November 20th, 2006

Specialized Rods
By James Castwell


Most folks don't care much what we do when we aren't fishing, but we do actually have a life. We do talk with each other a lot, more I think than most couples do, but, it just seems to work for us. Like this evening as we were working on a few slices from a smoked Picnic ham at the dinner table. We were talking about the upcoming issue and I realized that the piece we had for thanksgiving was really going to run in the 'Lighter Side' department.

It is a cute thing but that means I need something for 'Castwell' and it's already Thursday evening. Lots to do yet and getting further behind. My wife said I might consider the subject of how specialized rods have become. The more we tossed it back and forth the more I realized there was actually something to say on the subject.

There was a time when America was the king of the assembly line. The innovator of making a gazillion of something. Not so any more. As the fly rod business has developed, each company has created more and more differing rods to fill some slot in the market that they perceived was not being addressed. And each year they not only offered improvements to the main rods in their series, they added more. And the next year, even more. The theory of 'mass production' and all it stood for is long gone.

We have all heard of the mass-produced Fords. Not only were they all the same, they looked the same too. All black. And the price came down and down. But not so with fly rods. Every year customers want something else and the manufacturers are most willing to not only produce it, but fight over the right to do so. What does this do to the cost? Can you say sky-rockets? Well, not quite, but just imagine how it used to be. How it was at a time in the past when there were not as many rods to pick from.

For one thing, you didn't have as many companies. There were private, custom cane rod crafter's and a few big commercial ones, but all cranking out a very limited range of rods. Some companies had a choice of quality and a selection of weights and lengths but nothing like what is available today. Alone now, one company may offer over five-hundred different rods.

As each company develops new rods, up goes the price. There is no free lunch and development takes time and costs money. And everytime we decide we really need a special rod for some special use we have or to match our special style of casting we keep the ball rolling. Now, don't get me wrong here. I am not the one complaining. But some out there are trying to say the cost of fly rods is too high.

The fix is simple. We just all quit buying from all of the companies except one. The rest will dry up due to no sales. Then, we all only buy one rod, say it's a eight and a half foot five weight. That's it. Nothing else.

No spey rods. No nine footers at all. None of the light-weights. No heavy ones either. Just the same old rod. Very soon the company will have to make a whole lot of them to keep up with sales. No point in making all of the other ones in it's line, they can quit wasting time (and money) on them.

Soon the price will plummet. The ability to mass-produce will once again be upon us. Rods can sell for a couple of bucks over the cost of materials. The rod companies can quit buying all of the other stuff they need for many differing models and concentrate on just the necessary materials. Down will come the incoming cost of parts. Whoopie. Nineteen forty here we come. Not a whole lot to chose from, but we got the cost down.

Never mind that we just threw a bunch of guys out of work and will have to toss huge flies with a five weight and land salmon on the same rods. We got the price down. The more I see of this, the less I like it. I think there might be another way. How about we try this instead.

We all go out and buy a big bunch of rods. New fly rods. It doesn't matter what size they are or whether we ever may need or use them. Just buy up bunches. As we continue to do that, the price will come down. Everyone keeps their job. We all get a nice bank of rods with full justification and rationalization. We have all been part of a great commercial event that was responsible for bringing down the price of fly rods.

Trust me, your wife will be proud of you. Thank you. We need a lot more like you out there. And oh, I can almost guarantee, you will probably have a lot more time for fishing too. ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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