truck switch performs like a rocket launcher lined with a 23’ short-head weighing 260 grains – that’s roughly the equivalent of a 9wt AFTMA rated line. As a compromise, the rod performs competently in both single-hand and double-hand modes loaded with an 8wt line. 

The Red Truck switch is elegant, well-appointed with top quality guides and components. The blank is an understated gray. Guide wraps are claret with blue-ish silver tips to match the gunmetal blue reel seat. The interchangeable rear grips are mounted on light, aircraft-grade aluminum thread stock and bolt seamlessly into the aluminum reel seat. Red Truck thought of everything – the 4-piece rod comes in a heavy cloth bag with pockets for the two rear grips, in an aluminum storage tube with a bottle opener built into the cap.     

If you are considering a designated rod for SoCal surfperch and corbina, or a light switch rod for trout, I’m fairly confident you’d be more than happy with the Red Truck 5110-4 11’ #5 switch. Frankly, you can spend a lot more money on a light switch rod, but I would rate the 5110-4 as equal to or better than any I've tried, in any price range. And the Red Truck Diesel 7/8 reel perfectly matches and balances the 5110-4 switch for a sweet outfit.  

You can check out the Red Truck rods, reels, and stuff here:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Fly Reel for the California Surf

Red Truck Diesel 7/8
The Red Truck Diesel Fly Reel

     Seems every year I meet more fly fishers on the beach. You recognize the initiated. The ones using the right gear. But then a considerable number who are just getting their feet wet, flogging into the wind and surf with their 5wt trout rods (perch are small, right?) and up against the learning curve wondering, asking the question: What might be the ‘right’ gear for this?

So I’m thinking it might serve to answer the question by outlining what I consider the ideal, all-around outfit for meeting the West Coast surf. Each item being integral to the whole, we’ll look at one item at a time. In my last post we considered effective terminal gear. In this one we’ll discuss what constitutes a good reel for the surf and take a look at the reel I’m using right now. I should qualify this by saying that I don’t shill for any tackle manufacturers, and refuse to endorse anything I don’t love. In my guiding work I get to try a lot of gear, and the cream does rise to the top, so, in the interest of improving my reader’s game, I’ll share what I’ve found, taking into consideration, function, form, and value. And my apologies to Red Truck Fly Fishing Co. for flogging their gear so mercilessly.
When true simplicity is gained. Showing adjustable click-pawl
drag and bulletproof hardened & ground center pin. 

Anybody who takes an expensive disc-drag reel to the beach and grinds the guts out of it within a few trips to the wet sand soon learns that a designated beach reel is the way to go. Considering the species of fish encountered in the California surf, my preference is a click-pawl, rim-drag reel, as this type is sufficient to the task while least affected by the inescapable sand that is the corrosive reality of the beach environment. Simple click-pawl reels have fewer mechanisms to retain and become damaged by sand and will rinse thoroughly after use. And there is no drag system as sophisticated and intelligent, as capable of nuance, as the human hand, fingers or palm, set against a reel rim. A profoundly simple braking system, involving a challenging and satisfying skill set. And I admit the mechanical scraw of the clicker when a good fish accelerates against it does provide an additional element of excitement. Our most plentiful quarry, barred perch, seldom “get you on the reel”, so drag isn’t really a factor with them, the clicker alone usually sufficient. But I routinely catch halibut and stripers on the click-pawl, rim-drag reel, no problem, and the occasional sporty leopard shark, four feet long or better – once, a 6-footer. In my own experience, a click-pawl reel gets the nod as a designated reel for West Coast beach fishing.                         

 I like gear that exhibits both workhorse functionality and timeless style. Function is first priority but, that covered, I admit an aversion to gear that makes me look like a spaceman (or stock car racer). We all have our quirks.  But you live with the gear you buy. You have to look at it while you’re using it. Aesthetics are important. So, not being a spaceman, I’m usually no consumer of fly reels that look like futuristic space gear. And, as makers compete for the ambiguous grail of lightness, some newer reel designs are so radically machined-out and spindly if you drop them once they are toast. So much for the future. You can only remove so much aluminum.

I met the Red Truck Diesel reels when I saw something that looked like a Spey-sized Hardy Marquis mounted to Jack Mitchell’s Spey rod. He said he loved the reel. It was so well-crafted and elegant I couldn’t quit looking at it. Quality, simplicity, timeless styling. It was everything I like in a fly reel.
The Red Truck Diesel reel sports an ample, well-shaped
winding knob, an important feature in the surf where hands are
often wet and slippery.  

A fairly new tackle company based in the Bay Area, Red Truck Fly Fishing Co. is committed to offering a quality line of elegantly designed gear that functions as good as it looks. Red Truck offers the Diesel reel in five sizes, matched to appropriate line weights: 0/2; 3/4; 5/6; 7/8; & Spey. The timeless design of these reels is a perfect match to fine bamboo or glass, as well as graphite rods.

As a reel for beach fishing, sized right for the most popular line weights used in the surf, the 7/8 Red Truck Diesel is about as close to perfect as I’ve found. I like 30lb test mono backing on my beach reel because, unlike braid, it doesn't soak up and hold saltwater that will corrode the spool, and the 7/8 Diesel holds enough to handle a bigger fish that might want to run some line off. And for those throwing lines heavier than 8wt, the Diesel Spey sized reel fills the bill.

Red Truck Fly Fishing Co. also builds a line of fine rods, with several models of particular interest to beach anglers. In my next post we’ll take a look at the Red Truck 5110-4, 11’ 5wt (140-280grain) 4 piece switch rod destined to become a star on the California beach scene. 

You can check out the full Red Truck line here:   

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Fly Leader for the California Surf

     For all the thought and effort directed toward preparing to fish, it never serves to treat the terminal gear as a self-actualizing afterthought. Regarding leaders used when targeting surfperch, you often hear it said: “Oh I just use six feet of _____. ” Fill in the blank with the appropriate tippet size.

And sure that’ll get you by, though it is somewhat less than the ideal way to go. Such a leader, usually 12 or 15lb test, doesn’t turn over heavy Clouser type flies as well as we’d like, and is prone to tangling in rough surf conditions.

Here’s a surf leader that is almost as simple, while a lot more functional than just the straight, six foot leader:

Seaguar Red Label fluorocarbon is a good choice for making our surf leader, and readily available (Walmart carries it). The leader butt is made from 3’ of 20lb test, giving the leader some ass for turning over heavier flies. The butt section is semi-permanent and can be attached to the fly line with either a nail knot or loop-to-loop connection. Attach a small, #12 or #14 barrel swivel to the tippet end of the leader butt. I like a uni knot (San Diego knot) for this, as it is infallible and won’t crinkle the leader. Now tie whatever length of tippet you choose to the swivel to complete the leader. The swivel not only makes changing tippets easier (and cheaper, saving material), but also keeps your line from twisting as the fly is rolled in the surf – which is what causes the running line to twist and tangle in the stripping basket, resulting in fouled casts.

For a heavier version of this leader use 30lb test fluoro for the butt section.  

A few leader rigging possibilities:

    The ‘dropper squids’ are tied on #2-#6 short-shanked hooks. The flies are tied as follows: Wind thread from the hook eye to the middle of the hook shank. Tie in a pinch of calf tail (kip) or artificial 'hair' of your choice, spread around the hook shank – tips should extend about the length of the hook beyond the hook bend. Wind the thread forward half way to the hook eye and coat with head cement. Tie in a pinch of kip and spread around the hook shank – tips should extend to about the center of the first pinch tied in. Add a few strands of flash and/or dyed mallard or gadwall flank barbs (use your imagination here regarding added appendages and fetching highlights). Wind the thread forward to the hook eye and coat with cement. Tie in a pinch of kip behind the hook eye, the tips extending to about the middle of the previous clump, and finish. The result, when wet, should be a teardrop or ‘squid’ shape. 

Though some like it, I find the 3-fly cast a bit of a hassle to fish in all but the calmest of conditions, but I like the 2-fly rig, which fishes cleaner and really does raise the fish-count. Nearly half my fish are on the dropper most outings and, some days, the smaller dropper flies are all perch seem to want. The dropper fly fishes best on a 1 1/2"-2" long  loop, 12" to 15" above the tail fly. Or one leg of the loop may be clipped to create a single-strand dropper, though the loop seems to work just as well and makes it easier to change dropper flies.