The last two issues of Rod Maker Magazine
have featured articles about the "Common Cents System"
which is an approach to equate the actual "weight" of
any given fly rod or blank. The author of the articles
is a gentleman from our region, William "Dr. Bill"
Hanneman. We've known Dr. Bill for several years, and
suffice it to say he is a thinker, not necessarily
inside the square box. Bill's theory for some time
has been all rods of a given weight are not necessarily
the same weight at all. Now he has a system which proves
it. Better yet, so can you!
Some may remember a column I wrote in relation to this
subject taking issue with an article in a big time fly-fishing
magazine which insisted "A five-weight is a five-weight - they
are all the same." They weren't then, and they aren't now. It
isn't just the action of the rods, it is also the perceived
'power' of the rod. More on that later. The great
variations do make buying a rod, especially for the new
fly fisher, very confusing and difficult.
To be honest, I don't have any real facts. Since that
has not often stopped me in the past, why should I let
it now? But I have seen the results of some of Dr. Bill's
testing. So here goes; do the fly-rod and fly-line companies
lie about the weight ratings on the rod and lines?
Many think so and some may be right. I would not be too
surprised if some kind of slant the rating numbers a
bit and possibly for good or even legitimate reasons.
It is a bit subjective, what makes a fly-rod a 5 weight?
The accepted standard is generally, if it casts a five
line better than any other line it's a five. Simple
enough. But, in whose opinion? The guy who designed
it I suppose. Fly lines are a bit easier to rate,
weigh the first thirty feet. If it falls between
certain numbers, it is a five or a six or whatever.
But how many of us are willing to cut the first thirty feet
off a fly line to check? (Dr. Bill has a gadget for
But now when you put the two together and add the action
of a rod things can get muddy. Inject the casters ability
and it can get totally lost. What may cast well for you
may not for me and so forth. This has opened the door for
some fiddling with the numbers just a little to make a
rod more or less suitable for a certain slice of the market.
Let's take a little three weight rod and line. You know
this will be for small streams and short casts. Let's
say the rod casts best with a three weight line when
you have thirty feet of line in the air. But, under
fishing conditions that will probably never happen.
What should be done?
How about calling the three weight rod a four?
The customer buys the over-rated rod and a four weight
line. It loads nicely with twenty feet of line, that's
what happens. But, some other guy who likes little rods
for stillwater says this rod is soft and won't carry
over fifty feet of line. Both guys are right. If the
vast majority of these rods are sold for the small
stream group, should a rod company nudge the ratings
a bit? Have they been doing it already? I do not know
for sure. If they did would it help quite a few new
guys so the rod and line they bought actually fished
nicely at fifteen to twenty feet?
Around the fringes of the industry there are a few who
think it is time to crack down on both the rod makers
and the line guys as well. Even if they have no real
proof that the numbers have been fudged a little. It
may happen too. There are ways to exactly rate any
fly rod, finished or blank, a system that measures
so many characteristics that there is no room for doubt
and it is not a subjective opinion made by a rod designer.
It is the "Common Cents" system. At this time, none of
the makers use it.
The line makers have their reasons to adjust ratings
too, but the point here is, the numbers by rod makers
and line companies may have been adjusted by both
over so many years that they are starting to get
a bit out of control.
A large part of the problem is also attributable to
a strange phenomenon. For some silly reason it is
assumed that given two five weights for example of
about the same cost, the rod that casts the farthest
is the best. It is more powerful and stronger, therefore,
the best. Is this the truth? Does that make one rod
better than an other? I guess it would if you wanted
a rod that would cast the farthest. But, what if not?
What if you only fish at twenty feet? Show me one guy
in a hundred who will compare two rods at that distance
and buy the one which casts the smoothest and easiest;
the one that is the lightest in hand and has the more
So be on the lookout, some things may start to change,
perhaps a blank-maker, maybe a rod-maker will adopt this
method. There might be an article in a fly fishing
magazine bringing some pressure on this subject as well.
And the next time you are thinking about buying a
new rod, try to give some real thought to what you
are going to use it for and how
far you will be fishing it. Try a few lines on it,
see which one will load, cast and present a fly at
your intended fishing distance. You may be
inclined to disagree with the rated numbers on the
rod and the line. And you may be right. ~ The LadyFisher
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