By Kent Danjanovich Senior Editor
Fly fishing is an art and just like many other works of art, not everyone looks at it the same way. Because of this fact, the ever-changing circle of fly fishing rods and reels always seems to have something new and improved to make your efforts come a little bit easier.
The staff at Sportsman’s News spends hundreds of days a year searching for special waters all over the world. Now, not all of our efforts are from the fly fishing side of things, but if it can be done with a fly rod, you can bet we will give it a try. There is just something special and exciting about fly fishing. There is always something new to learn on every adventure and the fly fishing industry is one of the most innovative sections in the fishing world.
Whether you are a seasoned veteran or an inquisitive novice, here are a few of our favorite rods and reels that you just might want to check out the next time you are walking the isles at your local Sportsman’s Warehouse.St. Croix Imperial
The St. Croix Imperial Fly Rod is handcrafted at St. Croix’s factory in Park Falls, Wisconsin with its mixture of both SCIV graphite and premium quality SCII graphite. Such a blend of materials produces an extremely lightweight and high quality fly rod. Additionally, it is designed for high performance where you can use it for fast-action fly fishing on your favorite river or lake.
Imperial’s fast action blank is stiff enough to send heavy sink-tips and weighted flies across the water like a dream, loading and shooting well. This comes in handy for my many Alaskan and Canadian adventures every summer. For the price, the Imperial fits the bill as a modestly priced workhorse.
The larger weight models come with an anodized aluminum reel seat, so the rod can be fished in saltwater without worrying about corrosion. The uplocking machined aluminum reel seat comes on the 7-weight models and up. The 6-weight and lower models have a machined aluminum reel seat with a rosewood insert. Included is a premium divided rod case with a snap locking top.
The St. Croix Imperial Fly Rod line contains a total of 34 models from 2 wt. to 10 wt. and even an 11’ switch model.
The St.Croix Imperial line of rods comes with a limited lifetime warranty that will cover just about every situation. Whether the rod fails due to a factory fault or you take a dive getting out of the drift boat and smash it tip down into a rock, the warranty will cover it with a minimal charge for shipping.Redington VICE Fly Rods
The VICE is a classically styled, fast-action rod designed to be accessible to all anglers. The multi-modulus carbon fiber blanks offer increased levels of recovery for casting with greater accuracy and control and the subtle design touches like black anodized snake guides, laser-etched reel seats and saltwater-grade components all work together to create a fly rod that anglers just can’t resist. It’s available in a wide range for specialty sizes for unique applications.
Throwing tight loops and loading quickly, Redington’s VICE Fly Rods excel when casting flies into the wind and they easily throw softer, more open loops for short-range work. Multi-modulus carbon-fiber blanks provide greater accuracy and control so you can work the fly where you want it. Includes a Cordura nylon rod tube with built-in rod dividers and a manufacturer’s lifetime warranty.
We have been using Redington fly rods for years at the Sportsman’s News and have found each of their new creations outstanding. To tell you the truth, I still use a couple of their CVX rods that are nearly ten years old on a few of my trips and I am amazed at their durability and performance.Temple Fork BVK
Engineered to the highest performance standards, the BVK utilizes new materials that dramatically reduce weight while creating an aggressive blend of power and strength. The result is amazing performance and an incredible price.
BVK rods are fast action rods designed to excel in presentation and distance. The rich translucent olive blanks are topped with matching braided carbon fiber reel seats, their exclusive Tactical Series Stripping Guides, ultra-lightweight chromium-impregnated stainless snake guides and Flor grade grips that are comfortably contoured and uniquely contrasted. The guides feature super hard-chrome anodized, stainless steel inserts pressed into a machined, hard-anodized, stainless steel frame for extreme durability in both fresh and saltwater. The BVK is offered in 3- to 10-weights.
I have always liked fast action rods because of their cast-ability and Temple Fork rods are truly a dream to cast.TFO Professional Series II
With 16 models available, from a delicate 2-weight through their popular 10, the Professional Series II travel rods have taken TFO’s reputation to new levels.
These medium fast and progressive action rods are smooth casting and powerful, yet very forgiving and are an incredible value. Lefty Kreh himself says, “They are the perfect rods for all anglers and skill levels”. 4-piece construction make these the perfect travel rods. 16 different models ensure the perfect rod for every fishing situation.
As nice as the Professional II rods are to cast, they are even better looking to the eyes. Matte black finishes and gold logos complete their high-end look and oversized stripper guides make it easy to throw serious amounts of line. TFO’s heavier weight rods have fighting butts for extra power when taking on the big boys. Easy to use color-coded alignment dots make it easy to put the rods together streamside. Each rod comes with an attractive logoed rod sock.
All TFO rods also come with a full replacement warranty, no questions asked. Just send in the rod and Temple Fork will have it back out to you within 24-hours for just the cost of shipping. Now that’s what you call taking care of your customers!Fenwick HMG
The HMG has a world of history before it. This rod was first introduced in 1973 as the world’s first all-graphite fishing rod and over 40 years later, it’s been reinvented as a modern classic, combining a light, comfortable rod design with a laser-tight, yet forgiving medium-fast action that gives you a crisp line feel and high line speed and accuracy in both close range and long casts.
This 4-piece rod comes in lengths of 7’ 6” to 9” and line ratings correspond from 4wt to 8wt. I’d recommend a mid-length, mid-weight if you’re looking for a new “jack-of-all-trades” model, but all of these rods can handle a tremendous variation of different sizes of fish.
New life is breathed into the classic design with modern details such as the matte black 4-section blank, complete with carbon binding, an aluminum anodized uplock reel seat and AAA grade cork handle. Inexpensive compared to the dozens of rods that have come after it, lovers of the HMG claim that, even after handling rods that are over twice the price, they keep coming back to the classic design and comfortable feel of the HMG.Waterworks Lamson
Lamson has built a solid reputation over the years as a company that builds reels that exceed expectations. Never one to rest on their laurels, they have pushed the envelope of reel designs to cover everything from the entry level price point to the angler that frequents the salt and demands the very best. From Alaska to the tropics, the Sportsman’s News team has put Lamson reels to the test and has been very happy with how they’ve performed.Guru Series II
The Guru II from Waterworks Lamson is a continuation of the original Guru reel that incorporates updated designs to enhance the performance that anglers raved about from its predecessor. The Guru II features a new spool geometry for higher retrieve rates, a curved cross section arbor and more open ports for lighter weight and quicker line drying time.
This reel strikes a near perfect balance of reliability and affordability, so you just may have found the perfect reel with the Guru II.
The Guru is a fully machined reel. Fully machined reels are not only more durable than pressure-cast reels, they are also lighter. Like all of Lamson’s machined reels, the Guru and all of its components are made in the USA in Boise, Idaho.
Right out of the box, the Guru is an impressive reel. A fully sealed drag keeps sand, water and everything else out of the reel. I’m not exactly gentle with my gear and I have had my reel dunked in water, sand, snow and any other element that could make a drag fail, but I have yet to see the Guru’s drag system perform anything but flawlessly. Even though the drag is really the most important part of the reel, let’s face it – looks matter! The Guru has a Type-II anodized finish meaning that over time you won’t see your reel looking like it’s taken much abuse. The silver-nickel color is low profile and clean and doesn’t take on many scratches or dirt over time because of the anodized finish.
On top of the sealed drag, anodized finish and durability, the Guru is a true large arbor reel. This means you have the capacity for more backing on a reel that might be used for larger species. This also means that it takes less turns of the reel to bring in your line, meaning you can put the heat on any big fish faster and have a better shot at landing them!
And for you fly guys that just have to have a black finished reel, well here it is! The new Black Guru II is virtually the same reel as the Guru II, finished in a smooth black Type-II anodize.Liquid
The Liquid from Waterworks Lamson is a pressure cast aluminum reel, built around their proprietary, sealed conical drag system is 50% U.S. manufactured and 100% U.S. assembled.
While die-cast reels are usually built cheaply with poorly performing drag systems, basic features and lack of durability, the Liquid fly reel has turned the tables. Lamson has long been known for producing large arbor fly reels of the highest quality with lightweight strength, smooth drags and high-tech features. The Liquid reel is no exception and for around $100, this is not a fly reel that is strictly designed for beginner anglers. It will function under tough conditions with long-lasting performance.
The Liquid is crafted from pressure die-cast aluminum which allowed Lamson to create compound curves and zero-radius inside corners for a precise fit and finish not found in other die-cast reels. A one-piece frame adds strength and a narrow large arbor design with a concave, curved spool holds fly line with plenty of backing capacity. The stealth black finish won’t spook fish with unwanted flashes and adds durability and abrasion resistance. With the drag system, Lamson did not cut corners on the Liquid. Their CNC-machined drag cassette is the same basic design as found on their high-end reels and has smooth fish-stopping power that is easily adjusted with a large drag knob.
Lamson’s Liquid comes in a full-range of sizes for many fly fishing applications from small brook trout in a mountain creek to hefty pike that require a 9-weight fly rod. Four sizes accommodate fly rods from three to ten weights and range from 3.34 to 4.65 inches in diameter and 4.23 to 8.19 ounces in weight. Backing capacity spans from 100 yards to 250 yards.
Waterworks Lamson’s warranty is valid for the lifetime of the original purchaser of the reel against any defect in material or workmanship.Liquid 3-Pack Fly Fishing Reel and Spools
The Liquid offers everything you need in a fly reel at an absolute bang for your buck. The 3-pack is even more of an extreme value, as it includes one reel and two spare spools in a nylon carrying case all for the price of one reel and one spool. This great reel pack offers beneficial interchangeability at ease for the multi-faceted angler.Redington RISE III
Redington’s all new RISE III continues their ongoing quest to think beyond the bounds of traditional reel designs. It features a u-shaped large-arbor and a compact carbon fiber drag system that offers smooth fish stopping toque. Its lightweight design shows through in the modern aesthetic of the RISE and thoughtful details like twin molded, soft-touch handles and oversized drag knob help the reel perform in the hands of any angler.
THE RISE fly reel, Redington’s latest offering, fits firmly in the beginner-to-intermediate category. The reel comes in four sizes (3/4, 5/6, 7/8, 9/10) and three different colors.
Redington has taken their super dependable CD Series reel and made it lighter and more attractive. This fully machined 6061 T6 aluminum mid-arbor construction reel features a cork on Teflon center drag design and a Koyo one-way clutch. The drag system is free from “creep”, diminishes heat generation and has excellent grease retention. Ceramic coated bearings aid in its smoothness and durability. One of the hallmarks of any outstanding piece of fishing gear is that it can be fished with confidence, and the RISE will allow you to do just that.
The RISE’s ergonomics and fit are outstanding for a reel in this price category. The spool-to-frame fit is perfect, with zero lateral play, resulting in a reel that’s a pleasure to operate. It comes with a nylon reel case and lifetime warranty.Redington BEHEMOTH
The BEHEMOTH, if its name wasn’t enough to get the message across, is decidedly aimed at anglers looking to tangle with big fish. The highlight of the BEHEMOTH is its drag package, which at the Redington-rated 30 lbs of weight/capacity, is far burlier than anything I’m aware of in its class. In fact, a drag of that power is typically found in high-end reels that price out at around $700 - $900, leaving many anglers wondering what gives with the BEHEMOTH and its inarguably reasonable asking price? Surely something must. Right? Well, as it turns out, not much. The secret to the BEHEMOTH’s affordability is its die-cast construction.
The reality is that the BEHEMOTH wouldn’t exist if it weren’t die cast. The BEHEMOTH incorporates spokes that criss-cross and interlock, meaning that the spool is not made up of several, individual spokes — instead the spokes merge and combine to form one solid-spoke in the injection process. The result is a spool with “incredible” structural strength to prevent torsion and embellish a deep V-cavity for extra capacities on backing.
And, BEHEMOTH’s spool lays out and picks up line very evenly. For the trout angler, reels that have this tendency are little more than a mild inconvenience, but for the big game angler, line that comes off or on the spool unevenly often translates into lost fish.
The BEHEMOTH offers anglers looking to expand their horizons a way to do so without dumping a month’s rent down on a premium fly reel. As with all Redington reels, it comes with a lifetime warranty to soothe you and remind you that everything’s going to be all right, even if something goes wrong.Ross Cimmeron II
The Cimarron II just may set the standard for affordable large arbor fly reels by incorporating a superior drag mechanism that is extraordinarily smooth, heat resistant and provides incredible stopping power. The series is fully machined out of a proprietary aluminum alloy, fully anodized for protection and built to take the type of abuse applied to a reel that is used every day of the season.
Ross’s Cimarron II is the newest generation in a line of quality, American-made fly reels. Its bold, linear porting gives it a distinctive look, while reducing weight and maintaining the strength and rigidity that Ross is known for. The Delrin 500AF, Teflon-impregnated disc drag system has been upgraded using new composite materials and stainless steel, boasting over twice the amount of drag pressure of its predecessor. Even with all of this additional power, the drag remains silky smooth and has zero start up inertia, which will protect the lightest tippet. These features make the Cimarron II a fantastic reel with performance and reliability that will be at home on any body of water.