Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Apr 2015

This past winter I found myself in a rod re-building stage, with a couple of rods going, and several being added. I use the word "several" mainly because while it's commonly used to denote "three", it remains vague enough to cover up the possibility of more than three. And vague is needed in a house where my wife walks into my den and squints at the far corner, obviously attempting to count the rod tubes leaning there. This rebuilding stage has been driven mainly by two things. First, my youngest son has decided that he likes fly fishing. And while he was previously using some of my rods, I felt he needed some of his own gear. So he now has 2 matching lower-end rods, a 9 foot 6 weight for bass, and an 8 foot 4 weight for trout. Both wear the same reels and are matching rods. Familiarity while learning is important in my opinion. Plus, I won't cringe when he drops one of mine down 10 feet of river rock. I mean, I love my son dearly but I do have my limits. I also got him a Tenkara rig, because he showed some interest in trying that too. Which is also an excuse for dad to try it as well, and we all know that an "excuse" is never to be wasted. So Jake is ready, with new waders and all. I'll give him the best start possible, and hope it takes.

The second reason for the re-building has to do with myself as a fly fisherman coming to grips with my own reality. Over the years I have bought and sold far too many rods. I've chased "performance" if you listen to the industry, always looking to find that better rod, or that butter-smooth drag on a perfectly machined reel. Yet in reality, the only constant in my past 50+ years has been my Orvis Far-and-Fine wearing a click-pawl reel. It is the one rod that fits perfectly in my hand, matches my casting stroke like an extension of my arm, and covers the waters I have most often haunted. It's the rod I still reach for 75% of the time. For me personally, the moniker of "Far-and-Fine" is the most accurate for that particular rod than any other in the industry. I know folks are doing back flips right now, slapping their foreheads and yelling at the monitor proclaiming my lack of mental capacity. But I'll repeat it. The original unsanded graphite 7 foot 9 inch 5 weight Far-and-Fine is trout water perfection. If I go by my first instincts "on the water" with a new rod, here's what I don't like. I do not like a stiff butt section. I like to feel the rod through the cork. I don't like a rod that is too light. There's a point where it begins to feel a bit too "whippy" in the hand. I don't like a rod to be too long. Anything over 8 feet for me begins to feel a little cumbersome. Admittedly, a 9 or 10footer is nice when strictly nymphing. But it's a very limited use rod for me personally. And I have a pet peeve; there is no such rod that is both "fast and progressive". Speed in fly rods comes at a cost. They may make a rod that is both "fast" and "more" progressive than some of their competition. But that's about as far as it goes. I've cast them and I admit it's an alluring concept. And I always leave disappointed. SO, coming to grips with me was an acceptance that I am quite frankly a glass and old graphite person. We fit each other. And I place the old Far-and-Fine as the benchmark for what I want. This would explain why I do not like many of the early glass rods, but truly love much of the newer generation glass we are seeing in the recent resurgence. Add to that fact the realization that I have been buying, trading and selling beautiful machined reels with wonderful high-end drag systems, and for one reason I am impressed by the craftsmanship. Since I have not put a single fish on the reel that I am capable of remembering, that was hooked in freshwater. I can only come to the conclusion that it isn't due to the function of the reel because I don't use it. I manage my line by hand and palm my reel. So, this winter found me again, buying, selling and trading to refit my reels to better fit me. Reels that sing on hook set with a simple click-pawl as the musical instrument.

This brings me back to the title of this article - Far-and-Fine. How often is it that we chase the industry looking for a better this-or-that only to look back in realization and regret that we ever let go of that old rod or reel. I read it on blogs and forum posts all the time. It's always a common theme. I've been there, I know first-hand. I had bought a mid-80's Far-and-Fine only to trade it away for a new Henry's Fork, which I sold to buy a new generation Sage. Then I sold my Trout model for a fast taper bass rod, which I also no longer own. Add to that many years later and a lot more rods, and the fact still remains. I regret ever letting go of any of the old Superfine rods. That's why some time ago, when Orvis dropped their unsanded line, I panicked. And my wife, God love her, stepped up and called the Orvis custom shop and asked if they still had any of those "far and something unsanded blanks left"? It turned out they did, and she had them build me one more to the original specs of the year I liked most. How lucky can a guy get? Since then I've searched for near mint replacements for the others everywhere I get a chance. I've replaced the Trout with a Marbury 8 foot 6weight, and my old Brook Trout is back. And if I can talk my brother into selling me back my old Henry's Fork, I will be just about there. But in 20 years he has yet to budge on that option and he's still fishing it. I guess he found his favorite rod as well.


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