Lines on Lines (and Tackle) Part 2

“I have one left,” said Josh as he walked around the counter, slid a box of line from one of the many long hooks holding similar boxes, then handed it to me.

I marvelled at the variety of lines available to a fly fisher in the 21st century. The flyfisher of yore could choose between a double tapered or a weight forward floating line, a full sinker, and a couple of sinking tip lines that sank so slowly and unevenly they only got near the bottom in shallow or really slow flows.

Jim Teeny changed all that in the early 1980s when he convinced one of the major line manufacturers to produce a line of his design that he subsequently marketed under his name. The Teeny Lines revolutionized angling. They had grey-coloured sinking tips moulded to tan running lines and, most importantly, those tips sank to the bottom like stones.

Even the slowest sinking of the Jim Teeny lines plunged through the water column more quickly and uniformly than anything available to fishers heretofore, while the faster sinking models, the T-200 and T -300, enabled a fly fisher to probe the depths of those really fast and deep lanes through which giant chinook like to pass, or dredge deep pools for winter steelhead unwilling to move very far in frigid water, or sweep a fly right past the noses of determined coho surging through fast flows.

Teeny was an unabashed entrepreneur who even went so far as to patent his favourite fly pattern, the Teeny nymph, that consisted of nothing more than a bunch of fibres stripped from the tail feather of a ring-necked pheasant wound on a hook. I bought one. It looked a lot like the Pheasant Tail Nymph invented in Britain by Frank Sawyer in the 1950s, but larger and with a plastic tag labelled “pat pend” discretely hidden beneath its hackle beard.

I’ve met few famous fishers over the years, and most of them fall far short of their advance billing. I haven’t crossed paths with Jim Teeny, but I’ve spoken to a couple of anglers who have and both of them told me that Teeny was a very skilled and effective fisherman. Further testimony to Teeny’s skills comes in the form of a video cassette recording he made and sold around the same time he came up with his series of lines.

The video shows Teeny fishing crystal clear rivers near his home in Oregon. “If I spot ‘em, I got ‘em,” is Teeny’s mantra, and over the course of the video, he does just that. It’s a virtuoso performance.

I wound my 2018 Teeny 200 on a reel, then mounted the reel on a Sage six-weight single handed rod and took it to the river. Casting heavy headed lines requires a smooth and slower stroke than regular casting. The old Teeny lines were demanding to cast at the best of times, but this newer version turned over smoothly and, unlike its predecessors, was pleasant to fish. As I neared the end of the run the energy stored in the rod dissipated on the backcast. I knew instantly that the tip had snapped. This shouldn’t have happened. The rod was rated to carry the line.

It was the second time this particular Sage rod had blown up on me. Over the years I’ve had many Sage rods explode. They all had a lifetime warranty against all kinds of mayhem, but because the $68 (US) in shipping costs required to send the rod to the manufacturer and back, can this deal really be called a warranty? The Sage switch rod for which I paid $700 a decade ago snapped three times under the strain of normal casting with floating lines and its four sections fused together once. Factor in the shipping costs attending each repair and that fragile piece of graphite has cost me in excess of a thousand dollars.

Rather than go through this hassle once again, I gave up on Sage rods went looking for an inexpensive replacement. In Franciso’s fly fishing shop I noticed a beginners’ kit made by Echo. I own a couple of Echo rods, a ten-foot ten-inch switch rod that casts as well as my Sage, cost half the price, and hasn’t broken, and a three weight 10 and a half foot glass fibre pole that casts superbly and like its cousin, the switch rod, has the same warranty as Sage offers.

I spent a hundred dollars on an Echo Base, a beginner package containing a rod, a reel, fly line and a leader. The rod was designed by Tim Rajeff whose family is casting royalty. It is beautifully made with a practical and solid reel seat and a handle of the best grade cork. The reel balances the rod perfectly, and it’s a dream to cast.

Like almost everything else, it’s made to Rajeff’s specifications in China, but its fittings are immaculate, the ferrules are reinforced, and it has a deep lustrous green colour. It breaks down conveniently in four pieces that fit in a portable rod case.

I took the rod to the Skeena at Shames and gave it a vigorous workout. It cast the Teeny line effortlessly. I came away wondering why anyone would spend more when such a superb graphite was available for a hundred bucks and change.

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