I love that my Orvis fly rods are warranted for twenty-five years and are terrific rods, but they are expensive. My first fly rod was a 9-foot, 5/6-weight St. Croix Pro Graphite, made in the USA, excellent big river trout rod. The trouble with that first rod is it’s a two-piece rod. Even broken in two, it didn’t fit in my 1960’s VW. I still love that rod to this day, and the old Courtland (made in England) reel still gives me no trouble. Because of the length of the broken-down rod (57” in its case), I don’t tend to take it with me much anymore. Now that I live in Arizona I tend to fish small streams and use my 7-foot, 4-weight, 4-piece Orvis Clearwater most of the time.
When I travel the Orvis 7-footer is always with me, but on a recent trip to the northeast corner of Oregon, I found a surprising gem at a small fly shop in Joseph, Oregon. Since I was limited on space and spending six weeks on the road I only had the small Orvis Clearwater with me, but as I learned, the bigger fish, and wider rivers and lakes I would encounter required a bit more reach and weight. I always visit local fly shops when I’m traveling, to get advice on local fishing hot spots, what’s hatching and so on. On this particular occasion, I noticed a cheap combo rig on the wall that had a nice look to it and an even better price. The rod and reel was a Redington Crosswater combo kit. A 9-foot, 5-weight, 4-piece rod. At under $150, I took the plunge. Of course, I also picked up a few of the flies they recommended for the area, and headed off.
When I waded out to where the Wallowa River empties its icy glacier melt into gorgeous Wallowa Lake, I was stunned at how terrific this rod felt. It’s buttery smooth and responsive at the same time. It seemed to keep pace with the line in a way I have rarely experienced. Five minutes later I was cursing the abysmal reel.
I never really thought of fly reels as anything more than a place to store line until this thing started giving me grief. My new view on fly reels is that a good reel on your rod is like IT support for your computer; when it’s not causing you trouble, you forget it’s there. The trouble with the Redington reel is that the line guard (opposite the mounting flange) stops too short of the reel face, leaving a gap that allows the line to pass and become tangled. This is exacerbated by the flexibility of the composite frame, causing the gap to widen and shut as it flexes. The result causes the line to wrap itself around the line guard, stopping your line from exiting or entering the reel, ending in all sorts of frustration.
After putting the reel away and picking up a nice Orvis Hydros that was on clearance on my way through Utah, the Redington rod Hydros reel combo quickly became my favorite combo. It was with me through high lakes, tiny mountain streams and everything in between. With the reel no longer in my consciousness, the rod again performed so far beyond its price point it was amazing.
Now I’m not going to tell you that it is flawlessly made or an incredible piece of craftsmanship (it is not). The fit and finish is not that of a handmade rod costing thousands of dollars. The alignment dots are not accurate, so you need to sight the eyes as you assemble it. It is made in China, presumably by machines; however, it is much, much nicer than expected, even upon close inspection.
The Redington Crosswater Rod and Reel Combo now sells for $199 online, but learn from my mistake and purchase the Crosswater Rod only, without the reel. You can get it directly from Redington(1) for $89.95, then tell your friends about this terrific bargain rod with exceptional manners.