Saturday, July 4, 2009

Travel Fishing Tackle, Part 2: The Orvis Experience and Garcia reels

All though 1970's and the 1980's, the Zebco travel rod served me well. I used different reels with it, most often an Ambassador 5000 or an Abu Garcia Abumatic 290. I used that reel in numerous trips to California in the 1980's, and it saw a lot of action in the Hill Country on various hiking and canoe/kayak trips.

Somewhere along the way in the early 1980's, I got an Eagle Claw "pack" spinning rod, a medium weight rod that was about 6 foot long. I generally used my Garcia Mitchell 300 with this rod. There still were not very many travel (or "pack" rods, for backpacking, as they were called back then).

Over the last 30 years, many of my go-to reels have been Garcia products. In the 1970's, you could find no finer made reel, especially at it's price. I've owned several red 5000's, and used them regularly up until a year or so ago when I acquired a Shimano Curado. Man, that Curado is a fine reel. Likewise, the 300 spinning reel is the icon of the genre,

I've also used the fresh and salt water versions of the Abumatic spinning reels, the 170 (red) and 290 (silver) since the mid-70's. With the advent of Ebay, I expanded my collection of these reels, and now have enough of these fine reels that my son will be ensured a healthy legacy of Abumatic reels. He's already realized he likes the red ones for freshwater fishing, and despite the fact that he has quite a mini-arsenal of gear to pick from, the red 170's are already his go-to choice.

My original 290 Abumatic has been fished in Ft. Lauderdale, San Diego, Los Angeles and it's surrounds, Laguna Beach, San Francisco, Sonora and Napa Valley, New Orleans (swamp fishing for bass), the Congaree River in Columbia, South Carolina and even to The Bahamas. I bought it in 1973 at a hardware store that sold fishing tackle in Port Isabel, Texas, and it still works like new.

When I was graduating law school, I decided to treat myself to a low end Orvis fishing rod, and I got the 4 piece travel model. This rod has also been to California, Florida and the Bahamas and has been fished all over Texas including both fresh and salt water areas. It's a six weight, and is about as versatile as a rod can be. Orvis still sells a similar outfit and you can find it here

Mine wasn't called the Clearwater but Billy Ray liked mine so much that he bought him one about a year later, and by then they had changed the name of the series to the Clearwater series. It's the same rod.

The cheapest Orvis rod is, I have found, generally far better than the more expensive offerings of other makers. Sure, there are lots of good rod making companies out there making great products, but as I grew up reading about expensive Orvis rods, I always knew I would have one when I grew up.

Having a good fly rod is like any other quality item that you might use, like a good shotgun or a favorite car. You get used to how it handles and you like that familiarity. So it is with me and my old Orvis rod. A few years ago, I got a nice lightweight 3 wt. Orvis rod for a steal at the outfitting store in Fredericksburg. It was winter, and I got a $450 Orvis for just over a hundred bucks. Screaming deal. The rod literally weighs nothing and is perfect for fishing Texas rivers and creeks for smaller fish. It makes a bluegill seem like a big ole' fish.

I'd love to have a nice bamboo Orvis rod, either an old one or a new one, particularly a short 5.5 or 6 foot 3 wt. model that would lend itself to brushy bank fishing on the Texas creeks I love to fish. I've once had a cheap bamboo fly rod, but it didn't have the action and feel that a quality rod would have. That cheap rod busted in half in the heat of a fight with a Lake Conroe largemouth many years ago, and resulted not only in a ruined rod but a lost fish.


  1. Greetings from The Orvis Company in Southern Vermont.

    Thanks so much for this post. We love to hear stories like these!

    From all of us at Orvis,

    James Hathaway
    The Orvis Company

  2. My original Orvis Rod, James, is still doing well, and looks like new, twenty years on. It's been fished at least 200 times in those years, all over the place.

    I was putting some new line on it recently, and the wife asked if I'd bought (yet) another new rod. Even she, the non-fishing wife, was impressed with how it looked like new.