FFR 2006: Orvis

I was one of the first Orvis-endorsed guides in Florida, and in the 1980s the feeling generally was that rod design was falling behind line design (thank you, SA) in producing quick-loading rod/line combos. Orvis was making some effort at that time to design a faster-action rod and the prototypes were promising, but not nearly fast enough for most guides. They kept at it, though (as Orvis usually does), and it is not surprising to find ourselves twenty years later picking up and casting one of the best saltwater rods there is in the form of the Zero-Gravity Series. Sure, Field & Stream named it one of the “Best of the Best for 2006,” and Orvis has thrown plenty of marketing weight (“the same [technology] used in the US military’s Apache helicopter blades”) behind the rod, but we care only about the rod’s castability, which is superb. It is not surprising that Orvis is challenged to keep up with order volume (this from Orvis’s chief rod engineer). One feature of the saltwater line not touted in the literature but immediately noticeable to me was the extended grip, which lengthens the grip area substantially, to the point where the second hand can be ideally placed for fish fighting. This seems to me to be an improvement on the old idea of the fighting grip, since it allows the second hand to move down toward the reel to use greater leverage in the butt of the rod.
Among other new Orvis rods worth noting is the Superfine Trout Bum Series. They’ve taken the same “thermoplastic” resin technology used in the Zero Gravity and applied to their very popular Superfine Series. The rich olive color of the new, stronger rods is quite attractive, and they’ve added a high-end amboina wood/cork skeleton reel seat.
Tom Rosenbauer of Orvis made sure we also saw the new Battenkill Large Arbor reel, which has an incredible price point of $198 – $249. It is designed for large-game freshwater and saltwater applications, with a cork-to-rulon center drag and ventilated anodized aircraft-grade aluminum bar stock spool and frame.
But probably the coolest new Orvis product was the new Triple Spectrum Sunglasses. Tom drew a graph for me showing how the lenses (which Orvis has an exclusive arrangement for a year with the Japanese supplier on) allow a broader range of light in the three basic colors to enter the eye, producing much greater contrast between adjacent colors. (Most polarized sunglasses permit a flat amount of light — usually 10-17% — across all colors to enter the eye.) I tried them on and could see a definite improvement in color contrast between distant objects at the show.

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