Neil Travis - Mar 30, 2018

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 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 Anglers® 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 “perfect fly rod.” After 50+ years of fly fishing I have been blessed to have been able to use many, many different fly rods. Some of the rods were highly touted by the manufacturer but I did not like them, however many 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. Each of these examples is excellent examples of the rod maker’s art and each one 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.

So after all these years I have concluded that I have a perfect fly rod, in fact I have several perfect fly rods in my collection. Each one of those rods will allow me to cast a fly the distance necessary to catch a fish, and in the final assessment that is what a fly rod is designed to accomplish. I certainly favor some of them over others, which is personal preference, but any one of them could accomplish the task for which it was designed and built. Some of them were quite expensive and some of them only moderately so, but the price paid really has nothing to do with whether or not they can do what they were designed to do.

Fly rods, despite what the manufacturers might claim, are priced based upon what they believe the market place will accept and have precious little to do with how well that particular rod will perform the task of casting the line and fighting and landing the fish. This is especially true today when you compare all the various quality rods produced by the top manufacturers.

A more expensive fly rod will likely have a fancier reel seat and rod case and if this is important to you then by all means spend the extra money. Some rods have achieved a degree of “snob” appeal based on their name and if this is important to you then spend the money to own one. Some rods are endorsed by famous anglers and if this is important to you then purchase that rod. However, if none of this matters to you in the slightest then buy whatever rod suits your fancy and if it is one of the lower priced models with a standard reel seat and a plastic rod case and cloth sack fish it with pride. You’re really in a pretty large club.

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