Beaver Meadow Glass-The 5wt Trials by Mark Usyk
When JP said he was going to put a glass 5wt in my hands and turn me loose to run it through the gauntlet of streams, rivers and lakes I explore on a sometimes daily basis, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Glass? Isn’t that old tech? Didn’t graphite replace glass because it was better? I was apprehensive at first. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into.
When I first laid eyes on it I was kind of taken aback by it’s physical appearance. It was glass…and it looked it. Awesome. There wasn’t any paint covering up what it was, it wasn’t even tinted, it was simply what he described as Milk White. I said it looked like a cleared raw glass. You could see the glass, the texture, the material. It looked deep, like you could reach into it. The only way I could describe it was a cross between the old translucent handle bar grips on my BMX bike in the early ‘80s and a vinyl covered seat in a greasy spoon diner without the metal flake. It was pure hot rod to me, with a splash of antique and finished off with a 5 gallon bucket of cool! I built hot rods and custom motorcycles for 13 years, and a lot of the time because of the high quality of my metal work, the sheet metal on the cars and bikes was left raw and just cleared. I could really relate to this rod, it showed you everything it was without the lipstick and painted on eyebrows. I was sold on the appearance alone and forgot about my apprehension as to how it would fish in the first minute.
I mounted an old Pflueger Medalist on it that my wife had picked up for me at a garage sale two years ago, loaded it with a floating 5wt line and tucked it in the back seat of my truck with a bunch of camping gear and my JP Ross 6’ 6” Beaver Meadow 3wt. The next day my Father and I drove north to spend a couple days on an Adirondack Brook Trout stream and give the glass it’s first test. I still didn’t know what to expect, I hadn’t even cast it in the front yard.
The next day, standing in a small river and releasing my fourth Brookie I felt I had started the day off good with the old Beaver Meadow, and it was time to give the new glass rod leaning against the truck tail gate a first cast. Jordan told me it was a medium action. Let’s get something straight right now. I’ve only been fly fishing for 5 years now, I’m not the world’s greatest caster, and you could tell me it was a slow, medium, fast, or lightning speed action rod and it’ll only have me analyzing in my head what I think that means. But most times with my limited experience with the only couple rods I’ve ever fished none of these descriptions are going to mean much more than squat to me. I just have to try it. I’ll figure it out, leave the technical stuff to someone else.
So I stripped line from the reel and made my first cast. I was targeting a pocket about twenty-five feet away that I had hit repeatedly with the graphite 3wt. I made a couple back casts, they weren’t the smoothest casts, I felt like I was getting ahead of it, but I hit the mark. After doing this twice I stopped and stood there. I had to adjust something, I felt like I was rushing the cast motions and the rod didn’t like it. I slowed down. The rod loaded beautifully, I could feel it load over my shoulder behind me and as I made the first forward cast something made me decide to make it the one and only forward cast. The rod tip ending pointed at the pocket water, line shot through my fingers and raced through the guides. The small streamer I was casting entered the water about two feet beyond the target…in one back cast and one forward cast. It felt suddenly like I had been casting this rod for a long time, just like that, I had it down. It was smooth. It shot line, it covered more distance in one cast than the light graphite rod I had just put down. More distance, with much less effort. I remembered one of our old range instructors in the Air Force trying to help an airman to make better and faster magazine changes. “Slow down. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” I took my time, made slower, smoother casts, and the line covered distance at an alarming rate. This was good. For the next half hour at least I would shoot line up stream about twenty-five to thirty feet at a forty-five degree angle, let it drift down below me and just as it would start to swing across lift it off the water in one motion, sending it over my shoulder, and then in one forward motion send it back up stream again to the same target and repeat it over and over without any real effort. It just felt right. I was sold on glass at that point. It felt different. It felt right.
I caught several Small Brookies in the eight to ten inch range on it that day, and while a 5wt is a bit overkill for fish that small, it was more of a test of how quickly I could figure it out. And then once I did, almost immediately, it became how smooth could I make the casts and how few false casts would it take me to get it where I wanted it. I was ready to hunt bigger fish that would test the rods feel in a fight. I had Smallmouth waiting in the creek out back at home. If anything would test the fight of the rod, they would.
Over the next few months I caught plenty of Good sized Smallmouth Bass from the creek at home that would peel line off the old Medalist and put a good arch, sometimes doubling the rod over almost in two, and the rod ate it all up. I was putting it through the ringer now. I strung it up with a sink tip 6wt line after JP told me at one point that it wasn’t just a medium action, but a medium progressive. I had no idea what that meant. You learn something every day and so after learning that this meant I could go up or down a line size and the rod would still act right I remembered the small stack of lines in the house and selected the 6wt sink tip simply because I’d never fished one before. Going up a line weight increased the speed of the rod slightly. I could feel it, but it still felt fine. It still felt like the correct line. I fished it on Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks on our family vacation from my old canoe, and then again at the end of the summer on a small lake on a family farm. There I put it to work hauling Largemouths out of the dense weed beds along the shore and then back to the floating line to torment pan fish with hoppers and small poppers.
It’s a different feel altogether if you’ve never fished glass before. I don’t know that it’s more sensitive than graphite, it seems to me that since graphite replaced it as a newer, better material that it should be less sensitive. But I don’t think it is. Maybe it feels a little heavier to me, therefore transferring the energy to my hand with a little more “gusto.” It’s smoother than I imagined glass would be, and I feel it work more than I thought I would. It loads up energy like a boss. Maybe it’s the guides JP chose for the rod, but it shoots line like an animal, no matter what line I spooled it with, down a size, up a size, or right on the money. The engraving on the reel seat, “Zen Trout”, adds that touch of class that says this didn’t come from no big box company pal, this came from a rod builder, not a rod factory. JP says he’s built over 6000 rods over the past almost twenty years, I figure with the release of these, he better be ready for at least that many over the next twenty. The JP Ross moto is “Simply Fish.” With this rod, I’ll accept that challenge without a second thought.