Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Jan 15, 2018

As with everything within the fly fishing community, we all strive for “perfection” in our equipment, searching for that piece of gear that best compliments a given fisherman’s style or technique. We are all different in tastes, from rod, reel & line, down to our vest-hung accouterments. All are in search of the perfect rod, reel, nipper, etc. We buy, try, sell and trade throughout the process, looking for the perfect fit. Usually we all seem to find what we like. Yet what about the commercial side of the fly fishing world, as rod companies strive for that golden nugget that will gain them the coveted “market share” they all seek in order to remain afloat? It seems these days that rod models change yearly in many cases. If you like a model, best grab it fast because in less than 2 years it could be gone completely and no longer made.

But what happens when a company nails it? When a rod or rod line is perfect? And how would you know? A rod being perfect isn’t judged by what initial sales are. A perfect rod would not surface for years, or perhaps even generations since usage over time is the only true factor. And once it is discovered….what does that company do about it? Do they recreate it? Use new technology to almost recreate it….only “better” by marketing standards? Or do they spend years trying to figure it out? Some may feel, that scenario will never happen. But from these waders it already has, and is playing out to this day in the world of Graphite rods.

In 1975 Orvis unveiled their original “Superfine” series graphite fly rod. Marketed to have “bamboo-like cast and feel”, It was a 2-piece 6wt unsanded grey blank in both an 8 foot and a 7’6” model. The final 8 foot 6weight rod would eventually be named the Superfine “Trout”. And thus, a legacy began to unfold. That original line of 2-piece unsanded graphite would spawn a full line of trout rods, with each one gaining a following of their own. Tapers came and went over the years. There was also a “Western” line which also did well, with slightly faster tapers.

The original lines Patriarch was the 8 foot 6weight Trout, but it was the next 2 rods to follow in my opinion where Orvis nailed it. They designed the 7’9” 5 weight Far-and-Fine and the 8’3” 7 weight All-Rounder. Both rods built with the butt-section 3 inch shorter than the tip. These 2 rods set themselves aside from all the others both in cast and versatility. They are different. A simple 3 inch offset being the only common denominator. They are light even by today’s standards, are extremely easy to cast, soft enough to protect tippets and one of the strongest rods you will find including today’s materials. The versatility of these 2 models not only covers nearly the entire spectrum of freshwater lines, but they do it casting effortlessly even when over-or-underlined.

These two anomalies eventually gave way to the faster tapers and smooth finishes the industry embraces today, assuming declining sales were the driving force for their discontinuation. Yet 43 years later both rods have a strong following in both cold and warm water applications. Orvis has chased sales with several different variations of the Superfine line, all of which were aimed at selling a more modern and slightly faster version. They moved to the “Troutbum” marketing tool to adjust it for a while. And then most recently brought back unsanded blanks and softer actions. The only thing missing is a willingness to revive the actual models with the same tapers and ferule design. You can’t compliment, or hope to improve perfection with “almost like”. A three generations removed cult-like following still going strong speaks for itself. Well....at least in my opinion it does.

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