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A social group of dedicated fly fishers who are passionate about fly fishing in the tropical north of Australia and equally as passionate about the close camaraderie this sport brings. This passion and dedication led to the creation of the NT Flyfishers Social Mob blog site; an interactive and creative outlet where everyone can share our wonderful fly fishing adventures and link into the “after fishing” social events we enjoy in this incredible part of the world.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Epic Bandit rod build and test run

When I first started fly fishing I didn’t really understand why some people had so many rods. Surely a 4wt and 8wt would do. Well maybe a 6wt and 10wt would be handy too. Then I bought a 9wt in Broome, because I 'needed' it. Two years ago I won another 9wt and needed a better 8wt too. I wanted to upgrade my 4wt and for a while had two. Eventually I had become one of those people that initially I hadn't understood.

Since arriving back in the Top End I had felt a need for a relatively short, strong rod for fighting barra and saratoga in close quarters. There was a small selection of rods from Sage, TFO and Redington that fit the bill. But what really piqued my interest was the Epic Bandit from Swift Fly Fishing. I already own an Epic 480 that I built while living down south for chasing trout in the New England highlands. The 8' 4wt Epic is a rod that I really enjoy casting, it is surprisingly light for fibreglass and the relatively slower action suits me. The truth is I’ve caught more tarpon on the 4wt than I’m ever likely to catch trout. But back to the Bandit.

What attracted me to the Bandit the most were the reports that it comfortably handles lines from 8 – 10wt and can even throw a 6wt or 12wt line. But most of all I really like the idea of fishing something I’ve built myself. With my decision made I placed an order with Jeanie and Carl at Swift Fly Fishing. Their ready to wrap kits are really fantastic and come with everything you need, except a rod turning motor.

The box even turns into a very useful rod wrapping stand.

Taking inspiration from the internet I built a rod drying ‘lathe’ from some MDF and a Bunnings BBQ rotisserie motor. It is a little rough, but it does the job. I'll call it a prototype and one day I might build something a bit more flash from some nice timber, maybe...

Before the kit arrived I had told myself I’d take this build slowly and not rush anything. But I could barley contain my enthusiasm to try the Bandit out on some fish, and spent a few late nights building the rod. Honestly if you can tie a fly you can build a rod with one of the Swift Fly Fishing kits. The instruction book that comes with the kit is exceptionally well written and guides the builder through every step of the process with ample photographs. 

The Epic Bandit rod blank has been finished in a colour advertised as ‘metallic gold green’, it is a really nice shade of green with small metallic flecks throughout. I decided to put a small green trim band on each ferrule and spent some time on YouTube researching the best method for doing this.

I wrapped the guides and ferrules with natural silk, provided in the kit, which turns transparent once coated with epoxy. In my view the transparent wraps allows the metallic green finish on the blank to be the star of the show.

It probably took me eight hours to fit the reel seat, grip and wrap the guides, but I was pretty pedantic about the guides. I wasn’t happy with the first few wraps, so cut them off and started over. One advantage of building a 7’9” rod was that I had enough space to put it together and spin the whole thing in the rod ‘lathe’ at the same time. This meant I could do the epoxy work in two sessions, once for the first coat and once for second, rather than needing to epoxy the rod in two separate sections. While my wrapping and epoxy work certainly isn’t to the same standard as Trevor from Swift Fly Fishing studio I think it’s better than on any of my mass produced rods. But how pretty the rod may or may not be is of little relevance if it doesn’t cast well.

I fitted my Bandit with a Redington Behemoth spooled with a 9wt intermediate weight forward and headed for Corroboree Billabong. I really wasn’t too sure what to expect on my first cast with a 7’9” rod, what I found was a rod that loaded up smoothly and easily for short casts but also had the power for long casts with a big fly. Pretty quickly I was casting a Meade’s gutless frog just as far, if not farther than I can with any of my 9’ graphite rods. I hadn’t been fishing long when a saratoga took the opportunity to hit the fly as I retrieved it through the gaps in the lilies. Alas the hook didn’t set.

A few casts later and with me concentrating more intently another saratoga attacked the fly, this time I set the hook with a sharp strip-strike before lifting the rod tip. And this is when the Bandit really performed.  While the Bandit is an absolute pleasure to cast it is bloody fantastic for fighting a fish on. I’m really looking forward to stopping a big fish on this rod. The Epic Bandit has quickly become my favourite rod for river and billabong fishing.

Now I just need to find a big fish to really test it out on.

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