23 January 2012

Stonfo Flytec Lever Vice

Stonfo Flytec Lever Vice
- Made in Italy
  • High quality in-line 360° rotary action vise for the construction of fly fishing and lures.
  • Stainless steel shaft with two precision ball bearings.
  • Hook locking by lever device.
  • Adjustable rotary tension.
  • Locking knob 0°-180°.
  • Small and lightweight.
  • Equipped with pedestal base, C-Clamp (suitable for any table top up to 50 mm thick), 3 interchangeable (magnetised) hardened steel jaws, bobbin and parachute rest, centering gauge, spring material clip, Allen key and instruction manual.
I've been looking for a good quality rotary pedestal vice for a while. I have had a very cheap desk-clamp vice for a while and it is tricky to use on my work desk as I can't get to the sides and clamping it to the front is not practical.

So I came across the Stonfo Flytec Lever Vice which is made in Italy. If you search on 'Morsetto FlyTec Leva', you'll find it.

It is very well made, constructed from steel and brass with a substantial weighted base (about one kilogram in weight) enclosed in a plastic box. Ball bearings support the goosneck arm. It can be slightly loosened and you can rotate the goosneck with it latching at 0° and 180°. Loosening it further allows it to freely swivel in the goosneck.

A centering gauge is supplied which clips on to the goosneck. You clamp the hook and set up the gauge; then adjust the vice jaws support so that the shaft of the hook is inline with gauge pin and the centre of the goosneck rotation axis. Tighten everything up, remove the gauge and then if you rotate the goosneck with the handle, the hook and fly will rotate around this axis.

An adjustable bobbin rest is supplied, allowing you to hang the main thread off to the side whilst attaching dubbing, hackles, chenilles etc. by rotating the neck. You can swing the bobbin rest out of the way quite easily if you are not using it all the time.

Three hardened steel vice jaws are supplied with the vice. The medium No.2 is fitted on arrival. The all have slightly different heads as you can see left and below they are designed to hold different sized hooks for tying smaller and larger flies. The three jaws cover hook sizes 28 to 4/0. I've kept the medium one on for the moment. They are slightly magnetised to assist in securing the hook. The vice jaws are available separately too - perhaps they do get damaged, but time will tell.

A very well made and light desk clamp is also supplied. Made up of aluminium, steel and brass parts, it is quite sturdy and perfect for taking with you on fishing trips and holidays when you don't want to lug the heavy base around in your luggage.

A parachute tying hook is supplied, but you will have to use the arm that is used for the bobbin rest or get another one if you want to use both at the same time. To use the hook, you will have to make the parachute post from a loop then cut it down..

I'm very happy with this vice. The quality is great and it comes with some nice features as standard that are optional on other vices. The price, although not cheap, is reasonable. Shop around and you'll be amazed at the differences in prices. I bought mine from an online fishing shop in Italy. See the full range of vices from Stonfo on their website here.

17 January 2012

Hardy Proaxis Sintrix 9' #9


The Hardy Proaxis Sintrix 9' #9 saltwater rod.

The much talked about and much hyped Sintrix nano-technology carbon rod that is apparently 60% stronger and 30% lighter than similar sizes carbon rods.

Proaxis rods are available as a 8'10" 1-section rod, in sizes #8 (MRP £499.00) to #12 (MRP £549.00) and as a 9' 4-section rod, in sizes #6 (MRP £549.00) to #12 (MRP £599.00) that has a breakdown length of 74cm (including the ferrule plugs). Tube: 77cm.

This rod is the 4-section, 9' #9 rod, supplied in a aluminum tube. Code: HROPRO909 (MRP
£559.00).

Plenty of protection for the rod: A French blue cloth bag protects the powder-coated aluminum tube with anodized ends and a screw-off cap that seals with an O-ring. The tube contains the rod rolled up in an elegant black rod bag.

I feel bad throwing away the plastic protecting the cork - perhaps because I've recently paid quite a hefty sum of money for this rod.

I notice the Made in Korea sticker on the reel seat. That is quickly peeled off as I think perhaps it shouldn't be there on this quintessential British brand, but it is true that Hardy rods and reels are now made in Korea and China - a fact of our modern life that quality goods are made where labour costs are low. Thankfully, the quality of this rod is very good - as good if not better than any rod made in the UK.

So a very expensive rod. Why so expensive? Hardy don't go on about any special manufacturing process, so it must be the material and development. They do say that this rod is made of a new composite rod material called Sintrix. All Sintrix products utilize a 3M matrix resin. Hardy say:
SINTRIX™ is carbon fiber held together with a resin impregnated with silica nano spheres. This technology is brand new and produces a material that is significantly stronger and potentially lighter than traditional carbon fiber.

There are two key advantages provided by silica nano spheres. First is the even distribution of the nano spheres throughout the resin providing equality of strength throughout the blank leading to crisp and clean rod actions. The second advantage is that silica nano spheres resist compression forces better than any other known material. This results in a fishing rod that is at least 60% stronger than a standard carbon fiber rod without interfering with the action. The improved compression characteristic also greatly improves impact resistance and durability.

Because SINTRIX™ material is stronger, in some cases less material is required and thus a rod can be lighter than an equivalent carbon fiber model. Weight savings of up to 30% are possible.

SINTRIX™ is significantly different and better than carbon nano tube materials currently in use with other manufacturers. Carbon nano tubes do not distribute evenly within resins and are prone to conglomeration. This creates adjacent areas of strength and relative weakness leading to failure. Hardy & Greys have extensively trialed nano tube technology rejecting it for its only marginal improvements and considerable inconsistency.


One can conclude that Hardy spent some time and resources developing this technology and marketing strategy, and from now on they will rake in the profits as long as they can convince people that this is the rod that will catch the fish. In this current economic crisis that may be difficult.

The Proaxis Sintrix rod range is for saltwater and the Xenith Sintrix rod range is for freshwater fishing. Not much difference between the rods except the colour. Proaxis rods are blue and Xenith rods are green. Xenith rods are all 4-section and come in sizes from 8' #4 to 10' #8. Nothing like a different rod for every occasion and type of fish that you may wish to catch.

The rod has lightweight saltwater-safe hardware, titanium REC Recoil and Fuji guides and a two part Hardy-designed skeletal reel seat made of anodized aluminum with a locking ring to secure the reel to the rod and prevent twisting of the reel securing ring.

The full-wells cork handle is comfortable and silky smooth. A small fighting butt finishes off the rod that has a black rubberized sponge base for support.

Three stylish aluminum ferrule plugs protect the 3 open-ended sections, keeping out dirt and preventing them getting damaged. There is a little pouch at the top of the black rod bag for these ferrule plugs to keep them safe whilst you are fishing.

The rod is finished in a dark azure-blue that really looks great in the sunlight. The coating on the whippings is thickly applied and sets off the dark blue thread used to secure the eyes.

The 1st of the 4 sections with the handle has no guides, the 2nd section has 2 REC Recoil stripping guides, the 3rd section has one REC Recoil stripping guide and two snake guides and the 4th section has five snake guides and the tube tip top with large loop diameter.

The connecting sections have a little white alignment dot on the ends.

The spigots fit tightly into the ferrules. A little candle wax, rubbed on the spigots, should be used to prevent the pieces jamming together. There is a gap of 10mm to 15mm between sections when connected correctly.



I've test cast the rod under the specific conditions that I use to test other rods and use to practice cast. Basically out in the back garden. I use a WF #9 line, a 9' tapered leader and a 2' tippet with a dummy fly of the same weight as a medium shrimp pattern.

As you can see in the photo above, the rod balances perfectly with the Zane No. 2 saltwater reel, 300 yards of 30lb backing and the 100' of WF #9 Scientific Anglers Masterly Textured Saltwater clear tip line.

The longer rod and bigger reel are both heavier than what I'm used to, so straight away I feel a difference. I find that once the amount of line I want has been let out, I can support the reel with my left hand (I cast with my right) and this helps with the load.

I've spent years using Double Tip fly line. I haven't much had the need for a Weight Forward line. I have one rod with a WF line and this is now the second. The WF line really gets the fly to where you want it with a tighter casting loop that with a DT line.

The rod has a progressive fast action. It works well with the WF #9 line. I managed to cast to my regular targets with ease using a slightly shorter translation that I use on the slower action rods. I felt that I could have increased the distance with ease and maintained the accuracy. I cast to targets that are 30', 40' and 50' away. I didn't need much ranging practice either. The first cast found it's mark.

It makes a high-pitched whipping sound as it moves through the air. With it's firm feel giving and efficient casting stroke directs your line exactly where you want it.

So in conclusion, this is an impressive rod. It is top quality and high-performance. Looking at various videos on the internet seems to confirm that it does the job of landing big fighting fish in the toughest of conditions.

If there is anything negative to say, it is the price. This rod is expensive. The 9' #9 rod (HROPRO909) has a MRP of £559.00. That is what you will pay from most UK shops.

16 January 2012

Shrimp Cocktail

Here is a collection of shrimp patterns for saltwater sea-trout or salmon (or bonefish if you have access to them).

Left and Right and Oeland shrimp patterns and have No.5 Salar single hooks.

Left, a holographic sand shrimp with No. 6 hook, bottom right, a pink ultra shrimp with No. 4 hook.

Some shrimp cocktail to get the fish in the spirit for the main course.

14 January 2012

Backing

It is always nice to have some backing that looks good and visually sets off your line whilst on the reel.

I've used fluorescent orange and green in the past. As the Zane reel has some blue accents and as the saltwater line that still has to arrive is a pale blue, I thought that a bright blue backing may look quite good.

Here is 400 yards of 30lb backing from the US. I'll see if it fits on the reel which apparently can take 300 meters of backing plus a WF10 line. I'll see how much backing can go on the reel with the Scientific Anglers WF9 textured line. I'll obviously trim off what is not needed.

This is Backing is made in the USA by Woodstock Line Co. Check them out at The Angler's Connection.

12 January 2012

A Zen momment

Tom's first day fishing
I remember starting this blog a few years back when we had a couple of spinning rods and reels, a cheap carbon fly rod and a cheap sports-shop fly reel. We were in a transition from bait fishing to artificial fly fishing. I recall looking at expensive equipment and laughing at the prices whilst wishing I could get my hands on some of it to use on the rivers and lakes.

Over the years I've built up a little collection of gear: classic fly rods, reels and a few new carbon rods. I have learned to cast reasonably well and I've caught plenty of fish. What I have realized though is that good equipment really does help you to progress and ultimately enjoy the hobby more. The quality of each item purchased has slowly gone up along with it's price.

In the old days before carbon and glass fiber, cane rods were the best that money could buy and offered the fisherman great sport and a reasonably light rod compared to other wooden rods and fishing poles. To try and appreciate the old cane and get into the spirit of it all, I've spent a couple of days fishing with cane rods. After a while, they do get heavy. Switching to a light carbon rod allows you to be more accurate, fish for longer and land bigger fish. Even though cane is aesthetically much nicer, the carbon is much more efficient. It is a technical progression.

The Evoissons river at Conty
So what about the Zen of fishing? What is the Zen of fly fishing? For me, it is approaching a task with a specific method and doing it well. Not just casting a hook, line and sinker and hoping for the best, but going out to catch a fish using a specific rod and tackle. Some scenarios:

- I have a little brook nearby, it is only 10 to 15 foot across - even smaller than the river pictured on the left. I don't need to cast more than 20ft if I see a little trout or greyling. A 7'5" brook rod, 4wt line is fine. It does the job without fuss.
Ron Thompson carbon rod
- We have some lakes not far away that allow us to cast 40ft casts if you can see a trout rising. 8ft or 9ft graphite rods do the job perfectly. The one on the right is a good example of a relatively cheap, but extremely functional rod with excellent casting characteristics.
- A sunny summer's day down on the river with a few friends and a couple of old cane rods and Hardy reels makes for some interesting conversation. You can be guaranteed that other fishermen will come over and want to have a go with the old gear. I gladly let them have a few cast. I take at least one cane rod on every trip I make, just in case I feel the urge to go retro.
- And now in the winter months in Europe, no river fishing for a few months, I'm thinking of doing some saltwater fly fishing, either here or aboard. No fishing licenses required. So one would expect to use the correct equipment for this. A good rod with rustproof fittings, a saltwater reel, line and of course the right flies for the job.

So getting back to the Zen of things, I've recently bought a new saltwater rod, reel and line and I was wondering if I had just spent too much on it all in a few combined acts of craziness. I tell myself that these pieces of fishing kit are the best currently available and so justify to myself the spend. I'm not going to go backwards and get some second-rate kit to fish in some estuary for sea-trout or salmon, struggling with a cranky rod and reel. I'm going to do it as best I can and not be limited by the equipment. The only limit will be me, myself and I.