What started out as ‘keeping an eye out for a good price on a 6wt’ turned into a real learning experience.
Some may know that over the past few weeks, I decided on a rod. While I’ve been busy with long work hours and the onset of the spring semester (complete with a 6 hour class that is held at 8am on Saturday...yes...it’s every bit as awful as it sounds), I’ve not had a chance to fish the rod, but I figured that if any of my readers are in the market, it might be helpful to them if I shared my first impressions.
It was a long deciding process, but eventually, I decided on a streamer rod...
Redington Predator, 7'10" 8wt, 4pc
Decision Making Process
As everyone here knows, I do a fair amount of comparing, reading of reviews, obsessing, considering, and generally fussing over any major choice, and this rod was no exception. In the end, for off-the-rack rods, it was narrowed down to the TFO TiCr X, Sage Smallmouth, Ross FlyStik, or the Predator.
Each choice had pros and cons: reviews of the Sage were all over the place...not just with regard to personal satisfaction, but even down to things like the overall action (with the same line), casting in the wind, casting topwater, casting streamers, and distance/accuracy. With that much variance, I was a bit leery, also, most reviews either completely loved or completely hated the rod...that makes it one I'd like to borrow from a friend or shop for a day or two on the water before committing to a purchase.
The Ross seemed to get generally positive reviews, but not many reviews compared to the others, and at that, I seemed to get the impression that most of the reviews I read were by people not as steeped in fly fishing as me. That isn’t to say I consider myself some kind of pro, or that I’ve been fishing for decades...just that a lot of what I read seemed to be coming from a guy who, while happy with his Fly Stik, would have been equally pleased with any mid-level 6-8wt on the market. Yes, it was a good rod that did everything they asked of it, but few seemed to have perspective compared to it’s direct competitors in the ‘short, fast, heavy’ niche.
That left the short (now discontinued) 7’6” 6wt and 8wt in the TFO TiCr X line and the Predator, which comes in the same weights at 7’10”. For both of these rods, what little in the way of info and reviews I could find was overwhelmingly positive. In fact, most of the negative feedback on both rods came in the form of questioning the usefulness of such a rod by people who never actually used one.
From what I could gather, both rods filled the same niche and filled it pretty equally well, with the TFO being, perhaps, a bit faster and more powerful, the Redington a bit smoother and better finished. Really, these things effectively cancelled one another out, so it simply came down to price, availability, and personal preference. For the preference end of things, all else equal, I prefer to steer clear of TFO, due to spokesman Lefty Kreh’s stance on the privatization of public water. Not that I’m boycotting TFO or despise Lefty by any means, just that I disagree with him on an issue that is very important to me, and as a result, given otherwise equal options, I’d rather not support his position through my dollars.
Of course, finding the Redington at a deep discount made the decision fairly easy as well.
Upon receiving the rod, I found it to be about as high-quality as I expected for a rod at its MSRP, and significantly nicer than any rod retailing for what I paid for it (with discount), making me, thus far, pleased with my purchase (though it hasn’t hooked any fish yet). I’d expect a $700 Winston to have higher standards of quality, but I really couldn’t imagine any rod having $450 worth of higher standards than this rod.
I think that’s an important bit of perspective that many reviews and reviewers either ignore completely, or fail to take into account for the factor it is; a review must include context, and the most useful context is to compare the subject to other rods in its price range. For fly rods in the sub-$350 range, I think any comparison to rods within $50-75 of the subject’s MSRP is fair, perhaps expanding to $100-150 in $350+ rods. That being said, my subjective review of this rod is in comparison to similarly MSRPed rods in the $175 to $325 range.
Fit and finish were great. Wrappings had a few noticeable flaws, but nothing too hideous...things like a ⅛” thread tag sticking out or other cosmetic imperfections ...if they were present in a custom rod, I’d be displeased, but for a mass-produced, off-the-rack rod it’s well within the limits of acceptability. Epoxy is smooth and even, guides are straight, grip and reel seat are neat and straight, and the cork, while not top quality, is very nice for the price point and well-filled and smoothed in the minor pits and gaps it does have.
The Predator features both alignment dots (a nice feature) as well as a line weight & rod length designation at each ferrule which, while not strictly necessary, is also a nice touch. I suppose if you had several of the same product line in different configurations...that you regularly had disassembled in the same area...this might be necessary...but even if you’ll never need a feature like that, it’s a nice addition that doesn’t detract from the look of the rod in the slightest, so it’s a cool little added bonus.
After assembling the rod and giving it the test waggle, the only thing I can really say about it (without having fished the setup extensively) is that I’m surprised at how light it feels. Though the short length has a lot to do with that, I was still prepared for an 8wt to feel...well...like an 8wt. As it is, I think my 5wt St. Croix weighs more, or at least feels heavier, than this rod, which is great for a rod I plan to use a lot once things warm up a bit around here. Really, though, this trait is in keeping with the only other Redington I’ve fished, which is a 9’ 5wt that a buddy of mine got as a starter outfit.
While I’ve only spent about ten minutes on the water with this rod, it was a very positive experience that has me eager for warmer weather and feisty bass, pike, and carp. With a 300gr. 26’ sink tip spooled, the rod was shooting as much line as I could give it (cold weather and line memory was resulting in some tangles). For it’s purpose, a light, fast, rod capable of tossing large flies in rough conditions, I think it’s going to be ideal.