I'm reluctant to bring up the subject but I really feel uninformed. I started fly fishing over 60 years ago when my Shakespeare Wonderod was the state of the art. I still have it and my old bamboo Phillipson. My question is what are the physical differences in today's composite rods? I'm not looking for how well they work. I'd really like to know what are the differences in design properties like tapers, etc. Why does a new $500 rod cast better than a $100 version? I know there will be a difference in material quality and cosmetic esthetics but what are the Design Differences? :confused: Thanks
The following articles describe how fly rods are manufactured.
You mentioned material quality including the rod components and graphite flag as differences.
The main design components for the rod blank is the design of the mandrel and the shape of the flag. It is natural to assume the mandrel tapers from top to bottom with a consistent taper. One assumes that the taper of the hollow inside of the fly rod is consistent. That is NOT necessarily true. The outside taper of a fly rod may be different than the inside taper because of the shape of the main flag.
Fly rodders also assume that the graphite pre-preg cloth that is used for a fly rod is the same for each section of the fly rod. That is also NOT necessarily true. The designer chooses the pre-preg and different composites can be used for each section.
After the rod blank is baked and cured, it is released from the mandrel. After the cellophane tape is removed from the rod blank, spiral ridges of pre-preg resin remain on the rod blank and these must be sanded off. Almost all of the major rod manufacturers MACHINE SAND the rod blanks. Some high end rod builders like Burkheimer hand sand the blanks. Variation in how much material is removed form the blank can cause the rod blank to vary as much line wt.
I know that Jason Borger designed the mandrel and specified different graphite composites for different sections of his latest fly rod produced by Burkheimer.
I really can't answer in any technical way. The one thing that, or at last it seemed like for awhile, the different manufacturers tried was to get as close to a weightless rod as they could. I'd like to ask you, you wrote, " Why does a new $500 rod cast better than a $100 version?" Do you really think so? I've always been of the opinion that the caster makes the rod. Not the other way around. Example: I built a rod that on a very good day I might cast about 75 feet. I asked a friend, who is an excellent caster(teaches at the Wulff school) to cast the rod. He proceeded to lay out a cast of 123 feet. I can honestly use that figure because I measured it. So same rod, which by the way cost me less then $75 total, had dramatically different results when used by different casters. Oh, and he liked the rod too.
I think there is a rod taper out there to suit individual tastes for a given application in composite materials, and the rod may fall in any price range, Manufacturers who charge a higher premium for their rods, I venture to say, have more research and development invested in their tapers. The rest of the money you pay for is in the marketing of said product. 2 cts