September 30th, 2002

Fig Newton
By James Castwell

According to 'Fig Newton,' "Things what is movin' tends ter stay doin' it." At least that is about the gist of what I remember from high-school physics. And "stuff that isn't moving, don't want to either." I think you get the idea now. How does this figure into fly-fishing? Casting, that's how.

I got all tangled up in a bit of accidental research lately; you know me, trying out new rods just to see how they work. I won't give you brand names here, they really don't figure into how this all comes out, the general results seem to apply across the board covering most graphite fly rods. It may even apply to spinning rods (whatever they are) but I have no way of knowing.

It started when I wanted to 'check out' a nine foot, six-weight rod. I was interested in a nice strong one, not necessarily a fast one, a strong, powerful rod. I obtained one which I will say (for comparison sake) was listed as weighing four ounces, the weight was even written on the rod. It cast alright, but was just not the stick I was after. I am prejudice in favor of three-piece rods and felt this rod may be close to what I was looking for. But, darn it, it just felt sluggish, a bit slow, and heavy. That was the thing that impressed me the most, it felt heavy in 'hand.'

So, from the same company, I got another rod, one that was supposed to be even stronger, (a four piece rod) but, it weighed exactly the same, again written on the rod. Now, with both rods I was able to do some comparison testing. Taking one in each hand, without any reel or line on them, and giving them a 'whump' (ventricle flex) I was able to quickly and easily see a great difference between the two. The four-piece was a lot firmer, stouter and more powerful. Again, same length, line weight and weight written on the rod. In a casting test, side by side, there was a remarkable difference.

Some may have preferred the three piece, but not me, the four was far stronger and laid out a line without having to 'finesse' the cast. And the four piece felt 'lighter' in my hand too. That is where all the problems got started. I weighed them both.

One had a nob (the three piece) on the butt and was mostly for salt water I guess, the other had a more tapered (half-wells) cork and no nob. It weighed less. It weighed 5/16 of an ounce less, that's over a quarter of an ounce less. Big deal, right? Yes! I asked my wife (she had been involved in all of this, of course) if we could tell that slight difference in two rods, had we been at this so long that we could actually notice it. She said, looks like we just had.

I had another rod, same length, line weight (nine foot, six weight), weighed it too. It came in almost a full ounce less than the three piece rod. So, in three rods, all the same length and line weight there was almost a full ounce difference. Now, an ounce is not much, but when you figure that one of the rods weighed almost 25% less than the heaviest of the other two, you do have something to consider.

Will swinging a full ounce all day make much difference? Yes it will, but for several reason, not just the added ounce. You are not just holding that ounce up, you have to get it moving forward, then stop it, then get it moving back and stop it, and, and, and...all day long. Now that does add up. The heavier rod, being a bit harder to stop, will take more effort to cast a tight loop, (in both directions remember), it will tire you faster, again effecting your loops and control. Is this still of any real importance to you? Yes, and here is why.

It is a generally accepted fact, the less-expensive rods tend to weigh more than the better rods of the same length and line weight. Simply put, it does seem that the more you pay for a rod, the lighter it may be. That is what is important to all of us. It does not matter too much if you like a fast, medium or slow rod, for the most part, the better ones will weigh less and will perform more easily in the scope of things. (Some of you may wish to print this out and past it on the refrigerator for the spouse to see remove this part though, just use what works for your situation).

Some may say that a cheap rod will catch fish just as well as a more expensive one. Well, in some ways I suppose that is true, but in other situations, I will take the better rod, (the lighter one, thank you) I will be able to fish longer, cast better, have more control and of course...catch a lot more big ones.

PS: Oh yes, those two rods, the three and the four piece that were marked at the same weight on the rod, but one weighed 5/16 of an ounce more? I called the company. Since all rods are made by hand, variations can occur and the weight written on the rods is an average, to be used for comparison only. A quarter of an ounce is well within the range of tolerance. Hmmm... ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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