How To Fish Stillwaters

April 28th, 2003

Stillwaters, lakes, ponds and reservoirs are the most underutilized fisheries in the North America. Why? Because the average fly fisher doesn't know how to fish them, or where to start. Marv Taylor has a wealth of experience in this area and volunteered to write a weekly column to take the mystery out of fishing stillwaters. Stay tuned, you too can master stillwaters! ~ LadyFisher


Fishing Those New, Lighter High-Modulus Fly Rods

By Marv Taylor, Garden City, ID

Almost every time I write about fly rods, some manufacturer comes up with improvements in materials and/or designs that make my current recommendations (almost) obsolete. It happened when in my second book, Float-Tubing The West, I advised readers on my current preferences in fly rods. I was very happy with my current equipment, but in order to firm up my opinions, I had ordered two new high-modulus graphite models prior to book publication (Loomis' GLX rods). Unfortunately, the delivery date was set back, the manufacturer was having trouble obtaining materials to build the rods, and I wasn't able to field test them before my book's publication date.

I had cast the new rods, and I knew I would be happy with them. But until I had received the rods and fished them, I couldn't in good conscience write about them in my book. I didn't have any idea how much they would improve my casting efficiency, and just how much they would improve my enjoyment of the sport of fly fishing.

As it turned out, I do like the newer high-modulus rods, and I am now making routine 50 and 60 foot casts with about 75-percent the effort required by my old rods (which included some top name fly rods).

The first thing Loomis did in designing these new rods, was develop a new graphite material that allowed them to design a stronger, lighter fly rod with a slimmer profile. While I have owned two their previous generation fly rods for several years, and was perfectly happy with them, the new rods are lighter, much more powerful, and extremely sensitive. Many other upper-end manufacturers now also have high-modulus graphite fly rods in the $500 to $600 range that compete with G. Loomis.

ARE THE NEW HIGHER MODULUS RODS WORTH THE HIGHER PRICE

While there are certainly more $50 to $200 graphite fly rods sold today than these upper end rods, hardcore fly rodders all over the country are shelling out amounts up to $600 (and more) for these new higher modulus rods. Are they really worth that kind of money? Maybe yes...maybe no. It depends, to a large degree, on the angler's priorities when it comes to spending money.

A better question would be to ask whether or not higher modulus fly rods are here to stay; and will anglers who spend big money upgrading to the more expensive fly rods catch more fish?

Yes to both questions (if the angler is a reasonably proficient caster). The angler should always spend as much for his new graphite fly rod as he can afford. A rod costing $600 will (usually) be easier to cast long, tight loops with than a $300 rod. The $300 rod should outperform the $100 rod. A rule of thumb: The more expensive rod will almost always be more pleasant on the eyes and the hands.

An assumption, therefore, can be made that the $300 rod is twice as efficient as the $100 rod, and that a $600 fly rod will automatically make a great caster out of someone who is only a mediocre fly caster with the less expensive equipment.

Not so. While there can be little argument that the more expensive rods are more pleasing to handle than the cheaper rods, by themselves they won't make a great caster out of a poor caster, and they sure won't guarantee fish for the person who already has trouble figuring out how to fool fish. (Let's face it...Lefty could beat most of us if he had a broom stick for a fly rod).

One doesn't need expensive fly rods to catch fish. An analogy might be drawn between the big game hunter who carries an old army surplus ought-six and always skillfully bags his game; and "old deep-pockets" who owns a $2,000 rifle, a $1,000 scope, and doesn't know an elk track from a camel track.

Over the past 15 or 20 years the quality of the graphite fly rods being offered has improved dramatically. Some rods now being marketed in the $100 range are better than the rods we paid more than $250 for 20 years ago.

MY FLY ROD COLLECTION

Three rods make up the heart of my trout fishing arsenal. The first is an 8-foot 3-inch, 4-weight Powell IM6 (called the Silver Creek). This relatively soft-action rod is ideal for fishing small trout nymphs on light tippets. I also use the rod a great deal in my bluegill fishing.

My next two rods are G.Loomis' GLX high-modulus rods. The first is a 9-foot, 4-weight rod that will handle everything from a double taper 3 line to a weight-forward 5 (at one time fly rods were designated with two line recommendations. The first number was for the double taper, the second for weight forward).

My second GLX is a 9-foot, 6-weight rod that I use with my 6- and 7-weight lines. I tend to over-load my rods one line size. It helps to load the rods for windy conditions. It also makes shorter casts more efficient (you have a bit more weight in the taper, therefore loads the rod better on short casts). I also own an 8-weight Loomis GL3, which I use mostly for bass poppers.

I also own two Sages (an 8-foot 5/6 weight, and an 8 foot 6/7-weight); and several other 8- and 9-weight rods that I use for bass and steelhead. They include a Browning Boron, a Fenwick World Class, and another early Sage.

I have cast, and have considered buying a 2- or 3-weight rod. I think it might be valuable as a bluegill and small stream trout rod. I do have a problem with them, if they are used for larger trout. One of my early mentors, legendary Ted Trueblood, taught me to use tackle heavy enough to land fish as quickly as possible. He felt the very light fly rods and ultra-light spinning equipment were not sporting on large fish. He felt they might cause too much stress when over-playing fish.

I once wrote a newspaper column about landing a six-pound wild steelhead on an ultra-light spinning rod, with 2-pound monofilament. I did it to win a bet and it took nearly an hour to land the fish. Ted wrote me a very critical letter about my column. He felt I had done a disservice to my readers by encouraging them to emulate my "poor judgement." By nature, Ted was a truly "gentle" man; but he had no trouble sounding off when he felt you were on the wrong side of an issue.

I may one day purchase one of the lighter fly rods. In the meantime, I enjoy fishing my 4- and 5-weight rods. Since I fish very few small streams, I can't justify the cost of the rod, reel, and lines, I would need to buy to fish the few small creeks I do fish.

During my early years of accumulating fly rods, I had to talk long and hard before I could convince the chairperson of the board that we should invest our assets in something we couldn't eat, wear, drive, or live in. After a few years I had accumulated 9 or 10 fairly inexpensive fly rods. When I had saved up enough in my "hobby kitty" for a new rod I had been eye-balling, I would buy it and sneak it into my office by the dark of night, replacing the rod I had the least use for.

All my wife knows about my fly rods is that I have a stack of about a dozen standing in the corner of my office. She has absolutely no idea that, in the past 30 years, the value of that stack of rods has increased from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. Am I afraid this column might give me away? Naw...my wife never reads my columns (I've got an entire column written on that subject)...Vina's only interest in fly fishing, is that the books and newspaper columns I write, somehow, for one weird reason or another (her words), helps pay the grocery bills.

A question that I'm asked all the time is: What is the perfect float tube fly rod? My answer might be considered a cop out. There is no perfect float tube rod. Some manufacturers label their 9 - to 10 -foot rods "float tube rods." They might be...for some tubers.

I broke into tubing before graphite came on line and the only way we could get the light rods we wanted in the '60s and early '70s, was to buy the best quality 8-foot fiberglass blanks we could find, and shorten them by a foot or so. I, therefore, learned to float tube with 6 - to 7-foot fiberglass rods. At times I still feel my 9-foot fly rods are longer than I need.

I won't, therefore, designate any one rod length or line size as "perfect." I think the two Loomis GLX's mentioned in this column are (probably) perfect for my needs. I tend to be a little fast on the trigger, so the GLX action fits me like a glove. The 4-wt works for me when I'm fishing a typical trout lake where the largest trout might be 4- or 5-pounds. When I'm fishing Pyramid Lake, Henry's Lake, or one of Montana's Blackfeet Indian Reservation Lakes, where I might run into fish in the 5- to 15-pound range, I use the 6-weight. ~ Marv

About Marv

Float-Tubing The West, The Successful Angler's Journal, More Fragments of the Puzzle, (Volume I) and More Fragments of the Puzzle, (Volume II) are all available from Marv. You can reach Marv by email at marvtroutman@juno.com or by phone: 208-322-5760.

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