Monday, October 28, 2013

Fly Product: TLTFF Review of the Redington Vapen Red

Its been a little over a month now since the 1st Annual CCA Red Trout C&R Tournament down in Crisfield, MD. Not only was the tournament a success through the promotion of catch and release practices by large numbers of anglers, but also due to the fact that I won the fly division of the tournament and knocked three species off the fly fishing bucket list (including the flounder see below) while doing so.

I had the privilege of taking the new, award winning, Redington Vapen Red with me for this memorable weekend. To see the trip report, check out our post by clicking here. The Vapen Red in an 8wt made the trek with us fully knowing we would get into some fish and get a great review of the rod, and we did.

Before I start to give my opinion of the rod, here's what Redington has to say about it...

"Fly rods have cork grips, right? It’s just the way it’s always been done. But guess what? In the 300-plus years since Izaak Walton was flicking flies, people have actually come up with some better materials. Case in point…we partnered with Winn Grips (of golf fame) to create an entirely new, non-slip polymer grip that, quite frankly, blows cork out of the water. This season, we offer the new grip as an option on our new Vapen Collection, which is built with a cutting-edge, proprietary carbon X-Wrap construction for lighter weight, more power and improved tracking. This is fast, powerful, ultra-modern performance at its best. Not to mention the most award winning rod of 2013 worldwide."

  • X-Wrap graphite technology for maximum vibration dampening, strength and torsional stability
  • PowerGrip-Our custom collaboration with Winn Grips, Non-slip Polymer Grip Technology. Reduces fatigue and amplifies power
  • Carbon fiber reel seat insert and custom anodized reel seat highlights
  • Alignment dots for easy setup
  • Custom logo designed grip
  • High Quality black suede bag
  • Integrated composite cork, superior durability
  • Machined hidden hook keepers
  • Lifetime Warranty

When I first put together the 9' 4-piece, I was already impressed with the feel and rebound of the rod. If you give the Vapen Red (we'll call it "Red" for the review) a good shake, you'll be surprised how quickly it goes back to being straight and loses all vibration and dampens movement. This is due to the blank "which is built with a cutting-edge, proprietary carbon X-Wrap construction for lighter weight, more power and improved tracking." The carbon X-wrap is like nothing you've ever seen or felt before (unless your a big largemouth bass fisherman, this technology has been used by companies for bass tournament rods for a few years now), adding a different element of design and style. At first the look didn't appeal to me, but as you use it more, it grows on you and by the end of the review, it was one of my favorite features as I begin to realize how much it affects the performance of the rod.

Photo courtesy of Hatch Magazine showing carbon X-Wrap on Vapen 5wt

Not only does the feel of the blank impress you, but the feel of the grip, wow. For traditional guys, the changes occurring within the industry are unwelcome. The newer blanks, better guides, crazy reel colors appeal to me, and most (otherwise companies wouldn't be investing in the change). Well now, theres not only a crazy grip color, but material. As a golfer, I can attest that golf grips are extremely effective in the performance of a club. Making the move to trying this technology on a fishing rod, let alone a fly rod, was one of the most innovative and gutsy moves anyone within the industry could have made, and it paid off. As said in the description above, Redington paired up with Winn Grips to create this innovative new grip for the Vapen Red series adding performance and style in one great package. 

The Winn Grip for the Vapen Red, named the PowerGrip-One (which has the Redington logo custom imprinted into the grip, super cool) is a "non-slip polymer-grip technology" that works supremely well when it comes to bearing down on a fish and getting the grip you need without causing fatigue (great on bigger fish/models). It merges perfectly with the carbon X-Wrap to get you your needed leverage to get the (winning) fish into the boat. The grip comes in reverse half wells for the 5wt and 6wt and full wells for the 6wt-12wt with the 12wt having the added fighting handle/grip above the golf grip. There are five different handles for the rod that all depend on the size. The grips are as stated above but the butt is where the major changes occur and separate the different handles. The 5wt and 6wt come with a standard reel seal without a fighting butt, which is designated as "Handle A". Handle B is on the 6wt and 7wt and has a small fighting butt that looks identical to the ones on Handle C, for the 8wt and 9wt. Handle D, on the 10wt, is a larger fighting butt thats also on Handle E (on the 12wt which only has the added fighting grip).

Now, the PowerGrip-One isn't for everyone, but maybe you do like a fast-action rod that has a great backbone and your curious to try out this "new" carbon X-Wrap technology. Thats why Redington has the Vapen series. Its all of the performance you get from the Vapen Red, minus the Red and substitute some high-quality cork. The Vapen is offered in a few more sizes than the Red, all the way from a 3wt to a 12wt with differing lengths in-between, 9', 9'6", 10' depending on the weight of the rod. the price point is slightly lower for the same high-quality performance, $299.95. I did not review the standard Vapen series (yet), but am publishing this info based on the Redington site.

All that said, lets move on to what I thought of the Red and how all of those specifics fell into place while the 8wt was in my hand.

Two factors, as Luis can attest to this, are huge for me in a rod...a place to hold your hook while your not shooting loops at fish, and alignment dots to match each section of a rod up to help get top performance when shooting a line through the guides. Both of these factors are present in the Red 8wt and immediately added a star to the rod in my opinion.

I paired the Red with my Cheeky Fly Fishing Mojo 425 that balanced the rod out PERFECTLY. Not only did it add to the performance, but it added to the style as well (like I said before, I like my colors). My Cheeky was lined with an WF8F line. As a side note, another thing I love about rods, like the Vapen, is when the weight of the rod matches up with the weight of the line you put on it rather than having to line-up a rod (9wt line on an 8wt rod).

At first cast, the handle section and second section actually came apart, surprising me quite a bit. This actually wasnt the only time it happened too despite me firmly putting the two sections together and rechecking the connection. A few times, upon rechecking, the sections had come loose. Once I added a little bit of paraffin wax to the two sections (old trick Bob Clouser once taught me), I didn't have another issue.

Now I'm an average caster when it comes to loops and distance. When I began to peel out line and hauling it out, I couldn't help but notice the fact that the backbone of this carbon X-Warpped blank was allowing me to shoot tighter-than-normal loops and with enough distance that when the line unfurled, it wanted more (even after only one or two false casts). With my drag slightly loosened, I had a few casts peel more line off the reel. I was able, in a back field to measure out one of my casts that had all of the line out of the tip...unbelievable, almost twice the length of my previous longest cast at over 100ft. I was more than impressed. Now I know it isn't often than you need to cast that much line, but you have to realize that if an average caster like myself can do that, casting 40-60ft casts on the regular, during a whole day of fishing is not only easy, but causes no fatigue whatsoever thanks to this rod.

Then it came time to take the rod down to Crisfield to get it on some fish. It didn't take long for that to happen when we ran into some nice snapped blues and schoolie stripers. During the trip, we were able to get into some pretty skinny water and sight some fish. The accuracy of my casts were nothing short of impressive thanks to the Red. Once I had the feel of the rod, distance of the casts, and stroke required for the action, the rod was dialed in and threw laser beams all weekend long to fish I would normally line and spook. From long casts to short accurate ones requiring a quick reload, the Red fully attributed to the weekends success. With the fast action and stiff backbone, consistently throwing a quick roll cast into a fast-moving school of busting peanut bunker was no issue whatsoever. That backbone not only helped with the casting, but when we got into some bruiser blues sizing all the way up to the 22" range, muscling them up from a good run was easy and the thought of a broken rod didn't even cross my mind despite the rod making a perfect horseshoe shape courtesy of one of the Bay's bullies.

Controlling a fish and steering them into our nets was easy with the grip of the PowerGrip-One handle, even when wet. Some golf grips seem to get slippery or lose grip when they get wet or even damp, not this grip in the least bit. It held tight over the four day stretch where it handled (no pun intended) over 50 fish. The fighting butt is comfortable, allowing you to sit it on your hip comfortably, giving the fisherman more leverage against a running fish. The black synthetic material on the fighting butt allows even more grip and strength.

One of the only negatives, other than the rod sections coming apart a few times (including on one fish), was the fact that after only 4 days of fishing (granted, fishing very hard and over 40 hours total), the red PowerGrip-One handle was super dirty, covered in a dark layer of grime from my hands. I would expect this ifI had touched dirt or mud and then handled the rod or even after touching something that could contribute to build-up on the grip, but I had not. When I told Redington about this, they assured me that this comes off easily with soap and water.

Slight grime on handle on the 4th day, this spec was the winning fish.

One would expect a rod that feels this good and is not only the most award winning rod in 2013, but also sets the standards for modernization of the sport, would come in at an extremely high price-point...Thats not the case with this rod at all. All models, from 5wt-12wt sit comfortably at $349.95, love it.

All of that said, lets get to the TLTFF score and overall review rating of the rod. It was pretty easy to sit this rod at the top of my list as the "perfect" rod. It made me not only feel better, but truly perform better, when it came to casting. This rod threw perfect casts and scored countless fish thanks to that (including the winning fish). It was comfortable in hand and didn't break the bank. Overall, the Redington Vapen Red got 4.5 out of 5 stars

The 0.5 was deducted from the rod simply based off of the need for cleaning of the handle due to grime build-up. We all know fishing can be a messy sport due to the fact that we are out in nature and handling fish, so that build-up will happen on the Red's handle. Only 0.5 star was deducted based on the knowledge that all gear should be cleaned often to maintain it integrity, the cleaning of the handle just adds a little more time to that cleaning routine and therefore is a slight inconvenience.

Aside from the slight deduction, as I said before, this rod is perfect. In my mind, it is the best rod on the market right now and will very soon make its may into my lineup and most likely faze some of my current sticks out.

I'd like to reach out and thank Kara of Backbone and Redington for allowing this awesome review to happen. We are super stoked to have had the privilege of trying this rod, and understanding why it is so highly regarded. Make sure you show Redington some love by following and liking them on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and Vimeo. Roll on over to their site and see what other new products are on the loose and what other customers thought through reviews on the product pages.

*This review was completely unbiased and this/these product(s) were lent to me for review purposes only. This review, as with all of our reviews, was completely fair with no intentions coming into it of giving it a "good" or "bad" rating. We do our best to keep all reviews as fair as possible with biases being thrown out the door.



  1. Redington makes some nice rods. I purchased three over the past year. Even the lower end models have equal or better aesthetics than higher priced rods and the performance is everything you would expect and more.