Fly rods are many things, but one thing they aren’t is convenient for air travel. You need a special case to haul them as a carry-on, and I know few anglers who have enough faith in baggage handlers these days put a few thousand dollars worth of rods, reels, and line in checked baggage.
Over the years, plenty of manufacturers have tried — to varying degrees of success — to build a travel-sized fly rod. The problem with building a good travel rod is getting it to flex after breaking it into 6 or 8 pieces. Modern fly rod designers have mastered building four-piece rods with great action. Adding more ferrules, however, introduces new design hurdles that usually leave travel rods with a less-than-desirable casting action.
The Redington Trailblazer doesn’t cast like a four-piece rod, but it’s certainly one of the smoothest-casting travel rods I’ve ever used. At its price point, it’s hard to find fault with anything Redington did here. The smooth medium-fast action makes the Trailblazer easy for both new and advanced anglers alike to coax out its best performance. That it fits inside a carryon is a wonderful bonus.
In the end, it’s a no-frills rod that’s more than capable of handling itself in a variety of fishing situations. I fully expect to reach for it often once the backcountry opens up here in Wyoming.
The downfall of many travel rods is their clunky action. The Redington Trailblazer doesn’t suffer from this malady, certainly at its $249 price point.
The six-piece 9’ 5-weight model (the Trailblazer is also available as a six-piece, 7'6" 3-weight) I tested boasts a medium-fast action that’s great for work in close, or reaching out and hitting longer-distance targets. I had an easy time lobbing a three-nymph rig in sub-freezing temperatures with the Trailblazer here in Wyoming.
This rod really excels at about 40 feet, hitting a sweet spot where it casts smoothly. That’s not to say it’s bad at other distances. I just felt it performed best when used at a traditional trout fishing distance.
Plenty of Power
As I alluded to earlier, the Trailblazer packs enough punch to handle a wide variety of fishing situations. As a travel rod, it needs to be a jack-of-all-trades, and I felt like this 5-weight accomplished that.
Whether I was fishing a heavy nymph rig or streamers, I had more than enough power to put my flies where I wanted them. Even against a tough Wyoming headwind, I didn’t have to work harder than I anticipated to make this rod perform. Again, at its price point, the Trailblazer really outdoes itself, especially where power is concerned.
If you’re thinking of getting a travel rod for backcountry excursions to lakes and ponds, but are worried a 5-weight might not have the backbone to throw the long, heavy rigs lakes often require, that shouldn’t be a concern if you get the Trailblazer. It can execute long roll casts (like you’ll need to use if you’re on a lake with minimal room for a backcast) without too much work, although it really performs this best with a half-weight heavy fly line.
I didn’t feel undergunned when fighting fish with the Trailblazer, either. It’s no Sage R8 Core, but few rods are. It should be up to the task of wrangling any really big fish you encounter, especially in the backcountry.
The mark of a well-built rod is how soft its tip is. Stiff rod tips are a recipe for disaster if you fish lighter tippets or small flies. The tip on the Trailblazer is delicate enough for dry fly work — I wouldn’t hesitate using this rod on a callibaetis hatch, for example. Of course, you’re not getting top-tier tippet protection here, but remember, the Trailblazer is a travel rod, and designed with those fisheries in mind. You rarely need to protect 6x tippet in places that necessitate packing a six-piece rod.
I’ve had the opportunity to warranty a few rods with Redington, and the process has always been excellent. Redington offers a lifetime warranty with the Trailblazer, which presents a great value since the chances of damage to a travel rod are probably higher than for other rods.
What Doesn’t Work
The only real knock I can point out with the Trailblazer is the weight. I hesitated to bring this up, because it’s an affordable rod with packability in mind. That said, the Trailblazer is a touch heavy in hand, and it definitely feels heavier than other 5-weights in its class. Again, though, that comes with the caveat that it’s a pack rod, and what you sacrifice in weight, you make up for in usability and packability.
Redington says the Trailblazer is the lightest travel rod they’ve ever built, and I have no reason to doubt them. In the overall picture, the weight of the Trailblazer isn’t a dealbreaker. It’s worth being aware, though, that a travel rod will almost always weigh more than a regular four-piece counterpart, and the Trailblazer is no exception. This isn’t so much a knock on the rod as it is a reminder to have realistic expectations.
For $249, it’s hard to beat the lifetime warranty and wonderful performance the Redington Trailblazer offers. Its medium-fast action is great for beginners and advanced anglers alike, and it packs the power to both fight the wind and land large trout. At six pieces, it breaks down small enough to fit in a carry-on, which makes it a winner for anyone looking for a good rod to tag along on adventures without plunking down a mortgage payment.