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Mmmmm…. Minty!  The Ross FlyStik Fly Rod Line-Up

Article by Joe Cornwall, Photos By Jim Stuard and Joe Cornwall

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Ross Worldwide is a manufacturer that’s recognized for its superb fly reels.  Anyone who’s carried around a fly rod for more than a few years has heard of the Ross Cimarron, the Colorado, and the Gunnison.  The company claims the honor of being the number-one selling fly reel brand in the United States.    Beyond fly reels, Ross builds one of the finer Center Pin reels for those who practice that black art, as well as a uniquely adjustable reel arm that will help serious anglers dial perfect balance into their rigs. For more than 35 years, Ross has been setting standards for well-designed and innovative products, including some very fine fly rods.

I met Brad Befus, the National Sales Manager for Ross, at the ICAST trade show in July, 2009.  During the course of our conversation in a booth stocked with precision-machined winches, towering spey rods and rugged fishing pliers, I caught sight of something exciting for any committed warm water fanatic.  A bouquet of cool, bright green, the FlyStik® series is designed for those of us who spend inordinate amounts of time brooding over bass.  A collection of three fly rods, the series is touted as “tournament length fly rods that could be legally fished in the Bassmaster Classic!”  I’m eager to see that happen one day.  I firmly believe there are times when a fly rod is the most effective instrument for fooling these aggressive fish.  Besides which, having just finished reviewing a quartet of serious bass rods how could I resist adding the FlyStiks to the tally?  Mr. Befus agreed to arrange for a 90-day loan of all three FlyStik fly rods.

Available in 6wt., 8wt. and 10wt. sizes, the FlyStik series of graphite fly rods are part of the new wave of environment-specific fly rods being introduced to the scene and competing with such notables as the Scott Warm Water Special series, Redington Predator series, and Sage Bass series.  Unlike the later, the FlyStik series is designed to mate with a traditional selection of fly lines rather than a line designed specifically to match the stick.  The marketing literature claims the FlyStik series will “comfortably handle floating lines, sink tips and shooting heads.”  Taking Ross at their word, I fished each of these rods with a number of floating and sinking lines in a variety of locations.

The three fly rods in the series are clearly cut from the same blank.  Sporting a mint green paint job, dark green wraps with silver tipping, and a frosty-white script, these are fishing rods that are anything but subtle.  While they don’t have the “look here” orange-yellow glow of the Sage design, they do light up in the bright sunshine with their own, cool radiance.  Far from gauche, I found the effect quite pleasing. 

All three rods use the same grip; a full wells design that’s nicely slim and quite comfortable in the hand.  The cork quality is good, with an acceptable amount of nicely filled voids and a smooth finish.  A quality anodized up-locking reel seat grabs the reel foot with authority.  A matching cork fighting butt, permanently attached, completes the caster interface. 

The Ross FlyStik fly rods are all 4-piece designs and come with a quality Cordura rod case.  There are two titanium oxide stripping guides and six oversize snakes, plus the tip top.  Ferrules are tip-over-butt with a neat over-wrap and frosty-white alignment dots that are near impossible to see in bright sunshine.  They are described as having a “medium-fast action taper, perfect for heavy flies” and are constructed with Ross’s proprietary R-2 graphite technology.

I fished the 6-weight rod first.  A Pflueger 1494˝ fly reel provided a great balance, as did a Battenkill bar stock and a Fish Creek 5600 Large Arbor, with the rod teetering right near the front of the cork with any of these reels loaded and mounted.  Putting together a balanced outfit with these mid-weight fly rods will be an easy task.   I fished the 6-weight rod with a Rio Mainstream WF6F, Scientific Anglers Pat Ehlers WF7 bug taper, S.A. Sharkskin Magnum, and Orvis Wonderline WF6 bug taper.  The rod showed very little selectivity and worked well with each of the lines.  Exhibiting a smooth, progressive action, the 6-weight rod was surprisingly similar to the Scott Warm Water Special for about 25% of the price of that super-stick!  The 6-weight also had no problems coping with a 10’ Type V sink tip when the conditions mandated a deeper approach.  This is a versatile and accurate fly rod, just perfect for the creek smallmouth enthusiast.

The 8-weight version accompanied me on an impromptu trip to Minnesota where I managed to find a few hours to wade the Snake River near Pine City.  The river there is rocky, shallow and full of crayfish, shiners and smallmouth bass.  Because the flow is fairly small, I started my fishing with a vintage fiberglass 6-weight.  Gusty post-frontal conditions with winds topping 20mph made controlling my casts a real chore.  A touch of tendonitis in my casting arm made it clear to me that I was working way too hard and that a bigger gun was necessary.  I broke out the FlyStik, mounted the Fish Creek large arbor reel and a bass bug taper Fish Creek Hawg Hunter bass line.   Wow, this is a serious bass fishing outfit! 

There was a mixed hatch of small caddis, tricos and midges coming off the riffles. Everywhere I saw small rings as shiners and chubs rose to the constant conveyor belt buffet.  My crayfish imitation had enjoyed only limited success, so I changed to a shiner imitation.  Swinging a beefy rabbit-strip streamer off the sand bars and into the deeper water of the braided runs was the winning ticket; the bass were keyed on the active baitfish and not the ubiquitous mudbugs. The Ross FlyStik certainly had the opportunity to prove itself as smallmouth from 10 to 16-inches pounded my fly.

What I liked best about the Ross fly rod was the way it provided an iron-fisted control of the cast yet still managed to feel like a rod two line-classes lighter when fighting the fish.  Many fly fishers just starting their warm water experiences are lead to believe that heftier fly rods in the 8 to 10-weight class are extreme overkill on freshwater creeks. This is a residual saltwater bias where the extra fast action on 9-foot rods is intended to develop very high line speeds.  The resultant “fireplace poker” action leaves very little excitement when a two pound fish lunges and, worse, it makes casting the short to medium distances typical of fresh water angling both coarse and choppy.  This is not to say that you don't need the mass of an 8 or 10-weight fly line for fresh water.  Often you do, as the fly line selected should complement the flies you'll cast and not the fish you hope to land.   The FlyStik has the right combination of strength, power and speed to make it the ideal solution for mid and large freshwater fly presentations.

Ross definitely got the action on the FlyStik series right. These rods have plenty of tip strength to control the line, a spring of power located in the middle third, and a butt section that provides solid “gruntability.”  These aren’t saltwater fly rods; they’re precision, high-power tools for accurate, close-in guerilla combat.  The 6-weight and 10-weight rods delivered the essence of this, but the 8-weight just dripped with warm water confidence.  Combined with an aggressive bass bug taper line and proper leader, the 8-weight outfit tossed the size 2 rabbit-and-rubber frauds around like they were size 12 wooly buggers.  The blank tracked my casting stroke exceptionally well, resulting in easy accuracy.  It was as easy to load the rod for a 15-foot cast as it was to wind it up for a 65-foot haul.  Smooth, progressive and predictable are all good adjectives to describe what I experienced.

Although I didn’t mange to get the 10-wieght FlyStik into any fish capable of testing it, I did spend an afternoon delivering 7-inch long Dahlberg Divers to logs and lay-downs along the bank of a local reservoir known to harbor a muskie or two.  Four hours of casting flies that have the aerodynamic profile of a wool sock proved the heaviest of the FlyStik family was cut from the same cloth.  The action, while more powerful, was as refined and appropriate to the task as that exhibited by the lightweight 6 and middleweight 8. I suspect the 10-weight might be the perfect travel rod for a northern pike outing.

At $169 MSRP, the FlyStik series by Ross Worldwide is one of the great bargains in fly fishing today.  If you fish freestone creeks for smallmouth bass, get the baby bear.  If you fish the snag-infested lakes of the boreal north or the big bass waters of the deep south, get the papa bear.   But if you want something to take with you that will cover just about any warm water scenario – a rod that’s a REAL bass rod – get the mama bear 8-weight right in the middle.  It’s almost crazy that a fly rod this good should sell for such a modest price!  Kudos to Ross for a job well done!

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