So far this season I have walked many rivers. I have met all kinds of fly fishers. Thin. Fat. Young. Old. Old school. New school. DoD-friends. Trout murders … and so on. They all have one thing in common when they discover the cold piece in my hand. The gaze!
By nature, I’m not a sceptic. However I am conservative when it comes to fly fishing gear. As many other fly fishers, I would say. Especially rods and reels. With rods, I am a Sage-man. Have been for at least 15 years and I like them medium fast. Early this summer I got a call from the innovator and salmon fisher Robert Selfors. He is the big brain behind the new rod brand ArcticSilver and the Free-Flex system. When he called me asking if I wanted to test the rod I knew what he was representing. I had actually followed the development of this new rod system from the time I heard about it. Not because I liked what I saw but I was kind of impressed that someone dared to put a huge pink elephant in the fine brown tweed room of fly fishing. To be honest, we are not just talking about developing blanks here. This is not just a “new nano-technology” thing, but a new system with a new face to it. In my opinion it takes both balls and a strong mixed portion of curiosity and not being satisfied with what the market offers today and having an idea to make things different.
Before I start the deep analyze here are some facts about the rod:
ArcticSilver Free-Flex #5 9´ 4pcs
Two set of tips, medium/full flex and medium/fast.
I tested the rod with two set of lines:
Loop Evotec 100 (10.4 meter taper head)
Guideline Presentation (8.5 meter taper head)
Obviously the idea behind the Free-Flex concept is to increase the experience with the feeling and control when working the rod in casting and catching situations. Thats no big brainer. What else would one want to develop when putting your head to the chopping block?!
My immeidiate reaction when flexing it back home in the sofa was “solid”. Not as in “solid as gold” (thinking heavy), but when you flex it you feel the whole rod in your palm. A really pleasent feeling I have to say. Somewhere deep inside I really want this new innovation to work.
Medium / fast with Loop Evotec 100
As I set off and tried the rod in the stream the first combo was the medium / fast tip with the Loop Evotec 100 line. Instantly I found a nice grayling just a few meters away. A good moment to try it at close range. A little windy but good conditions. The grayling rised steady and the rush of blood to my head was palpable. I struggled getting control of the line and presenting the fly precise. Too short. Too long. Too much to the left or the right. I got so annoyed trying present the comparadun so I gave up and started fishing on a grayling 20 meters away. An instant feeling of control when the taper head was shooting away the longer cast. The flexing in my hand was so obvious it almost went past down below my hand. A nice 2.5 pound grayling sucked the little #16 comparadun and the strike was instant. At this moment a new experience started. Fighting a nice sized fish in a strong stream. If the feeling of the long cast was in the palm of my hand, the feeling of fighting the fish almost got out of my control. I felt the fish below the palm of my hand, passed the Free-Flex handle. I don’t know if it is a negative or a positive thing. On the other hand I think that the deep flex will have two advantages in fighting fish; the fish gets tired quicker and neither the hook nor the leader will experience the same pressure as many other rods.
Pic cred Lasse Michelsen
Medium / full flex with Guideline Presentation
When trying new lines I always end up going back to the, by others so hated, Guideline Presentation. I feel comfortable with it. It speaks my conservative language and suites my quirky rythm and we are good friends. Immediately the full flex tip in combination with the shorter Guideline-taper head was a home run to me. It controls the short and long range and at this moment I had the opportunity to work the loops from big to tight loops and power the shooting of the taper head. The Free-Flex system actually started happening to me. I had no problems shooting the whole line of almost 30 meters or playing around with short snake roles presenting the fly in a appertizing way.
The Free-Flex handle
When meeting people along the river it is the handle the gaze is upon. That is where the rod goes from being only a rod to a pink elephant burning tweed. The fact that the handle is not made out of cork makes people back off. The conservatism hits the bulls eye. I understand it. After squeezing cork for almost 30 years a “plasticish” handle feels odd. Both to the hand and the estetic eye. That feeling totally dissapears after working the handle for while. Fly fishing is dominated by men. The Free-Flex handle with the Quick-Lock system makes the rod look like something made for men. But it´s also in the handle the magic of the power happens. You can feel it. Almost to an unforgiving point. It don’t allow you to use your own powers. It has to be a harmony between the handle and the capacity of the line.
The Quick-Lock system
During the test I used two reels, Danielsson Nymph Wide and Danielsson DryFly. With the classic “screw on” system I always have to control and rescrew the reel. I am really impressed by the Quick-Lock system. It’s smooth to attach and detach the reel and it fits the reel like a glow to the hand. It might look like a trigger on a gun, but as long as it does it’s work that good, and better then the old system, I wont do anything but salute their solution.
My overall impression
The combination of line and rod is important. What lines you like and what rod you combine them with is really individual due to your casting style. Some rods handles a varie of lines more or less well. My impression with the Free-Flex system is that the system is so unforgiving it really forces you to choose the right lines for your style and technique. The system won´t let you compromise. I found my combination with the Guideline Presentation which allowed me to control a number of techniques. But most important, you have to learn to know the advantages of the Free-Flex system. Some might question if there actually are any advantages to the system. In my opionion there are. It allowed me to control the line different compared to the Sage Z-Axis that I normally use. I had more power to the longer casts and I was controlling my loops, even in unpredictable highland winds. In fact the system casts so good I hope to take it on a test in the fjords chasing sea trout. Days with little wind and fishing with scuds and small shrimps would be an interesting experience.
I have gone from sceptic to pro ArcticSilver Free-Flex. The system works good for me and opened my conservative eye a little. There is more than Sage out there.