Ladyfisher

This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

September 9th, 2002

In Search of the Perfect Rod


Where you fish, the experience you have as a fly fisher and your specific needs at any given point in your fly fishing life, dictate what you 'need' for a fly rod. Cost of rods and budget may also control what you can afford to spend on a rod.

We have friends who fish very old rods, some old fiberglass, some early graphite, and others who fish a variety of old and current bamboo. Others search for the perfect 'new' casting tool to make their fishing easier, more accurate or just plain more fun.

I started out casting my grandfathers telescopic steel rod - it was one of the 'better' ones, it was hexagon which meant the line didn't go around it as it twisted when cast. Later I fished my dad's bamboo rod, I have no idea what it was, but it sure was a big improvement over the steel one, anything would have been.

I've gone through a variety of rods over the years and some stand out. The Scientific Anglers System rods, which had matching reels balanced to make a good outfit (I would still take a 4 wt if one was laying around today). I've owned a few Orvis rods, my favorite, which I still have, was their first graphite they produced. Designed by Jim Payne it is the Far and Fine, mine is a little 5 wt. About that same time I bought a 3 wt bamboo super parabolic Pezon et Michel which was absolutely perfect for Montana's Spring Creeks.

When we moved from Montana to the Pacific Northwest I was lost. The saltwater of Hood Canal is 3 or 4 minutes out my front door, and I didn't own one rod suitable for fishing the salt. And I didn't much like the idea of fishing salmon when I really liked fishing dry flies for trout. So for a couple of years the only fishing we did was on trips back to Montana.

Eventually my husband, JC and I bought bigger rods and embarked on fly fishing saltwater and especially fishing for salmon. That 'big' rod for me was a 7wt, G. Loomis IMX. At the time it really was a big rod. I'd been fishing 3 and 4 wt rods. The 7 wt felt like a club. Loomis was not a 'name' brand in Montana like Orvis, but we accepted the advice of a friend and took on the learning process. It didn't take too long to realize the 7 wt wasn't quite big enough, and the change was made to 8 weight rods for both of us. More G. Loomis IMX rods.

You get the picture I'm sure. Different situations call for different rods and of course personal taste and casting style gets into the whole equation as well.

At a FFF Conclave in Montana a few years ago we discovered our first Gatti rod. We tracked down the importer and we've fished several of the Gatti rods with great pleasure. They are super casting tools and we recommend them highly. They filled our needs (and wants) and did the job for us - in several weights, lengths and models - for trout as well as salmon. They are manufactured in Italy, and while there is a US importer and distributor, the Gatti name will never be as known as G. Loomis or Sage or Orvis. The European manufactures just don't spend the bucks to advertise in the manner we've become accustomed to in this country. Without the advertising (the fly shops call it "dealer support") the fly shops aren't going to put the rods in their shops.

Is it the perfect rod? Maybe. It certainly was the best I had cast at the time... for me. If I had not cast any other rod, then what? Ah, now there's the question. I may have just accepted this was how rods were supposed to cast. (The first Gatti I cast was a 6 wt.) But since I did have past experience and a frame of reference, I knew other rods didn't cast as well or feel the same.

As I mentioned, your personal, specific needs in a rod may make your choice of a fly rod different from mine. If you are fishing short casts, delicate presentation your needs are quite different from mine here on the coast. I need a rod which will cast distances of 80 feet with a big fly without collapsing. One which won't kill my arm, or give me a sore thumb from forcing the cast at the end of the day. That's a far cry from what most people fish. An 8 weight rod is not an option here, it is a necessity.

I do have other favorite rods which I fish for trout, and my requirements probably aren't much different from yours, but trout are not out my front door.

If you can't make a long cast you can't reach where the salmon are. The cast is made and the fly is stripped back in mimicking the action of whatever baitfish one is trying to duplicate. The easier the casting, the less time spent making the cast - thus your fly is in the water longer. Fishing any big rod is tiring, but having to make extra false casts to get line out to where it needs to be is an added energy burner. Try doing that for a few hours, especially when you are my age - remember I'm older than dirt.

So what happens when I cast a new rod? Am I still looking for a better - 'perfect' rod? And how do I compare it? For me, it is a comparison to the best rod I own for salmon, (which is also my bonefish rod.) That is the Gatti 908 3PA, a nine-foot, 8 weight progressive action rod.

We have a new rod here. We've both cast it, and Friday JC took it out and fished it for salmon. The search may be over. Read the James Castwell column here. ~ LadyFisher

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