– Model Mirage 6’6′ for a 4/5-weight line
As it so happens, I have become the proud owner of yet another fly rod, but this time it is not one of your “average” graphite trout wands or saltwater sticks. I like all sorts of materials that make up the blank of a fly rod, and, let’s face it, a great rod is a great rod whether it is made of composite materials like space-age high-modulus graphite, classic or advanced fiberglass or any natural material. All rods include a certain degree of professional know how and great rods just have much more of the latter flowing into their design and build.
Natural materials, however, seem to possess something that even the most performing of “plastic” materials never quite achieve, namely a certain amount of soul. As I see it, this “soul” is made up of the inherent qualities of the material, in this case Arundinaria Amabilis – Tonkin cane, or bamboo in layman’s terms, paired with the love and craftsmanship that goes into that rod.
With all the skilled cane rod makers out there, the products of Bernard Rigal are the ones that have caught my eye, but only at a second glance. From the aesthetics point of view, his rods are very nice, yet there are rods available (from overseas, notably) that do have the hardware and the looks to even please heads of state and business magnates (they are priced accordingly, of course, and are way, way out of my wallet’s league); when it comes to action, however, Rigal rods can easily compete with and even outperform some of New England’s finest!
Many cane rods, by design, tend to have a rather substantial swing weight and quite a few are downright tip-heavy clunkers but just about every rod in the Rigal production lineup feels crisp, almost light on the wiggle and with a fast recovery. With reel attached and line strung through the guides, Rigal rods simply shine; especially if one has a selection of lines to choose from when test casting the rods.
Not being a friend of very short rods, I still chose a 6’6’’ rod for a 4/5-weight line, in 2 pieces with asymmetric lengths sporting a simple, yet flawless and elegant finish. Guides are hard chrome snakes, the cork is first-rate flor grade and, above all, it has a sliding band reel seat that I favor with short rods. The secret in the rod’s action, besides its taper design, lies in the material the ferrules are made of: while most quality cane rods sport precision-turned metal ferrules of some intricate design, Rigal rods have … graphite ferrules!
The weight gained by using graphite ferrules must not be dismissed; there is hardly any rod in Bernard’s collection that weighs 100 grams or over! This is due to a manufacturing process that removes material from the cane strips in order to obtain a more lightweight blank, not really a novelty after all, yet the way it is expertly done together with the use of very lightweight ferrules makes for a really pleasant and quite fastish action, exactly the way I like it.
My rod is going to be fished, probably hard and certainly not displayed in a case. Paired with the proper line, it excels at any distances it was designed for. It can even sling out longer casts when called upon, but short casts in smaller waters are its realm. Since the boys at TOF Belgium have mastered the task of making custom fly lines these days, it was quite simple to create a bespoke line that perfectly compliments the rod’s fine action.
It’s going to be a promising season on our local trout streams here…
On the day “my” rod was presented to me, I was allowed to cast a prototype rod designed for a Canadian salmon angler. 9 feet in length and only fitted with basic hardware, I was able to test drive the rod with several lines, with mind blowing results, the performances of that rod were every bit as impressive as the ones made of graphite coming with a similar action tempo save maybe the extra weight of the blank. In this respect, Bernard was able to stun me: while I would have sworn that particular rod with hardware and all went at least (a conservative) 125 grams, the electronic scale told me otherwise and stopped …at 99 grams! With a bit of tinkering and choosing the right components on the production rod, a longer handle, a somewhat more substantial reel seat and a salmon reel that will counterbalance the action (the rod is still a prototype after all), I believe Mr Rigal is up to something, again!