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Fishing The Rio Gold
A Product Review By Joe Cornwall

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Rio is a company that wonít stand still.  Nearly every other month I get a press release from them regarding a new design, a new taper, or a new idea for how a fly line, leader or accessory should be made.  They are working hard to be an innovator and are among a small handful of companies that really understand how to make fly lines that are usefully specialized.  Last year, at the Fly Fishing Retailer Trade Show, Rio introduced the Rio Gold, a fly line billed as ďA revolutionary taper design [that] allows tremendous loop stability at distance and a unique weight distribution [that] loads a rod at close range for easy casting.Ē 

Reviewing fly lines isnít easy and the only way to sort the wheat from the chaff is to live with the line on your favorite rod for a season and see what it does. Thatís exactly what Iíve done with the Rio Gold.  I spooled the line on my favorite reel and proceeded to use it with a multitude of 5, 6 and even 7-weight rods in both fiberglass and graphite.  Iíve been fishing this line since October of 2007 and Iím here to tell you that Rio has a winner.  This is a quality fishing tool at a price that is in line with premium offerings from any of the industryís biggest names.  With a suggested retail of $64.95 itís not an inexpensive line, but itís one you may want to invest in if your style of fishing includes constantly changing conditions that demand control and versatility.

The Rio Gold is an aggressive weight-forward design.  According to the Rio web site, the Rio Gold weight-forward floating fly line has a 47-foot working head length with 43-feet of running line.  Its specs indicate that the first 30-feet weigh in at 146 grains.  AFFTA standards define a 5-wieght fly line as being 140 grains for the first 30-feet (less the level tip of the line) plus or minus 6 grains.  By that definition the Rio Gold is a 5-weight line living on the upper end of the scale.  But the other half of the story is also told in Rioís specs (which are far more complete than that of most manufacturers Ė thank you Rio!).   According to the same table, the Rio Gold in a 5-weight specification will tip the scales at a chunky 228 grains for the full 47-foot head length.  Thatís the equivalent of an 8.5-weight line, but not to worry as that's exactly how fly lines work.  I'll bet you didn't know your 5-weight rod really likes 8-weight lines, did you? 

We donít cast sections of line Ė we cast the line from the leader back.  With this in mind, the Rio Gold is definitely heavy in the first 30 feet if youíre looking for an AFFTA standard 5-weight. I weighed the line and found the length described by the ďcolor change between the head and the running line [that] makes it easy to find the perfect load point for each castĒ is just over 160 grains.  The color change is somewhat subtle and itís tough to say exactly where the transition takes place.  In bright light I settled on 32-feet. The shade transition continues beyond this point, but this is where I saw a noticeable change in color.  I used an Umpqua spring fly line scale for this measurement, and later confirmed the results using a Digiweigh digital scale, which read 166 grains inclusive of the level tip.  Thus the length of line Rio suggests be left out of the rod tip to load the rod is a perfect 6-weight.  When I cast this line with my Orvis Far-and-Fine, a 7'9" soft 5--weight, I found the rod to be overloaded at anything over 25-feet.  A 4-weight Rio Gold would likely have been the better choice for that rod.  This isn't a line for rods that are conservatively rated, but even then it might be a good choice if you're fishing a lot inside of 30-feet in small creeks or on pocket water.

Weighing the first 47-feet of the line, the Digiweigh read 204 grains, a near perfect 8-weight load.  This is about the amount of line youíd aerialize during a big cast, perhaps shooting an additional 20 to 40 or more feet of line on the release.  Clearly Rio was thinking about contemporary fast-action rods when they designed this line.  Most of those high-speed sticks are under-rated and Rioís built a well-designed line for them!  It was a very good match for my Redington RS4, which is described by the manufacturer as a "fast action" 5-wieght fly rod  (read our review of the Redington RS4 here). This line would also be a great match with other fast-action rods from Sage, G. Loomis, Orvis and others.

Just in case these numbers concern you, this level of weight increase is normal in a fly line. What's different is the nature of the weight distribution.  In comparison, a spot-on 5-weight double taper weighs 140 grains in the first 30-feet.  If you false cast 45-feet of line, then you're loading your rod with close to 230 grains or roughly the same mass as 30' of a 8-weight line.  What the Rio Gold does differently is spread that mass into something akin to an elongated bullet to more efficiently use the energy of the cast by minimizing flight instability and maximizing power transfer. Their design works as claimed.

So what does the Rio fish like?  Itís good.  Very good.  The line floats high and the tip doesnít sink. That, in itself, is a great improvement over most lines, which annoyingly tend to ride under the meniscus for the first two or three feet (and sometimes more) making for sloppy mends and sluggish pick-ups.  Rio's design engineers have done a marvelous job with this line, it picks-up and rolls out with an impressive level of precision.

The Rio Gold's coating is appropriately slick.  Shooting is easy and the line isnít going to be the limiting factor in casting.  If youíve got the chops you can cast this one to the backing.  In direct comparison to an Orvis Wonderline+ Trout, Cortland 444 and Scientific Anglers Mastery, I found the Rio to be subjectively indistinguishable in surface feel.  In short, all the new lines are pretty darn slippery!  The color change did mark a very good pick-up point and the line behaved like the well-balanced weight forward design it is during long casts.  With softer glass rods I found I had not only great distance performance, but very good loading characteristics with as little at 10-feet of line in the air.  This line is a stone-cold-perfect match for both my McFarland 8-foot 6-weight and my TL Johnson 8-foot 5-wieght!

Rio says "The long back taper is excellent for mending and for roll and single handed spey casting and the color change between the head and the running line makes it easy to find the perfect load point for each cast."  In my hands the Rio Gold isn't the world's roll-casting champ, but then again it's not a double taper line.  It's a weight-forward design.  I found that I could comfortably roll-cast about 35-feet of fly line using a 9-foot rod.  When you factor in a 9-foot leader, this is a 44-foot roll cast.  Under almost all real-world fishing conditions this is more than adequate performance and is excellent from a line that can replace a bass bug taper.  Experts may be able to squeak another 10-feet from a roll cast, but if I know long roll casts are part of the day's game I'll opt for a double taper.  My skills are mediocre at-best when it comes to single-handed spey-style casts, but the Rio Gold performed both a snake roll and single spey as cleanly as any line I've cast before and far more efficiently than any bass bug taper or short-head line I've used.  You'll have no problems with change-of-direction casts on moving water.

So far I've fished the Rio Gold with tiny nymphs and split-shot under an indicator, presenting to the demanding Cumberland River trout population.  I've fired countless Clousers into the rocky smallmouth creeks of Ohio and Indiana.  I've cast size 18 dry flies on spring creeks and size 8 bluegill poppers on weedy ponds.  And I've spent a full day heaving everything from 3-inch-plus rabbit strip streamers to size 16 soft hackles into a swollen and uncooperative Bow River.  I've used the Rio Gold in air temperatures from 20 degrees to 90, and in waters from wet-wading-warm to shockingly refreshing (which is a subtle fly fisherman's code for a leak in the waders).  In every case it has been well behaved and high performing.  The welded loop is still in use; in my experience this is typically an early casualty and almost all my other lines boast a nail-knotted mono stub. 

In short, this line has done everything I've asked of it and it's come through with highest marks.  It doesn't exhibit annoying memory in the cold, and it retains its character when things warm up. I especially like this line for presenting to smallmouth in mid-sized creeks.  It's quite a bit more stealthy than a bass bug taper, but a lot more commanding than a "trout" weight-forward.  It's a great "all-purpose" floating fly line, especially for the Midwestern warmwater angler.  Match it directly to a fast action graphite cannon, or select one line size down for slow-action rods in grass, glass or low modulus graphite. The Rio Gold is a premium line and it deserves the title.  Highly recommended.

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