Neil Travis - Apr 3, 2016

I always enjoy scanning the threads that are posted on the FAOL bulletin board. It provides me with a sense of what is on the minds of our readers. There are several reoccurring themes; mostly ones that really do not have an answer that will satisfy everyone. One of those recent themes involves fly rods; are more expensive rods worth the cost? These discussions take me back nearly 50 years to when I first started conducting fly fishing clinics with the late JC.

JC and I started doing fly fishing clinics in Michigan back in the late 60's. We were both doing field work for Scientific AnglersĀ® and they supplied us with a full range of rods, reels and lines to use for our clinics. The format for these clinics was simple. We would obtain the use of a high school gymnasium on a Saturday. We encouraged people to bring their fly fishing equipment but we always had rods for people to use if they did not have their own. Jim would start out by demonstrating proper fly casting technique and then we would work with individuals. One of the first questions that many of the participants would ask was if they thought they should purchase a "better" fly rod. JC was always quick to point out that the ability to cast had less to do with the equipment and more to do with the caster's technique. To demonstrate the reality of that statement JC produced "The Broom Rod."

Many of our older readers that attended some of the Fish-ins that FAOL sponsored and they saw JC use a broom rod. JC got very good at casting with the broom rod and the point was that it's not the rod that makes the caster. The broom rod demonstrated that a good caster can cast using a broom for a rod, a good caster can cast accurately with a broom, a good caster can distance cast with a broom, but no one, including a good caster, would prefer to do any of those things on a regular basis using a broom for a fly rod. In addition, a good caster can "cast" with a broom rod but there is a great different between casting with a broom and actually fishing with a broom. I saw Lefty Kreh cast an entire fly line using only his hand but Lefty never suggested that he would forgo using a fly rod when he was actually fishing. I have watched my old friend Gary Borger demonstrate proper fly casting techniques using only the top section of a fly rod. Gary can make perfect casts using just this one part of a complete fly rod but he would never suggest that a person should actually use the top section of a fly rod for actual fishing.

All of this brings me back to the discussion about the place that price has to do with when considering the purchase of a fly rod." After 50+ years of fly fishing I have been blessed to have been able to use many, many different fly rods, many of them very expensive models. Some were highly touted by the manufacturer but I did not like them; however other anglers found them to be great. My current collection consists of several top drawer bamboo rods, and numerous glass and graphite rods from one weight to eight weights. They are rods that I use to fish for trout and warm water fish. Each of them are excellent examples of the rod maker's art and each of them, in the hands of a capable fly caster, will serve admirably. For the purpose for which they were designed they are "perfect" however my collection of fly rods might fall short of another person's ideal of a collection of perfect fly rods.

All of the bamboo models were "high" priced when they were purchased and in the current market they are all valued at far more than I paid for them when they were new. It has been several years since I added a new rod to my collection since all the rods that I currently own will still be serviceable long after I can no longer use them. I did not think that any of the glass or graphite rods in my collection were inexpensive when I purchased them but they were all inexpensive when compared to the rods that are being sold today, and none of them would sell for much in today's market.. Old glass and graphite rods do not hold their value since the rod makers are continually producing "new and improved models."

Someone has said that the difference between a fly rod that costs eight hundred dollars and one that costs two hundred dollars is six hundred dollars. Among the rods produced and sold by any of the recognized rod makers, when it comes to fish-ability that is absolutely true. However, the bottom line in this discussion is that if you believe that a rod that costs eight hundred dollars is a better rod than one costing two hundred dollars, if you have the means to purchase one get it.

Is a more expensive rod a better rod than on that is less expensive? It's one of those questions that anglers will still be debating until we no longer fish with fly rods. Back in the day when JC and I were when asked the question about less expensive versus more expensive rods JC had a stock answer. "If you are convinced that a more expensive rod will make you a better caster and improve your ability to catch more fish, then by all means purchase one. Then, when you still can't cast and you are not catching more fish than you did with your old equipment, at least you will know that it's not the fault of the equipment."

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