The TFO BVK TF 07 130 4B Spey Rod
By: Frank Day
I don't know if you happen to believe in birthday fish but I do. This is a fish story of one of those days.
The day of my birthday provided less than ideal conditions. Howling upstream east winds paired with a low and clear river with a balmy water temperature of 35 degrees is not anybody's picture perfect day swinging for steelhead. I was at the mercy of my playing field. The winds laid my casts out on a variety of unpredictable angles, and the cold desperately tried to make it to my core. Despite this I persevered to no reward. I'm not one to give up easy and I still had 2 days left of my weekend to find my birthday fish. If the fishing isn't so hot close to home there's only one answer; leave and travel to where it is.According to recent radio tag data it appeared that more eastern Columbia systems were getting a late push of fresh steelhead entering them. The decision was made, we were headed east. So here we were in the cold gray half-light of an eastern Oregon morning staring at a slowly meandering stretch of cold green water.
The first several runs yielded nothing more than a few shy pulls that never turned. As we walked to the head of our fourth run I decided that it was time for a hot cup of coffee. I looked over at my buddy David and said "Why don't you go first I'm going to have a cup of coffee and follow you." He began fishing and I turned to attend to my momentary rejuvenation through caffeine. No sooner had the lid of my Stanley thermos come off did I hear it. It’s a sound that puts every steelhead fisherman on edge in the fraction of a second. It was the quick zzzz, zzzzut, zut of a hardy followed by everybody's favorite phrase "Got one"
I turned around and sure enough there was a large rosy flanked torpedo doing subsurface cartwheels in the run as the hardy marquis he was attached to chirped merrily. After a short but spirited battle the fish was slid in the shallows into my outstretched hand. Grins and high fives were exchanged as the fish in question, a lovely buck breathed rhythmically in the calm water between us. This was what it’s all about a wild fish shared between friends in a frozen canyon miles from any sign of human civilization. The fish shot off into the current with gusto and the hunt continued. I was out of the on deck circle and in the batter’s box. It was my turn.
I strung up my rod and as I pulled my sink tip through its guides and out the end I heard every anglers worst nightmare. “POP” went the rod as the tip section, now broken slid down into my hand. It surprised me but I wasn’t upset. This rod had landed over 30 anadromous fish since the first of the year and had more than done its job. Every rod will eventually break if you fish it as much as you should. It’s an inevitability which is why I always bring an extra rod if I’m going to be covering any amount of ground to get to my piece of water. “Well that’s the way she goes sometimes” I said with a grin. No biggie, the milk’s been spilled and I’m sure not going to cry about it. There’s steelhead to be caught and I’ve got a second rod as insurance.
That second rod was a Temple Fork Outfitters BVK series 7130-4. I’ve spent a great deal of time with its brother rod, the deer creek 13’ 7/8 but was yet to really put the BVK through its paces. I put my custom hatch 7 plus with a 525 Rio skagit max and 10’ of T-8 on the reel seat and screwed down both rings securely locking it to the reel seat. I strung the rod and tied on a purple and black fly that I knew would work because it had caught me dozens of steelhead, and I was confident it would produce again.
I started short covering my inside water not passing up any easy fish. It was not very likely as we’d just been exercising a 7lb male steelhead in the exact same area but cleanliness of water coverage is essential in my mind. I fished through it anyways pulling out about a steelheads length of line with each cast. Now I was really able to assess the rod and its behavior. The action was quite pleasant, fully loading into the cork with a very comfortable amount of crispness in the tip section. The casts were effortless and thoughtless. The rod felt like a coiled viper in my hands ready to strike and unleash my fly upon the water in front of me.
I was fishing well all of my casts laid out cleanly and swung to the dangle with complete control and the perfect speed. It was like magic. The rod, line, current, and I were now a seamlessly integrated steelheading machine. The perfect swing is a difficult feeling to describe, it comes from experience. It just feels right and you know it when it occurs. It’s like threading a stubborn screw and feeling that click as the threads lock into place correctly and you know you can safely turn your screwdriver without cross threading. Every swing was a perfectly threaded screw. With each cast I was further assured that since that beautiful swing hadn’t produced a fish surely the next one would, until I reached the end of the run with only a single dull pull, classic steelheading.
The light was beginning to fade and the first fingers of the impending darkness were beginning to grasp the sky and canyon walls. As we assessed the new run we had arrived at I knew in my gut that this was it. This run would be the stage for the last hurrah of the day, my last chance at a fish. I stepped in to the top of the run and began fishing short. As I worked my way out to my full fishing distance it didn’t feel right. My swing didn’t have that perfect feeling and I knew my fly wasn’t doing what I wanted it too. I began stepping down a little more briskly hoping to find the sweet spot were the hydrology allowed my fly to be presented exactly in the manner of my choosing as opposed to being at the mercy of the river. It was exceedingly frustrating. Light was fading there wasn’t time to hit another piece of water and this one wasn’t swinging the way I wanted. I was out of the game and I knew it. I’d have to be exceedingly lucky to pull one out of this stuff.
Looking at the water, the current appeared to dissipate and broaden across the river from the narrow outside tongue of water at the top end about twenty feet below me. Part of me wanted to cover it all but my steelheaders heart told me “You’re not doing anything in here go fish that, it looks a good deal more accommodating to a nice, slow swing.” So I did. I made my way down to where it appeared better and made a cast. Much to my delight the hydrology changed enough in those twenty feet to produce a magnificent, tantalizingly slow broadside presentation. “This is it.” I thought to myself as the fly reached the dangle. I stripped my head back took 3 steps and executed a smooth, easy circle c cast. “Lift, cut, sweep, cast” I mechanically recited in my head as I went through the motions and watched my Skagit max fly to the far bank and land with a gentle splash. I threw a slight downstream mend and my head bellied and began to creep across the current in the same beautiful broadside swing as the previous cast and then I felt it.
At first it was subtle, there was a light tapping feeling followed by two sharp pulls. The fish was swimming with my fly. Then it finally came, I felt a heavier pull and dropped my loop and came to the inside and like clockwork the rod doubled over and the fish was pinned. The fish pulled hard doing the same subsurface cartwheels as the fish before and then broke the surface kicking up a fountain with its tail. It was surprisingly bright. After several more minutes of tug of war the fish was nearly ready. The fish pulled hard but the BVK pulled harder and it was clear who was besting who. I looked over at my buddy David as he watched on and he laughed and said “Don’t look at me you’re on your own, you are a steelhead guide after all, you have to tail all your own fish.” “Fair enough.” I replied as I grinned back.
I pulled off my Simms fingerless gloves with my teeth and placed them in the front of my waders. I reached around with my right hand to pull my teeny landing hand off my belt. After a quick dip to ensure that it was fully soaked and as easy on this fish’s skin as possible I was ready to put a hand on this fish. I led her, as I could now clearly see that it was indeed a her, upstream and brought my rod back over my head dropping her directly into my out stretched palm. I set the BVK across my lap as I crouched down and gently cradled her. Boom, birthday steelhead. She was perfect and although she was several hundred miles from the ocean she still had rays of silver on her tail and was just beginning to show hints of color. A wild steelhead taken on one of oldest methods of fishing will always be special to me. As we watched and appreciated her and what she’d been through and drank in the sweetness of the experience she abruptly ended it. She was ready to go and interrupted our moment of reflection with a cascade of spray and a flash of her silvery sides and just like that we were reflecting on a memory and no longer a moment in time.
Over the next three days I would hook 3 more steelhead on the 7130-4 BVK. It is the perfect rod. The smaller 3-9lb summer fish it had more than enough power for with plenty in reserve in the handle section for winter steelhead or the occasional Idaho B run in the teens. Putting it through its paces I’ve found it’s a very middle of the road action. Not too fast, not too slow with a happy blend of crispness that you can feel. It’s a perfect rod for the experienced caster or brand new student to Spey casting. Everyone, regardless of skill level can enjoy this Spey rod. It casts both Skagits, and Scandi lines easily and will fully turnover your presentation whether it’s a size 4 golden demon or a 4” long intruder. The BVK series gets two thumbs up from all our staff here at FFS.
Each BVK Spey rod comes with a Cordura covered hard case and Velour rod sock at no extra charge.