Monday, February 06, 2012

Temple Fork Outfitters Gary Loomis Signature Series Centerpin Rod

I have been fortunate as of late to have had the opportunity to run some pretty cool gear on the river. The blog has evolved over the years and has afforded me a venue to share my writings, photography, thoughts, and opinions. It has also developed a somewhat cult following of Die Hard steelheaders looking to quench their insatiable appetites for anything and everything Steelhead. The cabin affords me the opportunity to fish 365 days a year as the West Side MI flows don’t have seasonal restrictions or freeze over/ lockup scenarios. Thus, the perfect scenario to field trial gear and offer an unbiased accurate description as to the performance characteristics of the said equipment. The reviews as of late have been met with great appreciation. This coupled with the fact that I get to run the stuff without financial commitment had me looking to further my horizons. I recently reached out to Temple Fork Outfitters Regional MI Rep John Bueter with an inquiry regarding the TFO group’s newest offering, the Gary Loomis Signature Series Centerpin Rod.

John is a great guy and wasted no time returning my email inquiry. Along with this response was an invitation to meet up, talk about the company, my blog, and pass along the stick to me for a field trial and evaluation. I too wasted no time accepting the invitation and made arrangements to meet up Saturday afternoon after my morning session chasing some chromers on the big river.

Arriving to John's resort outside of Baldwin it didn't take me long to learn he was a passionate fisherman. After exchanging biographies, some of his which included owning a successful fly shop, travelling the world in pursuit of fish, and now representing numerous major players in the fishing scene, we talked a little about TFO's dive into the Centerpin Rod market.  We also talked of Gary Loomis' involvement with the introduction of the TFG CTP 1302-2. It was clear that John was a tried and true Fly Guy but he exhibited a genuine interested in the Centerpin fishing scene. His open minded enthusiasm about the method was refreshing and exciting. John informed me the rod was a collaborative effort with Gary Loomis that saw the TFO group producing this rod based on Gary's specs. He also hinted at TFO’s commitment to this line of rods and teased me with a rumor that there is possibly a second generation or additional models in the works behind the scenes.  John jokingly told me of a converstation himself and Gary Loomis had about the Centerpin rod demographic.  He quoted Gary as saying when it comes to Centerpin float fishing every end user seems to be an expert rod designer.  I chuckled to myself and thought how true that statement really is.  He handed me the blank in the rod bag and we made our way to his office.
The TFG CTP 1302-2 specs out as follows:
Blank color - Translucent Green
Guide Wraps – black/copper accents
Length - 13'
Power - Light
Line Wt rating - 6-10lb
Lure Wt - 1/8 - 1/2 oz
Blank weight 2.9oz
Pieces - 2
Action - medium
Guides - 2 Hi and 9 low frame SIC
Reel seat- graphite fixed/AL Hoods
Retails for $179.95

We talked shop for a bit in the office before we parted ways and I made my way back to the cabin with a new toy for the next day's outing. Arriving back at the cabin I pulled the rod from it's rod bag and assembled it for a closer inspection. The dark green blank is a very refreshing and visually appealing alternative to normal greys and blacks of the mainstream blanks. The fixed graphite/single hood reel seat is well placed on the handle configuration with ample premium cork fore and aft sections. The SIC's are discreetly finished with black wraps and copper accents.
The guide configuration sees two high frame SIC followed by nine low frames up to the tip. All guides appeared to be adequately sized for cold weather fishing scenarios. The gold lettering and winding check contrast the deep green blank nicely leaving one with an impression of refinement, style, and class. Upon picking this rod up for the first time one immediately notices just how light this stick is. At 2.9oz it really is a feather in the sea of its competitors at this price point.
Upon whipping the rod around one soon realizes the action rating of 2 or L (light) is very accurate. My first impression was that this rod is a wet noodle. With the ultra-light weight and the flex I was getting in the great room I was starting to think it was a small to medium flow rod and more in tune for the smaller Ohio and Ny Tribs. Nonetheless the manufacturer boasted of adequate power in the bottom end. The only true answer to my suspicions reside mere feet below the raging surface of a cold winter river so I kept an open mind as I eagerly rigged up a pin for the next morning’s river trial.  I went with the Imperial as it needed fresh line and wasnt already rigged on a rod.

The morning came and I hesitantly met the alarms beckoning with a snooze or two prior to finally dragging my weary bones from the warm bed. It was 7:30 and after feeding the dog and stoking the fire I sat down with my morning java and played out the days events in my head. The day prior’s successes were negated by poor luck and human laziness. With a limited window to field trial this rod I wanted to stack the odds in my favor as much as humanly possible. There were fish in that locale and my best bet would be to stick to the program and run the reliable water. It was a cool and damp morning with an overcast sky. The temps were hovering in the positive and the winds were moderate to non existent. Quintessential steelheading weather with the makings of a great day on the water. After finishing off my second cup of coffee I donned the gear, loaded up the rod and made my way towards the river.

With a minor change in the weather pattern from the previous day’s sunny skies the river traffic was slightly down. The water I wanted to fish was abandoned so I cut to the chase and waded out on the bar. I adjusted my float, affixed my offering and made the first cast. The rod casted like a dream. The feather light configuration and low frame SIC's complimented the top end of the rod and my offering rocketed out into the river. It caught me a bit off guard and resulted in a further cast than planned.
The second drift saw me tight to the outside edge of the main flow where I had initially wanted to float. It was midway into the drift when the float jetted below the surface. The rod loaded up and I was into a large winter hen. Instantly the rod folded over in the top end. The bend was very pronounced and concerns surfaced as to how it would fair for the remainder of this battle. It quickly became apparent that there was some much needed power in the bottom end once the rod was pushed there. Similar to the GLX line of rods there was an extreme parabolic bend observed. More than the 3 power GLX version I recently reviewed and I highly suspect it would closely mimic the 2 power model. I was not about to down play this review and bow to the adversary so I fought it as hard as I would with one of my more powerful blanks to see what it could do. Within a reasonable amount of time I had a beautiful 6-7 lb Mansitee Steelhead at my feet posing for pictures. The rod didn’t fail my efforts and made true on the TFO promise. My feelings of joy were twofold… First there is no better way to accurately form an opinion on a rod than to run it hard on a hot fish which just played out before me and secondly I got to do this on my second drift through the run and get some vindication for yesterday’s struggles. After a few quick pics for the report the pretty lady scurried back into the depths no worse for wear. I regained my composure and validated the integrity of my tippet and hook before wading back out onto the bar. With a keen sense of accomplishment I was now hoping to perhaps be lucky enough to pick up a few small browns or so to put some icing on the cake.
I popped on a big fat waxie and lobbed out my third cast into the middle of the slack water approximately 5 feet out past the fastwater edge. As my offering began to enter the drift the rod was almost yanked from my hands and I set up only to be answered by a giant fish exploding two feet from the water. This fish was huge and extremely hot. Before I could evaluate the status of the rod the fish had jumped no less than three more times across the 50 ft diameter range. When it all registered I can recall making the assumption that there was no hope in hell of turning this fish with this rod.  Once again the rod was beyond a full C configuration.  I had already committed to giving this fish a run for it’s money and was not going to back down.  My only chance was to push the rod to it's limits or simply say goodbye to this giant fish.  The rod was folded over completely but stopped the fish and managed to afford some control. I was gaining ground and actually holding my own quite well.
The power in the bottom end is quite surprising once one gets their head around pushing the rod there.   It can be a struggle for those that have become accustomed to the higher power faster rods of recent times. The old school noodle rod faction would take to this blank in a second.  It is important to state that this rod never once flexed into the handle and the power band once again mimics the GLX design.   After a stellar battle that entailed no less than 8-10 acrobatic jumps and numerous blisstering runs the fish made the net of a courteous old timer local. His reaction only added to mine when I got the first glimpse of just how large this fish was. I have been fortunate to have landed some decent steelhead in my day and the majority of the largest have been MI fish. This fish was definitely a contender for my Personal Best if not indeed the one. River bank estimates were in the 14lb class and it was well in to the 33-34” class. This fish was simply a genetic wonder for the species and a true testament to the Big Manistee Fishery. There was no better fish and under no better circumstances to put this rod to the test and push it to it’s limits. Hands down the facts are the rod stepped up to the plate and delivered. After numerous timely photos the beast was returned to the depths. I now had to regain my composure both mentally and physically. Two hot fish within 3 drifts equated to my body feeling the ramifications of the good life. After a short reprieve I jumped back in and worked the section over for the remainder of the outing. I managed to bring to hand a beautiful chrome shaker that had the rod pumping in that ever familiar fashion that only a chromer can do and always brings a warm smile to an avid steelheaders face.  I also managed to entice another stellar wintered up buck in the 6lb class. The more fish I caught the more comfortable I became with this rod. A 4 for 4 day on this river is an outstanding day and to pull it off while field trialing some new equipment is a blessing.
The rod deliverers true to it’s promises. They make no boastful remarks about being the answer to every fishing scenario in the Great lakes. They accurately rate the rod as a Light action 13’ steelhead centerpin stick with moderate action. The top end of this rod is very slow…extremely slow and as previously stated most likely mimics the GLX 2 power model.  The bottom end steps up to the plate and cranks it out of the park when you lay the wood to her. If you are a fan of slow rods then you will love this stick. It is a rod for the individual that is not afraid to test their gear and go hard. One has to have faith in their gear to do that and it can be intimidating for those that are not used to pushing the envelope. I know I was initially, but as favorable results kept coming the more and more comfortable I became with its abilities. Having said this I would definitely not recommend this rod as a big water stick. If your primary aspirations are chasing giant fish in giant flows then you need to pursue other options. A full day of big fish in big water would certainly stress one’s body and push it to the limits. As all rods do… I think it has it’s time and place and would be best suited for small to medium sized flows. The south shore flows of Lakes Erie and Ontario come to mind as excellent running grounds for this stick. No different than it’s extremely higher priced GLX equivalent. I can say with some certainty that if you are a GLX 2 power fan you will like this blank.
The rod is best described as a higher end entry level centerpin production rod. At $179.99 with a limited life time warranty one would be hard pressed to go wrong purchasing this stick. Comparable options in this price category are heavier and bring less to the table. The rod is a feather in comparison to other options. This rod has its place and I’m certain will have it’s fans and proponents but I can say without any shadow of doubt that it did me proud on this demo and I have the pics to prove it. It comes down to individual preference, fighting style, and immediate needs. If you are looking for an entry level centerpin rod and don’t want to go all in financially and fish moderate sized flows you will be more than happy with this blank. It did leave me optimistically wondering what the rumored TFO pin-rod prototypes will be like. Can’t wait until that rumor comes to fruition :0)


shotgunner said...

All right.. now I'm officailly envious!

Well done Brian.

Gil said...

Brian, you fish way to f'n much. I am green with envy. Another brilliant report. Consumer Reports called, they need a guy like you. I had just briefly heard of this rod and wondered about it. Your report means much.

I need to fish. Its been too many weeks gone by. Thanks for "fishing for me" ;)