|Steelhead caught on inexpensive gear - Echo Classic Rod and old JW Young Beaudex|
I gotta admit, when it comes to steelheading gear, I tend to be a "cheap skate". I believe I may have gone down the road of the frugal initially out of necessity. I remember when I first got serious about fly fishing in the late 80's, my first yearnings for higher end gear started when I spotted some Sage RPL fly rods on the rack at the old Larry's Sport Center in Tigard, Oregon. When I wiggle tested those Sages, I was amazed at how light and lively they felt in my hands. I had to have one, but at the time the $350.00 price tag was way out of my range.
When I did get my hands on higher end rods, I ended up rolling them from blanks so that I could afford them. My first home built graphite fly rod was a G. Loomis 9' 5wt IMX that Wendi ordered from Cabela's for me as a gift. I got my wish with owning Sage RPLs, again by rolling them from blanks. My first Sage RPL was the 896, 9'6" 8wt. While living in Montana from 93-94', I had also obtained several Sage "factory second" RPL blanks from the River's Edge fly shop in Bozeman, which reduced the cost of my rods even more. These included the 490 (9' 4wt), 790 (9'7wt), and 279 (7'9" 2wt). I also built my two Sage two handers (the 9140-4 brownie and 8136-4 IIIe) from blanks and components purchased from Angler's Workshop to put them within range of my budget.
By 2008, the trend in two handers began to go in the shorter direction and I was in the market for a 12'6" 6/7 wt. By then, makers like TFO and Echo had come on the scene and great two handers at low prices were on the the market. I read great things about the Echo Classics and I ended up with the 6126 for $270.00. I liked that rod enough that I purchased the DECHO 6126 when it came out as well and paid just a bit more for a rod with some nicer cosmetics.
In 2011, I discovered the fun of old vintage single hand glass fly rods. I began regularly shopping on ebay and bought several of these rods until I ended up with a pretty large collection of glass from yesteryear. I got another one of these rods from a friend and another was on consignment at my local fly shop and I couldn't pass it up. I paid as little as $40.00 and as much as $150.00 for these outdated wands. I was having a ton of fun with fishing these relics and I had also discovered the Wulff Ambush fly lines at the same time. The Ambush lines made single hand spey casting with single hand glass rods smooth and easy. I found myself fishing these rods for all my steelheading whether skating for summer runs or fishing Winter's Hopes on heavy irons on a dry line in winter. I also added short lower handles to some of these rods and turned them into mini switches.
|Old Glass and Pflueger Medalist|
Just last year, I happened to be visiting with a friend who works at our local Cabela's and he mentioned the TLR switch rods were on sale for $79.95. I gave the 11' 6wt the wiggle test and being the cheap skate that I am, grabbed one one the spot. After fishing with this rod, I loved it so much, that I ended up grabbing the 11' 6" 7wt and the 11' 7wt before the $79.95 sale ended. I was simply amazed and continue to be amazed at the performance of these rods, especially for what I paid for them. I took the 11' 6wt and the 11' 6" 7wt on my trip to BC last fall and used them for the whole trip.
|Cabela's TLR and "home repaired" Hardy Perfect with a 33" BC surface steelhead|
Many other items in my aresnal of steelhead equipment would be consdered low budget as well. I've been known to use Pfluger Medalists, SA System reels, JW Youngs and other relatively low cost reels. I do own one Hardy Perfect, a 3 7/8 narrow drum trout model. I got this reel at an affordable price due to it being somewhat of a beater, which lots of enamel scraped off, bent winding plate and slightly bent frame that caused some interference during winding. I was able to fix these issues on my own, giving me my "status" as the owner of a serviceable Hardy Perfect. All of the other reels I have owned have been "consumer grade" models with modest to lower end price tags even when they were brand new.
I've also been a cheapskate in the wader department. I've owned my fair share of Cabela's neoprenes purchased for as low as $39.95. Even at that, I still wore them to shreds until no amount of aquaseal could keep all the major leaks at bay. The same is true of breathable waders. The models I've gotten have been under $100, usually much less when found on clearance. Again, these waders are worn to the point of being nearly completely covered on the inside with aquaseal.
This past year, I finally decided to upgrade my current wader purchase and looked into brands like Simms and Redington. I was told by some local guide friends that the Redington Sonic Pros were tough as nails, especially at their price point, which was at the low end of the higher grade waders on the market. In cheapskate style, I found them at an even lower price through a retailer online and have been very happy with them. Unlike some of my cheaper waders, some of which should come with two tubes of aquaseal and directions that read "coat all seams with aquaseal before using", the Sonic Pros have kept me dry and after a full season, show very little signs of wear.
I'm hard on waders, especially during winter as I bushwack through blackberry bushes, looking for the ideal casting station that will give up a winter chromer and not even my tough Sonic Pros are completely immune to such mistreatment. As a result, I have some pinhole leaks in the knee areas, but they are not substantial enough for me to search for them and patch them as they are just a bit beyond the condensation that forms inside waders anyway. One of these days I'll get to that patch job.
The tendency to wear things to shreds and get every last penny's worth out of things applies to all my gear, but is especially apparant with wading shoes. Of course, I always look for stuff on sale or consumer grade if not. I've had wading shoes that are worn to the point of literally falling apart - holes on the sides, seams coming apart, soles falling off or held by sheet metal screws or duct tape, etc.
I've already talked about my fishing car so no need to go there, but one get's the point - it doesn't take a lot of cash or high end gear to make me happy in this sport.
I'm just content with being a cheap skate....