This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

January 1st, 2001

Buyer Beware!

That is an old axiom, but perhaps one you haven't taken seriously when in comes to buying gear for fly fishing.

My husband JC and I have often mentioned you should not buy a fly rod you have not cast. Yes, I know you can order one out of a catalog and save a few bucks - and if you don't like it they will give you your money back. However that takes time and effort, and you could spend the same time and effort and actually cast a rod before you buy. Unless you live in a really remote area where that is your only choice, avoid it. You will be a happier fisher if buying a rod isn't a major hassle.

So what if you are new to fly fishing and don't know what you like or want? Start with an entry level rod from a dependable, known company. I'll recommend Redington here, because I believe the RedFly rod produced by them is the best buy on the market. It also carries a bullet-proof guarantee. I have cast and fished this rod. It's a dandy! Your local dealer should be able to recommend the weight of rod most suitable for your local waters. In general, my recommendation is a 5/6 wt., 9 foot (RF 905/6). It is not the 'fastest' rod available, and for someone new to fly fishing it should not be. The RedFly is fast enough, but also will forgive the casting errors all new to fly fishing make.

Your local dealer should not be a problem - but, unfortunately not all are 'ideal.' Don't be afraid to ask questions - and if you are not treated with courtesy and an attitude of really trying to help, leave. Walk out! Those fly shops who are only concerned with making a buck should (and do) go out of business. The ones which succeed are those who help build a fly fisher - and a life long customer.

A gentleman from Boise, Idaho recently mentioned his disaster with buying a fly rod. Seems one of the local shops sells their own 'shop' brand of rod. And not cheap either, as I recall the bargain was $125 on sale. But there was a catch! He was not allowed to cast it before he bought it. The shop "didn't do that." So he bought the rod, didn't like it, tried to take it back and no dice. They wouldn't take it back! He could however, buy a 'better' rod, and turn the rod he had just bought in as part of the price. Of course, it was now a 'used' rod and they wouldn't give him credit for what he paid for it. The 'better' rod was also a 'shop' brand of rod. Talk about slick, what a scam! And the topper? He wasn't allowed to cast the 'better' one either!

The whole thing is downright unethical, probably illegal, and downright tacky. In some states if a store does not return your money, only "credit" on returns, a sign must be prominently displayed to that effect! This Boise shop is the sort of shop that should be closed. I suspect the reason they are selling a 'shop' brand rod is they don't pass the requirements to sell any of the major rod companies products. Perhaps their reputation proceeded them. They give fly fishing a bad name to say the least, and turns folks who were enthusiastic about fly fishing into frustrated spin casters.

Picking a fly rod is a very personal choice. It needs to feel right. The grip should fit your hand comfortably, the weight and length of the rod be appropriate for local fishing. I would not, on any first rod, spend more than $100. Once a person learns to cast and control a fly line, you may want a different rod - or a rod for a special use. That's the time to spend more if you want. The 'first rod' will serve as a nice back-up rod as well.

A reputable fly shop recognizes that fact. They will work with the budding fly fisher and help in every possible way. Those who are not willing to do so do not deserve your business.

But buyer please beware. The shop that shows you the most expensive rod (and of course the most expensive reel to go with it) once you tell them you are just getting started, is not looking to be of service to you. The only thing they want to service is their bank account.

If the shop will not let you cast one or more rods? WALK OUT!

By the way, if you are in Boise, or traveling in that direction, drop me an email - I'll tell you exactly which fly shop to avoid. ~ The LadyFisher

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