Can you imagine being on wonderful water, fish everywhere, you hook into a dandy
and bang ... your rod just broke? If you aren't fishing next to a fly shop you are probably
out of business. Some fishers carry at spare rod. You really shouldn't need to.
What do you think is the number one reason a rod breaks? Nope, it isn't smashing it
in a car door, or the trunk either. And it is not because the manufacturer screwed up. The
answer is, either you stepped on it, or the rod sections were put together incorrectly.
Here is how to avoid this biggie; with the rod grip in your hand, see where the guides on
the butt section are. Join the next section by misaligning it.
With a 3-piece rod, assemble the tip to the middle section first, then join that to the
butt section, using the following instructions. With a 2-piece rod, align the guides of the
tip 90 degrees from the guides of the butt section. A firm pull and twist will properly
assemble the rod. Do not jam or force the sections together. If you are doing a lot of
casting, check the rod occasionally to make sure the sections still are firmly joined.
An old wives tale on assembling
rods was to wipe the male ferrules
across the side of your nose. This was
supposed to impart a little oil on the
ferrule and make it easier to put
together - or take apart. Unfortunately
the salt from your body in that oil
encouraged corrosion. Today's rods are
usually graphite, or a graphite
composition, and preferred method is to
rub a little wax (from a candle) on the
male sections of the rod.
You can get in trouble taking a rod
apart if you get dirt or sand into the
fittings, or if you leave a rod in the really
hot sun and the epoxy softens. A
half-hour visit to your freezer might help
on those two; maybe.
Next, most rods broken in fishing are not in the butt section, but the tip. Two things
are suspect in these instances. If you hit the tip section of your rod with your fly, the hook
will damage the rod. Once is probably not enough to weaken the tip, but if this is a
common occurrence with you, you might check into a casting class and fix the problem. Or
figure the manufacturer owes you a new tip, because you abused the rod? Wrong. By the
way, manufacturers see everything possible in rod breakage. They know exactly what you
Here is the really big one, and why. Most folks getting into fly fishing come from
some other form of fishing. It's rare that people who have never fished for anything decide
they would like to try fly fishing. Those who have cast bait or spinning rods have used
rods that are very flexible. At one time I think someone tried to tie an Ugly Stik into a
knot. Those rods, and other rods that are fiberglass, have a thicker rod wall. And they are
made to really bend.
Fly rods will bend ... some. Depending on the stiffness of the rod, they still will not
bend anything like a spinning rod. They are not designed to bend like mad - they are
designed to cast a line. The stiffer the rod, the "faster" the rod recovers. "Recover"
means the rod goes back to its normal round shape after being compressed to an oval
when it bends (or loads) to make the cast. Take a drinking straw and bend it as if it were a
fly rod and see what happens for yourself.
When you cast you are primarily using the tip of your rod. On really long casts you will
use more of the rod. The designers of rods figure the tip section as the work horse of
casting, and the remaining 2/3's of the rod for playing and landing the fish. The problem
shows up when fisherman try to play or land the fish with the tip of the rod. Crunch!
How do you play a fish with the
lower or butt section? Think of the rod
as a lever - which it is, and instead of
keeping the tip up, apply pressure to
the butt section by keeping the tip
down. (There is always an exception to
everything, and on small fish keeping
the tip up is all right.) The further up the
grip - (or worse yet on the shaft of the
rod itself,) your hand is - the more you
engage the TIP.
Yes, I know some rods had an extra grip above the normal grip for fighting big fish,
(called a fighting grip,) but, and this is a big but, those grips were originally designed for
big fiberglass rods. Not for graphite. If you have a graphite or graphite composite rod with
a fighting grip, take the rod to your favorite fly shop and ask them to remove the
Some better rods have a "fighting butt" which is a small extension that screws into
the butt section, allowing the use of two hands for fighting a big fish. If you again think of
the rod as a lever, the fighting butt will make more use of the proper place to be fighting
the fish - the butt section.
One more thing, the angle of the rod should never be beyond 70 degrees from
horizontal. Again, keep your rod low, apply pressure in the opposite direction the fish is
headed. When the fish is finally at the point of being landed, keep the rod tip low, not with
a big bend in the tip. If someone is helping you land the fish, take a backward step instead
of flexing the rod more.
A final piece of insurance, if you use a rod tube to store or transport your rods, the
last thing you should see before you close the case is the grip of the butt section and the
tip-top. The grip helps protect the tip top rather than letting it rattle and bounce off the
bottom of the case. If a cloth bag is part of your ritual, dry your rod before inserting it into
the bag. Nothing more disheartening than opening up a rod case and recognizing the smell
of mildew. Not only does the bag rot, the cork can mildew too. Yuck! It wouldn't hurt to
wash the whole works once in a while either.
The payoff for a little attention on your part is preserving your rod, which will serve
you many years without the frustration of having to buy a new one - or replace one that
may no longer be available. ~ The LadyFisher
If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to
post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!