Spent a full day at theMarlboro show yesterday. As always, it was a welcome boost to the spirit in the dead of winter to stroll amongst the collection of new rods, reels, fly lines, outerwear, fly tying paraphernalia, and literature. Though I have never been, I am told the Somerset NJ show dwarfs this one, as many vendors/exhibitors choose to do Jersey as the one show they do in the Northeast, owing to its proximity to so many more population centers within a relatively small radius. Attendance figures for Somerset would seem to justify bypassing Marlboro if you had to choose between them. I am contemplating making the trip to attend Somerset this year to see it for myself, but I still go to Marlboro each year. It's a short ride from home and is the first chance for me to actually get to hold some of the newest gear in my hands and fondle to my heart's content, most items on my wish list. I spent the most "quality time" this year with the new Tibor Signature Series reel at the Bears Den booth, and with the new TFO BVK Series 8wt fly rod at the TFO booth and also at the indoor casting pond. While it is admittedly presumptuous to judge any product after one "date", I can at least offer some valid first impressions.
The Tibor is a beautifully crafted American made piece of work in keeping with the company's well earned reputation for quality and durability. It is decidedly lighter in hand than the traditional Tibors of comparable size, with ported housing and spool, yet feels solid and smooth. One of the features is a constant slight resistance even with the drag backed off completely to prevent over-running the spool when stripping off line. The drag is sealed and requires little or no maintenance, and the spool is easily removed while retaining the loosening knob. If money was no object, (but it almost always is!) this reel would be a fine addition to my arsenal of flyfishing tools. But in terms of value, at a retail price just south of $800, it is hard to justify. I know that part of that price reflects American labor earning a living wage with benefits, and for some, including me, that is a real consideration. But there are other very good quality reels made in the good old USA that cost hundreds less. The ones made by Hatch come to mind. The Hatch line of fly reels are not cheap either, at $500-$700 in the saltwater sizes, but are a better value IMHO.
At a retail $249, The TFO BVK (Bernard Victor Kreh) 8wt rod is an excellent value. I spent a good 15 minutes casting an 8wt floating line with it and this stick has an excellent feel. Decidedly a fast action taper, but with enough tip flex for more delicate tosses. It is truly a featherweight for an 8wt coming in at a whispy 3.2 ounces, whereas by comparison, my TFO Axiom 6wt, my current favorite rod, weighs 5.3 ounces. The BVKs feature two REC recoil stripping guides, which, from an aesthetic standpoint, don't do much for me, but the rod blanks are a handsome olive color. I would give this rod a serious look but for two small gripes: 1) the stripping guides are seriously undersized, and 2) the fighting butt is too small. The BVK 9wt is appropriately built with properly sized guides and fighting butt. Put the same components on the 8 and I'll buy one. Undersized stripping guides are not so much a consideration for measured, 30 to 50 foot casts in sight fishing situations. But for longer casts aimed at covering water where generated line speeds are quite high and the line is released by the stripping hand on the 2nd haul, the line could more easily find its way around, rather than through the small guides and snag, robbing distance or totally collapsing the cast.
The undersized stripping guides are a trend I have noticed with several flyrod manufacterers the past few years. My guess is it relates to the preoccupation with ever lighter flyrods which have drawn good consumer response. The small butt on the BVK 8 was definitely to save weight because it even looks two sizes too small. To me, the over-emphasis on light weight is misplaced by the manufacterers. 2 ounces in rod weight is not the reason for fatigue on a typical flyfishing outing. IMHO, the more likely reason is an unbalanced rod/reel combination, and/or a breakdown in casting mechanics from battling wind or weather. The other potential trade-off with the new featherweight slim rod tapers, notwithstanding the very good warranty program, is breakage due to being excessively brittle. TFO has tested the BVKs in the lab and on the water and are confident in their design. They probably are right but only time will tell.
And then, there were the many elite fly tiers at the show. This year, I spent a considerable amount of time time watching Dave Skok at his vice, and also at his "5 Essentials on the Fly"presentation. More on Dave in the next post.