CHASING DOWN UNICORNS IN SOUTH AFRICA – THE LARGEMOUTH YELLOWFISH
Editors’ Note: Read on and see why we had to eat humble pie and break this freshwater review of the Greys® GR70 Salt 9ft 7wt & GX 900 6/7/8 Reel up into two parts. It will also explain why we had to get Part 1 out and showcase this awesome outfit to our audience…
When we planned out the series of reviews on Greys®’ range of rods and reels for 2016, the review conditions-&-species selection process was fuelled by enthusiasm & confidence. This is always dangerous as it overly relies on Mother Nature and the fish in question to come to the party and deliver the goods during the review period. Naturally, this also means that you have to up your game or prepare for a lesson in humility.
For the Greys® GR70 Salt 9ft 7wt & GX 900 6/7/8 Reel we settled on two notoriously difficult species indigenous to South Africa; for the freshwater component of the review the Largemouth Yellowfish (Labeobarbus kimberleyensis) was selected and for the saltwater element later in the year, Spotted Grunter (Pomadasys commersonnii) was nonchalantly penciled in. Just typing this we realise how misguided we were…
LARGEMOUTH YELLOWFISH WINTER EXPLORATION
The Greys GR70 Salt 9ft 7wt with matching GX 900 6/7/8 Reel arrived smack-bang in the middle of our winter season and the timing could not have been better to get it out on the water – praying, searching and hoping for Largemouth Yellowfish. If you have not chased these almost mythical fish, trophies only come to the deserving hands of those who put in the hours, days and 1000’s of casts consistently and with vigour. Recently there has been an upsurge in interest in the specie and more refined and innovative fly-patterns are coming to the forefront daily; some have started to define the code more astutely, but it is by no means cracked as yet. Perhaps it is the work and physical research required to be successful or the fact that they have a near threatened conservation status that make them so special in the books of the South African fly fisher, but despite any and all reasons, they are a tremendous fly-specie and should be on your bucket list.
Contrary to the large circumference of their mouth and the size they can reach the average size flies used for them are between #4 -#6 and generally resemble baitfish, crabs, tadpoles & dragonfly nymphs. 7wt – 9wt outfits are utilised to send long accurate casts towards, and as close to, structure where there is the slightest whisper of a current. They truly are a fish of a 1,000 casts (some have put in a strong case to have this amended to either 10,000 or infinite) but the joy and relief of coming right is immeasurable – at a stretch you could argue it is South Africa’s very own ‘Atlantic Salmon’.
THE REVIEW LAB
So why, oh why, would we have selected the Largemouth Yellowfish (Largie) as the freshwater species to put the Greys GR70 Salt 9ft 7wt & GX 900 6/7/8 Reel up against? Well, simply look at what is required to meet with success:
- Countless casts with heavier outfits at varying distances
- Accurate cast towards, below and close to structure
- Heavy(ish) flies on long leaders presented as above
- A rod with enough backbone to pull large fish away from and out of their snag-ridden ‘holes’ but with enough finesse to protect the tippet (around 15 lbs.)
- A rod that does not cut into your casting efficiency – every unnecessary false cast avoided is a blessing
- A reel with hardy finishes and a smooth reliable drag once the ‘unicorn’ is hooked
- A balanced outfit – you will be spending a LOT of time waving it around
We are very sensitive to the fragile nature of Largies and the few spots that still have healthy populations of adult fish, so being as transparent as possible, our testing grounds are (and will be for Part 2) the Vaal River, South Africa. For Part 1 we spent several days at three different locations testing the outfit.
THE OUTFIT & AESTHETICS
Greys® GR70 Salt 9ft 7wt RRP – ZAR 6,995 (£ 329.99)
Pleasantly surprised. Blown away. Taken aback. Take your pick, but those were our initial reactions. The Greys® GR70 Salt 9ft 7wt is part of their flagship GR70 range of rods. The blank is a sexy olive colour and the overall wraps and finishes are top-drawer. The blank is impregnated with their Powerlux Technology which they claim, “gives a fantastic strength to weight ratio…” – after casting with the rod for several days, though we cannot confirm if this is attributed to the Powerlux Technology, we fully agree that the rod is spectacularly light and confidently capable. Claiming a rod is light is a bit subjective unless you put it on a scale and compare it to other rods on the market, but the Greys® GR70 Salt 9ft 7wt simply feels noticeably light in-hand.
Each individual rod section is marked with Greys® Rod ID line up marks – this simple dot-&-line system is still the best we have found from any rod manufacturer. They mention that all components are saltwater safe, but we will let our saltwater review later in the year be the judge of that.
The cork matches the finishes so nothing but AAA-grade and the reel seat deserves its own paragraph.
Sleek, sexy and not too overly bling/modern with its woven carbon spacer – that cherry on top to round off the package.
Greys® GX 900 6/7/8 REEL – ZAR 2,999 (£ 69.99)
The Greys® GX 900 6/7/8 Reel was made to compliment and beautifully balances this rod. Great looks and we particularly like the low-key gunmetal colour that is neither too shiny nor dull. It has a smooth Rulon disc drag system and changing it from left to right-hand retrieve is as easy as spelling your name. It is a machined aluminium construction and comes with a neoprene pouch.
For the combined price of ZAR 9,994 (£ 399.98) you get a high-performance and well-crafted all-round 7wt outfit that will let you take on (to name but a few): Tigerfish, Carp, large stillwaters for Trout, light saltwater species, Largemouth Yellowfish etc.
Because we have not landed any noticeable fish on the outfit to date, we will only comment and continue the performance side of this review on the rod.
For this review we used the Scientific Anglers SONAR Saltwater Hover WF-7-F/H fly-line. It has a relatively slow sink rate (1.00 ips) and is a half-size heavy that loads fast-action rods with authority.
WHERE DID THE Greys® GR70 SALT 9ft 7wt SHINE
From the first cast we fell in love with how extremely capable and accurate this rod was at medium-to-long distances. It was purposefully built to deliver long lines with ease and efficiency, something we were reminded about on every cast. It does lack that “feel” of slower rods, but makes up for this by presenting predictable and accurate casts consistently. Its staggeringly light–in-hand weight makes you feel that you can cast it for days on end and because of its fast/tip action, lines shoot through the over-sized guides at lightning speed.
On several occasions we had to react to boils and swirls after just making a cast, the Greys® GR70 Salt 9ft 7wt was able to lift long sections of line off the water with ease and determination and sent the flies off to the target in a snap!
It is a confident, high-performance rod and though it has turned several small carp on their heads, we look forward to report on its fish-pulling-power in Part 2.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS FROM OUR GR70 SALT 9ft 7wt EXPERIENCE!
If you are dabbling in short casts (as in right at your feet) then this is not the rod for you, but if the majority of casts are going to be 15 ft or longer you are in the right place. The rod comes in a hard black portioned rod-tube, but we still prefer our rods to come with a rod-sock as we carry most of our rods in a rod-carrier or on long walks we prefer to only put the rod together at the destination and without a rod sock you run the risk of losing a section.
For the vast majority of our audience both these are non-issues and for us certainly not deal-breakers.
After three trips with the outfit to specifically chase down Largemouth Yellowfish we have yet to be triumphant – we can blame the weather, prevailing cold-fronts, continental drift and global warming but should be shot if we pin it on the outfit.
The Greys® GR70 Salt 9ft 7wt is a rod that delivers incredible performance and is adorned with premium finishes at a price point that sits a lot more comfortably with most. It is supported and distributed by the multinational Pure Fishing and replacement sections are available at a minimal cost should you need these.
We decided to release Part 1 of the review simply because we cannot recommend the Greys® GR70 Salt 9ft 7wt enough to people that are looking for a 7wt outfit that will allow all-round performance at a price that will leave some spare change for that next trip or a few beers after a day on the water.
For Part 2 of the review we have dedicated a drift trip down the mighty Vaal River, South Africa, to hunt down our Unicorn and hope to report back as victors!