A few months ago I got bit by the glass rod bug. I'm sure it was influenced by the growing glass rod market, along with social media from sites like The Fiberglass Manifesto. I dug up an old Eagle Claw glass rod that was given to me a few years ago and started playing with it in the yard. "Fun" was the first thought that came to mind. As I forced myself to slow my casting stroke, I could actually feel the rod load. It was a joy to cast and I thought about what a great teaching tool it could be, allowing someone to feel the rod really bend...something that can be hard for a beginner to pick up on with a super fast action rod. I also started thinking about how much fun it would be to catch a redfish on a fiberglass rod...I could already imagine it bending all the way to the grip fighting a bulldoging redfish.
I started researching glass rods in the 6 to 8wt range, and narrowed it down to a few companies. There are some really cool glass rods out there, but I kept being drawn back to Swift Fly Fishing and their Epic glass rods. They're built using S-Glass which is faster your traditional fiberglass, but still slower than a graphite rod. They offer them in several killer colors. The only thing that caused me to hesitate is that they mainly sell blanks and DIY build kits. I had never considered building my own fly rod before. For an extra fee you can purchase a built Epic rod, but I decided that if I was going to buy one, I would save a little money and build it myself. I started emailing Swift, and not long after, I bit the bullet and purchased one of their Epic Ready to Wrap Fly Rod Kits. I went with the Epic 686 (6wt, 8'6") in the "so blue" color.
A few weeks later, I had an Epic mail day, when this package arrived from New Zealand.
It was full of all kinds of goodies. Everything you needed to build your own rod, including the box which can be transformed into a rod wrapping machine.
You can purchase their blank and buy your own components, but they offer some really high quality components with their kits. I really dig their reel seats.
Check out the awesome white fiberglass rod tube that's included with the kit.
The first task was to fit the grip, reel seat and fighting butt to the blank, so that you could mark the blank where the top of the grip would be.
Everything below that mark was sanded to help the epoxy adhere. Next you mark the blank where the reel seat will be and then build up the blank with tape for the reel seat. Mix up your epoxy and glue the grip, reel seat and fighting butt in place.
Use your china marker to mark all the guide spacings. Tape down one foot of the guide and line it up.
Wrap your thread on the un-taped foot of the guide, and then remove your tape and wrap the other.
The silk threads that they send with the kit turn clear when you add the thread epoxy.
I wrapped the first few guides with the box that the kit comes in. The rest of the guides were wrapped with a rod wrapping machine. The box did a good job and held it's own against the wrapping machine.
I added some silver trim wraps up against the natural (clear) silk wraps.
The silk threads turn clear as they soak in the epoxy/denatured alcohol solution.
Once the diluted epoxy has dried, it's time to coat the threads with some more epoxy.
After a few coats of epoxy on the thread wraps, your rod is done. The epoxy is self leveling, so it came out pretty good, even for my first build.
I paired the rod up with a Kraken reel from http://www.allenflyfishing.com/
I'm really enjoying casting the Epic 686 "So Blue" rod. It's a different animal than my fast action graphite rods, and I'm embracing that difference. I can't wait to put a redfish on it very soon. I'm also starting to think about their 4wt and their upcoming 8wt Epic glass rods. False Albacore Tuna on Fiberglass this coming Fall? I think yes!
You can find out more about Swift Fly Fishing and all they have to offer at http://swiftflyfishing.com/
I've been tying this fly, or some variation of it for a few years now ( I still haven't come up with a name for it ). I usually have a handful of these in my Redfish box in varying colors of Chartreuse, Tan, Olive and Rootbeer. The main thing to know about this fly is that it works! It's equally at home being used for schooled up winter Redfish or for summer time tailers. It consistently gets eaten in sight casting situations.
I just got back from 3 days at a Sportsman's Expo, where I had time to knock out a few flies in between chatting with visitors. I snapped some photos along the way so I could post a quick tutorial here on the blog.
I use a 1/0 Gamakatsu SC15 hook for this fly. I love using the size 1 and 1/0 SC15 hooks for any of my buggy looking redfish patterns. Cover the shank in thread.
I tie in a generous clump of select craft fur for the horn of the shrimp (should be about 3 times the length of the shank). You may have to tie in a couple pinches of this material to get the thickness you need. I tie it in right where the hook shank starts to bend.
I rotate the fly around and tie in some crystal flash. Four strands, 2 on each side of the hook. The crystal flash should be about the length of the craft fur and lay on top of the fur.
I choose a pair of mono shrimp eyes and bend the mono about 1/2" back from the eyeball. (These eyes can be purchased, but I build mine out of 30# mono, clear cure goo and finger nail polish...I'll post a tutorial at some point).
Tie in the eyes at the same spot that the craft fur and crystal flash is tied in. The eyes should stick up and out at a 45deg angle.
Clip off the excess mono, tie them down tight and secure with a little thread glue. It's starting to look a little more like a critter now.
Rotate the hook again to invert the fly, and tie in a pair of lead eyes, clouser style. I've also tied in a 5" strip of Palmering Chenille at the same point where the flash, eyes and craft fur is tied in.
Palmer the palmering chenille back about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way towards the lead eyes. Make sure you guide the direction of the chenille fibers so that they are pointing forward as they lay down. Use a wrap or two of thread to hold the chenille in place so it doesn't unwravel. At this spot, tie down a rubber leg at its midpoint, folding it over and tying both ends forward. Tie in another rubber leg on the opposite side of the fly.
Continue palmering the chenille around the hook shank until it gets to the lead eyes. Tie off the end and clip off any excess.
Tie in a weedguard using 30# mono.
Brush/pick out the materials so that they lay forward nicely. At this point you can trim down the chenille fibers to give it a streamlined look. Use a sharpie (I'm a fan of metallic copper) to band the horn of the shrimp.
Here's the little shrimp/crab/critter/bug in it's fighting stance, aka what the redfish sees right before he inhales it.
Well, looks like we are about mid way through Winter, and I have to say the fishing has been really fantastic so far. The Reds are in their normal Winter time patterns for January/February. They are schooled up in big numbers in certain spots trying to stay warm and safe. I'm seeing schools of anywhere from 30 fish to 300 fish at a time. Some times they are floating so close to the surface that their backs and dorsal fins are all out of the water at the same time...what a sight to see! We've had some really clear water this winter and it has made for some fantastic sight casting to these fish both on fly and on spinning gear. There are some small rat reds around (which is a good thing because they'll be keepers this coming fall) but I am seeing a lot of upper slot reds in the 24-27" range, with some being over the slot. Now is a seriously good time to get down here and see what the winter time fishery is all about.
I recently wrote an essay for Marsh Wear Clothing, giving my spin on catching redfish this time of year. They also included a video clip of me casting to a school of 50+ Redfish this Winter. Check it out, and take a look at the great line of clothing they sell while you're there... http://www.marshwearclothing.com/blogs/news
Eat, Sleep, Breathe Redfish