Overwhelmed. Amazed. In love. Shocked. Bled out. Infected (literally). Hooked on. Addicted. Just a few ways to describe my trip at the edge of uncertainty, on the Sudanese Nubian Flats, in May. The EDGE Gamma Beta fly rods by Gary Loomis provided me with ample, dependable, top of the line performance during my first saltwater adventure in Africa. The EDGE Gamma Beta fly rods redefine top performance (I) covers the first half of the review – I decided to split it since the words alone covered almost 6 pages.

I quit my trout fly fishing more than 12 years ago. The mountain streams and creeks were too far from home for weekend trips and the rewards simply too small. Last year, because of a poorly planned holiday, I began dreaming of a different kind of fishing: saltwater fly fishing. After finding the perfect location (the Nubian Flats in Sudan, on the Red Sea) and at closer price for my budget, preparations were on.

I had the inspiration of booking part of the flights (Bucharest – Instabul – Dubai and return) with Turkish Airlines. They are just as good as they claim to be and the flights were perfect aboard some huge Airbus planes with tons of comfort.

I had to start with everything from scratch: wading boots, sun protection, long sleeve shirts, pants, neoprene socks, reels, fly lines, spare lines, backing lines, waterproof fly boxes, waterproof backpack, gravel guards (Tourette Fishing hooked me up with a pair that were waiting for me on the boat when I arrived, so thanks Rob Scott), and so on. I learned to tie every single saltwater fly from YouTube instructional videos, if available – some patterns like the Velcro Crab below were nowhere to be found so I had to figure them out from pictures of the finished flies. Even so, when I arrived on Scuba Libre, the reality proved totally different than the flies I was confirmed before that would work. Apart from the GT and other minnow-style flies (in the blue box), the guides told me that all the flies I tied (over 150) were not good because the hot orange in the legs or other parts would spook the heck out of the Nubian trigger fish. Bummer! But that’s a funny story I would rather tell you on another time.

The GTs and other bigger predatory species flies are in the large box: lots of fluff, feathers, hairs and synthetic fibers. These flies were A-OK.

The primary flies I was counting on, for triggering the triggers’ bites on them Nubian Flats proved to be useless. Why is that so? One answer would be: too much orange would spook them like it was their business. The other answer is part of a story that I have yet to unveil. It was hilarious and frustrating at the same time.

Almost all the fly tying materials were ordered off eBay while some came from the only specialty fly shop in Romania, Troutline. And I was seriously budget-limited, since the medium income in here is incomparably lower than in the rest of Europe and the civilized world. When I mentioned to Rob Scott from Tourette Fishing that my finances were stretched, it was a serious understatement to say the least. While I was expecting a stellar trip, the weather unexpectedly took a turn for the worse so the fishing results left a lot to be desired.

The 3 1/2 hours drive from Port Sudan to where the My Scuba Libre boat was, in Muhammad Qol port, was done in a rather fun small bus, on a road through the Nubian desert, where camels where obviously at home and we were the strangers.

The time to the boat passed in good fun as the interior of the bus was filled with all sort of groovy things. The rear-view mirror’s support was made from what seemed like a long time dead road-kill with furs long enough for quite a number of saltwater flies. I’m keeping more neat stuff to reveal with another occasion, when I’ll write mostly about the trip…

Before the trip, I’ve only got one short practice casting session with another 9 wt. rod while fighting a wild forearm muscle strain that was bothering me for almost a month at that time.

The shiny aluminum tubes with the EDGE Rods logo in red were not only a class act, but they also provided perfect protection to the rods checked for the whole duration of the flights. And that EDGE Rods logo – to me it’s one of the best logotypes I’ve ever seen, so yeah, I’m all over it!

Just a few days before taking off to Sudan, the rods arrived in their shiny aluminum tubes bearing the beautiful EDGE logo in red. One was an 8 wt. while the heavy one was an 11 wt., but almost a 12 wt., as per Alex’s description. Even though they were just finishing relocating the factory, my friends at EDGE Rods and North Fork Composites in Woodland, Washington didn’t forget about me. So, many thanks to Gary Loomis, Alex Maslov, Nicole Ivana Darland and Steve Pitcock and to Eric Dubouays and Goulven Dolle from Rodhouse as well.

Pairing the EDGE Gamma Beta 890-4F with an Allen Kraken reel was a thing of inspiration as well as of beauty, but both pieces of fine engineering proved more than fit for anything that the Red Sea threw at them.

I paired the EDGE 890-4F with an Allen Kraken #4 reel in Emerald color and the EDGE 1190-4F with an Allen Kraken XLA #5 reel. But this review is about the 8 weight rod so let’s get it started!

The saltwater EDGE lineup sports the distinctive markings of Gamma Beta (ΓΒ) name that stands for fast action rods, created for the harsh environment of salt.

Rod specifications
Manufacturer: EDGE Rods Company
Model: EDGE 08 90 4F
Series: Gamma Beta (ΓΒ)
Material: a blend of proprietary graphite – LMX, the blank is made by EDGE’s sister company, North Fork Composites
Aspect: Naked graphite looks for maximum lightness and stealth
Length: 9′ or 2.75 meter in metric system
Declared class: 8 wt.
Action: Fast
Pieces: 4 (fitting into each other by sleeve ferrules)
Rod weight: 4.1 oz or 116.4 grams
Guides: 2 large stripping guides, 7 snake guide + tip top
Made in: USA
Rod tube: aluminum, natural color
Rod sack: grey colored, with separate compartments for each of the 4 rod sections; the rod cloth comes with double laces, one at each end, which makes for a more secure system than the bags with just one lace

I individually weighed each section of the rod multiple times and in different positions. The digital scale comes with an error margin of 0.1 grams so it’s quite accurate (all the weights in the photo are in grams – metric system). The total weight of the 4 sections is 4.1 oz. or 116.4 grams, which is right in line with the other high-end manufacturers averages for the 8 class rods.

The combined weight of the 4 sections of the rod: 116.4 grams. It’s harder to keep them perfectly still and the digital scale is extremely sensitive to any change in pressure but after many attempts I eventually obtained another accurate measurement with the rod sections in upright position.

First impressions
The very first impression when you take the sections out of the sleeve: EDGE rods by Gary Loomis are built to perform and to impress. This is one beautiful looking rod from the ALPS reel seat, a show stealer, to the hand sanded, naked graphite smoky-grey colored blanks. I fished lots of older G. Loomis rods in the ’90s and seeing that raw graphite blank brings back some good memories and a familiar feeling of dependable, high performance.
Once you assemble it, the FIRST FUNCTIONAL IMPRESSION is „Wow, this thing is SO LIGHT in hand!” How light? To me, the 8 wt. feels like a 6 wt. – that would be the weight perceived in hand and during casting – the so-called „swing weight”, which is really kept to unnoticeable values.

4 pieces rods are a must for travel by plane nowadays. This rod feels just as great as it looks and the pictures don’t do it much justice, to be honest.

Build characteristics
For a rod with a price tag around $900, the craftsmanship quality is as good as it gets, from the tiptop to the fighting butt. No epoxy out of place and more important, no epoxy in excess. Gary Loomis is the parent of the „Weight is a deterrent to performance” mantra and they keep that weight to a minimum with every build. The guide wraps are very clean and uniform, the epoxy on the rod sticker is thin and the electric blue accents – Gary Loomis’ signature and the country of origin – points out the rod’s destination: saltwater fishing. Super cool!

Epoxy on the guides wraps is kept to a minimum and no drops are out of place.

North Fork Composites and subsequently EDGE Rods did a super job on the build, but let’s not forget the sleeve ferrules. Thanks to their precise and advanced construction, the 4 pieces fit together almost like a one-piece rod.

All the sections fit smooth and secure one into another and they stay that way during a fishing day: that’s key-feature since most of the fly rods today are made of 4 sections or more. One of the anglers, Chris Binnington, offered me some ferrule wax when we were setting up the tackle on Monday afternoon. I applied some on the 8 wt., while I left the 11 wt. dry. No section have come apart during the 6 days of fishing on any of the rods and upon regularly checking them (in the morning and over the day), I noticed no loose sections. The ferrules design is really top notch in the EDGE fly rods and I can’t stress enough its importance!

I have owned a lot of fly fishing rods in the past, from U.S. top manufacturers such as Sage, R.L. Winston, Scott, Thomas & Thomas and so on, mostly ranging from 4 to 6 weights. EDGE are some of the richest-features rods you’ll ever get your hands onto. As a tackle junkie, I always appreciate a product that brings more to the game and the Gamma Beta series is jam-packed with real features. If you want to feel like you’re getting more for your money, these are the rods to get.

List of features include:
ALPS machined and anodized aluminum reel seat with cut-outs to reduce weight. The inner composite tube also adds to that „space age” look, while the double up-locking rings will keep the reel firmly attached to the rod. The seat is branded with the manufacturer’s logo, too.

The ALPS machined and hard anodized reel seat is not only a looker…

… with its cut-out windows and the inner silver composite tube, but it also holds the reels very secured.

Flor grade cork fighting butt comes with a butt of its own, made of conglomerate cork for long lasting durability. The fighting butt will provide you with the comfort during long fights with saltwater species.

The fighting butt is quite large in size.

If you look to the image below you will notice a sort of winding check providing a smooth transition between the metallic reel seat and the fighting butt. That angled machined piece will reduce line tangling in that section of the rod. It’s the small details like these that make for a great rod overall.

The metallic winding check is worth all the money alone for this ALPS reel seat – that smooth transition will help minimize line tangling in.

The Full Wells handle is made from the finest premium grade flor cork that Gary Loomis imports it from a family farm in Portugal. While it doesn’t look as impressive as the carbon woven grip, it feels super velvety to the touch and upon using the rod for 6 days in a row you tend to forget you have a rod in your hand.

This is how the handle looks (and it feels just as great!) after 6 days in the quite salty waters of the Red Sea. The rods and reels got completely submerged in the water many times and except for a freshwater rinse back on the boat, after each fishing session, no other treatments have been applied to the setups.

The quality of the cork gets noticed every time I fish with the rod, while the full-wells profile is comfortable to hold all day long.

The cork handle fits just perfect in size and shape – this is critical because it will be your most used rod on the flats, unlike the heavier weights such as 11 or 12.

The shape of the handle is definitely comfortable and it fits, at least for my medium-sized hands. Full Wells grip is found in the Gamma Beta series of Fast Action saltwater rods while the freshwater Gamma Alpha comes with Wells grip and Moderate Actions.

Is this thing light or what? And it balances really good with the Allen Kraken reel in 4 size. Actually, a #3 would be a better alternative for 7 and 8 weight lines, but if you need lots of backing, the Kraken #4 is the logical, especially with 9 wt. lines. I’ve got the reels for 9 and 12 wt. rod a few months before the actual rods arrived.

– Going up the rod, the blank comes next in our list of features: the blanks are hand-rolled, hand-sanded made in the NFC (North Fork Composites) factory right there in Woodland, Washington, USA. Hand sanding is an accurate process that results in „raw graphite” or „naked-graphite” looking blanks that are 20% lighter than the painted ones. Sanding also makes sure the blanks do not hide any blemishes that would otherwise go unnoticed. That’s the traditional looks of Gary Loomis rods from the past and the new EDGE series look and feel even better than the sticks of the ’90s.

Having used lots of Gary Loomis rods in the ’90s, I grew very fond of the raw graphite looks of the blanks. After all these years, they still look sexy and hi-tech. If the appearance seem the same, much have changed and the new North Fork Composites blanks are truly the cutting edge of today’s technology.

The naked-graphite blanks look way much better in the sun and have another advantage to them: stealth approach either in salt or in freshwater.

The LMX composite seems like a very strong material, too. On several occasions, I closed the loop too much and the clousers tied on 2/0 hooks hit the rod tip section. I feared the worst but it didn’t happen: upon checking the tip, I found no visual damage. The 4th day of the trip, that was on Friday, I was fishing alone over some bomies and catching small but fun coral groupers on 1 to 2/0 Clouser Minnow flies.

Large diameter stripping guides are absolutely mandatory to saltwater fly fishing rods for both shooting the lines and quickly clearing out the tangles when the fish strike.

The stripping guides are ALPS titanium framed with SIC inserts – the best in saltwater corrosion protection.

– Next up on the blank come the 2 ALPS titanium frame stripping guides with SIC inserts. Titanium is saltwater corrosion-proof while the large diameter will ease up shooting line or clearing tangles especially when you get sudden, wild takes from crazy SW fish.

The all-American Mike McCoy snake guides pack some hidden innovations, too that will help enhance the performance of the finished rod.

– The snake guides are just as special as the other hardware. They are made by Mike McCoy in USA, they are light, low profiled and the concave footprint reduces the epoxy needed to cover the wraps and require less threads in the wrapping process – that’s a small but smart feature if you ask me. Special E-coatings help out the line slip through them like a champ. The guides feel quite solid and reassuring of their durability.

The first trigger fish came in quite quickly, on the beautiful looking sand flats of the Shambaya Island. The morning session was productive for me, but in the afternoon the wind picked up by quite a lot… to the extent that the head guide canceled the fishing on the second day of the trip, on Wednesday the 24th of May.

The EDGE in action videos
My first saltwater fish ever came on the EDGE 890-4. That’s an experience words cannot describe to its full extent. Imagine how I was feeling an hour later when I caught the first trigger fish on my own!

Trigger-happy or not? I caught other triggers that took me into the backing of the reel, like the one below. The EDGE Gamma Beta 890-4F performed admirably every single time, covering my casting or fish-fighting mistakes. It’s truly something to use a rod that you’ll almost make you forgot you’ve got a rod and let you focus on fishing only. That’s just one of the many special features the EDGE fly rod embeds inside its cutting-edge graphite construction.

In the second part I will be reviewing the rod action, casting performance, fishability, power and other intrinsic qualities. Stay tuned for even more pictures and videos from the Nubian Flats in Sudan!