Fly Rod Review: Pygmy Glass 5’6″ 4 Weight
I may have just found the perfect fly rod for kids. It’s called the Pygmy, and the name is indicative of its diminutive size.
At 5’6″ in length one may think that it’s too short to be effective at casting a fly line. I’ll admit I was skeptical myself, until I strung up the little fiberglass beauty and spent some time lawn casting with it. I was pleasantly surprised at how easily I was able to throw tight loops out to around 40 feet without altering my casting strike much at all. All of my single handed fly rods are 9′ and longer: all are fast action rods made with late generation graphite so I’m no expert on fiberglass rods. That may make me the perfect type of person to review a glass rod – after all, I have no certain affinity (bias) for them. My perception, be it right or wrong, about fiberglass rods is that they’re limp noodles that require a very slow casting stroke. My first fly rod was glass, and I seem to recall it bending all the way to the cork grip. Well, the Pygmy is not your father’s glass rod. As it’s builder, Stephen Vance says, “The pygmy is a glass rod with graphite roots.” Mr. Vance is the owner of Scandalous Sticks custom fly rods in Boise, Idaho.
The reason I didn’t water cast the Pygmy is because unfortunately this rod is not mine to keep. I’m donating it to an auction for Casting 4 A Cure and I didn’t want to take it out to a body of water and risk catching a fish with it!
To be perfectly accurate, the rod I tested is 5’7″ due to a fighting butt that adds an inch. That fighting butt may be more than just decoartive as fish in the range of 30 inches have been landed on the Pygmy, according to the Scandalous Sticks website. A fish that size is going to require a reel with a decent drag – you probably don’t want to palm agiant brown trout. For casting practice I tested the Pygmy using two different reels: My own Ross Evolution 1.5 and a Redington Drift 3/4 (also donated for the auction by the good folks at Redington). The Ross is a perfect match for my 9 foot 4 weight rods but felt a little big for the Pygmy. At 3.7 ounces the Redington was a nice fit. The balance point was about 3 inches behind the leading edge of the cork grip, so perhaps a bit further back than what textbook guidelines suggest. However, with such a short rod a reel would need to be nearly weightless in order to balance where a typical longer rod does. This didn’t bother me one bit: the entire outfit is so light in the hands that the matter of a balance point was the furthest thing from my mind. As for aesthetics, the titanium Redington looks real sweet when attached to the nickel silver up-locking reel seat.
Being fiberglass, the rod does flex and the tip feels sensitive. I can see that presenting a dry fly with finesse would be easy and playing large fish would certainly be a thrill with this little beauty. But one must remember that while the rod is unusually small and feels delicate, it IS a 4 wt rod and up to tasks greater than the size of the rod might suggest.
The whole package is very classy to look at; the construction flawless: The 2-piece blank is a honey mustard yellow, with brown and black thread wraps; guides are stainless steel chrome; the reel seat is blonde Israeli olive wood; the grip is high grade Portuguese cork. Each Pygmy is signed by Steve Vance and assigned a production number: this particular rod is numbered 0021.
Advantages of the Pygmy over a longer rod are many, given that it can still stand toe to toe with longer sticks in practical fishing situations:
- Stringing up the rod is a snap because even a smaller person can thread the line through the tip guide without having to stand on a milk crate or lay the rod horizontal.
- The Pygmy is very manageable when walking through doorways (or down a brush-lined trail).
- When the wind blows, and it nearly always does when fly fishing, the short rod would be much less negatively affected than a “normal” length rod.
- The Pygmy wouldn’t take up much room in a boat or float tube.
The above-mentioned points suggest that this would be a perfect rod for kids for the very fact that it is a very manageable size. The action would be good for teaching kids to let the rod load before commencing with their forward stroke, but it’s not so slow that a child’s impatience will cause problems. The pygmy will also roll cast just fine to moderate distances, again making it a good option for younger anglers. However, once you get the Pygmy in your hands the last thing you’ll want to do is give it to your kid!
Since there are only 5 more Pygmy blanks available, one would be prudent to contact Scandalous Sticks and place their order today (they sell for $400). That may seem like a lot for a kid’s rod, but remember – you’re really buying this for yourself. Whether you choose to let your young angling partner use it is entirely up to you!
Stay tuned for more information about the Casting 4 A Cure auction that will feature this Pygmy, the Redington Drift reel and Rio Mainstream WF-4F flyline, and a host of other great stuff.
A while ago I tried to find a way to contact the folks at the Oprah show to see about submitting Olive for consideration in Oprah’s Book Club List. I had visions of grandeur that Oprah herself would see the books, deem them awesome, have the author on her show, and give away a set of Olive the woolly bugger books to everyone in the audience. Olive would be an instant household name. Oprah has the power to make best sellers out of previously nobodies. Actually, I don’t even care about getting on Oprah’s show, but I would be tickled if my Olive books made Oprah’s Book List for Kids.
Unfortunately I never even got a reply when I submitted the contact form so I’m still a nobody. I wasn’t surprised. After all, Oprah doesn’t strike me as the type of person who would be particularly interested in fly fishing. But wait! Apparently she has actually tried casting a fly before! Maybe there’s still hope for Olive to break through the fortress and get into Oprah’s hands.
Here is an entry on Field & Stream’s Honest Angler blog.
And Midcurrent also covered the story.
If anyone knows Oprah personally, please have her contact me. I’ll be waiting with baited breath for her call, which should come soon because this is her last season, afterall.
I recently received a nice email from Aileen, mother of McKenzie, age 8. Aileen happens to be the talent behind MK Flies and was one of two recent winners of my book giveaway contest. She and McKenzie received personalized copies of all three Olive books: Olive the Little Woolly Bugger, Olive and The Big Stream, and Olive Goes for a Wild Ride. Here’s what mom had to say:
Kirk, I was so excited when the “Olive the Woolly Bugger” series arrived. My 8 year old daughter never finishes books she reads until she got a hold of the Olive books. If I may quote my daughter, McKenzie: “It’s a really, really, really good book. I can’t stop reading them! It’s very fun.”
As a mother, I am thrilled to discover that my daughter actually loves to read…we just didn’t find the right books until now. Thank you so much. She’s almost done with the second one, and will soon be reading the third. When is the next book coming out?
Thanks, Aileen and McKenzie! I love to get feedback like this. To answer your question, Aileen, I’ve written two more books and hopefully the next adventures of Olive will be available before too long.
If you or your child has read and enjoyed the Olive books, please tell all your friends about them. The best form of advertising comes from word of mouth recommendations.
I’ll be posting more personal “reviews” on occasion, so if you know a child who is hooked on Olive, please send me a photo of them with a quick comment about the books and I’ll post it here on the blog for all to see. You can contact me via email here.
One of the best things about being an author of children’s books is feedback I get from people who’ve seen my Olive the woolly bugger books. Certainly I love to hear from parents and adults but the real rewards come when I hear from kids themselves. Recently I received a letter in the mail addressed to Olive the Woolly Bugger, from my new friend, Mariah:
I just turned 10 August 25th. This year I am in 5th grade. It is so fun to fly fish. My favorite things to do are read, tie flies and fish. I have never caught a steelhead or a bass. I have caught trout many times. I hope to meet you sometime.
Mariah is obviously a smart kid: any youngster who likes reading and fly fishing has got life pretty much figured out already. It comes as no surprise that Mariah is a fishy kid since her Grand Dad owns the Red Shed Fly Shop in Peck, Idaho (thanks for carrying the Olive books, Poppy!). Here’s a photo of the Olive books on the shelf at the Red Shed:
If you’re planning to fish the Clearwater River in Idaho, you’ll definitely want to stop by the Red Shed and meet Poppy (and Mariah, too, since I’m told she works there quite a bit). While I’ve yet to fish the Clearwater, doing so is high on my list of things to do. You can bet I’ll be stopping by to meet Poppy and Mariah.
To get to the Red Shed:
WE ARE LOCATED 60 SECONDS SOUTH FROM THE PECK HOLE ON THE CLEARWATER RIVER IN NORTH IDAHO. TRAVELING ON HIGHWAY 12 WE ARE 32 MILES EAST OF LEWISTON, IDAHO AND 8 MILES WEST OF OROFINO, IDAHO—HOURS ARE FROM 10:00 AM TO 5:00 PM DAILY, 24/7 BY APPOINTMENT.
20652 BIG CANYON RD.
PECK, IDAHO 83545
And Mariah, I’m so glad you brought up steelhead and bass because those are the topics of my next two Olive books. Hopefully they’ll get published soon (tell all your friends about Olive!). Thanks for taking the time to write me, and for including the awesome drawing of the jumping rainbow trout!
What kid doesn’t like to color, right? Inside or outside the lines, every kid likes to lay down the crayon wax and create something in their own vision. If you’re not already familiar with Fishy Kid, you owe it to yourself and your kids to give this website a good look. They have a coloring book that you can download for free after you register – don’t worry, there are no strings attached and they’re not going to SPAM you with junk mail. Fishy Kid exists for the sole purpose of promoting fly fishing for kids – getting kids outdoors and experiencing all the nature has to offer…with a fly rod in hand. A couple of times each year Fishy Kid also has a coloring contest for kids who want to enter. There are some really great prizes, too, as the list of supporting sponsors reads like a “Who’s Who” in the fly fishing industry. Click on over and download the Fishy Kid coloring book.
While you’re downloading stuff for your kids, Olive the Woolly Bugger offers some free coloring pages and word puzzles that you can download for your kids. Click here for Olive’s fun, free stuff.
And if you just want to download the coloring pages for yourself, there’s no shame in that. My kids like to tease me and say that I like to color. True, but it’s now called illustrating.
Sharpen those Crayolas and get coloring!
There are a couple different contests going on right now, and with so much excitement, things can get a little confusing. Let me clear things up.
Contest #1: Olive Stickers to support Casting 4 a Cure
This isn’t so much a contest, rather than a friendly competition to raise a little money for a great cause. I’m selling Olive the Woolly Bugger stickers for $3.00 each: of that, $1.50 goes directing to Casting 4 a Cure to fund research and support for the International Rett Syndrome Foundation. The other $1.50 covers the cost of printing and postage. The person who places the largest order of stickers as of October 4th 2010 will win a pair of Optic Nerve sunglasses (A $100 value). All you have to do to enter into the competition is click on over to Myflies.com and purchase a sticker. BTW, a sticker will look great on your drift boat, fishing rig, or tricycle.
October is National Rett Syndrome Awareness Month, so what a perfect time to buy an Olive sticker and contribute to such a worthy cause. Stickers will continue to be sold foe the good cause after the contest concludes.
Contest #2: Book Giveaway – 2 Free sets of Olives
I’ve created a little scavenger hunt of sorts for anyone to enter. There is no cost, other than a few minutes of your time. If you answer the questions correctly your name will be thrown into my lucky fishing hat. Two names will be drawn, and those lucky folks will each receive a set of three Olive fly fishing books for kids. Contest ends September 30, 2010 so hurry! Contest rules can be found HERE.
Word of mouth is perhaps the best form of advertising I can think of. I’m confident that once people read the books, even if they don’t know a thing about fly fishing, they’ll be hooked on Olive. And my hope is that after reading and enjoying the books these same people will recommend them to their friends.
In order to make some new fans for Olive, I’m offering a free set of books for those who play along with my contest here. It’s a scavenger hunt of sorts, so it does require a little bit of your time.
Here are the rules:
1. Successfully find the correct answers to the questions below.
2. Leave your answers in the comments section of this blog.
3. Contest ends September 30, 2010
4. I will draw the names of 2 winners. Each winner will be sent a set of autographed books.
5. You must tell your friends about Olive the Woolly Bugger!
Here are the questions:
1. Go to the Olive website. Name the titles for all three books.
2. Go to the Examiner review for the Olive books. In this review the name of Olive’s new friend in the third book is revealed. What is the name of her new friend?
3. Go to this page of the Olive website. List the most popular 3 colors of the woolly bugger.
4. Go to the Fishy Kid website. In the list of contributing artists, name the 10th artist featured on the list.
5. Go to this page of the Olive website. How many fun, free pages can you download for your kids to enjoy?
6. In this blog article, according to the Outdoor Foundation, fishing is the top…____________________?
7. Go to this page of the Olive website. Proceeds from book sales go to support two groups. List those groups.
8. Go to this page of the Olive website. Click the KONG 6/16. In the interview it is revealed that I fish with both my son and my daughter: True or False?
9. Go to this page for the publisher of the Olive books. All three Olive books are on the publisher’s bestseller list. What positions do they occupy on the list?
10. In this review on Midcurrent, the reviewer’s children preferred reading Olive to watching what TV show?
Thanks for playing along, and good luck!
WINNERS – Monica and Aileen!
Thank you to all who participated
I never set out to be a children’s book author – it just happened. Had I been consciously trying to write a book, or series of books as it were, things would likely have turned out a lot differently: I would have had a specific plan in mind and probably would have adhered to the rules. Let’s examine what makes Olive a rule breaker, or perhaps more appropriately what makes Olive the woolly bugger unique.
First, the length of the Olive books sets them apart. Typical children’s picture books, for young children who cannot read on their own or are just learning to read, are nearly always 32 pages. Why 32? The reasons for this are physical: when you fold paper, eight pages folds smoothly into what’s called a signature, while any more results in a group of pages too thick to bind nicely. In addition, the 32 pages can all be printed on a single sheet of paper, making it cost-effective. In extremely rare cases, picture books may be 16, 24, 40 or 48 pages, all multiples of eight (a signature); but 32 pages is industry standard. The first book in the series, Olive the Little Woolly Bugger, is 48 pages. Olive and The Big Stream is also 48 pages, and Olive Goes for a Wild Ride tops the charts at 56 pages! Woah, now! What was I thinking?
I’ll tell you what I wasn’t thinking: I wasn’t thinking about writing to a pre-determined format. I wrote as the story came to me, and that was that. Certainly I realized that Olive didn’t fit the mold for a typical children’s picture book, but there was no way to tell the story in 32 pages. Chapter books allow for more writing, but they don’t showcase illustrations in the same manner as picture books. Being an illustrator I wanted pictures to be a big part of the books. So what does one do when a book fits into neither a picture book format nor a that of a chapter book? Run with scissors. Color outside the lines. Break new ground.
The result of my recklessness is a series of books that are age appropriate for a much broader range of children. Youngsters who cannot read to the level of the story still love the illustrations. Therein lies a tremendous opportunity for the parents who love fly fishing to not only endure, but embrace story time with their children. For the kids who can read well on their own the stories provide ample substance to challenge their reading ability, and the illustrations are a bonus for this audience. Even kids who are well beyond the reading level of my books and who no longer need illustrations to entertain them enjoy Olive. Heck, adults like her too. They’re fun stories with fun illustrations. Why do books have to have such stringent guidelines in order to make them appealing? They don’t, nor should they.
Very early on in my journey toward becoming an author, I hired a well-known editorial consultant to give me some feedback on my manuscripts. This particular individual has an impressive resume of having worked as an editor in the children’s book publishing industry for many years. This person even co-wrote a book on how to go about becoming a published author. I do not discount their credentials and when I received my consultation notes from this person, there were many valid points that drove me to work further on my writing. Second in the list of rules that Olive breaks speaks to the characters in the books themselves, and when I heard this it caused me to roll my eyes a bit: “Publishers don’t like stories about inanimate objects that go to school.” I’ll admit, that was a problem because in the first book Olive goes off to Camp Tightloops to learn to become a fishing fly. I decided that I would just have to disagree with this particular comment and forge ahead on my maverick journey. The more I thought about it the more the comment made me realize that some editors/publishers are out of touch with reality. Kids are the audience for children’s books, and these people are not kids. To this day I remain fairly certain that children have wonderful, fantastic imaginations and can embrace a story of a fishing fly come to life that goes off to a learning institution to gain the knowledge needed to become successful. At least I didn’t write in rhyme, because editors really don’t like that.
Next I was told was that publishing house editors wouldn’t be interested in my book(s) because they have a niche market. I agreed about the niche market but I viewed it as a positive thing. My market was clearly defined for me, and I’d done some research and there really wasn’t much, if any competition for kids books in the fly fishing market. I also believed (and still do) that while the books are an obvious choice for the fly fishing market, they can certainly spill over into the mainstream children’s book market as well.
What we have is a 3 book series about a woolly bugger fishing fly and her many friends who go to camp and learn something. Then they set off on a series of adventures that put their schooling to the test. The stories are fully written narratives with full page illustrations that capture the storyline and bring the words to life. The stories are engaging, whimsical and entertaining. They also teach important life lessons and impart some basic lessons in fly fishing as well as conservation-minded angling. They are age appropriate to a broad range of kids.
So no, the Olive books don’t fit into the mold of traditional publishing industry. In the books Olive faces adversity, and yet through perseverance she discovers that she has a unique talent and ends up succeeding. The development of the books themselves parallels Olive’s journey, and while the books have yet to win any high profile awards or make the New York Times Bestseller list, I’ve visited schools and had children tell me they love Olive. I measure success is smaller increments. There is a place for the books as many have come to discover. Kids like Olive. Parents like Olive. My publisher liked Olive enough to sign me to a contract. I must have done something right.
Judge for yourself. Go out and grab a set of books (don’t just buy one- it’s a series). I’m confident you’ll be hooked on Olive.
I’m always probing the depths of the internet to find potential venues for promoting my series of children’s fly fishing books, and recently I came upon an organization whose goal is very much that of Olive the woolly bugger: The Child & Nature Network. The C&NN exists to encourage and support the people and organizations working nationally and internationally to reconnect children with nature. I’ve just begun to explore what the group has to offer, but I am greatly impressed thus far.
So what does this have to do with my books? Well, everything.
On the surface, my fly fishing book series for kids may just appear to be children’s stories set against the backdrop of fly fishing. While true, there’s much more to them than that. The intent of my books is to introduce kids to fly fishing through a series of fun stories that are both educational and entertaining (call them “edu-taining” if you will). For kids lucky enough to hail from an angling family, no encouragement is needed to get them outdoors with a fly rod in hand. But kids who may not have the guidance of an adult angler in their lives are really the ones who stand to gain the most from my books. In other words, my books are for all kids (and frankly, for adults as well). But the goal of my books is also bigger than just fly fishing – it’s about getting kids outdoors.
As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, according to a study by the Outdoor Foundation fishing is the #1 “Gateway Activity” to launching kids into many other outdoor pursuits such as camping, hiking, boating, etc. All are excellent ways to get kids away from their video games, off the couch and into the great outdoors for some good, old-fashioned recreation. There’s a book available by Richard Louv titled, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder that speaks to the lack of outdoor activity facing our youth today. Louv’s book won a 2008 Audubon Model and has inspired Leave No Child Inside initiatives throughout the country.
Aside from getting kids outdoors and instilling in them an appreciation for our natural resources, outdoor activities are good for a child’s health. Michelle Obama is promoting her national effort to fight childhood obesity, and on April 9, 2010 hosted the White House Childhood Obesity Summit as part of her work with the recently formed Childhood Obesity Task Force and it’s accompanying “Let’s Move” campaign. C&NN is advocating that outdoor play go one step further to involve outdoor play in nature. Being able to roam around the outdoor environment is an enriching experience that brings with it many physical and emotional benefits. Please read the entire article by Suz Lipman of the Child & Nature Network.
According to a report by C&NN, children are smarter, more cooperative, happier and healthier when they have varied opportunities for free unstructured play in the outdoors. I interpret that to mean if you take a kid fly fishing where they can experience a natural setting, walk along the banks of a stream or lake and learn about bugs and fish and other wildlife that benefit from clean water, that child is going to be smarter. I always thought fly anglers were an intelligent bunch and now I know why!
“Protecting America’s Great Outdoors and Powering Our Future” is the mission of the US Department of the Interior. On April 16, 2010 President Barack Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to promote and support innovative community-level efforts to conserve outdoor spaces and to reconnect Americans to the outdoors. The President spoke before leaders representing the conservation, farming, ranching, sporting, recreation, forestry, private industry, local parks and academia communities from all 53 states and territories. For obvious reasons this is of great significance to the fly fishing community and Phil Greenlee, President and National Chairman of the Federation of Fly Fishers, was in attendance. Read more about the Great Outdoors conference here.
To sum it all up in a nutshell, outdoor recreation is good for kids in both mind and body, and the outdoors are important to all of us. So, the bottom line is this: Get kids outside. Fishing is a great way to start them off on other outdoor adventures. While they’re outside having fun they’ll be practicing healthy habits and getting exercise. Furthermore they’ll develop an appreciation for our natural resources, which will ensure that future generations become stewards of the earth.
It may be a lofty thinking on my part, but I believe every child should start down this journey with the Olive the woolly bugger series of fly fishing books. Now, if anyone has an idea as to how I can make sure that every child hears about Olive, I’m all ears.