Today I had a chance to test two great new rods, both worthy of review and purchase on one of my home spring creeks. The rods were a 8ft 4 piece Loop Yellow series 2/3 weight fitted with a Hardy Lightweight reel and the new Scientific Anglers Sharkskin 3wt weight forward floating line.
The other rod was Winston’s new 7’6 3wt all graphite GVX 4 piece rod fitted with Abel’s Super 3N large arbor reel and a Scientific Anglers GPX Textured line in a WF3F.
The location was my home water, a great spring creek teaming with wild McCloud rainbow trout that have never known a hatchery. Today the creek was running full but with good color. The sky was overcast and the ambient temperature was in the low fifties. In other words- perfect weather for blue wing olives, little black caddis and some tan caddis as well. As these are wild and very opportunistic fish- just about any well placed dry fly of reasonable size and presentation will at least garner an inspection. In other words it was going to be a great day that unless we really wanted to, a nymph rig would never cloud the casting of these two fine rods.
This review I will contrast both the rod’s action and the differences between the 100 dollar Sharkskin line and the lesser priced 80 dollar GPX Textured line.
First- the Loop Yellow series 2/3 wt rod in a smidge over 8 foot in length. I guess Loop borrowed from Sage and Scott and made a rod in kind of a odd length. For that reason I can’t recall the exact length but I know it wasn’t eight foot even nor was it as long as eight foot six inches. Whatever the length was I can be sure of two things- one it is no where near a two weight, and two- it’s a canon. Let me quantify that statement- it is a canon in a really cool way. The cool kind of way that you don’t know how much power the rod has in the butt section until you realize that you just double hauled a three weight line the better part of seventy feet to the far side of a pool/cut bank bend. During the usual 30 to 40 ft cast commonly found on a spring creek the rod’s power is well behaved in a sleeping giant sort of way. Basically, the rod does not feel broomstickish in any sort of way- simply put it feels like a moderate action 3 weight that is accurate as a laser sight and a blast to play even a small creek wild trout on. But, when the need arrises it will meet the demand and power as much line as you could possible want.
Now all that said, I don’t know just what the good people at the Loop factory are smoking, but this rod is no two weight. And yes, I know that the Sharkskin is like a 3.5wt line but this rod would be quite happy paired with a 4wt. But lets be clear, lining up this rod would not be because it had a Sage like super fast tip section that required one line heavy to feel the rod load, the Loop is simply light in the hand but the moderate full flexing action came alive with the WF3F Sharkskin especially as the distance increased. For lots of in close work a WF4F in a standard AFTMA size might feel pretty good.
In terms of construction the Loop was a custom build, built by a local craftsman that I have know for many years. His work can be summed in one word- impeccable. Well, except for one thing, the builder did not include a hook keeper- and this omission was the subject of a great deal of conversing by the rod’s owner.....Sorry Dave, but really, move on....
Anyhow, as the Loop’s owner was so immersed in the day’s great dry fly action he never had the need or desire to test the rod capabilities throwing a nymph or small wooly. As I got to cast this rod a great deal I can say that the rod could manage just about any appropriate sized nymph/split shot/indicator rig with plenty of poise. That goes for probing the far side of any wide run with a small bead head wooly so long as you didn’t get too crazy with the size. But the real fun was throwing the most perfect tight loops, landing a small dry fly with surgical precision in the current seam regardless if the cast enticed a fish.
The Winston rod, that as the owner I love very much, was a different animal. In fact the controlled substance that lead to Loop labeling the above rod a “2/3” weight must have been shared with the good people back in Twin Bridges when they branded this rod’s action “fast”, perhaps Winston lined the rod with a 2 weight. In the Winston family of rods this little gem is priced at about 500US and is what they describe as the finest “all” graphite rod on the market. That little statement is because Winston’s top line 700 dollar rods pair boron in the butt section to make the rod lighter and I guess the action faster. Having cast some of the boron infused BIIIX sticks I would say their action was brisk but I’m not sure I would say fast- but that is just an opinion...For the record the GVX is made in Twin Bridges Mt, it is a green stick through and through, the construction is stunning.
When I placed the order for this GVX rod I sent an email to Winston to get some line recommendations and the response was that any standard weight double taper line would be a good choice. With that in mind the line choice I made was Rio’s Presentation double tapered three in a funky olive green color. When I picked the rod up I fined tuned my selection by casting the rod in the dealer’s casting pool and concluded that the double taper 3 did absolutely nothing for the rod’s action. Much like the Loop, the Winston has plenty of power but certainly the power is in a energized full flexing mid and butt section, not in a fast butt-tip section like what we see out of Bainbridge Island Washington these days. The power of the rod, the rod’s voice was really brought out when I loaded the SA GPX Textured line. This line weight and a half line with the golf ball texture totally changed the rod’s performance making casts of every distance easier where before the rod was not talking to me until it got around twenty feet of line out.
Like the Loop, the Winston was capable of accurate controlled casts but the Winston felt much lighter in the hand. I’ll have to get the full specks on the Loop’s weight but I’m certain that it was heavier. Playing fish on the Winston was a blast and I can’t wait to get a fish of size on this rod. One thing I’ll say about the Winston is that you have to wait on it a bit, let it load, feel for the bend then bring the forward cast into play with a measured increase in power. I know that it seems contradictory that the standard DT3 felt limp and the half line heavy WF3 seemed great and now I’m saying to let the rod fully flex and load. Simply that is how it went for me, perhaps another caster would see things differently, probably a standard WF3 would do the trick, I just really like how that GPX line performs.
Unlike my friend with his Loop firmly entrenched in dry fly nirvana, I decided to give the Winston a full test, slinging a sizable nymph as well as a tungsten bead head wooly in a size 12 or 14. Mostly this was because I was unaccustomed to this light and soft of a three weight I needed to know what it could do, then I would rejoin the dry fly festivities already in progress. I discovered that I should not be fooled by the rod’s full flex, there is a lot of power in this rod and it is capable of plenty. I guess it is similar in a small way to my old school 9wt Sage from the 80’s- it has a deep full flex but it can cast the big stuff a mile, turn a pissed off King Salmon or mullet crazed toddler sized tarpon. The Winston has this kind of power on a smaller scale which is quite reassuring when you see a big fish that has no interest in a #22 BWO but will move like a “fat kid on a cupcake” toward a beefy Prince nymph or well placed woolybugger. But, much like the Loop the really fun with the Winston was casting these perfect, tight, javelin like loops, 30-40 feet up into a riffle with a #14 elk hair caddis.
Lines, Reels and the Cons-
Ok, what sooooo many want to know- Is the GPX Textured line as noisy as the Sharkskin? Is the Sharkskin worth the extra twenty bucks over the GPX?
Point blankly- The SharkSkin and the GPX make the SAME level of noise- exactly the same.
When I switched from my GPX lined Winston to the Sharkskin lined Loop I in NO way thought- holy cow, I should have spent the extra money for the SharkSkin. There was NO perceivable difference between these two lines other than the rough texture of the SharkSkin. I imagine that there will those that will chime in and opine about how the Sharkskin is a superior line- blah, blah, blah. In most cases they are just hacked that they dropped 100 bucks and I got the same action for 80.
Both rods were well balanced with our choices in reels. The Hardy on the Loop rod looked and sounded great. If you are selecting a click drag reel make sure and make it a Hardy, they make the simple drag sound like music rather than an irritating New Year’s Eve party favor. I love Abel reels but those California boys need to learn a bit more to tune the TR and Creek series because in my opinion they are not there yet.
The Abel Super 3N is great choice in the disc drag reel, certainly not needed on the usual spring creek 3wt outing but hey it’s cool and I like it...
The only cons that come to mind are pretty transient. The Loop has a very yellow blank- hence the name, it takes a bit to get used to but in time I warmed to it. The Winston has an action that I have to cast for a moment or two to find the rod’s pace. It is so different from many of my other rods that I have to retrain my tempo to get into it’s groove. This doesn’t take too long but there is a period of adjustment where I may have a wild cast or two. For the long time Winston owners that have made their way in this world on the power of green IM6- the transition will be instant.
Now for a few snappies-