Rainshadow REVOLUTION 9010-4 — The build

Long time no see, I guess. It’s good to be back.

So, I got the opportunity to lay my hands on a kit to build a Batson/Rainshadow rod for pike on the fly. That was a month ago, with just the perfect timing: ten days later, I was going to Ireland with Simon to explore the waters around Corofin, Co Clare, which I understand are haunted by some fat boys.

Me, holding the yard-long pike I totally failed to catch

Me, holding the yard-long pike I totally failed to catch (Dromore lake, Co Clare, Ireland).

Writing on Le Mouching with Jérôme Servonnat, I’ve learned a lot about pike on the fly. And in particular that fast rods are not what you want to wave around when there’s a foot-long streamer on the business end of the line. You need power in the butt because you’re going to shoot a lot of line, but you need a smooth delivery, or you’re going to wreck your arm after a day of fishing. Another valuable point is the grip configuration. It’s a good idea to have it long, so the fighting butt rests low on the forearm. It helps to get power on the backcast, and gives you stability when you fight the fish.

the build

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Nice walls.

When the kit got home, the first thing I noticed about the blank was its wall thickness. There’s a lot of carbon in there. My guess is that the Batson guys are primarily salmon fishermen, and that thing is designed to deal with serious chinooks. Just from gut feeling and a little wiggle test, I thought there’s no way a pike will push this stick to its limits. Which is cool: you fish with confidence, and fight them hard. And that makes the fight much more fun.

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What the scales says

The blank I received was quite straight, with a beautiful silky finish that’s pleasing to the eye and to the touch. It is on the heavy side, but then it’s designed for big fish. Batson advertise it at 71g (2.5 oz) and that’s exactly what my scales says. The wiggle test suggests lots of power and not much rebound (excellent!). I cannot wait to cast it.

For the layout, I went for single foot guides in sizes 4 4 4 4 5 5 6. I just don’t see the point of snakes. Then (concession to the Batson style) three insert guides (Alps XBMXNLG) in size 12 16 20. I think it’s huge, but I reasoned that maybe the guys at Batson’s know their jobs and it really works better. At any rate, given the kind of power in the lower half of the blank, a couple of extra grams won’t make much of a difference. And since I’ll be flying a Depthfinder Big Game 400gr I probably won’t notice much in action.

poignéeReel seat and cork grips are Alps products, and so is the fighting butt. This guy was too short for my taste, so I cut it in half, turned a cork ring to size, and glued back the butt with this extra cork in the middle.the result is a grip that works like intended. It looks a little like a switch rod, and I promised myself to try it with double handed speys sometimes.

The building process went without problem, except for the goddamn sticker. Stickers hate us. They secretly plot against our sanity. The thing is: you don’t want to touch the glue side, and you dont want to reposition the thing because of major risks of borders lifting while the finish is curing. Which translates as: almost without touching it, land that bastard straight at first shot. In plain English: a miracle. That’s why Batson generously gives you two of those, so you can totally screw up the first and have a chance to learn with the second. As I’m particularly gifted in such exercices, I think I could easily wreck ten of those before getting one right. So, after a first try and spectacular fail, I got the second and last to land flat, but askew, then decided that askew is the new straight and left it like that.

Who cares about straight?

Who cares about straight?

I went for an unassuming black on black look, bastard child of my less-is-more taste and the lack of time before my Ireland trip. But mainly, because it looks good. Wrapping a black thread on a black blank tends to be taxing on the eyes, and I would have suffered a lot if I hadn’t made the single best investment in my rodbuilding life: a big magnifying glass with lights on it. With this thing on my desk, I’m seeing things as never before. Are you half blind? Do you ever feel you’re goggling so hard at your wrap your eyeballs are about to pop out from your skull? Get the glass. You won’t be sorry.

from the desk of g0nefishin9

from the desk of g0nefishin9

black on black

black on black

A note about the reel seat. My kit included a RA801L2TR-B from Alps. The looks of the RA801 is less plain than the former RA8, which I deplore. I loved the extreme simplicity of the old design. Nevertheless, this one is clearly very good. Double nut, as it should, holds steadily any reel foot I tried on it (Sage 2210, Okuma Airframe, Loop Opti Speedrunner).

Stay tuned: next time, casting and fishing results.


measures (for the rod)

weight = 174g (6.14 oz)
weight (grip) = 122g (4.3 oz)
AA = 63°
IP = 2963 gr.
ERN = 9,55

AA=63°

AA=63°, mod-fast, in a good sense.

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Tadpole (2): Cut&Pasting blanks

This post will deal with two things I experimented on the tadpole: blank extension and spigot ferrule creation.

tadpole

So, you’ve heard everywhere about fiberglass, which is the next craze in our little fly world. Maybe you’re just a tackle freak, and you want to check it out because you’ve got to. Maybe you’re tired of putting a 7wt TT on your fast 5wt to ba able to use it (but you like fast, of course, who wants to like slow?) and you wonder if the ‘true glass feel’ will not give you a good story to tell to go back to something that matches your actual casting stroke. Maybe you just want to get a really short fly rod. Or you can’t afford much more, and you suspect you could get a nice rod for very little money.
Any of these reasons is valid, but the best ones to go the tadpole route are the need for a short rod that will tke some abuse, and the lack of funds. At 5′ and 13€ apiece, provided you’re not too fancy about the rest of the components, your ticket for the short glass world will not break the bank. Obviously, there’s very good opportunities on the second-hand market, but building your own rod is something else, and as the glass bug spreads prices tend to get a little out of hand.

fenwick

Classic glass. Will cost you an eye.

So. You’ve got a handful of coins and want to have fun with the ten inches chubs in the stream back there, without fearing to have a go at those fat three pounders you see sometimes. Let’s say you’d prefer it not too short (closer to 6′) and in two pieces for transport.
Come here, I’ll show you how you do that.

First get two Batson SPG 601 blanks. You’ll need the second as an organ donor. A couple of inexpensive burl cork rings (10 is good), a simple aluminium reel seat, six fly guides (five #1, a #2), a garden variety size 12 insert guide for the stripper, a 4.5 tip and you’re set. If you insist you can add a winding check and a hook keeper. I did not.

Stickers you probably won't use on a tadpole

Stickers you probably won’t use on a tadpole

Now, follow those steps:

  1. Sand gently blank #1 to remove the paint.
  2. Find and mark the spine on blank #2. Measure its inner diameter (ID) at the butt.
  3. Find the point on blank #1 with a matching outer diameter (OD). Mark the blank 3″ (7.5cm) above this point (ie towards the tip). Cut there, using a metal saw or a dremel, or maybe more refined techniques if you feel fancy. It’s better to put masking tape where you will cut, to avoid splints. Sand smooth the cut’s edges. The butt part of blank #1 is your extension.
  4. Test fit the extension into blank #2’s butt. The whole extended blank should measure approximately 5’10 (178cm). Mark on the extension where it goes out of blank #2. You will build the handle on the extension, and you don’t want it to go past the point where it enters into blank #2.
  5. Tape the ferrule (ie blank #2’s last inch) and put the whole extended blank under load. Observe the curve, and ask yourself where you want to put the spigot. It will create a hard spot, so you want to get it as low on the butt as you can, without sacrificing too much of the rod’s portability. I found that a 33″ butt, including the spigot, is a reasonable balance.

    Slight but noticeable hard spot

    Slight but noticeable hard spot

  6. Measure 40″ (101,6cm) from the tip on blank #2. Tape the blank, cut and smooth the edge on both parts.
  7. Measure the ID of blank #2’s tip. Find the point on blank #1 with a matching OD. Mark the blank 3″ (7.5cm) above this point. Cut there, and sand the edge. The part below the cut will be the spigot.
  8. Test fit the spigot into the tip of blank #2. Mark the point where the spigot goes out of the tip (call it A). Mark a point one inch below this point (call it B). This is where the spigot should go out of the blank’s butt. Mark a point 3″ below this point. Cut there, sand the edge. The piece of blank is your spigot. The one inch between A and B will show, and preserve a tight fit as the spigot wears down along the years.

    Mister spigot doing its job

    Mister spigot doing its job

  9. We now strengthen the spigot by double walling it. Insert the remaining tip of blank #1 into the spigot, and trim the excess. Epoxy the slim spigot into the larger one. Let cure for a couple of hours. You can even triple wall it if you’re into that sort of things.
  10. We need to shape the spigot so that it will sit exactly where it should into blank #2’s butt. Insert the spigot in the butt, and check where it comes out. Typically, the B point (from step 8) is not visible. Very slowly and carefully, sand all around the spigot’s lower part. Check often to see whether the B point is now visible. When B appears, stop sanding and epoxy the spigot into blank #2’s butt. Let cure.

    spigot1

    You can see there the marks on the spigot: emerging points from butt and from tip

  11. Meanwhile, you can epoxy your grip onto the extension. You may want to stop the grip right where the extension enters the blank. Or — as I did — you may want to let this point visible, to get a kind of ferruled look which I like a lot. This is pure cosmetics, it’s up to your tastes.grip5
  12. Once the grip is cured, epoxy the extension into blank #2’s butt. Make sure the reel seat is where you want it to be with respect to the butt’s spine. Let cure.
  13. You’re ready to wrap that thing and finish it.

Next time, the vented grip, guides specification and Common Cents.

Tadpole (1)

My rod building bench finally got to see some action lately. I had four ongoing projects, some of which I may have written a little about before.

The g0ne cave, displaying evidence of rodbuilditis episodes.

The g0ne cave, displaying evidence of rodbuilditis episodes.

First project is a broomstick, a brutally fast rod for messing with pike, and maybe someday less reasonably powerful critters, the kind one finds in the salt. This rod is complete now, but I still need to test it, so I’ll get back to it later. Plus, I’ve been wanting to try to cast with a really rigid rod for a long time. I think it will be an eye opener from the casting point of view.

I also wanted to do an all-glossy-black theme on my first 5wt ever. The hard part is done (finding suitable elements, especially a black grip). Now I need to find time for the slightly boring part: measuring, wrapping the guides and applying finish on the wraps.

The third project is only complete in my head but I haven’t even bought all the components yet. It will be a 486 on Eric’s ANR blanks, the best 4wt I have tried so far. On this one, I go for light, so it will be very minimal, skeleton reel seat with cork spacer, short grip, light wire guides.

My ingenuous notion of a tadpole, prior to this project

My ingenuous notion of a tadpole, prior to this project

But the topic of today’s post is very different. It’s a tadpole. Tadpole is a nickname for flyrods build around Batson’s fiberglass spinning blanks. As you may have noticed, glass is all over the place again in the fly fishing world, and there’s a couple of reasons for that: some are good (like its ability to withstand plenty of abuse, sometimes the price), some are hard to assess (like the beauty of brightly colored or translucent blanks, or the famous glass feel) and the rest is pure marketing BS, a commodity I doubt we’ll soon be lacking of. Tadpoles’ success is mainly due to their price: they’re a cheapskate’s delight. You can get a blank in France (from Rodhouse on special order) for a meager €13,42, which means that provided it’s not your first build and you’re willing to go blue collar enough on components, you can get yourself a rod for around €50. If you’re into rodbuilding, and have spare components, it will cost you less. I don’t think you can do much better for a new rod.

So I cunningly thought: since I don’t really really need a short lightweight rod (I’ve got my Belle (yeah, I know it’s a little lame to name rods (but I don’t give a flying F))) and since I can build one of those for really cheap, let’s invent an excuse: the tadpole will serve an empirical agenda. I may not need the rod, but I want the experience, so let us make it full of novelties. Namely: a vented grip, and major blank surgery (extension and ferrule creation). That’s what I did, all went well. Here’s the plan for (very near) future posts:

  1. On how to create a spigot ferrule
  2. On how to make a vented grip
  3. Tadpole tests

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In the shadow, something

When I’m not running here and there in Netherlands to see my former students becoming doctors, sometimes even getting a say in the process (my first PhD commitee, if I’m allowed to boast a little), I try to make this project a little more real. It’s a fairly fast 5wt, that I’m wrapping whole black (as in: black). Struggled a little to get the decal right, first I went with stickers, to no avail, then I got a splendid opportunity to get cold peel decals made for me (thanks Nico !!). This cold peel stuff is just the dog’s bollocks, really, but it’s not cheap (as in: arm and leg). Seems that the guys have to do them serigraphic style, looks like a major pita. That’s how the rod looks now. decal domus 1 Ie: good. I’ve wrapped the ferrules, l have to mesure the blank, place the guides, wrap them, and finish the whole thing. I got creative on the grip, can’t wait to show you. And while I’m at it: beloved readers, if any of you is aware of a technology allowing to print cold peel decals, please O please make yourself known, be that by PM or in the comments. You’ll be rewarded karmatically by tighter loops, better water reading skills, and overall enhanced sexyness.

Knowing what one is doing (and the importance thereof)

When I reviewed Eric’s Epic 480, I knew that thing was different. Different enough to get me into the stupid idea to build a glass rod actually, but that’s a story for another time. But when I read the substantial essay Oliver wrote on his blog about Epic, I’ve just been baffled by the amount of cleverness that went into the whole Swift business model. I mean, look at the name. You can’t even mention the stuff without praising it…

epic 480 CHFORM

Christian Hörgren, Fine Tackle, Sweden.
http://finetackle.blogspot.com
A fine example of knowing what one is doing.

Can’t find what you look for in graphite? Use fiberglass.

Can’t have the rods built well enough at reasonable costs? Use custom builders’ expertise, and build some network.

What if that’s too expensive or the guys want to do that themselves? Yeah that’s fine, it’s the Swift philosophy. Build your rods, like your tie your flies. Offer them a selection of the very best components there is. 

What if the guy never did this? He’ll have to factor in all the extra building stuff in the rod’s cost?

Now this is where Carl McNeil left me flabbergasted (cool word). Watch this thing:

Kickass fiberglass rod tube? Check.

Kickass fiberglass rod tube? Check

The goddam box the building kits comes in transforms into a wrapping station. How cool is that? F.ing cool, that’s how.

I urge you to read Oliver’s whole interview of McNeil. He’s right on so many things, it’s quite an enlightening experience. For my rodbuilding friends, whom I love dearly even though I think they sometimes go way overboard on some issues, let me quote him:

The subject of spining rods has & continues to cause huge debate. The truth is that under the tension of the cast the rod will always bend according to the tension of the fly line against the guides and tiptop, the effect of the spine on a fully loaded rod is negligible. – So truly, it matters little (all respect to the great Don Green)

Do what you feel is best for your build, it’s you rod – follow your bliss.

Amen, Carl.

Sadly, I’m not in the league for an Epic. These blanks cost a lot more than I can afford right now.* But man, I’m really glad you’re in this business.

________________________________________________________________

* Not complaining though. They aren’t super expensive, and we know why they cost this much (small NZ production).

Babenstein

The babe died stupidly one morning a year ago.

After a while, I found the large grip I had done on it was too large. I tried to take a little cork off by turning the whole butt piece of the rod. Everything looked good, but I wasn’t paying attention to the fact that the blank — although it was protected — was getting hot where it touched my $.02 DIY lathe.

It broke. I wanted to cry.

what you never want to see

What you never want to see

Here’s the result in its unbearable brutality:

This image is rated NC-17

This image is rated NC-17

It was time to put up a Clooney, IR-style…

Operating field prep

Operating field prep

Surgery, phase 1: amputation

Surgery, phase 1: amputation

Organ donor: Eurocasting Shannon 8'6 #4/5. Died a long ago on the battlefield

Organ donor: Eurocasting Shannon 8’6 #4/5. Died a long ago on the battlefield

Organ and receiver, ready for transplant

Organ and receiver, ready for phase 2: transplant

Aftermath

Aftermath

At that point I added a wrap on the scar, and the Babe looked almost as good as new. The bad news came from the lawn. There was something amiss in the post-surgery rod, I couldn’t recognize my Babe. The spigot was not completely right.

Then sh!t hapenned, and all of a sudden we were a year later. Needless to say, if I hadn’t seen much action fishwise, the rod have seen nothing but dust. Then, fall coming and being back in business with more fire than ever, I took the hard decision and the Babe for a bout of heroic surgery. Recovery or death.

I took the spigot apart, reshaped the lower part, made sure the higher part was dead locked in, then literally drowned the bottom in epoxy. Every void in the butt must now be full of cured epoxy. Nothing moves, the feeling seems to be back. The static looks good when lifting 250g.

Then I wanted to bullet-proof the scar, so after I covered it with three layers of wrapping and drown everything in epoxy again, I covered all of it with a Matagi decorative tube, the idea being to create a kind of straight spot in the lower foot of the rod.

Post op.

Post op.

As a friend said, it kind of looks like the old metal ferrules, one may even think it’s the way the Babe was always supposed to look.

The miracles of plastic surgery

The miracles of plastic surgery

The lawn will tell if she’s as good as she looks. She’s a kind of stylish survivor.

crutch

Russian pop-punk Gaga anyone?

Edit, one year later [August 2014]: the babe has recovered well. If fishes very well, and I tend to completely forget there ever were a problem with it, which is the best thing you could hope for.