|The Redington Link|
I've subjected myself to a crash-course in saltwater angling, and while I clearly have a lot to learn, I've come to the realization that nothing--and I mean nothing--beats good equipment when you're chasing fish that, with a bit of effort, can run the average angler into the backing... several times. When that first salty critter hammers a Clouser, you immediately know that you're not chasing brookies in some backcountry haunt.
This is big boy fishing.
So, before I left for a recent trip to Mexico, I asked the good folks at Redington to send me the company's top-of-line fly rod and reel outfit--I have some gear that's saltwater worthy, but we were to chase roosters and jacks in the surf, and, frankly, my level of confidence in my own sparsely used gear was pretty low.
Redington fired off a 10-foot 8-weight Link accompanied by a corresponding Rise reel. Taking the advice from a friend of mine with years of Baja experience, I asked RIO Products for both a quality saltwater floating line, and for something with a bit of sink for the surf. The company sent both a floating line that would be great for bonefish and its Tropical floating/intermediate hybrid line with a clear 340-grain sink tip.
I've fished Redington rods for quite a while. Years ago, when I worked as a journalist, Redington rods sold at a price-point I could actually afford. And, for small-water trout fishing here in the Rockies, I found them more than adequate.
When I purchased a Redington 7-weight travel rod and took it to Southeast Alaska for my first-ever salmon-fishing experience, the rod split a ferrule on the first fish I hooked. Granted, this was years ago--but impressions like that are hard to forget.
So, with lots of water under the bridge, I figured I owed Redington another shot, and this trip to Mexico offered a good excuse to ask if I could see what the Link could do.
I'm glad I asked.
I guess the best compliment I can offer up is this: This isn't your grandfather's Redington.
I found the Link to be a solid rod--and at 10 feet long, I really liked the help it gave me and my somewhat shaky double-haul to clear that first line of breakers on the beach. It's a bit heavy, but consider an additional foot of graphite, and that explains it. Lined with RIO floating-intermediate line, I had no trouble casting the entire spool of line (and that's rare for me). It was smooth and responsive, and it picked up line from the water--even with the intermediate sink-tip--without any trouble.
The Link is also something the Redington rods of old were not: fast. It was ideal for longer casts to specific fish, and it loaded quickly, which made it easier to forego the false cast and put the fly in the water. In fact, I received a rare compliment from my fishing buddy Mike, who actually said he learned a bit about distance casting from watching me put the Link through its paces.
(For clarity, I'm not sure if that really means I'm getting better at this saltwater thing, of if Mike was just being nice because I did all the driving.)
The Link I used lists at $379.95, and remember, this is Redington's premiere rod. The price-point is still reasonable, and that price is more than fair for this heavy-duty piece of fly fishing equipment. I suppose, if you're a veteran saltwater fly fisher, you might want to look into the truly pricey models out there, including some from Redington's sister company, Sage. But for me and my handful of saltwater trips (if I'm lucky) every year, the Link is more than enough to satisfy.
One side note: The four-piece Link comes in a handsome rod case that, just coincidentally, was long enough for a thirsty fly fisher to reach the one low-hanging coconut in the palm tree just outside the hotel room. After a couple of good whacks, the coconut fell right into my hammock--minutes later, its milk was coupled with OJ and tequila--over ice--for a refreshing tropical concoction I've yet to name. I'm thinking something like the Baja Tranquilizer... I'll come up with something. The good news? The Link's rod case is plenty durable--I think I'll leave the dried coconut milk on it, just to show the fine folks at Redington how versatile a fly rod can be in pinch.
The RiseRise to be a solid companion to the Link--it's nothing fancy, but the large arbor helped with line retrieve, and it is solidly constructed. The reel and the extra spool Redington sent my way came in a handsome metallic blue, and I had no trouble with it after a week of fairly constant fishing.
Reels for saltwater fishing are much more important than they are for traditional trout angling, and it all comes into play when you make contact with fish. While neither Mike nor I managed to catch a rooster, I did manage a small jack from the panga one afternoon, as well as a feisty sierra that tugged plenty hard. The drag system on the Rise was up to the task.
The Rise retails for $189.95--a good price for the periodic saltwater angler
RIO Tropical floating/intermediate line with the clear tip was ideal for the kind of fishing we did, so long as the weather stayed on the warm side. It's a tropical line, meant for tropical temperatures, so when, on the first morning, temps were in the 60s on the Panga, the line was quick to stiffen and tangle, frustrating many a cast.
Once it warmed up, though (and likely once we stretched it a bit), the line shot through the guides like a stick of butter. I intend to put this line--and the RIO bonefish line--through its paces on Bahamian flats in a few weeks. I'll report back with a more thorough review toward the end of June.
The RIO Tropical F/I retails for $79.95.
Author's note: Every review on saltwater fly fishing gear should come equipped with a "care and feeding of saltwater fly fishing gear" disclaimer. First, when you're done for the day, thoroughly rinse your gear in fresh water. The salt goes to work eating even the best of equipment. Thankfully, our host resort, Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort, has a freshwater shower that's ideal for rinsing sandy feet and salty gear, right there on the beach. Second, just because it's heavy-duty gear doesn't mean it can withstand a ceiling fan or a head-on march into the trunk of a palm tree. Be careful--break your rod down between outings if you can.