The Three Components of Feel
By W. Wm. "Dr. Bill" Hanneman

1. Casting
Feel is like art, we can't explain exactly what it is, but we can recognize it when it see or experience it. However, relative to each of our personal subjective standards, we can differentiate between better and worse - because we have experience.

The neophyte trout anglers, having no experience and consequently no concept whatsoever of this nebulous thing we anglers call feel, is often advised to purchase a moderate-fast action rod for an AFTMA No. 5 line, and learn to cast. This is good advice.

With a balanced outfit, our neophyte will ultimately develop a casting stroke which provides him with the greatest pleasure. Had he started with a mismatched outfit, he would also have adopted a stroke which would provide him the greatest pleasure. However, these two strokes would be significantly different.

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. The casting stroke he develops can subconsciously influence his actions for the remainder of his life.

If he never touches another rod, he may be forever happy. However, the moment he casts another rod, he gains experience and is introduced into the concept of feel. He subjectively either likes or dislikes the second rod relative to his original. Unfortunately, for him but not fly rod dealers, he may become launched on a lifetime quest for the rod with the perfect feel.

2. Rod Loading

When considering the purchase of a new rod, after specifying its length, weight, strength and materials of construction, the most important factor for the angler is feel. However, due to financial constraints, no dealer has more than a few rods meeting these specifications from which he must choose. Therefore, the dealer must take the rods he has and try to adjust their feel to please the customer.

He can do this only by using different lines to change the rod loading. This in turn affects the response or recovery rate of the tip (resonant frequency if you will). Although many consider this a means of changing the action of a rod, it isn't. The action of a rod is an intrinsic property of that rod.

If adjusting the line improves the feel sufficiently, the angler might purchase that rod and line. However, he will never be certain if he has found the perfect feel or just the least offensive of his available choices. If he wishes to stay happy, he should not check out any more rods.

3. The Rod Itself

If the intrinsic properties of two rods are identical, they will produce identical feels under any circumstance. Of course, what that feel "is" will be different for each individual anglers due to the two factors discussed above.

One can be happy with any rod - especially if the fishing is good. However, consider these two scenarios:

    1. Your favorite rod, which is no longer being produced, is suddenly broken and you want to duplicate it.

    2. Your best friend likes the feel of your old rod and you would like to make him a present of one having the same feel.

What do you do?

In the first case, you are in a heap of trouble. You may spend the rest of your life in a vain search for a new rod with the same feel. You have my sympathies.

In the second case, you simply take you present rod to a qualified rod builder and ask him to duplicate it.

By using the CCS he can take your rod and develop a template defining the intrinsic properties or feel of your rod. It is called creating The Big Picture. With that picture, he could determine whether or not your rod's feel is duplicated by some current manufacturer's model or whether he can duplicate it by using the building materials currently available.

If your rod cannot be duplicated exactly, he can give you an idea of how close he can come to matching your rod's feel and what differences you might expect to notice in a replacement.

In any event, if you really like the feel of your present rod, you could do well by having someone, or even yourself, develop The Big Picture for your rod. The, if anything should ever happen to it, you will have an objective description of its feel. ~ Dr. Bill

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