Friday, August 3, 2012

Where Do I Even Begin? (part III)

Okay, so you don’t know anyone with a man cave full of fishing stuff and you don’t have the patience to summon your inner tonberry and haggle your way through a flea market.  You do, however, have some money that you’ve been saving.  Now we are going to talk about the quickest way to dissolve your funds and get you elbow deep in fish slime.
Buying brand new fishing gear is so much fun!  With all the fishing I do, I can only recall three times when I actually went out and picked out a new rod and reel.  When you decide to get new gear, there are some things to keep in mind.  Big box stores may have great selections and even better prices, but a lot of the time the people behind the counter can’t tell you anything about the gear, and a lot of stuff on display is broken.  You are better off going to a smaller fishing shop where the prices may be a little higher, but the staff is very helpful.  They can help you pick out a good rod, and even give you tips about where to fish and what to use.  And if you support a smaller shop, you know where the money is going.
Ultimately, like a wand from Ollivander’s, the rod chooses the angler, but the staff will help it find you!  There are many different choices for handles, length, action (flexibility), reels, guides (eyes), and the number of pieces the rod breaks into.  Most rods are two-pieces.  Two-piece rods break down small enough to pack and carry without sacrificing a lot of strength. One-piece rods will always be stronger, but harder to store away, or put in the trunk of your car, so there is a trade off.  A good starter rod would probably be a 6’6” medium action two-piece rod with an open face reel.  Long and heavy enough to catch some big fish, but delicate enough to feel the smallest trout strike your bait while still being easy to transport and store.  Later on if you feel the need, you can worry about rods for specific fish, such as an ultralight rod for panfish and a heavy action rod for catfish.

A great rod for fishermen of any skill level is the Ugly Stik, made by Shakespeare.  Ugly Stiks are made in the USA, quite affordable, and among the most durable rods made.  You will not find a better rod for the price.  Most Ugly Stik rod and reel combos range in price from $20.00 to $50.00.  As testimony to the reliability of an Ugly Stik, they have a seven year warranty against defect, but if you break it when you run into a tree while off road biking from one fishing spot to another (as I have), you’re just going to have to try to repair it on your own. 
big salmon from mckinley marina
My medium action 6'6" Ugly Stik strung with 6 pound
 test line caught this 32" chinook salmon out of Lake
Michigan in downtown Milwaukee after a 45 minute fight.

If you are looking for a brand new fly rod, there is a lot more to a fly rod setup than just the rod, reel and the line.  There is the thick braided line that is tied to the reel, this is called the backing line, or, just “the backing.”  The backing is tied to the fly line, which is the portion that is cast.  The end of the fly line is then finished off with the tapered leader which is usually about 9’ in length.  Your fly can be tied to the leader, but as the flies break off, or are cut off and changed, your leader will get shorter and thicker.  To add this length back, you need to tie on a very fine section of line, called the tippet. There are some good starter kits that have most, or all of these things.  My first fly rod was a two-piece Scientific angler 5/6 weight 9’ rod.  It came with the rod, reel, backing, fly line, and leader.  The kit also came with instructions on how to tie all the correct knots for each of the different types of line, because it needed to be assembled.  What I like about this is that you will get firsthand knowledge of how to put it all together.  I don’t think they make that exact kit anymore; the one I see on the shelves at Gander Mountain and other places is a four-piece rod with everything assembled and ready to go. It also comes with some flies and an instructional DVD.  This kit costs about $110.00.  Cabela’s makes a good affordable fly rod under the name “Three Forks,” you can pick up a rod with all the line on the reel for $74.99 on the website.  My current fly rod is a two-piece 8’ 6” Three Forks 5 weight rod and reel combo.  Three Forks is an all around great rod for most occasions if you don’t have pockets overflowing with gil.  If you do, go somewhere that specializes in fly fishing.  They all have at least one high quality rod with the beginner in mind.  A local shop in Milwaukee, called The Fly Fishers, has some really nice fly rod and reel combos for around $300.00, and they sell used gear!
Once you have gotten a rod, there are still some other things you will need before you are really ready to get out on the water. If you get a rod at a thrift store or from dad’s man cave, you can assume the line needs to be replaced.  Even the line on a brand new rod may need to be replaced rather quickly.  There are also tackle boxes, hooks, lures, floats, sinkers, and all kinds of fun stuff yet.  We will talk about these things in a later post, until then!

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