Rio Gallegos Update

Well, I have had the opportunity to test these waders out for a few outings. Nothing crazy, but a lot of walking, covering lots of water, and battling cold temps. I have to say that I was pleasantly more impressed with these waders after wearing them, than I initially was. Being a die hard Simms fan, I wasn’t sure how I felt about switching brands of waders. These waders are comfortable, warm, and shed water fantastically. I can layer up very nicely in these wader, due to their larger size. The large bootie option is unmatched, in my opinion. That alone is a day saver when it’s cold out. My coldest trip so far was Wednesday November 23rd. It was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit air temperature with 38 degree water. Needless to say, your feet get cold regardless. What can’t complain about is the amount of time it took for that to happen in these waders. It took nearly 4 hours of being in the water for my feet to start getting cold to the point that I needed to start walking around to warm them up. That is pretty much double the amount of time it took in my Simms. The smaller bootie on the Simms really does restrict blood flow to the foot. Which in turn makes them much colder, much faster. The bootie on the Patagonia’s alone are worth the investment. The H2No technology is, in my opinion, comparable to the Gore-Tex on the Simms. Extremely comparable in that respect. The waterproof pocket is a huge plus on the Patagonia’s as well. The major flaw I have with them is the strap system. I like the fact that the straps are integrated and are easily converted to hip waders. However, the loss of the buckle makes putting these waders on, kind of annoying, especially when nature calls and they need to come down. The locking system in the straps is also a little annoying. Not so much the front locks on the straps, but the back lock. It’s hard to get to and you may need an additional person to get the lock to stay.

You can’t beat the features on these waders. I still love my Simms, though. My Simms will probably be my wader of choice come late spring/ early summer. I’ll keep my initial review rating of 4.5/5. Just for the simple fact that straps are annoying. In the grand scheme of things, though, it’s a minor detail. These waders are rock solid and get the job done, especially in challenging conditions.

Product Review: Scott Meridian 7wt

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve fished on different occasions in the Florida Keys. The Keys is a beautiful, and at times, a unforgiving SOB. It’s hard on your emotions, sanity, and especially your gear. The environment and it’s inhabitants must be met with the sturdiest of gear. I am a firm believer in, “You get what you pay for”. I have no issues spending money on gear. I would rather invest a good portion of my hard earned money on quality, tried and true equipment. Which brings me to the Scott Meridian fly rod.

The Scott Meridian is a true saltwater rod and 2015 IFTD “Best of Show” winner. This is a rod that comes in at a premium price, $865. This is not a cheap investment, but one you’ll be glad you made. The Scott Meridian has premium components, a “saltwater” wells cork grip, a solid reel seat with fighting butt, aesthetically pleasing blank, quality guide wraps, and a beautiful natural finish. Let’s also add that this rod is an American product, handcrafted right in the USA. Scott’s base of operations is in Colorado. Scott handcrafts all their rods, making sure to hit all the details.

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The Aesthetics

Let’s talk about the aesthetics first. Scott has chosen not to sand and paint this rod. Giving it a natural finish. Scott rod designers believe that a rod should be judged by it’s performance, not it’s looks. That being said, this is a very beautiful rod. The natural carbon fiber look is accented by blue thread on the guide wraps. Also, the white hand painted Scott logo with rod model, length, and rod weight. Scott has also laser etched their logo on the reel seat, and have also laser etched the rod weight right on the reel locking ring, which allows you to grab the right weight rod on the skiff quickly.

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The Components

Scott has chosen to use titanium recoil snake guides on this rod. This rod is also fitted with two large stripping guides towards on the first section of the rod. The use of the titanium guides adds strength, reduced weight and extreme corrosion resistance. The two stripping guides are lined with a Silicon Carbide. This material is extremely durable and doesn’t crack under intense temperature extremes. The reel seat is designed from mil-spec III aluminum, which is an extremely corrosive resistant aluminum. Without getting to technical about the reel-seat, the mil-spec III is an aluminum that goes through a more intense galvanizing process.

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The Technology

This rod is technologically advanced, as far as rods go. Scott uses x-core technology and ARC carbon reinforcement in their blanks. This process creates a very strong and durable blank. Scott also doesn’t skimp on castablility and feel in the Meridian. The have incorporated ReAct technology in the rod blank. the ReAct technology ensures that energy generated during your cast isn’t lost to unnecessary vibration throughout the blank. The coupled with x-core technology makes sure that energy is transferred more efficiently from your casting stroke, through the blank, to your line for a eloquent presentation.

My experience with the rod

Now that i’ve gotten the technical jargon out of the way, let’s talk about how the rod performed. Now, I will note that I am not the best caster, but I am also not the worst. Saltwater fly fishing will test even the very best of anglers, which is an important bit to remember when evaluating your gear. If the gear isn’t doing what you’ve expected it to do, it’s probably the user. That being said, quality gear can make your job a lot easier. Especially in unforgiving environment. Rod’s definitely are an extreme factor in quality casts. However, something that most anglers neglect to look at is the line their using. A good rod is nothing without properly matched line. I personally prefer a shorter shooting head for distance casts, especially in saltwater.

During my time in Key West, I was using RIO bonefish taper line on a nautilus CCFX-2 6/8. This was/is my go to combo for bones. The Scott Meridian performed flawlessly. The rod loads quickly and allows for quick casts that are essential on the flats. Most of the time you are making quick casts at various distances. With little opportunity to make several false casts, you need a rod that loads and shoots line out quick and fast. This rod does just that. The Meridian is a fast action rod, with plenty of backbone to make those quick casts. I would also like to add that this is an accurate rod. It will put your fly where you want it when you want it there. It casts various saltwater flies very well. I was casting mainly shrimp patterns, which are pretty streamlined compared to crab patterns. Like most saltwater flies, I was casting weighted shrimp and crabs. The Meridian handled these with ease. The rod presents delicately, but also has enough backbone to launch those weighted flies precisely where you want them.

Every rod performs differently at different distances. Some rods perform well in the 30-40ft range, others at longer distances. I have to say that this rod performs well at all distances. However, that being said, this rod performs its best at 50-60ft. I could send a fly in a tight loop and turn it over well at this distance. Put the rod in a different person’s hands and the result will inevitably be different.

The Meridian is satisfyingly light in hand, which causes less fatigue. The power of this rod is surprising for how light it is. That is a rare thing to have sometimes. You usually sacrifice one for the other. This is not the case with the Scott Meridian.

Dislikes

I really only have two major complaints about the rod. 1st, the price. At $865, this is not a cheap investment. Especially for the occasional saltwater angler. You could go with a more median priced Sage Motive at $450 (Which I have in a 9wt, I’ll review that a different time), or a lower entry level priced TFO Mangrove or TiCr X rods, both ranging from $259-$299 depending on rod weight. This is in the same category of premium salt rods as the Sage Salt and the G-Loomis NRX, with the NRX being the more veteran rod in this category. I chose the Scott simply for the fact that it seemed every one had the Loomis and I wanted something different. Also winning the IFTD “Best of Show” in 2015 didn’t hurt either. My 2nd complaint is the size of the lock ring on the reel seat. It is a bit small and gets stuck on beefier reels such as the CCFX-2. Other than that the rod is spot on.

Overall Rating

Overall I give the Scott Meridian a solid 9.5 out 10. Losing half a point for the price and the smallish reel seat. This rod is, for lack of a better term, sexy. The aesthetics and performance are unmatched. Scott is a stellar company turning out solid products. If you’re in the market for a saltwater rod and don’t have an issue with shelling out $865 bucks, then go with the Scott Meridian.

 

Initial Gear Review: Patagonia Rio Gallegos Waders (Watch slide show for wader features)

I recently purchased the Patagonia Rio Gallegos wader. I was a die hard Simms waders guy, never thought I would buy another brand,  but I decided to give another brand a shot. The Rio Gallegos is Patagonias “Highest Performing Wader”. They retail at $499.00. I costly investment, but one I feel is where money should be spent. If you fish as much, or more, than I do, a good pair of waders is a necessity.

In comparison with Simms, the Rio Gallegos is Comparable to the Simms G3 Guide wader. The G3 is the same price as the Rio Gallegos. Simms has a superb reputation. Couple that with the Gore-Tex technology on nearly all there waders, they are a tough to beat.

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Simms G3

Let me start off by giving you my experience with the G3 wader, which I currently own and use year round. The G3 is an excellent wader, I rate it 4 out 5 overall. The wader sheds water flawlessly. They are tough, I fallen with these waders several times, even on rocks. I hike from fishing spot to fishing spot regularly. They have held up tremendously the past 4 years I have had them. The G3 has a 5-layers Gore-Tex shell fabric. This makes them extremely durable. The front pocket is fleece lined for warming, has storm shields, which zipper shut and has an interior pocket that holds tools and comes with am accordion zinger to hold pliers or nippers. These waders are offered in several sizes, including king sizes, as well as custom shop sizes. I would like to note that the pair I own are not the current model being offered, which were updated in 2014. Overall the features are the same on the 2012 model I own and the 2014 model currently offered. The G3 does have it’s downfalls, however. The G3 doesn’t have a large enough bootie, in my opinion. However, Simms does do custom bootie sizes if requested. The bootie on a Medium wader, which is what I wear, is for a size 9-11 shoe. I wear a 10.5 shoe, however, the smallish booties do not allow for good sock layering in cold weather. When wearing bulkier socks, the small bootie restricts blood flow to the foot, which in turn will cause cold feet….fast. The other downfall of the G3 wader, and all of Simms waders, for that matter, is the neoprene gravel guard. The gravel guard is easily ripped during a few outings. A more durable Material is in order I think. Also, the G3 is a little on the small side. You can layer up pretty well in these waders, but the length of the inseam is on the short side, and the legs and torso fit very snug when wearing a sweatshirt or jacket underneath. Also bulkier leggings in winter, take up a good deal of room in the leg of the wader. That’s why I gave the G3 a 4 out 5. I’ll do a pro-con comparison list at the end. Simms offers a “Useful-Life” guarantee. They will repair the wader for no charge-all the way up to $65 plus Shipping. This all depends on the damage, the age of the wader and the cause of the damage. A manufacturing issue is free of charge for repair. Evaluators will check the wader over and make that determination.

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Patagonia Rio Gallegos

Now for the Patagonia wader. The Rio Gallegos, initially, is a great wader. The Rio Gallegos has Patagonia’s H2No technology. Which is waterproof, obviously, and puncture resistant. I have not worn these in the field yet, but steelhead season is quickly approaching, so I will post an official review after several outings with these waders. The Rio Gallegos is loaded with features. Overall, the wader is more generous in sizing, I would say on the larger size compared to the Simms. Something I think will be great for layering in winter months. Patagonia also offers they’re waders in a Regular, Short, and Tall which affect the girth and inseam. A regular has a 32″ inseam, Tall with a 34″ inseam and Short with a 30″ inseam. You can also opt. for the large bootie for the medium waders (12-13) and a medium bootie on the large waders (9-11). The options for the Patagonias are great and do not affect the price of the wader. I purchased the Medium with Large bootie for myself. Simms does custom sizes, at a price ranging from $50-$150, depending on the job.

The Rio Gallegos feels solid. The material feels extremely durable to the touch. The booties are extremely comfortable and anatomically more realistic than the G3. The grid-lined bootie makes wearing these extremely pleasing. The bootie is also merino lined for added warmth. The gravel guard is something I wished Simms would go to. The gravel guard is made of the wader material and, I feel, will offer more durability. The Outer front pouch is fleece lined for warming your hands. The interior pocket is a water proof gear pocket. There are also two interior pockets about where a jeans pocket would be located. The straps are great. The straps extend down the interior of the wader and allow the wader to be easily converted to a hip wader in shallower streams. The downfall of this strap design is the loss of the buckle. Something I like on the G3. You have to put the waders on a little differently than I am accustomed to. There are also two removable knee pads on the interior. A great feature when trying to sneak up on finicky trout in shallow clear streams. Patagonia also boasts a pretty stellar warranty. They will replace their product is does perform to your standards or you are not satisfied with your purchase, they will replace, repair or refund you the cost. However, if it is damaged due to wear and tear, the product will be repaired, “At a reasonable cost” Overall all the waders are a great purchase and also give them a tentative 4 out 5, without testing them on the water.

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Patagonia Rio Gallegos Pros and Cons.

Pros:

  • Gravel Guard made of wader material
  • Booties available in variety of size ranges
  • Merino Lined bootie
  • Two interior storage pockets
  • Removable knee pads
  • Waders available in 3 fits, short, regular, and tall
  • Wader straps help to easily convert to hip wader
  • water proof interior pocket
  • hand warming fleece-lined outer pouch
  • Gear loops integrate inside wader
  • larger fit allows for comfortable layering
  • anatomically fit bootie
  • Generous inseam
  • Costly investment at $499.00, but worth it.
  • Warranty

Cons:

  • Straps lack buckle
  • Fleece-line pouch lacks zippers to prevent getting fleece wet
  • interior pocket lacks accordion zinger for tools
  •  interior pocket is not removable.

Simms G3 Guide Wader

Pros:

  • Fleece lined outer pocket with waterproof zipper system
  • Interior pocket removable
  • Accordion zinger on inner pocket
  • Gore-tex 5 layer shell fabric
  • Tool holder tabs on outside of wader
  • Buckle suspender system
  • Waders available in several fits
  • Costly investment at $499.00, but worth it.
  • Warranty

Cons

  • Fit small (booties and wader’s themselves)
  • Booties available in larger custom sizes, but at a price
  • Neoprene gravel guards get torn easily
  • interior pocket not waterproof, however a waterproof pocket can be purchased for $29.95

G3 vs. Rio Gallegos Bootie and gravel guards

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Initial Gear Review: Cheeky Mojo 425

Finally got my hands on a cheeky mojo 425. The Mojo 425 is a moderately priced reel at $360. Expensive, but not in the realm of some reels like Tibor or Hatch in this 7-9wt class. I picked this reel up for a steelhead/large trout rig. Mainly for casting large streamers and nymph rigs and also casting into wind. I haven’t had a chance to use this reel on the water yet. However, I wanted to give my initial unboxing thoughts.20161024_171631Cheeky is a relatively new company that debuted their first line of reels in 2008. The Mojo 425 is in their performance line of reels. They also have a more inexpensive line of reels in the Boost line and Tyro line of reels. I currently own a boost 325 on my 4wt. The boost has a smooth drag and low startup inertia. Just playing with Mojo 425 doing some strips of the line indicated to me that the drag is as smooth or smoother than the boost. The reel also seems to have a very low startup inertia, if there is any. I’m sure you’re asking yourself what is “startup inertia”. Startup inertia is the amount of energy that is required to get the reel spool moving. The higher the startup inertia, the more energy it takes for the reel to get going. A low startup inertia is essential for species where long runs are common (i.e. bonefish, permit, steelhead, salmon, stripers, tarpon etc.). Speaking of startup inertia, lets talk drag. The Mojo 425 has a larger drag knob which is a nice feature to have a on a reel for larger fish. It’s nice to have a large drag knob when playing a drag on a large fish. This becomes common once you start chucking flies in salt or hook into large salmon and steelhead.

The reel also boasts a relatively high rate of pickup due to the large arbor design. At about 13″ of line per crank. Which is great when battling big fish that you want to gain some line on. The spool itself is large enough to hold a variety of lines, I currently have mine loaded with Scientific Anglers WF7F Titan line. There is still room on the spool for plenty of backing if you choose to add more backing, which is nice when you are fishing for some permit or large steelhead. The spool is relatively easy to change with the twist of the center knob on the face of the reel. 20161024_171612So how does the Mojo 425 stack up initially? Initially I have to say the Mojo 425 is an impressive piece of hardware. I am basing this on the comparison of two other reel brands in this class, Nautilus and Sage. I have used the Nautilus CCFX-2 in size 8/10 and 6/8. I have also used the Sage 4280. The CCFX-2 is my go to salt water reel. I have used the 8/10 and 6/8 for bonefish, permit, snook, and sea-trout in the Florida Keys. The 6/8 is a great reel for bonefish and permit (of moderate size). The line pickup on the 6/8 was great, Nautilus drags are some of the best on the market in terms of stopping power. The drag knob is large and nice to have when playing large fish. The 8/10 is another great salt reel, which I have converted to a freshwater reel for my switch rod this winter. The 8/10 has a significantly larger arbor for faster line pickup. Both the 8/10 and 6/8 have low startup inertias, smooth drags, and great stopping power. The drag knob is also a pain sometimes. Even thought he large drag knob is nice for playing fish on the drag, it is also a pain in the fact that line wrapped around the drag knob can crank the drag on accident and lower its tension. This happened to me more than once in the Keys, thankfully not with a fish on. The drag knob is a catch 22. Which I hope won’t be the case with the Mojo 425, due to it’s lower profile drag knob.

The sage 4280 has been my go to steelhead reel for about 4 years now. I have used it on my switch rod the last few seasons. The drag is ultra smooth and easy to dial in. The drag knob is not as large, but has numerical settings, which makes it great for resetting you drag if it’s bumped. The Sage 4280 is lower priced than the Cheeky and Nautilus reels. The sage comes in at $289 bucks. Which is a nice price point for those who want quality without breaking the bank. The startup inertia on this reel is slightly higher than the Nautilus CCFX-2 and the Mojo 425, but nothing that would make or break this reel being right in it with those guys

The reels are all about the same size overall. With the CCFX-2 8/10 being the largest of the 4, followed by the Mojo 425, CCFX-2 6/8, then finally the Sage 4280.20161024_171901

So what’s the skinny? Initially the Mojo 425 looks like a rockstar. It’s comparable to some more well known brands out there, in terms of initial observations. The true test will be on the water. After some time on the water with this reel, I will give you a complete diagnosis on what my thoughts on this reel are.