HOW TO CHOOSE A ROD
As we are gearing up and reserving dates for the 2011 season, a common question seems to be popping up on a lot of forums and e-mails: I'm looking for a new fly rod. Which one is best?
Ooops, sorry gang, there is no way to give an honest answer to this question.
You see, rods are a really funny thing. For one, a rod may be just fine for me when I'm on a small run dropping upstream dries on a picture perfect autumn morning, … chasing after sea run juvenile Brook Trout. This same rod, same place, same time may just be a broom stick for someone else. You see, I am far from elegant when I cast and I can load a rod quickly, even on short casts using a bit of line speed.
When looking around for a fly rod, one has to take into consideration first off, where and when will this rod be used. Ok, sure, there are lots of rods that get used as general duty rods. Then again, general duty for me would be a work horse everyday rod for Atlantic salmon on my home waters of the Ste-Marguerite River. So my general duty rod is a 10 foot, 8wt XP.
My general duty light rod is a 10 foot, 6wt Native Run or a TFO Axiom 9ft 6wt. Somehow I don't think that these workhorse rods would be considered general duty on some of your home waters out there!
Case in point: A very good friend has been upgrading her rod(s) over the past few years. She has become a very enthusiastic Atlantic salmon angler. She fishes on Eastern Canadian Rivers with downstream wets and upstream dries in moderate water levels and she can cast comfortable about 65 feet. This covers 99% of the runs and pools out here.
First problem my friend started to run into when she began her search for a new(er) rod was that she believed that a less expensive rod would not perform as well. I suppose that this may have been true 15 or 20 years ago. Today, the playing field has been leveled and less expensive rods perform quite well, even compared to some very expensive rods.
I believe that there are very few BAD rods on the market today. There are however a heck of a lot of rods being used in situations that they weren't make for. This can lead to a whole lot of frustration!
Next problem she ran into was when she began speaking with associates and friends about their rods. A few have been fishing for salmon for literally decades. When my friend got out onto the water and actually tried some rods that were being recommended, she just didn't find them fun to cast! This is entirely normal. What your friend finds as a fantastic rod, you may just not like.
We all have different casting styles and personalities. A rod can be too quick, to soft, to heavy, too slow or any combination of the above once you get it into your hands. The words we use to describe rods are another problem. Rods can be quick or fast or slow or classic or European or parabolic or modulated or well, you get the idea!
In my humble opinion, there is only one way to know if a rod is for you. You must get out somewhere where you can cast one. Better still, on the water, with your reel and line. If you plan on setting up a full kit with a new reel and line (and backing), fine, use a setup from the shop. If you plan on just buying a rod, you really need to use your reel and line.
Two last points:
Overlining: This is when the caster puts a line on a rod that is heavier than the line rating for the rod. This (in my opinion) is not really a good idea. I realize some do it to get the rod to load at short distances (let’s say, under 30 feet). This could be a real necessity. But then, if you're out at +40 feet and have overlined your rod, you probably should re-think your casting stroke or look at a different rod action for your style.
Lastly, choosing a rod is supposed to be fun. If it gets frustrating and you're overwhelmed by ads, the Web, friends’ advice etc, just try to take a step back, re-think where and when you'll be using the rod, then try to find a good shop, a Guide or friend and go fishing!
Trying a rod for me, means trying it on the water
The rod rack we see in the right foreground was one of several scattered along the banks with every rod weight, action and price you could imagine!
When you can get out onto the water to try rods, take along as many rods as you can beg or borrow. Hey, it's a fine excuse to get one more day on the water and you'll learn a lot about what you like and don't like.