Thursday 21 September 2017

Smile Machine - Vision Tool 11' 6" #8


I felt I had to issue that statement because my salmon rods are now 100% Vision.  Over the years I've owned or used salmon rods by Hardy, Loop, Daiwa, Sage, Guideline, Milbro and Fibatube.  Some were very good and others utterly useless in my incompetent hands.  Much as I may fancy a Hardy Zepherus or a Sage One, I can't justify spending £1,000 on a rod: giving the extra money to my children and grandchildren would give me much more pleasure.  Nor do I know whether those rods would be right for me.  As a result I restrict myself to rods costing less than £500 that I really enjoy using and which suit my moderate casting ability.  By chance or serendipity there are rods in Vision's range that meet those criteria.

My golden rule is "try before you buy".  So I duly broke it.  This post describes the result.

They want you to know what it is
The rough script is a deliberate Finnish style play

My eyes had just become hardened by the MAG's eye watering orange triangular tube when the Tool struck from the other flank with a colour scheme lifted from the interior of a footballer's wife's Range Rover, including a white zip fastener.  Yes, it's white.  In between amazement you have to admire Vision's eccentricity.  Who else would call a reel 'Ace of Spey'?  But what do you expect from a company staffed by angling maniacs led by a CEO who looks about 20, has a ponytail and rides a Harley?  But that mania brings a special guarantee: you know they've tested their gear to infinity and beyond.  If you don't believe me look at one of the videos of their testing team on expedition: you'll be exhausted in 5 minutes just watching.  And be in no doubt, they did a first class development job on the Tool 11' 6".

Its big brothers have a deserved reputation as ultra-powerful casting rods with distinctly artillery tendencies of indirect fire.  Put simply, they're at their best casting to the river over the hill rather than the one in front of you.  The 14' #9/10 gets into its stride with a 42 gram shooting head, and in expert hands is awesome to behold.  However, the 14 isn't the right rod for me as I have neither the technique nor strength required.  Anyway, I'm happy to fish the Ure in Wensleydale rather than the Swale from the same place.

First Impressions

What comes out of the WAG-inspired tube is notable for its understatement.  The first thing that strikes you is that it's tiny, a perfect double handed salmon rod in miniature.  Everything is in scale to its length.  Interestingly it's not marketed as a 'switch' rod', just as a double hander.

The aesthetics are (mostly) modest with a matt grey blank and tone-matched whippings.  The quality of finish is excellent with nice PacBay snake rings.

The reel seat shows a little eccentricity within an attractively minimalist regime.  The choice of uplocking is driven by dimensions and the need for balance with a grown up reel, a point to which I'll return.  The 2 nut locking is dynamite and fool-proof.  The cork is pleasant but with some compromises in quality that I now accept as inevitable at this price point.

The philosophy is simple.  If you're making a rod for salmon then it should be matched to a salmon reel with an appropriate line capacity.  That doesn't mean heavy: the Danielsson LW5 #8/12 and the Lamson Guru 4 tip the scales at around 220 grams.  If the rod and reel are properly in balance you don't notice the weight of the reel.  As you can see in the picture, the Tool and the Danielsson are an exact match, balancing perfectly at the top hand point on a lump of Norwegian granite.


I've never been a great fan of multi-tip lines.  First, they're much more expensive than the base line and polyleaders.  Second, because I keep my kit for so long, I worry about the long-term availability of replacement tips.  And third, it's another loop clattering through the rings (I only added that one recently as a result of my new hearing aids!).  Nevertheless the dealer, a superb fisherman whom I greatly respect, convinced me to overcome my objections and purchase a Rio SSVT #8 multi-tip.  Behold, the match with the rod is perfect.

On the river

I haven't got any pictures of me using the little Tool, because casting and taking photos simultaneously is beyond my powers, so you'll just have to take my word.  The Tool came on tour as an insurance against low water, first to the Gaula and then to the Findhorn.  It's clearly an effective rain-making wand as we enjoyed an excess of water on both rivers.  On the Gaula it was just a brief casting exercise when the bright sunlight made serious fishing on Flaekken impractical, whereas on the Findhorn it was most of the Wednesday when the water level allowed the use of a light front end.

My first cast on the Gaula prompted disbelief: I don't do exquisite loops.  Subsequent casts proved it wasn't an aberration.  After ten or so I was grinning and chuckling like an idiot. This was quite the most remarkable double-hander I'd ever used in terms of feel and responsiveness.  Even I, an incompetent caster with a lifetime trout fishing right arm and a disability that impacts control and coordination in 2-handed casting, couldn't get it wrong.  My 12' GT4 Lite is wonderful, but this is something else.  The beat change came and I had to get back to serious grown up fishing with a big rod.

I didn't get another opportunity to use the little Tool until we went to Tomatin.  I'd taken it up to the Ure in August but it prompted a flood.  At Tomatin, on the Wednesday the river had fallen enough that I could use it sensibly, albeit you can't call + 2' 6" low water or Churan a narrow pool.  Once I had finished the fast water at the head with the MAG I brought the Tool into action with a plain fluoro leader and a #8 MCX Dark.  It was every bit as much joyful fun as it had been on the Gaula.  Moreover, with minimal effort I could cover almost the entire width of the pool without wading more than a D-loop distance from the bank.  Casting reasonably obliquely that's around 25-27 yards into an upstream wind with an 11' 6"rod whilst wading 12" deep, which I reckon is respectable.  Normally it takes me a little  while to get my Single Spey timing right, but with the Tool it just seems to come naturally.  It also throws a neat C-Spey and Snap-T.  The wind direction precluded trying a Snake Roll or Double Spey.

The worst salmon photo of the year?
Everything was going perfectly until I hooked a good fish just on the edge of the flow-line, when it became marvellous. This irascible 11 lbs cock provided a good test of the Tool's muscle.  I felt completely in control throughout (not always the case with the GT4) and completed the fight in about the same time as I might have done with a bigger rod.  Steering the fish to the net was straightforward, and even perhaps a little easier than with a longer rod and your back against the bank owing to the lack of 'overhang'.  Judging by the speed of its departure I'd not wasted any time.

With my morale sky high I fished happily on down the pool whilst falling ever more deeply in love with this magical little rod.  Along the way I hooked and lost 2 fish, one small, the other large perhaps 12-14 lbs, but the Tool bears no blame.  You win and lose: the angler proposes but God disposes in such matters.  Perhaps with a longer rod I might have stopped the bigger fish going vertically downwards to grind its nose in the rocks, but as it was 30 yards away at the time the difference would have been marginal at best.

Then the water rose and I had to put away my favourite toy, a feeling that took me back 60 years.  I had enjoyed a magical morning's playtime.


Perhaps all switch rods are like this.  I don't know, because the little Tool is the only very small salmon rod I've ever tried.  On the basis of 4 hours' use, it's wonderful: it casts beautifully whilst transmitting to your hands with the greatest fidelity; fights good fish in short order; and throws a line a long way with minimum effort.  I bought it to cover the smaller sections of the Ure like Swinton Park in low water, but on bigger rivers in higher water it excelled.  I have fallen madly in love with this little gem and thus perhaps have lost my usual objectivity, quite simply because it makes fishing so much fun.

Do try one.


  1. I brought a new Zephrus for £300 plus a Shakespeare Oracle from John Norris this July... top end rods are not always £1,000. Not even £500 just a thought.

  2. Well, who's a lucky chap then! Congratulations. If you hit John Norris on a good day when they're disposing of demonstrator rods you can crack a good deal. If not you're in the same boat as other folk. Your exception doesn't invalidate my contention.