Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Vision Merisuola Reels

Howdy folks! I got a few interesting stories and reviews lined up for you guys so stay tuned. Will start off with the latest reel in my arsenal - The Merisuola/XO reel by Vision.

The beautiful shape and color of the Merisuola reel is a real joy to look at.

Some years ago the good folks at Vision fly fishing started to plan and design their new saltwater/heavy duty reels and I was lucky enough to be asked about my visions (no pun intended...) of a perfect SW fly reel. After many emails back and forth with the design team it was a long wait to see the finished product.  The wait was however well worth it...

One of the first fish on the new reel was a massive shark. 

Full drag and half an hour later the fish was at the boat.


The reels come in three different sizes on the Merisuola format ( 7/8 9/10 and 10/12) and two sizes in the heavy duty XO format (9/10 and 10/12). The reels have identical designs and parts. The difference between the two series is 98% cosmetic. I personally have the 9/10 Merisuola (the blue one) and the 10/12 XO (the gray/gun metal one). You can check the line up for the Merisuola series here and the XO series here on Vision fly fishing's website. I will focus my review on the two reels that I personally got.



9/10 Merisuola

The 9/10 Merisuola weighs in at about 258 grams or 9.1 oz for my American readers. I have 275 meters (300 yards) of 80 lb backing on it and I can fit an 12 wt intermediate line on it quite nicely on top of that. Most 12 wt floating lines won't fit on it comfortably with that much backing, but some will. 10 and most 11 wt floaters fit just fine. It has an diameter 109 mm or 4.3 inches.

275 meters of thin 80 lb backing and a 12 wt Airflo Tarpon intermediate fits just nicely. The reel is full, but not too full. The Airflo Tarpon is a bulky and long line for an intermediate. Other 12 wt intermediates will leave more room on the reel. 

I use this reel on my 10 to 12 wt rods. If aiming for perfection, the reel is a touch heavy on some of the super light 10 wt rods out there and a bit light for some of the older 12 wt's out there. However, all and all the weight and physical size of the reel is at a nice sweet spot for multiple uses and is in my opinion the most versatile size of the whole line up. The reel packs an impressive drag at about 8 kilograms or 18 pounds and is pretty darn smooth from the minimum to the max. The drag range is at about 2 1/2 revolutions from min to max..

The 12 wt Merisuola rod and 9/10 reel is a match made in heaven. It feels like you're fishing a 10 wt and not a 12 wt.

I have used the 9/10 Merisuola so far on my Blue Fin Tuna fishing and it performed perfectly. If any of you have fished for BFT you know that the speed and stamina of those fish will push any reel to its limits. The blistering first runs are nicely taken with a medium drag of around 2-4 kilograms and then when you crank it up at the final stages of the fight to near max or max, the fish won't have any good chances of taking "easy" line out. Even though the most useful drag range on any reel is from 2-6 kilograms the extra kilograms that this reel offers can come handy from time to time. Just be careful about maxing this reel out if you are using lighter tippets.

The Tuna tamer did its job once again.

Looking stupid as hell with this one:)

The 9/10 on  the job.

Late stages of the fight and the fish is just swirling around the boat.

10/12 XO

The 10/12 XO weighs in at about 269 grams or 9.5 oz. It has a diameter of 114 mm or 4.5 inches. I have about 400 meters (440 yrds) of thick 50 lb backing on it. I can fit just about any line on it with that backing on it except maybe the Rio 550 gr GT line which takes up an ridiculous amount of space on a reel.

The reel packs nicely with the 12 wt Airflo Tarpon intermediate with some room to spare. I am thinking about changing the backing to 80 lb Whiplash on this reel too as it would give the reel much more space, but haven't had the need to do it yet.

I use this reel on some of my twelve weights, but mostly on my 13 and 14 wts. You can also use it on a 10 or 11 wt without getting the feeling that you are using a massively overweight reel on it. Especially if I'm doing sinking line fishing or something else where the optimal casting feel of your setup is not that important the reel works just fine. Changing the backing to something thinner and lighter would make the reel a bit more appealing to use on a 10 or 11 wt, so I might do that in the near future. This reel packs an unbelievable 9.5 kilograms or 21 pounds of drag. The top 2 kilograms of the drag is where the reel starts to show some star up inertia that you actually feel. Other than that, the drag is smooth.

Me working on a Trevally with my 10/12 XO while Timo is at the back working on he's with the Grand Daddy rod and XLB reel. Vision Fly fishing was well represented on that trip!


I have used this reel on different Trevallies in Australia, for Albies and other critters out there in Florida and for Blue Fin Tuna in France. The Florida offshore fishing is especially brutal on your reel as you can hook up to 60 fish a day and the Albies down there are big and mean. The reel has been a joy to use and fits like a glove to my heavy duty fishing.

After a week of fishing for fish like these and your reel screaming for hours every day, you can be pretty certain that if your reel is still in working order after a trip like that, it's a good one.



Great mid sized (25-32kg) BFT tamed with the 10/12 XO

Many Golden Trevallies were caught on that trip.

Pros and Cons

+ The overall quality. These reels are well manufactured and have a feel of a high end reel.

+ The price. There are only one or two reels out there that can compete with these reels in this price range (445€) when it comes to the quality that you get on the Merisuola and XO reels.

+ The ergonomics on the reels is spot on. Nice drag knob to work with that rotates smoothly and easily. Great big handle that's easy and comfy to hold on to even if you have to reel in a lot of line.

+ Weight / size / performance ratio is great. Modern single handed rods are so light and well balanced that if you are going to optimize your outfit, the older heavy weight reels are not as good for the overall feel as these lighter reels are.

+ Drag and drag setting. Power, smoothness and ease of use.

- The drag setting is not completely linear. You have a half a round of emptiness at the bottom half of the drag and then at the very top the drag curve steepens substantially before you hit max. This is very common in reels and from what I have been told, the R&D team is working on some solutions on minimizing this in the future. This is a thing that you learn to live with very fast and has very little effect on your fishing.

- The spool. I would have opted for a slightly narrower spool and increased the diameter a bit to compensate for this. Not a big deal, but when looking for perfection I do prefer a slightly narrower spool in salt water fishing.     

All and all I have been very pleased with these reels. This will probably be my reel line up of choice for the future unless Nautilus comes up with an upgrade on the CCFx2 drag system. The Nautilus infinite drag setting is just so ridiculously long that it nullifies the other awesome features on that reel for it's price range. So until then the Merisuola line up is my choice for the ultimate SW reel I can afford to buy.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Tying with Squimpish hair


I'm sure most of you guys that follow me on social media know that I'm a big fly tying geek. Tying flies is a big big part of this whole fly fishing "lifestyle" I try to live. That big passion for tying flies has one drawback, you end up buying and trying a lot of materials you don't actually use all that much. Rooster feathers, basic flash materials, bucktail, ostrich and a few selected synthetics cover most of my fishing and tying needs year after year. However, at times you stumble on something that you actually end up using a lot and fish a lot. One new material like that is Squimpish hair.

A decent pike caught with a Squimpish hair bug.
Squimpish hair has been found and distributed by master tier David Nelson aka Mr.Squimpish. David has a very unique and absolutely beautiful tying style both in freshwater and saltwater streamers. David is a "naturals first" kinda guy similar to myself, but when he found the Squimpish hair he was instantly sold. He was very drawn to similar attributes found on natural materials like bucktail and how easy it was to use like bucktail . He thought that even though nothing can and really shouldn't ever replace bucktail, this material acts as a very good add on or substitute to it. I can personally relate to this statement very much. 


Here it is. Some of the colors have really long fibers with the longest ones reaching 32 cm or 13".

It's a carpet like product.
Squimpish hair is a tapered synthetic hair that's attached to a carpet like platform a bit like craft fur. It has a feel very similar to big fly fiber with the exception that it is tapered. To be more exact I would put the feel somewhere between big fly fiber and long fibered craft fur. The length seems to vary from color to color and piece to piece a bit with some colors having a whopping 13-14" of hair on them while others have 7-10" of hair on them. 

10-112 Marlin tube tied out of Squimp and bucktail.

Squimpish hair has a growing range of colors available and David is bringing on more all the time to really make it a complete selection. The material retains water and is very lively in the water. It is also very durable which makes it a good choice when you are up against teeth. Take a look at Davids Etsy shop to find out the latest colors available: shop

A really fat pike caught with a Squimpish hair Hollow fly



The material is also easily adaptable to several different patterns. Flex flies, Surf candies, Clousers, Hollow flies and Deceivers to name a few.





Here's list of Pro's and Con's that I've noticed so far followed by a SBS of a Hollow fly that uses Squimpish hair as one of it's components.

+ Very easy to Hollow tie.
+ Blends perfectly with natural materials like bucktail, feathers and ostrich
+ Durable, but not as quick to tangle like other synthetics.
+ Movement
+ Length
+ Feel and texture
+ Sinks very fast and does not hold up air so the fly will sink right after it hits the water
+ Can be easily cut to shape

+- Retains water. This means that it will hold a small profile in the air, will sink fast and move like nothing else. It also means that if you tie them too full or big they will end up heavy. Keep it sparse and if doing very large flies fill in the gaps with bucktail or something similar that's light.

- A bit slippery to tie. I recommend using super glue to secure all the tie ins when using this material.
- The carpet like thing that the material is attached to is not perfect and can be a bit tricky to use.
- There are some variables between colors when it comes to the amount of "under fur" and taper they have
- As said before, can end up being a bit heavy if you use too much of it.

Here's the SBS as promised:

Finished fly

Start off by tying some bt 360degrees around the hook

Add some holo silver SW angel hair

Tie in some Squimp hair. Hollow style

Secure the tie in with super glue

Fold

Brush

Tie in a few wraps of thread in front and secure with super glue. With Squimp hair you don't need a big thread cone in front of the material as it's softer then bucktail.

BT hollow style

Fold and tie + add flash

Hollow tie some more Squimp hair

Add blueish green flash on top

Lateral scales on the sides

Hollow tie some Squimp. White on the bottom and blue gray on top.

fold and secure

Brush out the fly, add eyes, go fishing!


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sage

The Dream team of Sage rods ready to hit the water at the Harkers Island marina.

I've had the pleasure of fishing with Sage fly rods and reels a lot in the last 4-5 years. I currently own 4 Sages, but have the luxury of trying out most of the SW line up every year when I do my pilgrimage to the fabled waters of Cape Lookout, North Carolina. My buddy and mentor Brian Horsley and he's wife Sarah Gardner are Sage ambassadors and they let me play around with their gear.

The Boss man Brian with a hefty Albie caught on a Sage rod

Sarah with a full grown Albie. Sarah is one of my fly fishing idols. Not only can she fish and cast like a hero, she's also a very good captain that will get you on the fish.
  When it comes to top notch rods, Sage is a company that is very hard to beat. The components used are always the best in the market, blanks are light and responsive and they really make an effort to make rods that will give the angler the most they can hope for in a fly rod. From the very extensive line up of different fly rods they offer, most will find a rod that matches their fishing style perfectly. You do have to pay top dollar for most of the rods in Sage's line up but they offer a great mid price SW rod with their Motive line up. The 12wt Motive for example is one of the best sinking line rods I've ever tested regardless of price.
My buddy Ike putting a bend to the Motive.
To be honest with you there was really no other point making this post other than singing Sage's praises. There's a lot of really good company's in this business and I'm not really a brand guy as I use stuff from many company's like Vision and Echo. That said I feel like Sage is extra special. I'll just end the post with a myriad of picture that feature Sage products. Take a look at the line up here

Doing the Albie dance with a Sage Salt in my hands

Big Albies are easily tamed with the 11wt Method.

Ike posing with a Red while I'm busy putting a big bend on my 13wt Xi2


The 11wt Method is a true cannon. Light as a feather at 4,2oz or 132grams. That makes it lighter then many of my 9weights.
The ten weight Xi3 is in my opinion the best allround ten weight ever made. It has just the right amount of stiffness in it's tip to carry sinking lines and big flies, but still allows enough bend in it's top third to initiate and feel the cast right away.

The SaltHD is the updated version of the Salt series. Even though I kinda liked the old ones, some didn't like the distinct "kick" that you got  from the middle of the rod with the older ones, so they stiffened the mid section a bit on these and made them a bit lighter with the same tech they use on the X series. I had a chance to fish the new 10wt but really don't know if it was at all better then the older models. But that's just me.
I've used the 9wt Motive a lot for top water pike.
Old faithful 13wt Xi2. It throws the same lines as most modern 12wt's. A very reliable rod.