I love fly rods! I enjoy looking at them, wiggling them,
inspecting them, casting them and best of all fishing them.
There are tons of very good fly rods on the market, all
depending of course on your particular desires and needs.
I guess 'wants' goes into that mix as well.
If you fish small streams with tight cover for picture
perfect little jeweled brookies, and I fish heavy western
waters for big brown trout, chances are we aren't going
to have the same 'needs' in a rod.
So what one sees as their choice for a rod depends on what
they fish for, the conditions, as well as length and weight
of the rod. What else? I like a rod that looks nice, I
expect the wraps to be well done, a reel seat which is more
than just functional, good quality cork, and the shape of
the grip needs to fit the use of the rod. A full-wells grip,
in my opinion, ought to be reserved for 8 weight and up rods.
The same for fighting butts, one on a 6 wt seems awkward to
say the least.
I personally want a rod which is light in hand. I tend
not to fish just for a few minutes, if I'm going fishing,
I'm going to fish - hopefully for hours or days.
What about action? I like a progressive action rod. I've
owned just about every rod action one could imagine, from
telescopic steel (slow), old bad cane (very slow), Orvis
cane (slow) Pezon & Michel cane (parabolic medium), fiberglass
from the old Scientific Anglers System Series rods to newer
Lamiglas, (all medium) to the first of the graphite, Orvis
Far and Fine, (medium fast) to the G.Loomis IMX and GLX (fast)
and the super smooth Gatti rods, (progressive to very fast).
So what? Frankly, they all did/do their job. They are casting
tools which deliver a fly line, leader and fly to a specific
There is another consideration. Cost. If you are brand
spanking new to fly fishing you can purchase a good rod for $50.
It may not have great cosmetics, or smaller or larger guides,
the cork may not be super - but the rod will do the job. Once
basic casting is learned - (and I don't mean to insult anyone,
but about 80% of fly fishers could stand to greatly improve
their casting, which would greatly improve the quality of their
fishing and catching) then when the spirit moves you to buy a
different rod, you will have the knowledge to choose the next
rod with some idea of what you expect it to do in your specific
fishing. Trust me, as you improve your casting you will want
You can't pick a rod by someone's 'test' or an article comparing
rods. There is no test possible which could be scientific enough
if it is based on people casting rods and giving them points for
various things. Every caster and fly fisher is different.
Even if the testing was done by identical twins, there would
still be muscle and mental differences which affect their
casting ability and thus their view/opinion of a rods
performance. Such tests are very misleading and just plain
You may have noticed we have some rods in our Product Review
section. (Along with lots of other goodies.) We usually
try and let you know exactly what was done with a rod,
including if it was fished - which is the ultimate test of
any rod. A rod may not make the longest cast, but it may
fish wonderfully! We do try and let you know what may be
available, what is new, and if it lives up to the claims
made for it.
Let's take it a step further.
A rod shows up here at FAOL. It is carefully unwrapped, the
packaging saved (since in most cases the rod will be
returned - at our expense I might add) and the rod pieces
are laid out on the kitchen table where there is good light.
The rod is inspected. Are the pieces straight? Are the
guides straight and the wraps appropriate, the feet of the
guides all covered, no cracks in the thread wraps? Is the
epoxy finish even and smoothly applied, no bubbles? How
is the quality of the cork? If of lesser quality have
holes been filled and nicely sanded? Is there a winding
check? Is the tip-top on straight? Is the color of the
various pieces of the rod blank itself the same?
Assemble the rod, putting a little candle wax on the ferrules
first. (If indoors, turn off the overhead fan
first.) Does the rod line up straight?
Find a reel with the correct or recommended line for the
rod. (We usually use a Royal Wulff Triangle Taper line for this.)
Take it outside.
Line the rod and pull off about 30 feet of line, (with leader
and yarn fly). Make several casts with just the 30 feet of
line. (One hand only, no double-hauling here.) Tip cast
the rod and see if one can obtain a nice tight loop with the
30 feet of line, consistently for a half dozen casts. Next,
check for accuracy at the 30 foot and shorter distances. Does the
rod load at the shorter distances?
Then we work our way out in about 10 foot increments, watching
the rod as it loads and checking for loop control. Does it
take more effort to keep the same size or type of loop?
Finally strip off the remainer of the fly line from the reel
and see how far the rod will cast and if it overloads and will
not deliver a cast. You can cast a whole line with almost any
rod, however getting the leader to roll out and deliver the
cast is another story. Can the same loop be maintained?
You may never need to cast 60 or 80 feet. BUT if the rod
doesn't have the strength (backbone) to cast very far, it
also won't cast in a wind situation at lesser distances.
And there are few places where one doesn't
run into wind on the water sometime.
If we have the opportunity to cast the rod on the water,
how it roll casts and mends line is also checked.
That is how JC and I 'test' a rod. A bit more here - if a
rod manufacturer offers to send us a rod to try, we ask for
a 6 wt., 9 ft. That has become our 'standard' for comparing
rods. It isn't possible to compare a 3 wt to a 5 wt. After
years of doing it this way, we have some expectations on what
a 6 wt rod should do.
To my way of thinking, buying a new rod, another rod, is not
a status symbol. Having the 'best' or 'most expensive' rod
on the market doesn't mean a thing. Who makes the
determination of what is 'best?' How that rod does the
job you need done is the first consideration. Everything
after that is gravy. It certainly can't hurt to set some
standards of performance for any rod you may be interested
Is our method something you can follow? Only maybe.
The final proof of any rod is how it casts for you and
how it fishes.
If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to
post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!