February 26th, 2007

Should I Buy a New Rod?
By James Castwell


I get a lot of email. Pretty much all about the same things. As you may imagine, business related items, offers, comments and questions from the readers here. Most do not require an answer, a few do. This next one, or at least the main contents, just seemed to stand out for me. Somehow there seemed to be a whole lifetime of fly fishing all wrapped up and stuffed into the few short lines. It came in from a reader in Alaska which may have something to do with the vain and. . . well, you will make your own conclusions as we continue.

He starts out with, "I've fished with a fly rod for more than thirty years." That's it. Straight. Hard. Cold facts. Good writing style. I can assume a lot from that. He has caught plenty of fish, seen many advancements in the recreation, probably ties his own flies, has a few rods and reels, proficient caster coming from up there, must have helped several of his friends who visited him there and may even have been a guide. Lots of things I can safely assume. Most of them of course are wrong. He continues with this:

"I still use the Southbend automatic reel I had as a boy on a rod I make from a Fenwick blank purchased from Herters." So much for assuming things. Yikes. He still uses the same rod. Everyone breaks their first rod and long before thirty years. I can now safely figure he is very careful or only fishes for small fish, maybe both. That he uses that automatic reel, which has no room for any backing, lets me know he is not into big fish. Then again, he might have it loaded with mono, but not likely. I think he is using a fly line because he goes on:

"The line is probably as old." Now that has to be one dandy fly line. " I've never used a tippet. I always just bought an inexpensive 7 foot leader and used it until replacing flies and cutting out knotted sections just made the leader too short, then I'd replace it. All I've ever fished for was trout. Nothing fancy." Like, since when aren't trout fancy? I know a whole bunch of folks who may not agree with that one.

At this point I am liking this fellow a lot without ever having met him. Practical, economical, careful with his gear, doesn't bother with tippets, and fishes for trout. Meanwhile he writes this. "My question is, I'm retired now, live on a small lake filled with Rainbows and Grayling." That seems to be a problem? I was reading his email and thinking to myself, not a bad problem to have. Poor baby, stuck there on a lake stuffed with non-fancy fishes like Bow's and Grayling. Then I discover his problem is not that, but should he buy a new rod?

"I can afford to buy a fancy expensive fly outfit but my old rig still catches fish okay. In the middle of this Alaskan winter, I'm finding myself studying fishing catalogs and wondering if it's time for me to purchase a new fly rod. Would a modern, new flyrod and reel really be better? What would you recommend I purchase as far as weight and length, etc.?"

Now, I really want to answer this guy. Really. But, what the heck do I tell him. Or recommend for that matter. Should he or not. If he should, what? Nothing he can buy will cast exactly like his old rod of thirty years. Will he like a new one? Buying stuff is great fun, even going through the process of figuring out what to buy is. Should I tell him to just keep his old rod, it obviously is just fine. After all, it has done well for thirty friggin years and still going strong. Do I rob him of the pleasure of buying something new, just for the sake of buying it?

As it stands, I told him to read my column, this one actually, for my answer. So, if you are reading it, here it goes. Something draws me toward you, maybe the thirty year old rod, I don't know, but something. Therefore I have to treat you as I would a friend. Thanks, that makes it even harder. When a friend asks for your help it is not nice to say you have no idea. Just let him dangle on the horns of a dilemma. On one hand, sure, Go for it. But two! Good grief, it's about time you did. One big and one small. I am sure you can find some use for them. And blow a few bucks too. Three hundred per rod, couple of hundred on each reel, for pity's sake get a couple of brand new fly lines, maybe more, you deserve them. Treat the big spender.

One the other hand. You have been frugal. Careful. Conscientious. Thrifty. Why blow money on something you don't need. Sure those new rods are pretty and all, but, the fish could care less what rod you are using and no one else will ever see the thing either. Play it smart, save your dough.

Okay. So there are many more reasons to buy or not to buy. And a million choices if he does. What to get if so? I have no idea. But for sure, enjoy the trip. ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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