A couple of weeks ago, Redington sent a 5 weight Vapen Red our way for field testing and we headed out last week to do just that. Although we've only spent a small amount of time with the rod, I thought I'd take the time to relate some initial thoughts on this provoking new offering from Redington. For more about the Vapen, and what makes it different, head here.
Arriving on a new piece of water for the first time, I was hoping to put the Vapen through its paces. Once I arrived, seeing the small (20-30' wide in most places) stream with some of the most consistently dense forest canopy I'd ever seen, I immediately began to fear I had brought along the wrong tool for the job. So much for doing your homework.
And, for the most part, I had brought along the wrong rod for the day. After all, Vapen means "weapon". Redington had built the rod in my hands to fire line, not make delicate 15-20 foot presentations. After struggling to make a few short casts, unable to load the rod properly at such close range, I was about to head back to the car for another rod. I gave it a bit more time however, and given the opportunity, the Vapen started finding ways to shine.
Overhead casting is largely out of the question on this stream, given that there's a tree waiting to grab your fly on every cast. Sidearm casting has to be precise, as trees crowd the banks. I found myself taking chances with my sidearm deliveries that I knew was going to end up with me losing my fly to a tree. Except, strangely, I didn't. Once I was able to let a bit more line off the tip of the rod and extend my stroke a bit, the Vapen started producing strikingly tight loops. The resulting compactness of my stroke allowed me to sneak in longer casts than I'd normally allow myself given the dense canopy that surrounded me. Not only did my fly line travel in a tight loop, those loops unrolled straight, allowing me to trust my casts amongst all those waiting trees.
On very few stretches of stream that did allow me to let the Vapen out of its cage a bit, it showed its mettle. A rare break in the forest canopy and a widening of the stream allowed for the opportunity to lay down a 50-60 foot cast, and doing so was effortless. Given how effortlessly the Vapen was tossing casts of 50-60 feet, there's reason to believe that this rod can make throwing bombs more accessible to the average caster. Again, the tightness of the loops -- especially from someone who doesn't consistently throw the tightest of loops - was striking. There's also an incredible amount of feel once the rod is loaded, which is something I can't say about many fast action fly rods I've cast. In my limited trials thus far, the Vapen seems to do an excellent job combining power with sensitivity.
There's no question that this isn't a small stream rod, and Redington's not trying to hide that. This is a fast rod with a lot of punch, that mostly isn't interested in short presentations. That said, there's clearly something going on with the new blank design, either that or I'm a sucker for the marketing materials.
The Vapen has left me eager to continue my trials, so much so that -- with Redington's permission -- I'll be toting it along to Alaska in a few weeks in search of big rainbows and dolly varden. Its strength also suggests it will handle heavy nymph rigs well, and I'm particularly eager to learn whether this will be the case, being that virtually every fast action 9' rod has left me wanting when it comes to tossing heavy nymph setups.
For those of you hoping to hear a bit about the new PowerGrip Redington co-developed with golf club grip manufacturer Winn Grips, I'm going to hold off on that for now. Suffice it to say, it's grippy. And it's definitely soft. But I'll want to spend more time with it before drawing any comparisons to cork grips which never left me wishing for something different.
Editor's note: Since these initial first impressions, we've since published our full review of the Redington Vapen Red.