Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

June 14th, 1999

Sorry About That

Forgive me for coming off the wall in the book review I wrote last week on Wisdom of the Guides.

JC and I had a discussion on why the subject of overlining rods really twists my twig, and I guess it has to do with an individual we knew who owned a pretty nice fly shop. This guy sold some nifty stuff, but he had a flaw. He was unethical.

If a person came into the shop who he could see was a possible customer, one who was just getting started in fly fishing, he would always sell the guy a line for his wonderful new rod which was one (or more) weights over the weight of the rod.

His speel would be that he had cast that particular rod a lot and it really needed the heavier line "to work right." What he was really saying is, "you can't cast, and if I sell you this rod with a heavier line you will be able to "load" the rod and you will think you are casting." The problem is you will not ever throw a tight loop, and your cast will be maybe 25 ft., max.

There is an ethical problem here. First, rods are designed, carefully, to throw or carry a specific weight line. That is the way it is. Period.

Here comes the ringer. Well, there is more than one. Let's start with something we all know. Not all rods have the same action. Action is described as the amount of bend the rod does in making a cast. A 'slow' rod bends more than a ' fast' action rod. Having more bend the rod tends not to throw tight loops. (The loop is the configuration the line takes as it is propelled from the tip of the rod. There are 2 basic loops, a 'tight' loop which looks like a letter 'j' on it's side or a 'big' loop which looks like the letter 'C.')

Why doesn't the 'slow' rod throw a tight loop? Back to basics, it is stopping the rod that makes the line go. If you missed that, go back now and read HOW TO CAST. The problem is it is harder to stop a soft rod, than a fast rod. So the loop resulting is the big letter 'C,' or an open loop. For the caster who doesn't know how to stop the rod, and casting a soft rod, the result is a waving of the rod ending in a bad or non-cast.

The fix? Learn how to cast. Overlining the rod bends the rod even more and makes it even harder to stop. If the person buying the rod eventually figures out what the problem is he will end up buying another line - one that is matched to the weight of the rod. You actually aren't doing your rod any favors by overlining it either. It adds additional stress to the rod which can cause it to break.

There is a line company producing a line which will counteract the problem of what line to use on a soft or fast rod. Royal Wulff designates it's Triangle Taper lines as 3/4, 4/5, 5/6, 6/7, 7/8 and so on. If you have a soft rod in a 3 wt use the 2/3. A fast rod? Use the 3/4. (Besides that, the Wulff Triangle Taper is a great casting line!)

I said there was more than one ringer. Another one is the casting method. The Gatti Pro Staff received a casting lesson from Sandro Gatti at the Salt Lake dealer show last year. One Italian method of casting is to severely UNDERLINE the rod. A six-weight rod would be lined with a 3 weight line. The stop used on the forward cast with this method is just barely at the water's surface. And with a little practice I can assure you, it is deadly. Don't ever challenge an Italian to a casting contest.

Fly casting is almost an art form. Done right, with proper equipment it is close to sheer joy. And a joy to watch as well. Even a really rotten rod will cast with a quality line. But a rod and line matched, (balanced is a better word,) will perform magic.

The idea of intentionally overlining a rod may fall under personal taste or a style of casting a person has developed due to previous soft rods owned.

A fly shop doing it to sell a rod to a person, instead of taking five minutes to teach the basics of casting is more than tacky, it's rotten. The overlined rod may prevent the person from ever learning to cast well. He may become discouraged, frustrated and quit. A real service to the customer and fly fishing fraternity.

But what the hay, the shop made a sale, and probably another sale when the 'newby' comes back for a the proper line. Good business; sell two lines, and take no time or interest in the customer. And laugh all the way to the bank - - - ruptcy court.

Been there and saw it happen, unfortunately for that one there are many more out there. Watch yourself. ~ LadyFisher

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