Redington Vapen Black Fly Rod Review
by Spencer Durrant
I’ve wanted to see what the hubbub was about Redington’s latest offering. The kind folks over there at Redington sent me a rod to test out a few weeks ago, and I spent a lot of hours on the river, testing the rod as much as I could. So let’s see how it performed, shall we?
(Note: a majority of this review took place fishing for brown trout in Oregon, to fully test out the rod’s capabilities and weaknesses. I also fished it on the Provo and Strawberry Rivers, as well as Strawberry reservoir here in Utah.)
Vapen Black Fly Rod
The model I tested was a 9 foot 6-weight. All Vapen rods from Redington are fast-action rods, although at times the Vapen Black felt like it leaned a bit more towards the medium-fast end of the spectrum.
What stands out immediately about this rod is the new grip Redington went with - it’s not cork! But before I dive into aesthetics, let’s take a look at how the rod performed.
After using the rod for a couple weeks a different aspect of the rod stood out to me more than the new, somewhat wonky, grip. The construction of the blanks, featuring some new technology from Redington, caught my attention more than any other aspect of the rod.
High-density carbon ribbon is wrapped in with the traditional graphite blanks, and then counter-wrapped outside the blanks as well. You can see the carbon ribbon wrapped outside the blanks, as the rod sports a shiny mottled black finish.
This new construction method is supposed to give the Vapen better casting power and accuracy while saving weight. So does it?
Absolutely. The Vapen Black throws big nymph rigs with ease, including some of my custom egg pattern rigs brought home from Alaska. Streamers zip off the rod with ease, and mending line in fast current is a cinch due to the stiffness of the rod. I was really impressed with how light it was for being such a responsive fly rod.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that this rod isn’t really a dry fly rod. Big cicada and hopper patterns, and maybe some size 14 or 12 stoneflies would work well on this rod. But anything under a size 14 really is just too small for this rod. Which, when you consider what the rod was built for, is perfect. If you want a dry fly version of the Vapen, the 4 or 5 weight models would be the way to go.
This is where we get to tackle the new and revolutionary grip Redington has introduced on the Vapen Black and Red rods.
The new grip is called the Power Grip, and feels just like a golf club grip. Which isn’t surprising, since Redington worked with Winn Grips, a golf club company, to produce this new grip. It’s supposed to perform better than cork when it gets wet, reducing those moments when your line and hands slip against it, and not make your hands as sore as they get from clutching cork all day long.
The Power Grip was grippier than cork even when dry, and I felt it did its job when it got wet during my testing. However, I didn’t personally feel it was grippier than cork when wet. You might feel differently, but the two materials felt very similar when wet to me.
What I really liked was the fact that my hands weren’t near as sore after using the Vapen Black all day for two days of fishing for brown trout upwards of 22 inches in Oregon. Fighting big fish like that all day long can leave your hands sore with a cork grip, my hands felt fine after two straight days with the Power Grip.
The Power Grip is awesome, but I wouldn’t buy the Vapen Black or Red just to have the Power Grip. I’m still a huge fan of the way cork looks and feels overall, but the Power Grip is an awesome feature on a great rod.
Vapen Black Fly Rod is in the middle of the road as far as cost goes. Between the new grip and the new blank construction, I feel like the price tag is fair for anglers. I haven’t fished a streamer/nymph rod like this that I enjoy more, to be honest. It’s a great rod, responsive, light, and packs the power to fling flies anywhere you need to on the river. If I had to buy a new 6-weight rod dedicated to nymphs and streamers, I’d have to go with the Vapen Black.
Don’t let the new Power Grip deter you - this rod is a great piece of fly fishing gear and gets the job done well.