It doesn’t take long to see what distinguishes Redington’s Vapen Red collection of fly rods from the rest of the pack. You also quickly realize that what sets it apart is what makes it such a fantastic fly stick to swing.
I took the Vapen Red, specifically the 990-4 model – a four piece travel rod – and a Redington Delta 7/8 reel to Belize, which features some of the best flats fishing on the planet as bonefish, snook, permit and tarpon come in close to shallows protected by one of the longest coral barrier systems in the world. And while the fishing proved to be tough simply because the targets proved mostly elusive, the rod and reel combo was a delight to use.
The fast-action rod has a number of things going for it, but you can’t help but first talk about its design, which includes a distinctive handle that ended up being superb. Redington paired up with Winn Grips, known for its golf game, to produce its signature PowerGrip. In the case of the Vapen Red, it’s obvious which color scheme came through, however, the company also includes a black handle offering.
The nonslip, polymer PowerGrip performed as advertised, stirring one overarching question: “Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?” Not only does the PowerGrip add to the stability of the rod, it provided the ability to make longer casts, mostly because of the added power you can generate, which came in handy in windy conditions on the flats and especially in calm conditions when the fish are more spooky and you can’t stalk in as close.
The soft but still firm PowerGrip also cut down on hand, wrist and arm fatigue, which isn’t necessarily a problem when you’re catching fish, but can be amplified especially when all your efforts go for naught and the dogs start barking. It also aided in simply keeping a secure hold on the rod – even with wet hands – which certainly is an issue on other rods when you’re trying to fight a brutish fish such as a permit.
The rod is constructed of X-Wrap, a layer of super-high density carbon ribbon added to a graphite blank that stands up to heavy work. The rod actually has dual layers of the ribbon, one inside the blank and another on the surface. Up close, you can certainly see the distinctive construction. And while I’ll never have any expert insight into exactly what makes the design stand out completely from other rods, the ability that the design has to help fling flies farther and stand up to wear and tear had me hooked. The rod itself weighs in at just over a quarter of a pound, but still had the overall ability with its fast action to deliver where it was needed, including with accuracy that’s vital, no matter what species you’re targeting. Using 9-weight line – the rod comes in 3- through 12-weight – I was still able to reach out and touch spots that I honestly didn’t think I could, which is a blessing when you’re surprised by a cruising fish and need some extra heft and length.
The Vapen Red also has alignment dots, which on a four-piece travel rod come in handy when you simply have to get on the water ASAP.
Fly fishing traditionalists probably cringed a little when they first set eyes on the Vapen series of rods last year. They don’t look or feel anything like what most anglers have toted along, whether they’re fishing the high country of Colorado or the coastal shallows of the Texas coast. And while time-tested gear is always a necessity, it’s never a bad idea to look at what else is out there. In the case of the Vapen, Swedish for weapon, it provides a good plan of attack for inestimable species and applications.
With its weight, features and price point, you can’t go wrong.
The Vapen Red 990-4 as tested has a retail price of $349.95, and comes with Redington’s lifetime warranty. The Redington Delta 7/8 reel as tested retails for $219.95.