This Week's View

by Deanna Birkholm

March 12th, 2001

Got a Favorite?

I was thinking about the changes in fly rods over the years I've been fishing and tried to decide what was my favorite rod.

The more I thought about it I realized other changes had occurred too. The same is probably true for you as well, but I just hadn't considered it.

For a long time I fished with a Heddon Black Beauty. It wasn't new when I got it, and I think it may have been a cast-off from my first husband. The rod was refinished by a local Michigan man, who later became well known for his involvement in Trout Unlimited, Art Neuman. It was a pretty slow rod, and since my casting at the time was more of a lob than a cast it fit me just fine. I still have that rod.

Castwell and I married and I discovered how much I didn't know about rods and casting. It was a learning exercise for sure.

Scientific Anglers came out with a whole series of fiberglass rods, called System Rods in I think from 4 to 12 weight. They had matching reels, and were really great combinations. We used them in our classes, and fished them too.

I cast a couple of Russ Peak rods in those days, they probably were the very best fiberglass rods ever made. They were powerful and very smooth. But they were terribly expensive and not easily available in Michigan at the time.

Castwell insisted I have an Orvis Madison bamboo rod. It certainly was a step up from the Heddon, and I really enjoyed fishing it. It seemed to have a 'life' to it, something which to me felt more natural and appropriate for the type of fishing I was doing. We moved to Montana and I acquired another bamboo rod, this time smaller and lighter, a 3 weight Pezon Michelle. It was made in France and the work of Charlie Ritz. The tip section was not the same length as the butt section, and was called a parabolic rod. The 'Charlie Ritz' rods had their own following, but were not particularly cherished because they were considered 'foreign.' It was dressed especially well with red, green and white wraps, and came in a red silk bag in it's rod tube. I caught a lot of fish on that rod. Light rod, fine leaders and tiny flies. Perfect for the Spring Creeks around Livingston, Montana.

In the early 1970's Orvis came out with the first of their graphite rods. A friend at Orvis, Don Owens, sent me my first graphite rod. It was a 5 weight Far and Fine, designed by Jim Payne, and felt quite a bit like a bamboo rod. Medium action, but lighter in hand than the bamboo I was fishing. Really a lovely rod. I have that one too.

We have owned several other brands of fly rods, Sage, Loomis, Elkhorn, Lamiglas, Redington and Gatti. We still have most of those.

What I've discovered is I have favorite rods for specific fishing conditions. None of the rods I currently have would do the job for the different conditions. For saltwater, salmon or bonefish my favorite is an 8 weight, 9 foot Gatti, progressive action. Gatti makes a faster rod, the tip action, but I prefer the progressive. Both situations are similar where it's either big flies or wind conditions, so the 8 weight is perfect. For small streams, which frankly we don't get to fish that often, I have a 3 weight Gatti FRC which is very close to a medium action bamboo rod. So much so in fact, that several of the bamboo rodmakers at Grayling Michigan's Gray Rock were very impressed with the delicacy of the rod. Which of course is one of the selling points of the better cane rods.

Looking back, I'm not sorry I had and fished any of those rods. It has been a learning experience, and a journey. I do regret I no longer have some of those rods! I would like to have the 4 weight S.A. System Rod (and reel), and I really regret having sold the little french rod. It would have been fun to fish that on our Fish-In 2001 this summer. But we really don't have anywhere locally to fish it - and I do believe rods should be fished, not put in a glass case. If I lived in Michigan or the east, I'd probably start looking very seriously at finding both of those rods. Both had a 'feel' to them which was very pleasing.

That of course is all personal preference. It works for me. If I hadn't had the history of fishing all those different rods, I might prefer something entirely different. Circumstances and location do have a real bearing on what our favorite rod is at the moment.

What's yours? ~ The LadyFisher

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