When it comes to fly fishing, I like to use products that I know and trust. In fact this rings true with any type of fishing. I remember a few years ago, before a beach holiday with friends, trying to advise one of my mates on what surf casting set to buy. I have a reasonably good rod, and more importantly, an exceptional reel (the Shimano Baitcaster 650). My friend however ignored my advice, and instead picked up a “bargain” set for $70.00. Rod, reel, line, and some terminal tackle. On his first cast on our first day of the holidays he got a bird’s nest, which resulted in the reel jamming. When he tried to wind in his line, the reel moved freely, despite the line being jammed. A quick inspection revealed that the internal mechanisms of this reel were made up mostly of plastic components – most of which were now in multiple pieces. His fishing on this holiday was over before it started – with the nearest tackle shop some 120 km away. It kind of reinforces the saying “no one ever complained about paying for quality.”
This is a mantra I have more or less followed over the years. I use Sage rods, Simms waders and clothing, and Lamson reels, simply because they have such an exceptional reputation. Sure, they cost a lot more than other “leading brand,” but then you tend to get a lot more life out of them (especially with lifetime unconditional warranty that Sage offers).
So, for the last 10 or so years I have been using Rio fly lines. Why?, well, because when I first started seriously fishing the Tonagariro river I went into the biggest outfitters in Turangi, and asked “whats the best line for nymphing the Tongariro?,” and the Rio Indicator floating line was what I walked out with.
Now, before I go any further it probably pays to explain that “nymphing the Tongariro” involves a whole different style of fishing. This is not you delicately tiptoeing along the side of chalk-streams, casting spiderwebs from a toothpick type of fishing, no, this is hurling 8 weight lines across deep boiling pools, or fast running stretches of river in the search of “the big one” that may be lurking in the depths. To get down to where the action is requires weight, a lot of weight. Nymph rigs often have a tungsten beaded “bomb” as the lead fly whose sole purpose is to sink as fast as possible to the river bed, dragging the smaller natural or egg pattern nymph behind it. This bomb may weigh up to 1oz or more. Add to the equation a big fluffy strike indicator to the end of the fly line, so the angler can keep track of the drift, and any strikes, and you have a rather unwieldy setup. But, in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing these heavy rigs can be cast almost effortlessly across the river in search of trout.
A big part of being able to do this however lies in the fly line itself. So, on being told that the Rio Indicator was the “way to go” I bought the sales pitch, hook, line and bomb. Since that day I have replaced my line three times with another Rio Indicator line. This line is good. It was designed in conjunction with Rio for casting heavy bombs on the Tongariro. It comes in a nice dull green, and has a bright orange indicator tip on it, ending in a welded loop. Most importantly, it has a lot of weight forward in the line, which helps when trying to punch into a strong head or side wind. I liked this line so much, that I bought a 6 weight version for my “not Taupo” fly rod, and it works a treat on some of the smaller rivers I fish. In short, I rate the Rio Indicator as a top tier fly line.
However, a few months ago I went to a presentation by a bloke named Rene Vaz. Rene is the owner of Manic Tackle, who are now the New Zealand and Australian agents for Simms, Lamson-Waterworks, and Scott – all top names and brands whose products I have at one point or another owned. I also knew Rene’s name from fishing magazines and books within New Zealand. He is well-known in the fly fishing community, so I was interested in hearing what he had to say. One of the other brands that Manic look after is Airflo.
Now, I know a little less about Airflo, and my one experience with their products was not good. Several years ago I bought one of their reels from the UK. It looked cutting edge, had an offset real mount, and lasted one fishing trip before the drag broke. And a quick look at this revealed this was proper broke. There was no way of tightening up from what was essentially “freespool” mode. I got wise and bought a Lamson Litespeed instead, and have never looked back.
Airflo also brought out a ridged line a few years ago, and I nearly bought one. The idea was that this ridged line decreased the contact area between the line and the line guides on the rod, thus decreasing friction and increasing distance. Sounds good in theory, right? But the issue with this line in places like Turangi (or all of Taupo) is the volcanic ash and pumice grit that has a way of getting caught in the ridges and thus decreasing the performance of the line. Thankfully I had read a number of reviews about the unsuitability of this line for the places I fish, and so did not in the end buy one.
But Rene was quite enthusiastically promoting the virtues of Airlfo’s new Super Dri fly lines. Terms such as “slickness,” “water-repellent,” and “world-leading,” were used. But more interesting Rene was talking about how he had some input into helping design the line to suit New Zealand conditions.
Fast forward a couple of months and I am standing on the side of the Tongariro, struggling to get my line out to the piece of water I am aiming for, and constantly hitting myself with the bomb as I struggled to get my timing right. As I was retrieving my line I looked down and saw tiny cracks in the portion I held in my hand. Closer inspection revealed this was the same along most the length of the line. Essentially, it had come to the end of its life. The cracks were attracting extra friction when casting – meaning I wasn’t getting the distance I was normally getting – and they wouldn’t be helping the lines floating qualities.
I fired a quick message off to Manic via Twitter (and this is another thing I like about these guys – easy access, great use of social media, and quick responses) asking what the best line would be for nymphing the Tongariro, and got a message back the same day advising me to pick up a Airflo Super-Dri Ballistic line from Creel Tackle House in Turangi, which I did then next morning when they opened.
Creel Tackle House has been around in one shape or another since the 1920s, and is the oldest outfitter still operating in Turangi. Now under new ownership they have now expanded to include a small cafe out the back of the shack, which does exceptional (probably the best in Turangi) coffee, and great counter food. So, not only could I get my line replaced, but I could also get that all important espresso to kick off the day.
Twenty minutes later, and the new Airflo line was loaded onto my reel, and I was heading to the river.
So, whats the line like?…well, I immediately noticed that the line loaded the road with ease. In no time I was getting some serious distance with my cast. Now, I’m no expert when it comes to describing rod actions. The easiest way to describe it was that it just felt “right.”
The other thing I noted was how high in the water this line sits. This is one of the selling points on this line, its high-floating abilities. Looking at the line as it drifted down the current it almost looked like it was sitting on top of the water, as opposed to in the surface film. This in turn makes the line remarkably easy to lift off the water to mend, or to cast.
The line colour, while still stealthy in a light tan colour, was much easier to pick up on the water than the dull green of the Rio line, which tended to get lost against the often green waters of the river. This makes it easier to control the line to ensure a natural drift. The line changes colour behind the belly of the line, which is a good visual aid when trying to judge how much line is too much during the cast, before you end up losing power and bellying out.
So, what could be improved? Well, not much at this stage. Obviously this a new line so it is in optimum condition, how it will fear as it gets older remains to be seen. Perhaps the only suggestion I would have would be to colour the last foot of the line in bright orange, similar to the Rio Indicator line. There have been times when casting to fish in very clear water that I have not wanted to float a large indicator over the top of them. An indicator tip in these circumstances proves useful, although ultimately not essential.
So, thus far this line rates 5 out 5.