This is the second part of my TFO BVK fly rod review, and deals with the 8wt and 9wt models.
I cast the 8wt BVK with Teeny TS-T 200, TS-T 300 and Airflo 9wt Ego Taper floating lines, and the 9wt with TS-T 300, Airflo Ego and Teeny TS 350 lines.
The Teeny TS-T is an integrated shooting head with an intermediate head and a clear tip – a fantastic casting line and brilliant for shallow water and near surface saltwater action. The Airflo Ego is a versatile, weight-forward, floating line with a long head, it works well on the Tongariro and lakes and does a fair job in temperate salt water.
The Teeny TS 350 is a high density integrated shooting head that I use for fishing deep in the salt, casting boobies on lakes and throwing larger streamers at large fish on big rivers, e.g. fishing for golden mahseer on the Karnali River in Nepal.
I fished the 8wt and 9wt BVK fly rods alongside an 8wt TFO Axiom and a Scott S4s 9wt.
The 8wt BVK is an absolute joy to cast. It is fast, crisp and light (3.2 oz), and has incredible line feel. It loads quickly and excels at both near and distance casting, and is also great for kayak fishing.
Compared to the Axiom the BVK is 42% lighter and the tip is considerably softer. The net effect is that the BVK loads quicker, is a lot more sensitive, has much lower swing weight and unlike the Axiom there is no need to over line the 8wt BVK.
The flip side of the positive attributes is that the BVK does not have the lifting power of the Axiom, and I sometimes felt a little under-gunned when fighting well conditioned kahawai larger than 2.5 kg, from a kayak.
The 8wt BVK is an excellent rod for casting streamers to trout on large rivers and at river mouths. It is also a great flats rod for small to medium bonefish and for fishing for kahawai from a kayak. I suspect it would also do a good job casting all but the heaviest bombs on the Tongariro (casting 5.5mm tungsten beads is where the Axiom comes into it’s own).
There is a massive jump from 8wt to 9wt models in the BVK series. To begin with the 9wt is 34% heavier, although weighing in at 4.3 ounces it is nevertheless a light 9wt rod. Other differences include a larger fighting butt, a more robust reel seat consisting of more aluminium reinforcement and larger locking rings, and the diameter of the blank is considerably larger (see photograph).
A minor bugbear in terms of aesthetics is that the stripping guides on the 9wt are in my opinion too large, with the substantial step-down to the first snake guide appearing a little odd. I think TFO would have done better to use the 8wt stripping guides on the 9wt.
The action of the 9wt is very different to that of the lighter rods in the series, as the very stiff butt and mid sections restrict much of the flex to the tip. I must confess that I was initially disappointed with the feel of this rod, as I was hoping for a 9wt version of the 8wt, which would have been somewhere between a Scott S4s and Sage Xi3.
On the water the 9wt BVK turned out to be a super-fast cannon of a fly rod, that excelled in the distance and fish pulling departments.
Fishing from the kayak it did not load as quickly as my Scott S4s; but the additional power and clearance afforded by the stiffer butt section meant I could arealize more line and achieve similar distances with the 300 TST, albeit with an extra false cast.
The 9wt BVK also handled wind and high density shooting heads (a Teeny TS 350) exceptionally well, on one outing slicing like a knife into a 40 km an hour headwind.
Speed and clearance are also huge assets when wading the surf, making the 9wt BVK one of the best surf casting fly rods I have fished. What the 9wt BVK does not do well is the close quarter pin-point casting you often need when fishing estuaries or the flats.
Although I did not find it necessary to over-line the 9wt BVK, as I do with my 8wt Axiom, I suspect others may prefer it with a 10wt line depending on their casting styles.
When it comes to fighting fish, the 9wt BVK has more pulling power than the average 10wt. The pressure I could exert was limited largely by my own strength, when using heavy tippets. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the tip was soft enough to protect the 10 lb tippets I needed for fishing small flies to fussy fish.
Tip action rods like the 9wt BVK, transform into longer fighting sticks, than do rods with more flexible butt sections, providing the shore angler with more leverage for guiding fish around obstacles and into landing spots.
On the down side, tip action rods are not ideal for fighting and landing fish from a kayak. To begin with the leverage works in reverse - in the fish’s favour - to increase the strain on the angler’s biceps.
While sitting down it is not possible to use the straight arm lock position, as when standing on a boat, to absorb the pressure when fish bore downward.
Secondly, landing fish from a kayak is a bit like landing fish from a float tube, which requires pointing the grip away from the fish in order to bring it to hand. Fly rods with greater butt action spread the load more evenly, giving the angler more control, and reducing the likelihood of breakage - when high sticking.
Having said this, I did land a lot of big kahawai from my kayak with the 9wt BVK and while the rod didn’t break or cause me to lose any fish, it just did not feel as comfortable as landing fish with the 8wt BVK or the Scott S4s 9wt.
Although the 9wt BVK is not the perfect backup for my Scott S4s, for me it is a specialist rod that does some things better. While it may not replace the Scott S4s as my primary kayak and flats rod, it is a rod I’d reach for when casting high density shooting heads, fishing the surf or any other situation that requires a lot of distance work, especially with large flies and when wind is a factor.
It is also a rod I would want to be casting when targeting fish large enough to warrant a 10wt.
Having the affordable BVK in my arsenal would be an inexpensive means of gaining the distance and fish pulling advantages of a 10wt, without having to fork out additional money for lines and reels.
Thanks to Nate Jarvis of Feather Merchants, distributors of BVK fly rods in New Zealand, for loaning me the BVK rods to test.