T&T’s Solar, The Power And The Glory

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Photo Louis Cahill

Photo Louis Cahill

Thomas and Thomas’s Solar saltwater fly rod is the one I’ve been waiting for.

I’m on the bow of a flats boat in the Bahamas. Norman Rolle is so on the platform and my buddy Murphy Kane is standing by with the video camera. We are poling along the edge of some mangroves. When we approach a corner with a deep cut way back into the mangroves, Norman spots a fish. He’s a hundred feet or more back in the cut, surrounded by sparse mangrove shoots. I’m going to work for this one.

The fish turns and heads across the cut toward the mangroves on the far side. I’m losing my shot. I take two false casts and shoot the fly. My line finds its way between the mangrove shoots and cuts him off perfectly. He pounces on it. After a little negotiation, I bring the fish to hand and release him.

“That makes a guide feel good Louis,” Norman calls down from the platform. “You make a hundred foot cast and put the fly right where it needs to be.” He is beaming.

“You are pretty spectacular,” Murphy tells me taking the camera from his eye. I feel like an imposter. Like a cheater.

“Even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while,” I tell them. I know that that cast was about 25% skill, 25% luck and 50% Thomas and Thomas.

New fly rods come off every year like the Mother’s Day hatch.

Each year, rods claim to be game changers. We anglers are a wash in hot new rods, but every once in a great while a rod comes along that actually does change the game. For me, that rod is the Thomas and Thomas Solar.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know I’m a big fan of Tom Dorsey’s rod designs. When I was learning to make bamboo rods, fifteen years ago, I studied Tom’s tapers. He was a giant of bamboo rod design and did crazy innovative things no one even dreamed of. Bamboo rod makers of that time were like silent film stars. Almost none of them made the transition to graphite. Tom not only made the transition, he became a pioneer again. Half a century later, with his hair and mustache white as snow, he is making the best rods of his career.

For fly fishing in saltwater you need a rod with power. Power to make long casts, power to turn over a long leader and power to fight the wind at its worst. A fast action rod which demands great technique and timing. The problem with most saltwater fly rods it that they sacrifice feel for power. That means, if you aren’t in the top five percent of fly casters, you are casting with blinders on. With no idea what your rod is doing.

You can throw the whole line with some of these soulless sticks, if you watch your back cast. But watching your back cast in saltwater fly fishing costs you fish.

Species like bonefish are hard enough to see. If you take your eye off of them to look at your line, they often disappear. You need a rod that’s blisteringly fast, but with enough feel to let you know when it’s loaded. The Solar does this better than any rod I’ve ever cast.

Many of the saltwater rods that advertise ‘feel’ or ‘quick loading’ are simply slow. They cast great in the parking lot at the shop and, in all fairness, from the boat, at short range when the wind is down. I don’t know about you, but I don’t get many days like that. Those rods struggle in the wind or collapse when you step on the gas. I can’t tell you how the Solar delivers the power it does with the feel it has, but I can tell you it’s a magical thing.

A lot of guys will tell you that you don’t need to make a hundred foot cast to catch bonefish. That’s true. Plenty of days you will catch them thirty feet away and you can get away with that your whole life. If that makes you happy, knock yourself out. A lot of guys will tell you that you can catch plenty of fish with a $200 rod and that’s true, too. But neither of these is the whole truth.

I can tell you this from experience, there comes a time when you will want more. If you pursue saltwater fly fishing, there comes a time when you want more than to catch a fish at thirty feet. There comes a time when you want to make that shot that seems impossible. A time when you want to feel like a hero. When that time comes, the T&T Solar, and a lot of hard work, will get you there. This is a rod you will never outgrow.

I have a lot of fly rods. Way too many fly rods if you ask my wife. They are all good rods and I don’t want to get rid of any of them, but most of them are interchangeable to me. I’m not going to brag or be falsely modest. I know how to cast a fly rod and within a couple of strokes, I can work with what’s in my hand. But this rod makes my heart pound. This rod does anything I ask of it. My Thomas and Thomas Solar makes me feel like a hero.

Yes, it’s expensive, $865. But what you pay for is all in the rod, not the marketing budget.

I’ve been to the shop and seen how these rods are made. The attention to detail is crazy. For example, you will never see a big rounded bead of glue finishing a guide wrap on a T&T rod. Look at any other graphite fly rod and you’ll see what I mean. T&T wraps are finished with multiple thin coats, not one heavy coat, because Tom Dorsey knows that the weight of the glue affects the action of the rod. It takes three times longer but it pays off. I’d rather have that than a flashy ad campaign.

I like that Thomas and Thomas is a quiet company. A company that doesn’t go in for gimmicks and sales pitches. A company with a passion to make the absolute best rod possible no matter what it takes. That’s a damned rare thing these days. If that sounds good to you, get yourself a a Solar, fell the power and get yourself a little of that glory.

Get Yours HERE.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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11 thoughts on “T&T’s Solar, The Power And The Glory

  1. Here on the Delaware system guys are fishing the 5 and 6 weights for Trout, did you try the lighter sizes?

    One knock I have heard on T&T and myself included is that they are heavy.

  2. Louis: How does this rod compare to the new generation Sages like the ONE , the Motive and the Salt? The Konettic Technology used in a lot of the new rods seems (to me) to be able to increase feel without sacrificing power. The only T&T rod I have is an Horizon 8 wt. guess what I’m looking for is some sort of comparison with other rods that I’m more familiar with. I assume you have cast and hopefully fished those newer Sages, and perhaps this is an unfair question, but can you compare performance at all? Or is this truely the best rod you have used in the salt? Thanks, Frank

    • To the person asking for a comparison to other graphites: I’ve made this mistake all too many times, but I’ve learned you can’t get caught up in new technologies and the various marketing surrounding them. The single most important characteristic a fly rod has is the taper. The Solar salt water taper is really something with lots of power and supple feel all at once. What beautiful, useful tools. As a young angler I feel lucky that my targets mentor introduced me to Tom’s tapers so early in my career. If you see an old Salt, or trout bum sporting a T&T, chances are they know a thing or two, and it might be a good idea to stop and say hi… I did and it changed my fishing forever.

  3. Hello all, long time no talk,

    I can assure everyone that the T&T Solar saltwater fly rod line is every bit as good as Louis presents in this post. When he talked about making the “impossible shot”, it totally hit home when I was with Louis on a different trip at Andros South. I had 35 mph cross winds, with the boat rolling side to side in the chop when I was able to lay out a 75-80′ cast with just seconds to present the fly in time. I ended up landing that beautiful bonefish and it was the only fish the both of us landed the entire day. Thankfully I had my T&T Solar 8wt in my hand.

    Frank,with no disrespect to the rods you mention, I personally believe the T&T solar line is genuinely one of the best saltwater lines every produced to date. You really should get one in your hand and try it out on a demanding day on the water so you can see the real difference it can make for your game.

    I wish everyone the best.

    Kent Klewein

    • Thanks Kent. No disrespect taken. I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to trying rods. Lots of really nice ones around these days. T&T doesn’t have lots of distribution points in Western Canada so I’m just trying to measure this rod review up against rods I’m familiar with. Sounds like I really need to cast one of these. I know the Horizon was my favourite bonefish rod for years! Sounds like there might be another T&T in my future.

      • Hi Frank,
        I’ve had my Solar 6wt.for almost a year now(thanks to the fine folks at G&G and T&T. Love you guys!) and for the kind of beach fishing we do, it’s the most versatile rod I own . I haven’t touched any of my other rods since. It’s like no other rod I’ve seen. Just the finest of details, it looks and feels like an instrument. An heirloom even. But it begs to be put to use.
        The Solar is incredibly light and a pleasure to cast, with a feel-to-power ratio I’ve never seen. I can blind cast all day for 16″ sea-runs and have a blast it’s so light. I’ve charmed 10lb coho at 30 feet with it and cartwheeled them to hand in no time. It’ll make your hair stand on end! This rod needs to feed a bonefish!
        I sent Big Larry an email. You should be able to get a hold of me through him, if not, Louis has my email. When you’re in town we should try and hit the beach so you can see for yourself.
        Keep up the good work!

  4. This may be a dumb question, but how do you get 100′ of line out on a cast?

    Do you aerialize the shooting head (~40′?) and then that pulls 60′ of backing line out when you shoot it?

    • Andy, this is actually a great question and deserves a full answer. Look for this as an article in a couple of weeks!

  5. Hi Andy: Probably not my place to answer, but not a dumb question. Bonefish lines have varying lengths of front tapers. Rio has one with a head that is roughly 35′ long and another with a head over 50′ long. Good casters can cast 100′, if necessary. I’m not in that catagory, but I once fished with a guide at Christmas Island who asked to try my rod. Of course I obliged. He made that 100′ cast into the wind, thought it was a pretty nice rod and asked for a second cast. I said sure so he proceeded to make a duplicate cast, into the wind, with his other hand!
    Oh yes, the head I had at that time was 60′ long, he shot the rest; some into the backcast and the rest on his forward stroke. I just stood there with my mouth open………

  6. Pingback: Making A 100 Foot Cast Is Easier Than You Think | Fly Fishing | Gink and Gasoline | How to Fly Fish | Trout Fishing | Fly Tying | Fly Fishing Blog

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