Some years ago I had a favorite expression; "If it ain't broke, improve it." I was in
manufacturing then and had to stay ahead of my competition. Later on I chose instead;
"If it ain't broke, you're not trying hard enough." That I stole from a TV show just
because I liked it better (and I was no longer in manufacturing). Time and age can do
things like that to me. But always nudging my curiosity has been a feeling of, "I wonder
what would happen if?" This has led to what many would call mistakes and bad experiments.
I would refer to them as 'learning experiences.' Often learning to never do 'such-and-such'
It has been this oddity of behavior which has led me to examine, of all things, fly rods with
the same tenacity. There are four major areas of possible muscle failure on the average fly
fishing arm. The thumb, the forearm, the biceps, and the shoulder. I have found ways of
causing pain and despair to each.
Let's look first at my thumb. This is a 'slam-dunk.' The longer the fly-rod the harder it is
to stop. When I went from a nine-foot eight-weight rod to a ten-footer my right thumb got
sore. This would not have been so noticeable with a soft rod and floppy-lob type casts, but
I needed to make narrow-loop, drive 'em into the wind stuff. Cause and effect, plain and
simple. It is the thumb that stops the rod.
Now here it gets a bit more involved; the forearm. A few years back a big rod outfit came
out with a rod weighted in the tip. The truth is, it was tip-heavy. The idea was to make the
rod load fast for the beginner. The newbe could stroke out twenty feet of fly line and make
a cast, made the rod seem great. They advertised the heck out of them, sold plenty and then
later on the new improved models, took the weight out of the tip. Too many guys had
problems with the forearms, they got sore. I read some of the early 'test-reports' from
the 'guru's' who wrote about them. "Hey, we had a great day! Cast till we thought our
arms would fall off!" Tip-heavy rods will do that.
Third is the goofy 'broom' fly-rod you know I have used for years to help teach the
double-haul. In it's own, a fine 'teaching-tool.' It will not load. Period. If you do not
double-haul, it will not cast. I still use it for many demonstrations and teaching events.
The biggest draw-back is the amount of strain it puts on my shoulder; actually, both
shoulders if I am doing it right. So, number three is a rod that will not load (way too
stiff) will make my shoulders ache.
The last one took me a while to find. In fact is it happened by accident, kinda. This fall
I was going out after some salmon (twelve-eighteen pounds) and having caught all I
really was interested in, I took a cheap ($14.95) fiberglass rod I got a few years ago
just to demonstrate how bad a fly-rod could actually be. Trust me on this one; it is soft,
slow and bad! I sometimes use it for a novelty distance casting event. It's a nine-footer,
probably a 6/7/8. Who knows? The maker didn't bother with that useless information.
I put an old WF6F on it and went out for an afternoons sport.
As luck would have it, the fish had thinned out and I had to do a lot more casting than
I had planned on. I think what bothers me most is this. Many guys have probably bought
one of these things thinking they were getting into fly-fishing. How wrong they have been,
and how sorry I am these things are even on the market. They do far more harm than
good. Later that evening at home I realized my biceps were sore, a bit of rubbing felt
good. A few minutes of figuring finally brought me to the only conclusion. The rod I used
that day had to have caused it. I never would have intentionally used it for any regular fly
fishing and had only used it sparingly in the past. This odd-opportunity had given me yet
So there you have it, some more probably useless information gathered in my usual way;
the hard way. I don't really see how any of this will be of any help to you, but I found it
interesting, hope you did too. I don't look for this to be advertised, used, or promoted
by any manufacturers or creditable writers.
A notable mathematician once was heard to explain, "Give me a long enough pole and a
place to stand and I will move the world."
Nine foot is a good length; this looks like a good place from which to nudge it a bit. ~ JC