The Redington line of fly fishing gear is what a marketer would call a “value” brand – fly fishing rods, reels and gear that don’t compete at the very high end of the price range, but (theoretically) offer more “value” than premier brands.

In the past, “value” was often synonymous with half-assed gear, which is why – when Redington offered up a fly rod and reel for review – I was a little hesitant.

Early Redington fly rods (prior to the company’s purchase by the same corp that owns Sage and Rio) had a reputation for wildness; one taper would be brilliant, yet another would be awful.

That was a decade ago, but the downside to testing gear is that you should actually use it (at least, some of us prefer it that way). That can be a joy, but other times you’re stuck on the river, fishing a piece of crap and wondering why you’re bothering.

Happily, this test turned out largely crap-free.

First Look: The Redington RS4/Rise Reel Combo

redington rs4 fly rod and rise fly reel

Rod, reel, line and case - $410 MSRP

First things first; I’m happy to note the RS4 fly rod and Rise fly reel combo came fully rigged – the backing, Rio Mainstream line and leader were already knotted and on the spool.

Thank dog. (Underground pet peeve: Fly rod/reel combo sets that require a novice fly fisherman to learn four arcane knots before they start casting.)

Because Singlebarbed and I were jointly testing this combo (and I’ve got a thing for 6wt fly rods), we tumbled for the Redington RS4/Rise Reel combo in a 9′ 6wt (4-pc).

That way, I could abuse it with streamers, fish with it dries, try it on the Rogue (where steelies are always a possibility), and maybe fling some sinking lines – while Singlebarbed could fish it on his beloved brownlines.

So what happened?

The RS4 Fly Rod

Modern fly rods tend towards speed, a basic truth which means I often fish older rods.

And while I was expecting more of the same from the Redington RS4, I was pleasantly surprised.

Redington RS4 Fly Rod

The picture's a little off; the RS4 is an attractive olive color

After fishing it for a half-dozen trips (my first couple trips with it saw me flinging streamers, dry flies and yes – the dreaded split shot rig), my reaction was “This is nice. This is OK.”

It is relatively fast, but lacks the pool cue demeanor that has marred so many other modern fly rods.

After using it a while, I was tempted to simply declare it “a nice fly rod,” but after catching fish on everything from dries to streamers on the thing, I realized it only qualified as “nice” by the loftiest of standards.

In other words, this is a very fishable rod – one that surprised even the Tupperware-averse, bamboo-loving Dave Roberts into saying “I’m impressed. It’s a good rod. It feels pretty nice when you cast.”

Wayne Eng (another frequent Underground Lab Rat tester) found it wholly fishable on several fronts, and Wayne fishes more different fly rods than just about anyone I know).

“This is pretty sweet” he said (in his typically aw-shucks, laid-back Wayne demeanor, like he was the first Chinese person to grow up in Mayberry).

In truth, it wouldn’t be too many years ago that the RS4 would be considered a high-end rod; it was strong, yet progressive enough that it retained a lot of “feel.”

I fished it with sinking lines and big flies, and never ran headlong into that messy zone you used to hit with fast-tapered fly rods, where the tip is too light to handle the stresses, but the butt’s too stiff to allow a little feedback to make its way to your casting hand.

The RS4 kind of sneaks up on you – you’re just fishing and the right things happen, and you realize it’s a better rod than you thought it would be for the money ($250 MSRP). Here’s the Redington pitch on the RS4:

More RS4 Details:

  • Moss-colored blank made with high-end 51- million modulus Toray graphite
  • AAA grade Portuguese cork handle
  • Pac Bay Aluminum Oxide stripping guides
  • Laser engraved machined aluminum with moss colored graphite insert (Handle A) and laser engraved anodized machined aluminum on saltwater models (Handle B)
  • Alignment dots with length and line designations labeled on each section above ferrule
  • Three spey rod models are available with a 15″ fore-grip
  • 2-piece and 4-piece outfits come with the new Moss RISE reel, prespooled with backing, knotless leader and RIO Mainstream fly line in a durable black carrying case.
  • Lifetime Warranty

It also does what a reasonable 6wt should – it doesn’t fold up when you do something horrifying, yet you really can fish a #20 BWO with it without fear of gifting flies to fish on the hook set.

The reel seat and guides are strictly middle-of-the-road; the by-now-standard woven carbon fiber reel seat and reverse Western grip (which wasn’t too skinny for a change) are reliable, proven stuff.

The rod itself is an attractive olive color (we’re happy the fly rod manufacturers finally discovered color), and the whole shebang comes in a black cordura case with a bulged end (the reel can stay on the rod).

The Rise Fly Reel

If the Redington RS4 rod sneaks up on you, the Rise fly reel stands up and makes a statement right away.

Redington Rise Fly Reel

The Rise - especially the burnt orange color - is a style fly reel

It’s one of the current crop of impressively high-tech machined fly reels that runs smooth and quiet.

Again, this isn’t the whiz-bang high-end stuff, but it’s still way more than we need to get the job done. Here’s Redington’s description of the reel:

This fully machined 6061 T6 aluminum Mid-arbor construction reel features a cork on Teflon center drag design, a Koyo one-way clutch and ceramic coated bearings for smoothness and durability.

Redington is running ads describing the Rise as “Rod Candy” and that could be an accurate description. The burnt orange reel is – if the L&T’s reaction to the picture is any indicator – going to sell real well, and the “moss” reel that come with the set we tested looks, well, great.

In truth, there’s not a lot to say about the reel, except that’s impressively built, extremely smooth, and yes – good looking.

Unlike so many reels, the handle was big enough to grip (though I’m always up for something a teensy bit bigger).

And while it’s a part of a combo, if I had to choose between the RS4 rod and the Rise reel, I’d probably pick the Rise as the more interesting of the two (though that’s colored by the fact I already own a lot of nice 6wt rods, but I am looking for a 6wt reel).

Wayne Eng fishes it on a coldy, rainy winter day

Wayne Eng fishes it on a coldy, rainy winter day

In fact, when I pressed the rod/reel/case combo into Singlebarbed’s beefy paws, I told him not to dissolve the reel in any of that toxic sludge he fishes; I might want to buy it.

Whether I do or not depends largely on my mood. The MSRP of the Rise is $159, which puts it in the same range as the impressively engineered Lamson Konic reel and a host of other competitors.

We could argue endlessly about which represents the better value (the machined, stylish Redington Rise or the wonderfully engineered drag of the less-sexy Konic), but it might be best to simply say you don’t have to buy a $500 fly reel to get something that works really, really well.

The Other Goodies

The case the combo comes in is nothing special; the cut-out vinyl window actually sinks to the level of cheesy, though it’s hardly a showstopper.

The Rio Mainstream fly line is the one questionable component of this kit, though it’s likely a good choice for a less-experienced angler.

It’s one of those front-loaded lines designed to make modern graphite rods and clunky split shot rigs easier to cast (it does a passable job on big flies), but like most front-loaded lines, it’s less fun when you’re trying to carry a lot of line and the last of the belly slides out past the tip.

Still, it’s part of the combo, and I sure as hell wouldn’t not buy the whole shooting match because of the line. It works. And yes, it floats and picks up nicely (as all new lines do).

The Final Word

It’s likely the Redington RS4/Rise Reel combo will find its way into a pair of distinct markets. First is the novice fly fishermen who is morally opposed to buying a starter kit of any kind.

Second would be a more experienced fly fishermen looking for a backup combo or even a 6wt to rely on when it’s too windy to fish the 4wt.

Redington Fly rod and reel

The large/mid-arbor fly reel has become the standard.

Either way, the combo is a steal for the money $410 MSRP (I found it on the Internet for well under $400), and the 4-pc 9′ 6wt rod lists for $250 – making it a good choice for the thrifty angler, and a nice travel-sized backup when you’re heading off into the places where a broken rod means you beg your friends to use their spare (not recommended).

Because the rod came to me in the winter – and I’ve been fishing more small streams than 6wt-sized water – I can’t comment on the durability of the kit (outside of the fact that you can apparently smack it against a tree, hold your breath, and not break it).

And yes, it still features Redington’s lifetime warranty – a fact much appreciated by clumsy, forgetful and drunken hard-fishing anglers.

I’m not going to pretend – even for a second – that Redington’s RS4/Rise combo is something that you absolutely have to buy.

Instead, I’m inclined to view it as either a really solid value right smack in the middle of the industry, or a sign that fly fishing gear has come a long ways in the past ten years – to the point that the difference between the great stuff and the “value” stuff isn’t nearly as dramatic as the price would indicate.

See you on the river, Tom Chandler.