Editors’ Note: For the confines of this specific article, referring to freshwater fish/species, I include those you could realistically target with 3 – 6wt outfits. No, staying attached to a leviathan with your toothpick until one gives in is not ‘taming the beast’. I apologise upfront for mentioning the reviewed lines, in full, on most occasions but it is crucial that you walk away from this article knowing the benefits of each and understanding the differences.
The more fly fishers I am fortunate to meet the world over through our gallivants for Vagabond Fly Mag, the more I am able to write this next statement with unreserved authority; as a group we take our gear selection more serious than politics and religion combined. Perhaps because it is not much unlike the latter.
Few of us could argue that logic comes into it when purchasing new equipment, but a strong case is to be made for apt application, value for money and overall back-up support and service. In the freshwater realm I tested both the RIO Gold and InTouch RIO Gold in, reels with revolutionary drag systems and loaded with more than 80m of backing are there for decoration and to add bling to your photographs. When staring down the barrel and being ‘interrogated’ about what to buy, I always advise to spend your hard earned cash on the Fly-Rod & Fly-Line; these are the two gear items that will be doing the brunt of the work and in steering your investment in their direction will keep you smiling on those slump days when it is more like casting practice than fishing.
Fly-Line selection for me personally is all about the ‘warm-&-fuzzy-stuff’ aka
- Does it complement the rod
- How does it ‘feel’ whilst casting
- Does its taper present with predictability, ease and accuracy across a range of fly sizes and weight
- Can I fish at the desired distance without compromising on any of the above
- Is the line coating hardy, does it float with minimal intervention and available in a colour NOT visible from the International Space Station
Over more than 5 years, outside of reviews for the magazine, the RIO Gold has been my personal go-to line simply because it does all of the above by the bucket-load and lights up every 3 – 5wt rod I have fished it on. We are mostly creatures of habit, and I simply feel comfortable, all day long, fishing this line; I mention this as from the outset I compared everything about the InTouch RIO Gold to it. I can write a review about the RIO Gold with my eyes closed after so many years, but the verdict was still out on the new kid on the block.
But you are not reading this as a bedtime story; so let me set the scene:
Comparing The Lines
More recently RIO has also introduced the InTouch RIO Gold and you would be forgiven for assuming they are the same, but alas their differences make them unique lines in every aspect. It is important to note that the InTouch RIO Gold does NOT replace the RIO Gold. For the review I tested both lines in a WF-5 kindly provided by Xplorer Flyfishing, our local RIO agent here in South Africa.
For those who like the tech, this information is available on RIO’s website, but here is a comparison table for easy reference and to remove some confusion:
The RIO Gold and InTouch RIO Gold are both described by RIO as “The Ultimate, all-round floating line for trout” so let us just focus on the difference between the two lines:
The ultra-low stretch core is designed to amplify ‘feel’ as we know it – throughout the casting stroke, mending & pick ups, sensitivity to takes and the all important hookset.
RIO’s triple colour marking system with the sole purpose to assist with gauging your exact casting distance – dialling in precision if you like.
A clear and distinguishable change in colour of the line making it close to impossible to miss that elusive sweet spot; it is your fool-proof on-water guide to when to pick up, keep casting and, finally, send the line on its way.
Printed line marking system to help you identify the specific line, taper, weight and type at a quick-glance.
“So what does this all mean?” you might ask. Honestly, most of these made little difference to my own fishing and are little more than nice to haves, BUT what sets these lines apart as clear as night and day is the ConnectCore of the InTouch RIO Gold. At this point forget everything you know about the RIO Gold, this ultra-low stretch core changes everything about the line and its benefits should be intently considered when purchasing a new line – especially if you are replacing your used-&-abused RIO Gold.
Taking on Winter Stillwaters
The first trip I put the InTouch RIO Gold up for some serious punishment was over three days on a trophy Trout Stillwater. It was at the height of the spawning season and the fish were aggressive and hungry smashing large streamers and baitfish patterns like marauding GT’s on the flats. The ferociousness of the takes was immense and each fish came in to shaking hands and pumping hearts. I strung up both the RIO Gold and InTouch RIO Gold with 9ft 2X RIO Powerflex Leaders and with tippet-rings attached a 2ft section of 3X RIO Fluoroflex Plus Tippet to ensure, as much as possible, that all things were equal.
It was at the height of the spawning season and the fish were aggressive and hungry smashing large streamers and baitfish patterns like marauding GT’s on the flats.
Over the three days I was sure to fish both lines for no less than 4-hours per session, on the same rod (a G. Loomis NRX 9ft 5wt) and each being exposed to both freezing early morning and balmy afternoon sessions. Initially I had to almost retrain myself how to cast the InTouch RIO Gold – the ConnectCore is, as the marketing team at RIO describes, incredibly sensitive affording you next-level feel throughout. Once I came to grips with the unfamiliar feel, I found the line to be equally capable at handling large heavy flies over full-line distances and in close quarters; unbelievably so. Where I had my “WOW!” moment was on the very first fish taken on the line; unlike most of the other fish from the trip, all I felt was the slightest of taps on the line and instinctively I set the hook to what was a beefy 7 lbs. Rainbow. Why was this such an epiphany? Well after that my catch rate quadrupled – sure I still got each of those arm-wrenching fish, but now I was also able to detect the most delicate takes from those fish simply inhaling the fly in their stride.
Some fish were lost due to sudden takes and with little-to-no give sleeping on the job does not go unpunished. Once a fish was hooked and I allowed the rod to do what it was made to do and absorb those sudden jerks, it was business as usual but now with that extra feel.
No true test will be complete without putting the InTouch RIO Gold up against our very own Yellowfish. The Short Line Nymphing technique I prefer to employ when fishing for these fish simply requires a 12ft leader with a stout butt tapered down to a 4X tippet and fished with no more than 10m of fly-line out the tip of the rod. This is done completely in the absence of a strike indicator but relies almost solely on detecting takes by feel.
The InTouch RIO Gold here catapulted my fishing (measured in its most basic of terms – number of fish landed) into another stratosphere. It still afforded me with the familiar taper and predictability of the RIO Gold, but now with hypersensitive feel on every drift. Guiding my nymphs through each run and glide I almost want to proclaim that it was as sensitive as mono-line/French nymphing but will not open myself up for the abuse. It has become my go to line for nymphing larger rivers as I am able to employ tight-line techniques without sacrificing on sensitivity yet when the need arises for longer drifts with an indicator I can do so without embarking on a complete rig swop-around. I have even brought more Mudfish to hand by being able to feel their ‘ticks’ on the line.
Is it a case of “Out with the Old and In with the new”?
From the feedback above it is clear that I rate the InTouch RIO Gold highly, but does this mean I am throwing out my RIO Gold?
Most definitely not! I have found both to be very hardy lines that barely require a clean and even when I do, negligible grit-and-grime can be found on the lines. The welded loops on lines are also a dramatic improvement over lines of yesteryear.
Sure the printed line identification would be a welcome addition to the RIO Gold but as proclaimed before, I view these as completely different lines in every way. When fishing whisper-thin tippets I can use all the help I can get and that extra bit of stretch in the line in these conditions is much appreciated. The RIO Gold is still magical at short-to-medium distances and setting the hook is without fault, but when pumping out full fly-lines (even with 6X tippet) the InTouch RIO Gold can not be equalled for truly staying in touch and being able to set the hook instantly. I still find myself gravitating towards the RIO Gold for situations that call exclusively for dry-fly work, but as an all-round performer I am sold on the InTouch RIO Gold.
Be extremely mindful of judging the InTouch RIO Gold from one brief interaction on the lawn outside the fly-shop; if you are not use to low/no stretch core fly-lines it takes some time to familiarise yourself with their feel and performance. There is zero impact on presentation once you get the hang of it, but the onus is on you, the angler.
Find your closest RIO retailer here.