Dec 12, 2011

Gear Review: TFO Clouser Fly Rod

About a year ago I was flush with Christmas cash. I decided to use the moola to upgrade my bassin' fly rod and took to the interwebs for research. After a few hours, it was narrowed down to the Temple Fork Outfitters Clouser, a Redington Predator or the Sage Bass Series. The Sage was is just too damn expensive for normal folk, so it was ruled out immediately...which left the other two...

The Clouser was a smidge more spendy, but the short length of the Predator rod scared me away - at the time they only offered a 7'10" version. A little extra length would help out while fishing from the low perch of my kayak. The Redington boys liked to brag about the short length because it fits in under bass tournament length regulations...if they only knew that was the deciding factor for me, perhaps not in the way they intended.

I searched high and low for the best price and discovered there were no retailers offering deals; they all held onto the MSRP of $249 like it was *bleeping* golden. The Predator was going for $200 at the time (now $250) and the Sage was somewhere north of four bills (now five and a half.) I chose to buy my rod from the man himself; Mr. Clouser sells his namesake rods through an on-line store. This was also the only site I found to offer free shipping on the full range of TFO Clousers from 5wt all the way up to 10wt - most stores only sold the 5 and 8wt models and charged shipping. I suggest you take a look at that link above if you're in the market.


I selected the 8wt model, ordered it up and sat tight through Snowmageddon 2011 to wait for the shipment. Shipping was pretty quick: about a week. The rod was actually sent directly from a Temple Fork Outfitters facility in Texas. The day after the rod arrived, I received another package and letter from the Clouser shop directly. The package contained a spool of RIO Clouser fly line and a short letter I have since misplaced. It frustrates me to have lost the letter because I was saving it with the purpose to add a picture to this very post. Anyway, to paraphrase what I remember the letter said:
Thanks for puchasing a rod, it should ship soon from TFO in Texas. Here is the line I designed to use on your new rod. -Bob

Perhaps I may have mentioned Lunker Hunt and my intent to write this review...I guess Mr. Clouser wanted to make sure I wasn't using cheap line to evaluate the rod. I ended up ignoring his advice and used RIO Smallmouth fly line for the full season, though I intend to spool up with the RIO Clouser line next year. I smell an 8wt line shootout post in the future.

First Impressions

The 8wt model is eight feet, nine inches long and breaks down into four pieces at twenty-eight inches each. It weighs five and a half ounces.

The blank finish is a unique shade of blue. The thread wraps are a matching blue with grey and silver highlights. They claim the rod is protected by a TiCr finish to guard against impact from heavily weighted flies - a feature I am unable to independently verify.

The grip is mostly burl cork with rubberized cork accents and the fighting butt (6-10wt versions only) is oversized and rubberized. The up-locking reel seat is metal (aluminum I assume) and anodized in a chocolatey brown finish. Everything around the handle is comfortable and firm.

There are a total of ten guides (excluding the tip) and are all double footed. The first two are ring style and the remaining are stainless steel snake guides. The tip-top is stainless as well.

Each section has tiny yellow dots near the ferrule to help get everything in a straight line and the male ferrule portion is colored grey - I suppose that helps to quickly determine which end is which. When fully assembled, a little grey coloring is visible at each joint - I consider this the only ugly feature of this rod and would prefer to see it all blue.

Near the handle, they included a quick line weight identification feature. My rod has a thick red bar and three thin gold bars. The red one indicates five, and each gold bar indicates one each...so five plus three equals 8...my rod is an 8wt....get it? I guess a 10wt would have two red bars and no gold ones.

The rod came in a blue velor sock, but I was disappointed to find a rod tube was not included. Even though this is not a top of the line rod, I think something at this price point should include a protective rod tube.

Another disappointment I immediately discovered was the lack of a hook keep - another simple feature you only miss when it's not around. Not a complete deal breaker though; you can't catch fish without a hook in the water anyway. On the TFO site they currently claim "hook keepers have now been added" so I can only assume this oversight is now corrected.

The "wiggle test" revealed an action earning this rod a new nickname (previously revealed) "the blue broomstick." Fast action and muscle are worthy attributes for someone planning to throw heavy flies, which crater rather than present.

As with all Temple Fork Outfitter rods, the Clouser comes with a life-time no fault warranty. This selling point goes a long way in my book, especially since the demise of my previous rod.

As a whole, I was impressed with the rod out of the box and couldn't wait for ice to thaw in Illinois (and beyond). The next step: give it a swing.

How it Works

Flash forward eleven months and with a season of use under it's belt, I am now comfortable commenting on performance. As stated, I kept the 8wt rod paired with RIO Smallmouth WF8F - a very good line in my opinion. I'd be curious to see how it handles a WF9 or a heavier sinking line. I did not upgrade my reel, but a cheap plastic St. Croix reel was a perfect balance and otherwise deserves no mention.

The fast action allows for some spectacular casting displays while being unforgiving in the same instant. The rod begs you to exceed your license and get too much line in the air. I had overshot my casting abilities with this purchase and learned to practice applied restraint.

While casting large wind resistant and weighted flies, I was never short on muscle. This is what the rod is designed to do, what it is marketed as and where it excels. Large poppers, furry streamers and heavy bottom bouncers snap out of the water with ease and stay off the ground in the rear. Belgian casting helped when I was using really heavy flies and roll casting worked if the fly was light.

On several occasions I used the Clouser rod to throw "traditional" flies like nymphs, emergers and dries. In my opinion it is too much rod to effective fish these. It will reach out a country mile with light flies, but I lost accuracy and had difficulty dropping the fly gently. No one reading this will consider an 8wt if they intend to fish dries, but the point deserved a mention.

I took this rod just about everywhere in 2011. It accompanied me to the Bighorn in Montana, I used it to wrestle grain fed trout in East Peoria, it pulled smallies from the Vermilion and Mackinaw, and it fought largemouth in quite a few area lakes.

With enough backbone to fling dumbell eyes, it makes sense for me to have no trouble landing fish. I also had the luxury of choosing how to fight 'em depending on the circumstance. In fact once the fight started I felt the rod was too stiff in most cases. The only fish to give me trouble was the hawg shown at right...but I tail hooked that one and still had sufficient leverage to bring it to hand.

Wrap it up Already

The Temple Fork Outfitters Clouser series of rods are a great value. At $250 (a little less for the 5wt version), the rods are reasonably priced well below the more expensive Sage Bass Series. The Clousers currently priced equally with Redington Predators but I can't compare performance without having swung the later.

If you purchase this rod and use it for bass, saltwater, or salmon (probably any species preferring large flies) I am sure you'll be pleased.

Action Shot - Tangled Up with a Mackinaw River Smallmouth
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Disclaimer: I paid full retail price for this rod in January of 2011. I have no association with Temple Fork Outfitters, Bob Clouser or any other company/entity named herein. I disclosed that Mr. Clouser probably tried to ensure a fair review by providing quality line, but as you read I ignored his advice - who would ignore his advice anyway? This guy. The review presented above is my honest evaluation of the merits and demerits of my TFO Clouser 8wt rod. It's my every day stick and will continue to hold that position...probably until I slam it in the tailgate, at which point I'd be happy to own a new one (courtesy their warrant...this time with a hook keep). Do I get bonus points for working in a Rod Blagojevich reference?

6 comments:

  1. I had a chance to cast this rod at the "trout bash" in east peoria and I was VERY IMPRESSED! For throwing heavier and/or wind resistant flies, this rod is outstanding.

    jonn

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  2. great review clif. unfortunately, i have nothing snarky to say. just a great review.

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  3. The warranty is awesome and worth a little extra change. I have utilized it on my TFO, fortunately only once. But it sure was nice to have! My Loop rod is undergoing it's first warranty service as we speak.

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  4. Excellent review. I'm still jealous... maybe a little more so now.

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  5. Jon, buy one yet?

    Ivan, thanks broseph

    Timmy, hpe I don't need it but you never know when some jackass is going to toss a section in the drink.

    J, I knew you'd be interested.

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  6. Due to this review i ended up buying this rod in a #10 version for Pike.
    Thanks from the Netherlands.

    - Jasper

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Clif reserves the right to delete your comment if he is so inclined, but he is a pretty liberal guy so post away and see what happens.