The founder of CTS rod blanks, Stephen Pratt (based in New Zealand), strived to produce a ‘perfect’ fishing rod. His interest in composite technology and rod building led to the start of CTS, which quickly gained a reputation for producing world class fly rods. The blanks produced astonishing results in international fly casting competitions, with some competitors winning gold medals and others breaking spey casting records.
Derek Smith (see his Instagram profile and Facebook page), one of South Africa’s finest rod builders, currently imports CTS blanks and builds high quality custom CTS fly rods. He sent The Mission a CTS Affinity X 5 wt rod to test and I was lucky enough to fish it in Lesotho during the Makhangoa Community Camp Flyathlon.
I was in awe when I saw the rod for the 1st time; it was really something to look at and the attention to detail that Derek put into this rod was astounding – it had a metallic green sheen, glittering iridescent in sunlight with the finest threadwork adding subtle contrasting colour to the rod. The wooden reel seat was suitably treated to bring out the grain of the wood and it complimented the colour of the rod beautifully.
I’ve always considered fishing rods to be tools, trying not to get too attached to their looks, but rather appreciate a good blank’s performance. This fly rod, however, was a work of art and although I was burning to test it out on some of the Bokong’s big rainbows and yellowfish, I also (for the first time) feared compromising its beauty while fishing in the rocky terrain (you know how easily fly rods get scratched while stalking skittish fish along rocky riverbanks).
I used the CTS Affinity X 5 wt to target fish in fairly shallow pools (averaging at about 2 m deep – typically what you’d encounter in a small to medium-sized river) and therefore I was fishing a floating line. The rod has a fast action, certainly the fastest rod I’ve fished, and it allowed me to reach fish feeding along the opposite bank of the biggest pools I came across with ease. It served me well in the calm morning hours, accurately presenting flies with the subtleness that was required on the glassy surface, and even later in the day when a strong, swirling wind was blowing in the gorge.
The strong and stiff backbone of the rod, giving the rod its fast action and helping to ‘punch’ line out in windy conditions, also acts like an artificial aid to guide fish during the fight and tire relatively big fish out quickly. For instance, if a yellowfish swam towards a rocky shelf, using the current to get away from me, I could apply enough pressure on it with the rod to stop it just short of the rocks and prevent the fish from cutting the tippet off. So, not only is this rod strikingly beautiful, but it is also the perfect rod to target large river trout and yellowfish with in windy, mountainous areas, like the Lesotho Highlands and New Zealand – it makes perfect sense why a Kiwi established CTS.